Florida 2010 - a quest for citrus.
Monday, 25 January - Day 0. I call it that because though we left very early in the morning, and reached Georgia before noon, we had to come back home. I discovered in a parking lot at Hardee's, that I had left my wallet, with my driver's license and my credit cards back home in Kentucky, 260 miles away. Back home, to stay the night and try again tomorrow. So Day 0 -- 'cause it didn't count.
Tuesday, 26 January - Day 1. Left later today than yesterday, but we made good time anyway. It's 14 hours from here to Orlando, with stops for meals and potty breaks, but at least I had my wallet this time. Barry took this great picture exactly at sunset over the prairies of north Florida. Dinner in Ocala, then on to Orlando. On Florida's Turnpike, we saw the fireworks from Disney World -- they were obviously celebrating our arrival, FINALLY! After check-in, we walked maybe half a mile to Tony Roma's to check it out for dinner tomorrow.
Wednesday, 27 January - Day 2. A restaurant, right next to our hotel, was "The Crab House." One of their signs was partially out -- hence for the rest of the week, we called it "The Crab Ho." No disrespect intended, but... Today, we bought passes for the trolley lines which run up and down International Boulevard and Universal Boulevard. We spent most of the day just looking around and familiarizing ourselves with that part of "tourist" Orlando. Once back at the hotel, we DID walk back to Tony Roma's for the best ribs we've had in a long time -- with the exception, of course, of Marshall's in Paducah.
Thursday, 28 January - Day 3. The Gulf of Mexico was our goal today. But on the way, we HAD to stop in Plant City for fresh strawberry shortcake. Advice for friends in Maine -- if the strawberries don't say product of Plant City, FL, don't buy them. We had read of frost damage and wanted to see for ourselves, but apparently the damage was not a great as we had feared. The price for the fresh shortcake was about the same as last year. THIS will be an annual event, I'm thinking! By the way, note the "Maine" t-shirt!
We drove through Tampa, and found our way to Honeymoon Island State Park -- originally named "Hog Island" and we continued to call it that. Lounging on the beach, the water was warm enough for wading but not swimming, so we waded, went shelling, and sat in the nice warm sun for several hours. We met a gal from Cape Cod and a couple from Ireland who come to Florida every other year, when they don't vacation in Hong Kong! After a bit, wee went up to the concession stand, and bought a few post cards, and I bought a bottle of "Landshark" lager -- Jimmy Buffett's own brand, apparently. Couldn't bring the bottle home, so Barry took a picture for me.
As we were leaving to head back to Orlando, I just happened to catch the sun, the wild oats, the Gulf, and some fellow tourists. I think this is one of the best photos I've EVER taken.
Friday, 29 January - Day 4. The Gulf yesterday, the Atlantic today. Florida isn't that wide. Today was our main mission. Bring back mass quantities of citrus to Kentucky. Our first, and only, stop today was at John Bunkley's house on Merritt Island. We had met him 5 years ago, as the owner of an orchard and sales stand. Since then, he has retired, but still sells "you pick" citrus from his back yard. Well! We piled 9 bags, about 17-20 pounds each, of oranges, lemons and grapefruit. Pomelos were nowhere to be had. When the final bill came in, for about 175 pounds of fruit -- $36.00! Needless to say, the juicer attachment for our KitchenAid which I gave Barry for Christmas is now getting a workout as we overdose on Vitamin C every day!
After Bunkley's, we stopped at Rockledge Gardens in Rockledge, where we have bought plants each time we stopped. This trip, we picked up a perennial dianthus and a Meyer lemon. The lemon is a patio-type which has many blossoms on it, and with luck, will keep us in Meyer lemons for many years to come. Now for those of you who don't know, Florida lemons are TOTALLY different. First of all, they're slightly orange in color, they're round, and have thin skins. One could mistake them for a not-quite-ripe orange. In fact, several years ago, my dad did. But they are not sour like California lemons. They zest well (low power on the microwave dries the zest well), and taste great. The folks at Rockledge are helpful and knowledgable about their plants, and we always learn something new there.
Anyway, back to Orlando, and dinner at Bogard's. I tried the tilapia, first time, and loved it. Barry had the fresh salmon, and we both had a great meal there for a reasonable value for the price.
Saturday, 30 January - Day 5. We watched the weather closely. A winter storm was predicted for much of Kentucky, so instead of heading up I-75 through Atlanta, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and the east Kentucky mountains, we decided instead to pick up I-65 in Birmingham, Alabama. So up I-75 we went, picking up I-10 westbound to Tallahassee. Then it was up US Rte 231 to Montgomery, Alabama and I-65 to Nashville where we planned to spend the night. On the way, we noticed a sign for "Chattahoochee" so we HAD to get a photo of that, as well as signs to 3 southern state capitals -- Tallahassee, Montgomery and Atlanta.
Montgomery, Alabama, truly disappointed us. It was run-down and unkempt, obviously not prosperous, as Dothan and Birmingham seemed to be. Somehow, I was expecting the first capital of the Confederate States of America to be more presentable. Or maybe we just saw the worst, I don't know.
We passed through Birmingham at night, and just north of Huntsville, crossing into Tennessee, we hit the first of the snow. By the time we were within 30 miles of Nashville, the 10 inches that had fallen, had not been plowed, but had been driven over, turning it to ice. One could not see the lane markers, and the on and off ramps were solid snow and ice. Yet people continued to drive as though it was July. For thirty miles, I was doing between 40 and 50 on one of the busiest interstate highways in the US, and we were nearly alone. Check-in at the motel was fast and easy (Comfort Inn Intown -- I'd recommend it), but getting two Florida plants into the room so they wouldn't freeze in the car was comical. Also, we were disappointed that the pool was open, but no one was using it!
Sunday, 31 January - Day 6. Morning dawned bright and sunny, but still cold. The building on the right with the two tips is the AT&T Building, which we call the "Bat Building" from Batman. We can always tell Nashville's skyline by that iconic building.
Our trip from Nashville back home to the Bluegrass was uneventful -- thankfully. When we got home, we noticed that virtually no one had shoveled or plowed their driveways, then it dawned on us -- people here simply wait for it to melt! It did in 2 days. But as I write this, we have another half inch to prolong winter (sympathies to those in MD and DC who have 20+ inches).
Today, February 6 -- nearly all the oranges are juiced, 3 lemons left, and a bag of grapefruit. I juice them with the KitchenAid, and Barry pours the juice into bottles, or in the case of the lemons, ice cube trays. He then takes the peels, runs them through the food processor, and composts them. Can't hurt the garden, we think. However, if the seeds do NOT compost, we'll have hundreds of little orange, lemon and grapefruit trees growing in all our gardens. Happened last year, no reason to think it won't this year!