In Baxley, we turned onto Highway 441 and drove South to Florida. The surprise wasn't the tiny little towns that 'used to be' and still clung tenuously to life. The surprise to us was Douglas, Georgia which appeared to be a very good sized city, a college town. It appears seemingly out of nowhere in an area of the map that is dotted with lots more blank spaces than tiny old towns and when you leave it, you're right back in the middle of seemingly nowhere all over again.
I noted that cotton in the fields was white as snow, ready to be picked. And blueberries, field after field of blueberry bushes that stretched to the horizon. Honey refineries, too, with big 50 gallon drums stacked high all around them. The sheer volume of honey manufactured in south Georgia stunned me. I had no idea and I've lived here all my life.
I do find it interesting to compare what I see growing now to what crops were grown when I was young. In my youth, pecans, cotton, corn, oats, rye and soybeans were king. In my teen years, watermelons and soybeans and pecans were the main crops. Now I see sunflowers, more corn this year than in years past, cotton, soybeans and things like blueberries and honey. Of course in my area the fruit crop is mostly peaches, and up north of us, it's apples, but blueberries are a fairly new crop and so are sunflowers.
We arrived in Lake City, Florida and connected to Highway 100 which we stuck to all the way to Palatka, Florida. We'd never intended to go to Palatka when we started out this trip. We'd intended to cut across the state from Starke, Florida and run right into Anastasia Island from there, but the roadway was an easy ride, we were quite comfortable in our car and felt relaxed and neither of us had ever been to Palatka, so we went to Palatka.
I love love love riding through little bitty towns and down old state highways. I've probably only mentioned that 90-100 times thus far, right? It's seeing the homes, because small town houses are generally fairly unique in style with an add on here and handbuilt bit that. Then there is farmland and crops which tells me what I want to know about agriculture of an area, and makes me feel a kinship to farmwives even if I don't get to practice that life in fullness myself. Then too, I think you get a better feel of the people of an area if you see the rural lifestyle rather than the city lives.
So we went to Palatka and then turned northeast and headed up to Hastings. Hastings/Palatka were of interest to us because we'd learned on our tours of St. Augustine that Henry Flagler bought up the land and established farms to provide food for his hotels in St. Augustine. If the world beats a path to your doors then you must feed them!
That history remains still in Palatka and Hastings, home to many of the crops we take for granted in winter like romaine, asparagus, strawberries, cabbage, squash...Unseasonal crops for most of the country, well suited to the climate of central Florida. It was interesting to see the crops in the fields, some of which I recognized and some I didn't.
We arrived well after dark that night at our island retreat. The travel had been so relaxing and easy that despite the lack of rest stops even after 7 hours of travel we felt perfectly able to face the grocery store before checking into our condo. We sat outside on the balcony in the cold damp wind and listened to the ocean roar in the dark after we arrived, as we waited for our supper to heat.
Now I watched the weather channel and checked the online site too for weather forecast for our trip. You know that it was 'sunny and mild' right? So the drizzly weather on Wednesday when we left home was unexpected and a complete surprise. And the sunny and clear day on Thursday? lol Just guess. However, I was up at dawn and I am happy that I was. I gained inspiration for a new quilt as I sat on the balcony watching that sea. Now to find the needed materials to create it. I also had the joy of seeing a different face of the ocean that I've never seen before. I'm getting to know it little by little in various seasons and various moods.
About 11am we decided our window of opportunity had arrived and we took off south of the island via A1A and rode through the lovely little towns like Hammock (where a very very cleverly disguised Publix grocery sits just off the highway) and Summer's End and Ormond by the Sea. Don't the names alone just sound lovely and Florida-ish?
I took most of these as we headed back to the island and then into St. Augustine proper but they are all along a natural area of protected State Park beaches. I just love this whole section along A1A. It's lined with campgrounds and motor courts and concrete block houses that have stood the test of hurricane and time very well.
When we returned we went to our favorite spot to eat, Gypsy Cab Company. The food is pretty good, not super fantastic but interesting and the burgers (John's favorite thing to order out, can you imagine?lol) are lovely char broiled things that are HUGE. I ordered a chicken dish that had avocado and cheese and was served with rice and beans. I can't remember the name of it but it was very good.
We spent the evening on the balcony, saying our goodbyes to the ocean and wondering how soon we could go back, but so looking forward to visiting the grandchildren and family next day.
The next day we decided to be the daring young flyers on the trapeze called I-95 from St. Augustine to Kingsland, through Jacksonville. Honestly? It wasn't so bad on a Saturday morning, though there was one point where we were dead certain we'd majorly messed up. Turned out the developers planned for that! Geniuses.
Once or twice as I looked at cloverleaf and figure 8 sections of the highway ahead of us, I felt a bit dizzy and there was one point where we were driving along the top side of some pretty tall buildings but all in all, it's a straightforward drive that, without any rush hour type traffic, made me wish mightily Atlanta had the same sort of system for signs and on/off ramps and such.
Lori planned a big day for us. First there was a birthday dinner, then a Thanksgiving dinner and then we played solo for the first time with the grandbabies and sent Mama and Daddy off to the movies to celebrate their anniversary. I took a good many photos that turned out badly for one reason or another but wanted to share a few shots of the birthday with you.
Lori made the cutest cupcakes and two 'smash' cakes for the babies.
We headed home on Sunday, another cool and cloudy day at first, but it soon cleared off. We stopped at Brunswick to get gas at an Oasis station. I was really impressed. This 'station' not only had a BP station but included inside was a Starbucks, a Burger King, a neat little eating area, a fountain drink station that boggled the mind, a Russell Stover candy counter where goodies could be purchased by the pound, a gift section, and a full convenience store. I was impressed. You can tell I don't get out much, can't you? lol
Home looked good and felt good, but the trip all seemed a bit whirlwind-ish with all the traveling we'd done. I'd made chili and frozen it before we left home and that was popped into a pan to reheat for a welcome hot meal, doubly good because it was cold here. Thank goodness John insists we leave the house clean, so we could spend the day lounging and recouping. Monday the house needed some loving touches. And then Tuesday arrived and it was the last official vacation day. We decided to finish this thing off properly and so we went off to the movies to see this:
Awesome! There were exactly two curse words used in this film and no nudity at all. It held our attention from the moment it began right up until the last moment when we came out blinking like owls and discovered that the film had lasted well past dark thirty. Since we'd gone to an afternoon matinee we sort of had the idea we'd travel home in the sunset hour, but no, it was definitely dark. Worth every penny we spent to go in to see it, too. I love Bond films and this one was most excellent.
And that is the end of the November fun, the end of vacation and the last bit of fun I had before this flu hit, sigh. It's all routine and holidays from here and then before we know it, a brand new year to find our way through.
I must just say however, that I've long thought Autumn my most favorite of all seasons and this year, I'm convinced of it. What's more, I officially proclaim November as my most favorite month of autumn. I can't remember a lovelier one ever, and certainly never one more enjoyed than this one.