The great adventure is now half over. Six months to the day. Unless we decide to keep on going, that is, never to return, like Charlie on the MTA. The month here in St. Petersburg has been relaxing, and somewhat of a relief from the fast pace we were keeping. By the time we got here, I swore I had seen enough lighthouses to last a lifetime (at least 15, up and down the east coast), that I would never go on another river or harbor cruise (5), or a dolphin/whale watch (2, and quite expensive), or visit any more forts (at least 20, ranging from the Revolutionary War, to the War of 1812, the Civil War and the Spanish American War). I was really tired of trudging through local museums and looking at bonnets and hatchets behind glass and trying to read too-small print. I was particularly jaded over “historic downtowns” and “historic waterfronts,” which often turned out to be a collection of old building and a few bars along a puny river). I was tired of slinging my suitcase in and out of the car, staying in crummy Days Inns and Super 8s.
Now, we’re well rested and ready to go again. Bring on the forts. But we’ve also learned that you don’t need to stop at every farmer’s market, every craft shop or glass blowing exhibition or famous patriot’ house on the road. Better to talk to locals and find out places and things off the beaten path.
Yesterday, we moved from our little cottage on St. Pete Beach to a hotel in downtown St. Petersburg. Across from us is the American Stage Theater, a few blocks away is the Palladium Concert Hall, and one block east is the harbor with its seven-mile shoreline, marked by a great bike and running paths. At night, you can make out the lights of Tampa across the bay.
Best of all, one block away is a Starbucks, where I can sip a Venti Awake Tea Misto while writing blogs. (A first in all our travels, this Starbucks has locked restrooms). And a block in the other direction is a 20-screen theater. (I can’t believe Meryl Streep didn’t get best actress for August: Osage County!) where we can finally see “Nebraska.”
We’re off to Cuba in a week or two (we remain dedicated to as little advance planning as possible,) and then to Miami and Key West. Beyond that, we don’t know. Perhaps Turkey, or Africa. Springtime on the west coast.
The kids continue to surprise us. I’ve attached a picture of Ann and Andy with some Chinese college students who were working the summer at our hotel in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. The girls were delighted to meet the kids and taught them a few Chinese card games. They chuckled about going shopping at the mall in Bangor for gifts to take home, only to find that a good many items were “made in China.”
Leaving for six months or a year isn’t like an extended two-week vacation, where you can relax and leave all your troubles behind and simply enjoy yourself. On the long road, you have to continue to manage all the usual aspects of your life: plumbing problems, taxes, mail, bills, friendships, health issues, etc. The internet makes this a lot easier.
And of course, you bring your self along, as well. Your “issues,” as they say, come into sharper focus without a routine to deaden them. As for the relationship, I’ll only say this: living with another human being, even one you love, for almost 24 hours a day 7 days a week for six months is quite a challenge, to put it mildly. Those little things you’ve swept under the rug become unswept pretty quickly, not to mention the ones you didn’t even know were there. Accommodation, acceptance, and patience are the key to relationship survival. (Giving examples to illustrate my point could get me in trouble).
A heightened sense of the absurd in all things is always helpful.
The worst drivers so far are in Florida. They are rude, aggressive and thoughtless. They’ll cut off a pedestrian in a cross walk without a second thought. As opposed to Vermont and Maine where if you even twitch at a crosswalk cars on either side come to a screeching halt and don’t move until you are completely out of the box.
The state I’m most looking forward to visiting: Texas.