Where to start. Let's go back to Idiot Day for just a moment. I capped the day off by getting pulled over and issued a ticket. I knew the cops would get me on that day! It was just a fix it ticket for my light (which I've been putting off until they caught me), so it's really nothing, but it was a fitting end to the day.
I started the next day in a new town with a new brain. I had the whole day off, and a tremendous need to move again. So I headed South to see what I could see. I spent the night in a nice little rest stop. Whoever had parked there before me had left a notebook behind. My curiousity wouldn't let it just sit there, so I discovered that two kids, high on un-named uppers, had driven from Jersey to Florida non-stop. It wasn't totally coherent; though there were about 3 pages filled in, that was the only fact I could glean from it. Still, kind of inspiring, isn't it?
The first thing that pulled me was a sign pointing to "Mary, Queen of the Universe". Hmmm. Sounds more galactic and interesting than it really was. It turned out to be a huge Catholic cathedral and shrine, new and sparkly. The gilt and jewels of the old church have been put aside for super sparkly (and cheap) crystal and cut glass. It still looks very impressive, but there is something missing. I should be happy, since the money that funded those old cathedrals was drawn forcefully from the veins of a not-neccessarily willing congregation, but I couldn't help missing the glitz and glamour that only great gobs of money can provide.
The cathedral turned out to be a fitting precedent to Orlando proper. Everything is large and plastic looking. Everything is trying to catch your eye, and there are no holds barred. If a building in the shape of a giant wizard will make you stop, then what the hey, let's give it a go. It seems to be a daytime Vegas, minus the gambling and callgirls. Everything is meant to sparkle in the everpresent sunshine just the way the Luxor is meant to light up the night. Every over size building screams at you "HEY! COME IN AND SPEND YOUR MONEY HERE!"
Naturally I loved it. I couldn't enjoy it fully, since money is what makes this beast go round (and all I've got is a hole in my pocket), but I will definitely come back and blow a whole lotta dough here at some point in my life.
The thing that drew me down was something called Skull Kingdom. I didn't know too much about it, but I figured it was sorta like one of the kingdoms in Disneyland, except all the grinning cartoon characters are dead and bloody, and Mickey chases you with a chain saw.
I suppose I had unrealistic expectations, which was why I was pretty let down. If you've ever been to one of those haunted houses they have in malls every halloween, you have a pretty good idea of this place. A dozen or so rooms modeled after various horror movies, blasts of air, and folks in wolf suits chasing after you. Except the so-called "actors" were few (only 2 of them, and he may have been the same guy in a new wig) and possibly stoned. He just sort of ambled after us, like he was taking a trip to the loo. I don't think his arms were even held out threateningly. He may have been scratching his ass.
Has the threat of lawsuits caused this? Or was it just a lousy work ethic at play? Come on guys, scare me! That's what I was paying for!
There was a fairly cool animatronic demon over a pit of fire at the beginning, and the very last scene was straight out of Evil Dead. The Necronomicon was grinning at me on a table, and if it weren't for the stern guide watching over us, I would have grabbed it and shouted "Platu Verata Nict...hurmnn". Maybe then the walls would have started spraying blood, and I would have got my money's worth.
So billy, I would not reccomend it. Although it would be a bit of fun, if you don't expect too much and go with a bunch of folks that will grab you and yell every now and then to give the animatronics and "actors" a hand.
I saw Medieval Times, right next to a WalMart. Slightly surreal.
I passed a sign for a bait shop, claiming "We have weapons of Bass Destruction".
I passed another sign promising free kid's t-shirts if you stopped in at Hooters, just down the road. There is something very wrong with a merchandising ploy targeted to kids for a bar that relies on scantily clad women to bring folks in. Then again, a woman's hooters do have a side effect of feeding little children; maybe they were just trying to show how wholesome and family oriented they are.
After being tailgated for a couple miles, I was passed by a grandma in a caddy with her walker in the back, going 80 in a 55 zone.
The drive up central Florida was lovely. I never thought of Florida having a backcountry area, with cows and horses and the whole nine yards. I expected it was all swamp and gators. It was that, but sandwiched in there are ranches and feed stores and very tan cowboys. Very nice.
I reached St. Augustine after dark. A message left at the hostel there had yielded a cryptic return message, promising me a key and a bed, but no host, as he was a 16th century courtesan and it was Menendez' birthday. He said this as though it should make sense to me. Oh, right, Menendez, crap, I forgot to get him a card.
Menendez was actually the founder of the city, and every year they have a big living history party, Noche de Gala, for his birthday, with dances and songs and food and wine and all that good stuff. The old Spanish quarter in the city was beautiful, and full of slightly tipsy folks in full courtesan regalia. I had a great time just wandering around, poking my head down old alleys and into ancient buildings.
The Pirate Haus hostel is right in the thick of things in the historic district, making wandering very easy. It's a nice, cheery place with good people, and a big wooden pirate in the sitting room. I kept looking at him, wondering where I had seen him before. Finally someone came in and said, "Isn't that Captain Morgan?" I'm not sure if that's it, but he is definitely a barfly pirate. There is an identical one welcoming folks to the Palace Saloon in Fernandina.
Sleeping wasn't too easy; I've become used to it being just me in a very small amount of space. With a big bed and many other snorers just feet away, I slept fitfully at best. But it was all worth it in the morning when I headed out to the common area to find Conrad, our courtesan host, cooking up a batch of pancakes with little pirate faces on them. It's so easy to make me happy. An eyepatch on my breakfast is all it takes.
Conrad had truly courtly manners. I was heading down the street to wander a bit in the daylight before I headed back north when I heard him call my name. He had raced down the stairs to present me with a flower, as well as an invitation to come back anytime. Ah, those Ren Fair type people. They never fail if you need a shot of romance or an ego boost.
Since I'm still new to blogdom, I still feel uneasy anytime I write something about virtual strangers. What if they find it? What if they don't like it? What if it's slanderous and they sue me? What if I make them cry? But I'm strangely unwilling to change any names. I may fictionalise this at some point, and then there will be many changes. Right now, though, everything is completely honest and true. And I'm not terribly mean (generally), so hopefully there will be few tears.
I kept wandering my way north, plenty of time on my hands. I passed the entrance to Kingsley Plantation on Ft. George Island, found myself saying "maybe some other time" to the impulsive voice in my head, and found the impulsive me berating the other me and forcing me to flip a bitch. The island was gorgeous, a lot like Cumberland, but not quite as remote. The plantation on the river has been restored and turned into an excellent learning center.
The road kept going, though, so I followed it. As far as I knew, the plantation was the only thing on the island. Imagine my surprise when I turn a corner and there is a beautiful 20's era mansion, clearly recently restored. A sign outside said "Ribault Club", and I decided it must be a private resort type thingie. The next sign pointed to parking, and said "Visitor Center Inside". Since when do private clubs have visitor centers? Of course I stopped.
Inside were two docents, on loan from the museum in Fernandina, and recent transplants from the Bay Area in California. We chatted, as talking about home is the best cure for homesickness. They gave me the story of the building. It had been a club in the 20's, but the depression had just about killed it, and it had sat in ruins for years. It was purchased by the state, and renovations ensued. That makes it sound much easier than it actually was. When you have 3 governmental agencies overseeing $4 million worth of renovations over the course of 4 years, nothing is easy.
The end result is stunning. I'm not sure exactly how useful or benificial it is to the community, but it is stunning. It's rented out for meetings, galas, and weddings, and there is one small room with a few displays on biology and archaeology on the island. Basically it comes down to $4 million dollars of government money for a lovely place to get married. Hmmm. Go and see it, everyone, and wonder at the tangles of government spending.
Miles of blog today. I didn't even have the energy to write interestingly about it all, I had to just spew it out. Hope you don't mind.