We drove down on Thursday... made it to Cordele, GA by 11:00pm ET. Got up and did the other 3.5 hours to Ocala, FL, where my Aunt.. you know, the one with the spaghetti sauce? She lives near there.
The one with the twinkling eyes and a certain zeal for life.... That would be the one. She and Ed live in a nice house on a golf course (a pretty nice one -- house and golf course) down in sunny Florida. We, of course, as usual, did our level best to bring inclement weather with us when we visit such places -- the high there on Friday was 58. I think it was 50 in Columbia. Still, we weren't there to sun ourselves, we went to visit.
Friday evening we had dinner at a cool seafood place just down the road a piece by a creek with big cypress trees and spanish moss hanging everywhere. The food and atmosphere were great.
Spanish moss became kind of a fascination with me. I'd only seen it before in Chatanooga, TN, although I knew it was all over the southeast coast of the US. I had to do a little research on it, and I've since found out that it is not a parasite, it is actually an epiphyte like many orchids are -- it grows ON other plants, but only uses that plant for support, not nutrition. It has no roots and feeds out of the air. It has chlorophyll. It is related to pineapples. It can smother a tree -- killing the light it needs, and when wet gets very heavy and can break branches.
We went to Homossossa Springs Saturday and checked out a Manatee preserve where they also had lots of native animals. Got to take a boat ride down Pepper Creek -- kind of reminded me of something out of Crocodile Hunter -- although we saw no crocodiles or alligators or pretty much anything but birds and turtles. But the vegetation was pretty cool. A couple of the pictures above are from there.
I had to go to the Gulf Coast, and we hit it in the afternoon. With the shallow shelf off of the Central Florida coast, there's really no surf -- it could have been a big lake, really. I've seen bigger waves on lakes, truth be told. But there were a couple of flocks of gulls, different kinds, and some sandpipers. A lady and her kids were giving them crackers and they would come take them from their hands.
I got a nice shot of Vicki being swarmed by them in the frenzy. A couple of more nice ones below.
That evening Aunt Pat made us some of the famed spaghetti sauce, and garlic bread served with a cabernet, and it was a great dinner off of our diet.
Oh, the diet -- we've lost 10 lbs apiece, and we were pretty good over the weekend with the exception of some alcohol and the pasta.
Sunday we pretty much putzed around. Put more memory in my Aunt's computer, watched people play golf, sat and talked, and Vicki and I went for a walk in a nearby nature perserve where I took more pictures (imagine that) and we went home for a fabulous steak dinner.
Monday morning we started what was to be another day and a half trip back, but when we realized we could be home by 1:00 AM, we decided to make the mad dash all the way home and took today to recover.
Turns out you can stick to South Beach pretty well while you're out. Hardees, Burger King, and many fast food places as well as Cracker Barrell have options for you. We're back, and back on the diet. I could stand to lose another 2 or 3 lbs, but I'm not too worried about it at this point. Vicki's determined to stay on it, so I'll be eating South Beach food with her for the forseeable future. Won't hurt me a bit.
And one parting shot, the four of us down in Aunt Pat's dining room to prove we were all there...