Days 110, 111, 112, 113,114, 115 and 116 WLBT

Sept. 28, 29, 30, Oct. 1,2, 3 and 4   Ocala, Orange City and Carrabelle, Florida


by David Runkel

On the way to Ocala in Central Florida, The Tour drives Florida’s northern Atlantic Coast with occasional stops for beach checks.  Some have smooth red or brown sand and others are rocky.  Few swimmers and surfers are out.  That is, until we arrive in Daytona for lunch.  Parking is hard to find and expensive.  The beach is crowded and Joe’s Crab House, jutting into sea, is busy, serving big bowls of fancy drinks and lots of seafood. The Tour had shrimp and enjoyed eating it whilst looking seaward and drinking beer.

Heading west we encounter what has to be the world’s largest outdoor shop selling furniture, tin 

Day One Hundred and Sixteen of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Deedie mingling with imaginary animals

signs, metal animal figures, colorful Mexican pots and other odds and ends to make your yard and garden distinctive. It’s in Barberville and The Tour is diverted to take it all in.  The imagination of artists run amok. We would need a Very Large semi-trailer truck and a bank loan to take home everything we found amusing – the chairs with human rumps, the 10-foot metal chicken, the 20-foot colorful elephant and on and on. Anatomical correctness was the rule. Biblical sayings for the doorstep tempting. Luckily we have neither a truck or a loan, so we leave empty-handed, but with our minds crowded with all the could be’s.

Eventually we make it to Ocala to meet up with nephew Bill Strockbine (son of Nettie Beeson), his lovely wife Esther and their 5-year-old, the delightful, smart and always amusing, Eliza, for a couple of great days.

Sunday brought a tour of Silver Springs.  This is the counter to Wyoming’s world’s largest mineral hot springs which we enjoyed on so many months ago.  These are cold springs, pumping out millions of gallons of water a day.

A glass bottom boat, captained by Oscar, who has 49 years of experience, brings the story of these springs. Oscar navigates our ancient boat out over seven springs providing 72-degree water for a variety of fish and other wildlife.  We see turtles sunning on logs, egrets, heron; alas, the monkeys which reportedly are everywhere have taken the Sabbath off.

Since we are in the neighborhood, Monday we drive 30 miles south for lunch at The Villages square designed to look as if it has been there for decades.  What a development!  Miles and miles of small houses separated by golf courses and ponds and all arranged in communities with names like Berkshire Trace, La Hacienda, Lake Minoa or even Eisenhower.   Some of The Tour Director’s high school pals hang out here in the winter along with a year-round population of more than 100,000. Golf carts are the vehicle of choice.

Back to Ocala for an early dinner with Bill, Esther and Eliza before figuring out the rest of our October plans, starting with a reading in Orange City arranged by JoAnne, AKA Twink, Gerhardt and her husband Bob. Twink served with us on The Collegian, graduated with the author and has been in our lives off and on ever since. Being the same ages, our children were supposed to marry, but they didn’t.

Some 28 people gather in the bar at the John Knox retirement center to hear The Author, while

Deedie mingling with imaginary animals
Deedie talks at Book Reading

drinking their tea and munching on real, delicious scones (thanks to Twink). As the chair of the residents’ Food Committee, she arranged for the pastry chef to produce a large plate stacked with berry scones.  A dozen or so were left on the platter when the program ended, but they suddenly disappeared before Joanne could put them in a bag for her freezer.

Insightful questions were asked and before the day was out, the reviews started coming in to Joanne’s email and telephone.  “Best presentation we’ve ever had,” one said.  All others were also positive.  This made up in part for the Knox Center’s rule against actually selling books on the premises.  In response to a question, however, those attending were advised they could buy books by going to the sconebyscone website or on Amazon.

Our day concluded with a 15-minute trip to DeLand for a concert by Stetson University’s 16-piece jazz band in a restored movie palace downtown near The Blind Pig bar where adult beverages were available.  What a performance!  The Tour Director was especially taken with the “West Side Story” medley, featuring a tremendous trombone solo as well as a bravo drum set by a very young Howdy Doody-looking freshman, five weeks into his college career and not missing a beat.  The Author wept while humming, “Stardust.”

With only 30 miles separating The Tour from the Atlantic, we began our westward trek home, with many stops to come in October.  Avoiding interstate highways, we go through the strip malls of central Florida; to the spread of Gainesville, home of the University of Florida; to the small distressed towns, farms, and lakes of northern Florida. 

Also avoiding chain fast food places, we have trouble locating a place for lunch. That is until we

Day One Hundred and Sixteen of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Deedie anxiously awaits her Twister Treat!

come upon the “Taste of Dixie” on the highway outside Cross City.  The Taste has a regular sandwich menu, but the real attraction is the buffet advertised outside as offering fried chicken and beef stroganoff as the main courses this day.   

The Author choses a tuna salad sandwich, while The Tour Director takes himself off to the buffet.  First were the salads with lettuce, tomatoes, cottage cheese, cole slaw, canned peaches, olives and other usual salad bar items.  Then come the two featured choices with sides – corn, lima beans, greens, green beans, deep fried cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, rice, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas with ham, cornbread and sugar butter biscuits.   For dessert, only German chocolate cake with icing is offered.  All for $8.50.

The Tour Director is not disclosing his choices (but the author can reveal it did not include the greasy collard greens).  The Taste is decorated with a large collection of horse and western items. Salts and peppers sit in a holder of two upturned pistols.   A sign “The Taste of Dixie” is made from horseshoes.  Other slogan signs add to the charm.  For women, one points out, “Going Shopping with Your Husband is Like Going Hunting with the Game Warden.”

We continue West, unsure of a destination for the night, but in general hoping to find a place on the Gulf Coast south of Tallassee.  First stop is at Shell Beach, but it turns out to be a fishing camp.  Mostly middle aged, older guys and a multitude of boats stored in three-story dry docks surround the place.

We pass through Panacea, but nothing is there.  An internet search turns up The Old Carrabelle Hotel in the village of Carrabelle.  It’s a turn-of-the-century building a block off Route 98 and Kathy and Skip opened it as an inn on July 4, 2002, exactly one day before we purchased Anne Hathaway’s. Room descriptions are delightful.  We check in, only to discover that there’s ample evidence that routine dusting and painting haven’t been on the To Do list since its opening. And there’s been no effort toward meeting the standards of mid-1800s furnishings. It’s late 20th-century tacky, no doubt about it.

A longish walk on the white sand beach as the sun is setting restores us.  The water is warm and has a brownish tone which we’re told comes from the live oak trees lining the beach.  We’re skeptical.  Off shore is Dog Island, the name for which one local said comes from a French priest.  We’re again skeptical.

We’re also told the beach and the island were used by the Army in 1943 and 1944 for practice for the Normandy invasion.  An historic marker verifies this report.  It’s located outside a rest room for “Buoys” and “Gulls.”  

Day One Hundred and Sixteen of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Dinner Time

Dinner at The Fisherman’s Wife restaurant concludes our long day, where the fisherman’s salad with shrimp, fish and bay scallops is selected.  A sign here says: “Guess What I Made for Dinner – Reservations.”  That may be heard again in future days.  It’s alleged the Wife’s partner is one of the last shrimpers in the area, the rest having been put out of business by “the folks across the pond who do that farming thing.”