The Exception is Florida…

As you may know, I love to read. I especially enjoy devouring books about places I have lived or visited (which includes all 50 states as well as a dozen foreign countries).

My current home state of Florida is no exception, and thankfully, there are a number of prominent authors here. My dear friend, Karen also an avid reader, turned me onto Carl Hiaasen novels at least a decade ago.

His books prepared me for the oddness that is Florida which I encountered during my first trip to the Keys back in 2018. I recollect Hiaasen saying that as a columnist for the Miami Herald, he didn’t have to search hard for weird subject matter, he pulled the wild tales right from the news desk.

I’ve gleaned so much about my new home from his novels (and his YA books, which I also adore). More recent additions to my reading list are Randy Wayne White’s books. In contrast to Hiaasen’s typical setting of Miami and south, White’s are centered on the Fort Meyers area (along the Gulf coast of Florida).

While both authors include a healthy dose of history, geography, and biology in their tales they never take themselves too seriously (irreverent is an understatement), as evidenced by this Author’s Note in White’s first novel, Sanibel Flats.

Flamingo Fun

What began with citrus and tropical fruits, quickly grew into a flowering oasis. People clamored to tour their lush greenery and thus, a roadside attraction was born.

In a nod to an extirpated, Florida species, Chilean flamingoes were welcomed to the garden in 1956. A koi pond, turtle exhibit, and parrot aviary were later added.

To preserve this bit of history, the city of St. Petersburg bought the property from the family in 1999 for roughly $2.26 million. In 2016, 20 additional flamingoes were purchased from the San Antonio Zoo to supplement the declining, original flock.

Currently, the plant collection surpasses 50,000 specimens from over 500 different species. Though my visit began with hot and muggy weather, a passing rain shower cooled the gardens off nicely (and had the added benefit of thinning the crowd).

What a wonderful way to spend part of the day!

Mowing, Mowing, Mowing

The first image is an accurate assessment of my predicament. Trying to time my mowing between rain events is a fun challenge. As for the second one, I don’t water my lawn, but it made me laugh.

In between sunsets and beach walks, I have been working on my (seemingly) endless list of house and yard projects. Sadly, one thing I’ll never be able to cross off my list is mowing.

There is a downside to having the largest yard in the neighborhood, I have a lot more to mow! Ah, summertime in Florida…

To the tune of Rawhide:

“Mowing, mowing, mowing,

The grass just keeps on growing,

Keep those mowers mowing,

Too high!”

The Country Life

My trip culminated with a peaceful visit with Karen and Rich in the Virginia countryside. It was long overdue, we were all living in Arizona last time we saw each other. That was over four years ago for me!

My dear friends are helping their daughter Kim turn this gorgeous valley into a “woodland lodging” retreat. She certainly picked a wonderful location, the property is teeming with wildlife yet it is less than an hour from the busy airport in Richmond.

As usual when we get together, there was a lot of laughter and delicious food. It will not be as long between visits next time!

Greensboro

My next stop was a double bonus, not only did I get to spend time with an old friend but it was an excellent reason to visit Greensboro, North Carolina. I adore exploring new places and Greensboro did not disappoint.

After a delightful dinner, Hector and I strolled around historic downtown. It was a vibrant scene for a week night; we were serenaded by a band playing in the park while a steady stream of pedestrians frequented local businesses in the carefully restored, old buildings.

Most notable was the F.W. Woolworth department store which now houses the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. On February 1, 1960 four freshmen from the nearby university walked inside and sat down at the lunch counter.

They were refused service by a white waitress who said, “We don’t serve Negroes here.” The young men didn’t budge until closing time. They returned the next day with a larger group.

The nonviolent group grew in size and quickly gained national attention. To further their impact, they began boycotting segregated businesses. On March 16th President Eisenhower expressed his sympathy with their efforts to “enjoy the rights of equality that they are guaranteed by the Constitution.”

By late July, the segregated businesses in Greensboro were suffering huge losses. In a major victory, the Woolworth counter served its first black customers on the 25th of that month. As they say, money talks.

Around the corner from Woolworths we espied a tall statue. Ever curious we walked over and discovered General Nathaneal Greene (the city’s namesake). I first met the Fighting Quaker during my Rhode Island trip back in 2007.

As the leader of the southern theater during the Revolutionary War, Greene was considered by General George Washington to be his most talented officer. Pretty impressive for a man who had been previously overlooked for service due to a limp sustained during childhood!

We wrapped up the evening with a tasty IPA from a local brewery. Overall, a charming introduction to a historic city!