It seems like I've been in Florida for years now, and in fact, it has been a nearly four-month season. While I'm ready to hit the road, I'm grateful to have missed winter in most places this year! As I was planning my shift northwest from the coast to visit friends, Tallahassee hit my radar. I'd never been to Florida's capital, a new hostel opened there two months ago, it was Palm Sunday weekend so I could get to service, and the final selling point -- it was the weekend of the "March for our Lives". Sign me up.
In just three days, I toured the city, including the original Capitol building, a few parks, neighborhoods and FSU, by bike and foot. The March on Saturday brought about 2,000 people of all ages to the FSU campus to walk uphill to the Capitol, and yes, support this youth movement that I hope is the start of something really big. There was also the opportunity to register to vote, if needed. To quote the crowd, "this is what democracy looks like!"
The hostel was a charming little home with an array of people of all ages who enjoyed conversation, a few cocktails, and even a bit of dancing on Saturday night (fun!). Yes, I did still rise for the Palm Sunday service, and loved the priest who missed his true calling as a stand-up comic.
On Monday morning, I rolled to Freeport, another new Florida spot for me. The occasion? A reunion with a wonderful couple I met last November on Jekyll Island. We had 20 hours to catch up, hear live music, have a few laughs, and eat some incredible food, including the best damn buttermilk blueberry pancakes I've ever had in my life!
I'm now in Alabama, yes Alabama for a week, so stay tuned.
From my active weeks in Sebastian, I returned to another favorite spot for two weeks of camping -- Princess Place Preserve. Since I visited last year, I won't reiterate the history, but suffice to say that I was quite pleased to find it as scenic and secluded as I'd hoped. A repeat visit also brought me out of the gate a few times to enjoy local spots that didn't make my 2017 agenda.
The one shocking element was the weather! During the first week, I had three nights in the thirties, with the coldest morning at 34 degrees. Getting out of my sleeping bag to hit the porta potty at that temp is what separates the women from the boys. The following week, two days of thunderstorms and strong winds hit, and I'll admit to one night of sleep in the Element passenger seat.
Aside from a number of lengthy walks through the Preserve, and numerous bike rides along the Palm Coast pathways from the St. Joe's Canal to the ocean, I enjoyed a museum, Portuguese cuisine, and a number of good books. With the exception of weekends when people come to tour the house, kayak, fish or walk the grounds, Princess Place is incredibly peaceful. On weekdays, there were a handful of people camping, and I only saw them if I made the effort. At sunrise, I listened to the birds singing, and at dusk, watched herds of deer. Relaxing by the fire with a view of the creek was a frequent meditation.
I've been playing in the Sebastian area for more than a month now, with just one more week before I head north a bit. This has been a funny season as I've been ping-ponging between Sebastian, the town (AirBnb and camping), as well as camping at my usual spot on the Inlet. Given my five weeks here it's been good to live in both places -- one where I fall asleep to the sound of the waves, take long bike rides, see incredible sunsets, eat fresh fish, and function in a semi-conscious state on the beach. The other is time spent walking the riverfront, seeing movies & hearing music at the library, discovering historic spots I missed in prior years, and chatting with locals here, there and everywhere. On the mainland, the locals still use directionals, stop at crosswalks, chat with you in line at the market, and make you feel welcome (I had to turn down an invite to join the Scrabble Club!).
While this is absolutely my favorite spot in Florida, change is certainly noticeable this year. While (thank heaven!) the Inlet has miles of preserved land, the development from the south (Vero) and the north (Melbourne) is encroaching as far as it can go. There aren't high-rises, but the McMansions are cutting away mangroves, adding people and continual traffic. At first, I was saying, "what about Irma?" but now as I bike along, my mantra is "bring it on mother nature, bring it on". I'm also singing "Big Yellow Taxi" as loud as I possibly can!
My beloved marina campground is also busier than I've ever seen in 4 (or is it 5?) years, too. My trips to the mainland were mostly motivated by booked weekends, and on weekdays when it used to be me & 1-2 folks, it's now 10 or more. Oddly, it's not just the over-abundance of northern escapees. People from South Florida are escaping their heavily populated, concrete, traffic-laden lives by coming to camp at Sebastian Inlet. This is not a good sign of the movement to come, I say.
Can you tell I'm feeling a bit angry and a bit possessive? This is a very special habitat for humans and wildlife, and this human wants it to remain just so.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover