Ten days ago Bob and I packed up our dogs and a small suitcase each and started driving down the eastern coast of the United States. Our home on Deer Isle is very close to the northern border of this magnificent country and it is a special trip to see the countryside change. We felt that Spring seemed to evolve as we traveled south. Each state brought us closer to heat and flowers in bloom until we reached the balmy weather in Florida. Along the way we stopped in several cities to reconnect with some friends and family and to rejoice in those reunions.
The first day was our longest drive as we wanted to spend the night in New Jersey and to visit with our sons Eric and Trevor, our daughter-in-law Loren and of course our grandson Dylan. It was Eric and Loren’s first time out to dinner with our beautiful but rather cranky grandson and we found the perfect place – Hooters. Now before you laugh I must tell you it worked perfectly. Dylan slept for part of the meal and when he awakened, he was mesmerized by the big screen televisions displaying various sports. I can only imagine that it was the vivid colors and the flashing movements that caught his attention but the little tyke (only 3 months old) was wide-eyed and awestruck. For that matter so was Bob however I think that had more to do with the beautiful young women so scantily and provocatively dressed. Oh well, he can window shop – he just can’t buy!
Since we were travelling with our dogs, we were limited as to hotel choices. Fortunately quite a few chains are now “dog friendly”. La Quinta is the best as they don’t even charge a fee for the pets. We just googled “dog friendly hotels” and came up with several websites that not only contained the information but also had reviews of the spots. I noted these same websites indicated dog friendly parks and beaches. It’s funny but for many years we traveled with children in mind and now its dogs. How our lives have changed!
We spent an uneventful night in Virginia and then arrived in Goose Creek, South Carolina. Our son Brian is finishing up his training there and will soon be deployed on a Navy submarine. We spent the afternoon and next day with him before he left for his swing shift rotation. Brian has been in the Navy for almost two years and it is amazing to see the transformation. This wasn’t a path I would have chosen for my son however I must admit that it suits him.
People ask me how we can leave New Jersey and our children and I point out that we no longer live in a culture where children are guaranteed to live in the same area forever. Brian will be deployed soon and while he hasn’t received his orders yet, undoubtedly it will be far away from his childhood home. For all I know, Trevor and Eric may someday decide to leave New Jersey too. I am reminded that Bob and I left our family in California over 25 years ago and have little or no right to ask our sons to live close. I guess we will just have to rack up frequent flyer miles.
While we were in the Charleston area we met up with Jihad and Eileen. Jihad is a pediatrician from Beirut who became an expert in medical informatics and is one of Bob’s closest friends. He and his family moved to Charleston approximately two years ago and both times we have been in the area we have reconnected. What a fun evening we had eating at a Mediterranean restaurant and walking and talking. Much as I adore Hancock County in Maine, we have missed ethnic food and it was delightful to share a repast with such good people.
Our next stop was Jacksonville, Florida. We chose this stop as it is the current home of Herta and her son Evan. Herta is the cousin of my dear friend Sonia and she was insistent that we spend the night with her. I had met Herta many years ago when she moved to the NY/NJ area to attend the Fashion Institute and live with Sonia. Herta is now a mother, finishing up nursing school, and preparing for the next stage in her life. It was such a warm feeling to see how wonderfully this young woman has grown up and to see how she has overcome the bumps in her life.
Whenever I hear people disparage the young, I look to examples such as Herta. I try to reassure parents of teenagers that it is likely that their children will turn out fine. Most of them do. Look at your own high school peers – sure there were some casualties but really not many. Almost everyone ends up being a reasonably happy, sane member of society. Some of us actually go on to become splendid human beings.
At first as we traveled down we would remark on variety of plant life but as we came through Florida it was again the birds that astounded us. From Jacksonville to North Port, Florida the abundance and variety of bird life continued to delight us. We couldn’t quit remarking on the giant herons that soared overhead, the ibises and other birds on the side of the road. I’ve always heard about all the bugs in Florida (not that I’m looking forward to encountering them) but no one mentioned birds. I somehow doubt we will ever be “ho-hum” about them even if they are common occurrences. One of the funniest sightings is of a huge white egret that hangs around Hooters in Sarasota. It’s always there….and neither the customers sitting at tables outside nor the bird seem to care a bit about the presence of the other. You would think the bird would be just a trifle nervous about all the people eating chicken wings!
We are staying a friend’s house in North Port, approximately 45 minutes south of Sarasota. Over 15+ years of knowing charismatic Sonia Grullon I’ve met a few of her friends and family. Our loving and mutually supportive friendship has been one of the truest blessings of my life and I have come to consider her family as an extension of my own. Gina is one of Sonia’s sisters and we have developed our own bond. She encouraged us to consider Sarasota, feeling that it would fit us. She has also opened her vacation home to us as a base from which to explore the area and to enable us to search for a house and a job. I think she’s living somewhat vicariously through us and hopes that her family will be able to join us in living in this part Florida down the line.
We aren’t sure how long we will be in this area but figure approximately a month. The next post will be about the Sarasota area. Stay tuned!
Note: The bird photos on this post can be found at my husband’s website: http://bobwilsonphotos.com/gallery.html