We travelled through miles of wetlands and forests and spotted over thirty alligators in the canals along the Tamiami Trail. As anywhere, road travel involves construction and a long stretch of it interrupted the beauty of our surroundings as we headed out of the upper Everglades.
Arrived at Sunny South RV Resort in Sarasota early afternoon. We had enjoyed our stay here last March and knew the territory. We treated ourselves to a seafood dinner, swordfish, grouper and peel n' eat shrimp at Philippi Creek Seafood.
Our high quality home cooking often leads us to judge restaurant meals as mediocre and this was the case at Philippi's.
We made up for our disappointing meal the following day in Venice on the dog beach. Dixie had a grand time chasing her ball into the surf and rolling, yes she was wet; in the sand.
Back at camp, she was pleased to meet our neighbour's dog Jacob.
"In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag." W.H. Auden
On Wednesday, Dixie hung out with friends at Doggy Daycare while Chris and I spent the day on the "human" beach. Siesta Key Beach is a 1.5 mile stretch of powder-soft, bleached sand. We read, people and pelican watched, and walked up both ends of the beach. Many sand bars a few yards offshore provided cool strolling and the chance to get up close to the many seabirds like the Sandwich Terns. Their funky black top notches qualify them to be part of "The Jets" gang in West Side Story.
We caught the early show of Skyfall where James Bond entertained us with his infallible skills and impeccable wardrobe. We bought a large popcorn and snuck in our double vodka tonics and had a great time as Bond foiled the latest villain, bent on world domination.
I almost forget what "the old" Bond, was like before computer special effects !?!
'Tis the end of the month already and off we go into the festive season of December. Chris had chosen a surprise destination in northern Florida. to which we had a pleasant drive. Lee's country Campground was located near White Springs. The area commemorates the life of Stephen Foster, Father of American music in its huge state park beside the Suwanee River. Dixie loved Lee's campground with its mossy live oak woods, grassy fields and manicured grounds.
Friday and Saturday we immersed ourselves in the culture of the deep south and Foster's lyrics that celebrate it. We visited the Stephen Foster Museum that owns a grand collection of vintage pianos and organs whose music stands display the original manuscripts and compositions of Foster. Many framed photos of his family and friends sit on the instruments as they would have in his home. The early craftsmanship shows intricate carving on the wood as well as panels adorned with lavish painting and gold gilding. Some of the keys are even capped with pearl. Many large dioramas portray the setting and characters from the songs of Stephen Foster. They show great attention to detail and have moving parts such as Joe's toes tapping as he plays harmonica as a steamboat drifts along the Suwanee River at the back of the extensive yard. If you don't recognize Foster's name, you will know some of his most famous songs like "Oh Suzanna", "Camp town Races", "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair" and "Way Down Upon the Swannee Ribber"
Note that the spelling of the Suwanee River is spelled with about five variations based on the dialect of the locals. One of the most amazing facts about Foster is that he lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio. He had one short visit to New Orleans on his honeymoon yet his songs reflect a passion for and richness of life in the south. Outside the museum is Bell Tower which sounds the "Big Ben" dum dum di da,,,da da di da....Bong Bong Bong on the hour. Six times a day, a rendition of Stephen Foster's songs are played on the tubular bells. Since it was the Christmas season, we were treated to a few Christmas Carols as we sat in the shade in the park alone. Rows of white wooden folding chairs were set up for the evening's parade and lighting ceremony and celebration. We had the park to ourselves. The empty stage was set to release "imitation" snowfalls during the evening Christmas festival.
Fuelled with a fervour for the south, we decided to eat at the local " Fat Belly's" where we sampled some bar-b-que and fried catfish. The joint was packed with locals, most who sported at least one piece of camo-clothing either a bandanna, t-shirt, pants or hat. Conversations included many a widja? dija? kum own now! or ya'all heaaaar? About 90 percent of the town folk drive pickup trucks and mufflers are something worn by girls on cool nights, not something that belongs on a suthun ve-hickle!
Humungous Confederate Flag
We returned to the State Park the following day to walk Dixie along the Swanee. The woodsy hike was a lot like home except instead of low ferns, needle palms hugged the path. There are also no dangers in the rivers back home for Dixie!