This is it – the day to push on out of Florida. Destination: Tallahassee. Tomorrow we'll finally leave this place that we've called home for the past couple of weeks.
Final prep to close up, lock doors, windows, and plug the final drains with tin foil. I can only assume, after further thought, that this is to keep the creepy crawlies out. And then there was the putting cling wrap over the toilet bowl, and tank. This is done, A.) Because I am told to do it, but also B.) Because (and this is purely hypothetical) it prevents the alligators from accessing our home and stealing the bag of frozen vegetables which have been living in the freezer for months now. I know how tricky these gators are, and also how much they love frozen foods. With one millimeter of shrink wrap they will be forever deterred. It is their weakness.
Then came the spraying of liquid death. Ant killer. This explains the miniature holocaust that greeted us when we first rolled up, late at night. Now we were to spray this poison – everywhere. Along walls, window sills, in the bathroom, outside the house. As fun as it was to spray this poison with, more or less, a super soaker the taste of doom in my throat afterwards? I could have done without that.
A good amount of water later, and I was good to go.
But where were we headed? Yeah we could just push straight on to Tallahassee, or even out of state to Mobile Alabama (home of Forrest Gump – having finished reading the novel, it is no less ridiculous than last reported to be) but where was the fun in that?
Katherine had said she wanted to see an Alligator, and we were still to spot one. Not that we really knew any good places to spot them around here. On our way north, we would be passing through the greater Clearwater area, where years of my life were spent. I have many memories of gators back then. But where – where were they? Sure, I could have emailed my parents and asked them, but I continued to forget. With no time left, I tried to remember. The name Pinellas Park kept shooting into my head. Thrown into the GPS it turned out Pinellas Park wasn't a park, but instead the name of a town.
Once more, the fantastic GPS was able to show me a number of parks near Pinellas. Of all the names, Sawgrass Park seemed to stand out. Though I had not been there for well over a decade, I was sure that I had been there before. Saying good bye to Port Charlotte, we were on our way.
In the car, I read some of the “Politically Incorrect Guide to American History” which works to dispel myths that we all believe, such as the settlers stole land from the Natives. As it turns out, it was all bought, and the natives welcomed the settlers in a number of cases, as they stood between the expansion of other warring tribes. Glad that I picked this book up for a buck fifty at the library I continued to read on. I do so love dispelling myths. Even since I was at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta, learning that Natives did not use all parts of the animal (in many cases just cutting out buffalo tongues, and letting the rest rot away in the sun) I have loved reading some historical truths.
One chapter down, we switched to listening to video game podcasts. Having been – more or less stationary – for weeks, we had hours of them building up.
When we reached Sawgrass, I realized that while this was one of the two parks I had visisted as a kid, it was not the one I was thinking of. This one had a board walk that extended through the park, over marshlands. Well – if it were the rainy season the walk would be over marsh. Right now, it just kept us a foot or two above the fern covered ground. Trees closed in from all around, covered completely in Spanish Moss.
Without marsh, there was unlikely to be any gators. Still, we were not without hope. As we set out on our trek a man bicycled by us, “is that a camera you got there,” he asked.
Confused, I paused a moment before replying, “yes?”
“You want a picture of a gator?”
“That's the idea.”
He then pointed us a quarter mile down a path that ran along the small river which fed a retaining pond. Apparently there was one just down that way. Thanking him we made our way off. There, sitting in the water, like a log was an alligator. Watching it for a few moments, we took our pictures and high fived a successful mission.
Still, I was not content. There was a park that I had visited often as a youth, and I wanted to return to it. Not knowing the name, I switched the GPS to map mode and searched all the surrounding lakes. There was one area with two close together, named Taylor park. The two lake configuration, as well as the name struck something inside me, and off we went again.
It was here that I had set off for, originally. Ironically there were no gators to be seen here. Still, being back here was reward in and of its own. Never did I think I'd be back here. The roller blade trail where I spent a lot of time not knowing how to stop, and crashing to the ground, was just as it once was, and the picnic tables where I used to sit playing an old baseball game on my long forgotten SEGA Game Gear were still exactly where they'd always been.
I had Katherine take a picture of me standing beside a tree that I had a picture taken beside half a life ago. The only difference now, aside from a terrible amount of hair, is that my shorts these days are a more respectable grey rather than all sorts of rainbow neons – as was the style at the time, you must understand.
Walking around the pond, the memories all came flooding back. Being close to gators, the trees being torn down by tropical storms, a kid informing my father and I that America owned Alaska – over and over, no matter how many times we agreed with him...
And then it started to rain. We booked on out of there pretty fast after that – completely soaked by the time we returned to the car.
Back on route to Tallahassee. Hours of podcasts later, we were there – with Shark Week on Discovery to greet us. Apparently sharks have seven sense. The coolest? Electrosense – they can sense your soul, and wish for nothing more than to eat it! Well – they sense the electrical field that surrounds you. You can hide, and you can be silent, but you're always giving off the electrical field, and those bitey fish? They're always there to find it. Fantastical!