Impromptu Florida Junket

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My friend Laura texted me Wednesday morning and asked me if I wanted to meet her at Magpie to work. She’s in my field but runs her own shop, and I am doing a little website writing and, of course, job hunting. I was headed over there anyway because the four walls of my living room are closing in on me, so we made plans to meet.

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Magpie, as usual, had a gorgeous scone offering, so I ordered a dried fruit scone and a whole milk latte as my pass for the internet and a place to sit. I got settled and looked at my calendar. Hmmmmm…. nothing solid on the agenda for the next few days. Job searching is pretty much all done on the internet or on the phone at this point. Do I really need to be in Baton Rouge? Could I be in Memphis? What about Bay St. Louis? Well, I’d need to have time to actually work. Memphis would be jam-packed with friends. That might be too busy. Bay St. Louis sounded good. Close enough to come back if necessary.

Then I remembered my college friends MaryBeth and Randy. We’d been trying to find a time for me to visit their riverfront home in Palatka FL for over two years. It seemed like a long shot, but I texted her. “Come on over,” she texted back. Well, Palatka is farther – about 9 1/2 hours – but I’ve wanted to see in person the dock sunsets that I’ve seen in MaryBeth’s photos. I love rivers, and one of my favorite places, St. Augustine FL, is close by. Within an hour and a half, I had the Caddo Street homestead shut down and was on the road.

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I stopped by the Paces’ beautiful vintage-style beach home in Bay St. Louis on the way. I never actually went to the beach, but we had a lovely visit surrounded by their original art, eclectic antiques and creative home furnishings. It was the first time I’d met Connie. Phillip and I met at the Mockingbird Cafe one morning while I was writing my Artists’ Way morning pages. He knew exactly what I was doing and stopped by to chat. He’s a writer, too, so we clicked immediately. When I go to the Bay, I always ping him to see if he’s up for coffee. It was so much fun to meet his lovely wife. We have a lot in common, too.

I hit the road and hoped to stop driving around 9 PM or so. I was close to Pensacola, and I was looking for hotels but decided to try Airbnb for the first time. I was a little nervous about it, but I’d heard so many good stories from my friends, I thought I should try it. I found this listing and booked it.

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The room was lovely, and it was located in downtown historic Pensacola. I got up Thursday morning early and took Ashok for a walk toward the bay. We discovered a lovely Veteran’s Memorial Park and a beautiful little neighborhood with cobblestone streets. After a quick shower, I headed out to the Coffee Cup restaurant which was recommended by my host.

The Coffee Cup has been around forever, and the counter was lined with old men in true hometown coffee shop fashion. I heard one of them proclaim that his 89th birthday was next week. My waitress Heather recommended an omelet, and she said if I was a grits eater, the grits were delicious. She brought out a biscuit that was larger than my coffee cup, and she wasn’t kidding. The grits were the best I’d ever put in my mouth.

I arrived in Palatka at about 4 PM and had a great tour from my host MaryBeth. They live on the banks of the St. John’s river in a lovely home surrounded by palmetto, Magnolia and Live Oaks hanging heavy with Spanish moss. Ashok gets two boyfriends for the weekend, and I get to hang with some old friends who share a lot of similar interests.

Randy and I hung out on the dock at sunset. A manatee surfaced briefly, and he showed me the tell-tale swirls they make in the water. A couple of eagles soared overhead, and we caught up on old friends and chatted about current politics. MaryBeth had an event at work, so we met her afterwards for an outdoor seafood dinner at Corky Bells. The Thursday night bass tournament was winding down, and we sat on the deck and talked about their life here in Palatka. Corky Bells is definitely worth a visit, but don’t plan on fishing the Thursday bass tournament next week. It’s canceled for next week only. They announced it about 47 times.

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Me and MaryBeth at Corky Bell’s

I’m looking forward to today’s adventure. There’s a state park nearby, and I plan to take Ashok out for a hike if we can find one. It looks like a beautiful day here in the Sunshine State. I just have to squeeze some work in at some point. I’ll stay in touch.

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“I hope he’s my Daddy. This is a beautiful place,” said Ashok. 🙂

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