Day 16 – Florida Roadtrip – Fredericksburg, VA

Having survived yet another night in a motel, Renzo almost regretted that we didn’t go camping instead, but it really was still a little too cold in the morning. We’d need a proper set up to go camping with the kids when it’s just above freezing in the morning, not to mention that rain had been predicted.

So instead, we left the motel to go to a farm near Richmond VA to watch some sheep shearing – and to freeze there, even in the sun. The sheep was amazingly calm, but after 15 minutes the kids were more interested in going to a nearby playground, so we did.

That was enough of Richmond for us though. We considered the children’s museum there but then decided to go to Fredericksburg VA instead and to visit Mary Washington’s house. This was a very nice little museum with a lot of stories that even managed to catch the boys’ attention for a while.

They particularly liked the playroom in the garden though, which had various games, including stilts and bocce. However, the fun ended rather abruptly when Timofei managed to throw a heavy bocce ball right on Yelisei’s little pinky as Yelisei was reaching for a bocce ball himself.

So we drove screaming Yelisei with a bag of ice on his pinky to the emergency room as it was pretty blue and swollen. Of course the emergency room is the only health care for many people in America, so it was packed. We would have waited at least two or three hours there. Luckily, both Yelisei and Timofei soon fell asleep, so we skipped the emergency room. Renzo stayed in the car with the kids and I went for a walk through the old town of Fredericksburg VA.

Fredericksburg VA is a very cute town and I learned from the museum that this was basically a town of failures. For example, it took them 20 years to build some canal that in the end nobody needed. Even today, it was a nice spring day, but the antique stores were more like junk stores.

When Yelisei woke up, he was all fine again and had just a little pain in his pinky. Our sprits lifted accordingly, we found further salvation in yet another ethnic dive restaurant, this time Latin food from Salvador. Nobody spoke any English and the food was another winner.

Fully back in a good mood now, we next drove to a used car lot to check out a Toyota Tacoma that Renzo been going on about as one of his dream cars if we ever buy another car. When we were looking for this car, some dealer in Staten Island actually refused to let us test drive any cars because we were obviously not going to buy anything. Not in Fredericksburg VA – the sales guys were nicely low key and let us tourists drive his Tacoma, no problem. I was actually quite impressed with it – I liked the substantial tires, the clutch was amazing (this was a stick shift, Renzo still refuses to consider an automatic), and it had a nice front bumper – very useful for parking in Brooklyn. Definitely a car I could be driving to South America in, if it only came with a stove and sink ready for action on demand.

Next stop: Yet another motel, this time of the sketchy sort, close to Washington DC. No further incidents or accidents except that I could not fall asleep at all!

Day 14 – Florida Roadtrip – Sho Nuff, Savannah, GA

Life without camping is easy and boring. We stopped at our favorite fish/shrimp BBQ place near Savannah GA. Sho Nuff seafood & BBQ 5850 Ogeechee Rd, Savannah, GA 31419.
If you are driving on I-95 it is well worth the detour. Last year we got boiled shrimp in some red sauce. It was the most delicious shrimp we ever had. This time I wanted to order the same but by mistake they fried it. At first I was disappointed but in the end it was the most delicious fried shrimp I have ever eaten.

We then continued on I-95. At around 8 pm we stopped at some highway hotel. I still can not tell what I prefer from all the variety. Howard Johnson in this case had a decent breakfast and clean bed sheets. In all our travels we stayed in Budget Inn, Motel 6, Motel 8 , Econolodge, Quality Inn, La Quinta, Sleep Inn and probably more. All of them are a different level of shittyness but all around $60 and mostly clean.

I also want to sing an ode to Indian people. Not American Indian in this case but Indians from India. Why may you ask? For working and running countless God forsaken hotels and gas stations. I always wonder how they must feel in the backwaters of Florida or Georgia? In those places they probably have no friends at all.

I asked one guy in a Georgia gas station if he likes it here? He was shaking his head violently: NO! He can not wait to go back to Mumbai. Thank you anyway. I appreciate your service.

Day 13 – Florida Roadtrip – Pine Island, FL

I forgot to mention that yesterday we went food shopping for the first time since the beginning of this trip and went for an oil change. All together we will have driven almost 4000 miles by the end of this trip.

In the morning we went to Pine Island beach. It was a nice small beach with a playground, cafe, and knee deep calm waters. All the ingredients for the happiness of 3 and 4 year old boys. Also there were horse shoe crabs, regular crabs that buried themselves in the sand. Also we were at some point in the middle of a swarm of black flies. All of a sudden we were covered in them and the next minute they were gone. Then everyone’s cellphone got an Amber alert. That was puzzling but thank God for Google – we found out that the Amber alert means that a child was abducted in Tampa. Apparently they let everyone in the state know.

Our kids had a blast at the beach and we stayed there as long as the weather permitted. We had already prepared for the evening rain in the morning.
Since the beginning of this trip we were carrying three pieces of tarp with us – only now we got to use it. When I had bought the tarp and opened it up in my apartment I was thinking this is huge! Now that we opened it on the campground to hang it over the table it looked impossibly small! So we managed to hang two of them over the picnic table and to cover two beach chairs. It only took us two hours. Our neighbor on the other hand had a perfect set up with expandable poles that originally served as gold ball retrievers which he now used as the center dome for his tarp. A real engineer at work.

But our construction held up well. It was raining pretty heavily in the late evening and most of the night but our table and chairs kept dry. Our tent once again proved its worth as well – no water inside at all!

The next morning we made our last campfire, slowly packed up and prepared for the long trip home, with only one extended stop, in Richmond, Virginia. No more camping – it’s cold and wet north of here, so we’ll drive right through.

Day 12 – Florida Roadtrip – Chassahowitzka River, FL

As we learned just yesterday, even though it says “no alcohol on campground”, this is not enforced at all. When I went to complain to security, nothing happened. That is the price you have to pay for the convenience of car camping. It is so easy that every moron can do it. Apparently, in Tampa / St. Petersburg it is a common thing to do: go camping, get fucked up.

In the morning we rented a canoe. Everyone got his own paddle, even Yelisei. It was all around beautiful. The water was so clear you could see all the way to the bottom. There were several springs that we could see as perfect circle craters. There was so much fish, it made me think of the time before America was discovered. I imagine you could fish with your bare hands here. On a motor boat you could go far down that river but on our paddle boat we went to different shallow inlets that were shady and abundant with fish and just magnificent.

We had lunch on land on the edge of a perfectly round and blue pool of water fed by several springs. It was full of big fish. Timofei found a long piece of gras and was fishing. I think he was convinced that if he puts a stick in the water then eventually there will be a fish on the end of it. He was quite disappointed that no fish came to bite. He could not understand why, although I explained to him the concept of fishing rods and bait several times.

Then we had to decide what to do next. It looked like it was going to rain where we were going to go next, so we decided to stay put and go to the beach nearby the next day.
We moved to a different site, away from the drunken boys. In the evening by the fire we enjoyed not only peace and quiet but also armadillo and several raccoons just a few feet from us.

Day 10 – Florida Roadtrip – Bahia Honda State Park, FL

When we woke up that morning, Renzo wanted to go to church for Easter service. He unloaded the car so we have everything we need for breakfast and drove off. I started making pancakes. I mixed up the batter while Timofei and Yelisei were asking every 15 seconds: are they ready, are they ready, are they ready? I am starting the stove only to realize that it is out of fuel and Renzo took it to church. Luckily, he left the charcoal but charcoal needs time before it is ready to cook on. I was so mad!

Though Long Key was a terrific spot for camping, our kids could not swim there. When we arrived the tide was low and they were afraid to go to the water edge because of all the mud and seaweed and critters in the muck. When the tide was up, we had to pack up and leave but not before we took a short hike on the boardwalk trail. It started off as mangrove, then we crossed a river and found charming picnic spots on the water edge under trees. There was no one there. I could not think of a better picnic spot. It was under awnings surrounded by trees with water and even had an open shower to cool of. It was beautiful.

Then we went on the trail that said it was an hour long through different coastal community’s of plants. We went only for 10 mins and our boys were hot and exhausted. We were next to the water so I decided to dip them into the water. The alligators did not see that.

The next night we were staying at Bahia Honda State Park. We arrived there around 3 pm, briefly checked out our spot and went straight to the beach. Finally, it was a real beach! With sand, blue and salty water. Timofei and Yelisei had a blast! The water was cool but it was hot enough on the beach to warm up quickly. Reluctantly, we left at 5:30 pm to set up our camp.

On the campsite next to ours there was a family with two children. Timofei went to play with them as I was making dinner. God bless that family! They did an egg hunt with cash inside an egg. Renzo did not approve of cash in Easter eggs but I thought it is better than candy.

Our campsite was next to the boat dock where four pelicans and one beautiful white crane-like bird were hanging out. Fishing boats were coming in and out. Children were playing there as well. The water was so clear that you could see foot long fish swimming. Pelicans came up to you so close that you could see five different colors and kinds of feathers that they had on their heads and neck. Chocolate brown on the back, yellowish on top black and gray in between. Their beak was so long that the tip of it was always in the water. Until then I considered them to be ugly birds. But now I can see their beauty.

The campsite by the dock had one disadvantage. The boats were coming in as late as 1 am! But it was brief and Renzo did not even wake up for that.
“Is the girl still here?” Timofei asked when he woke up.