DAY 1–TAMPA TO SAINT AUGUSTINE
Images: The giant trash bins behind Alligator Jungle; The Bridge of Lions at grey dusk; traveler palm leaves brushing our second story window in Andy and Caroline’s garage apartment (that we found on Airbnb); the giant steel tracks lining the walls at Ice Plant that once carried 300-lb blocks of ice out the upper windows to awaiting shrimp boats
Holding onto: Squishy rubber handlebars on our borrowed beach bikes–wheee!; an icy, frothy coupe filled with the luscious cocktail called Field of Gold; Jeff’s hand–bigger than mine, strong, fingers slightly chapped from typing
Listening to: “Cecilia”, Simon and Garfunkel (jubiliation!); “Sign Your Name Across My Heart,” Terrence Trent D’Arby; Mamas and the Papas’ ‘California Dreamin’ ; the early, early morning train, reminding me of home; the unadulterated absence of Seminole Heights copters, sirens, barking dogs
Smells like: Atlantic Ocean salt air; confederate jasmine; garbage that’s been left in the heat; Florida summertime sweat
Tastes so good: Absinthe in a Zombie cocktail; Captain’s wafers (cream cheese flavor, of course)
One Happiness: On an adventure!
DAY 2–SAINT AUGUSTINE TO CHARLESTON
Images: The mansions, mansions, mansions! steeples of Charleston; The Arthur Ravenel bridge; Fort Sumter in the wee distance
Memorable Meals: Hominy Grill, Charleston: vegetable plate with collard greens, coleslaw, fried cheese grits, field peas and rice and cornbread–finger lickin’ good!
Circa 1886, at Wentworth Mansion, Charleston: Moroccan-style salmon and pineapple upside-down cake served with impeccable service
Tastes so good: a “mansion” mule at Circa 1886
Listening to: wind rustling the maple leaves; Abba’s “SOS”, Lorde’s “Royals” and They Might Be Giants’ Birdhouse in Your Soul
Smells like: Gardenias; freshly-laid wooden steps leading to the studio apartment
One Happiness: Walking along the battery overlooking Charleston Harbor
Images: Hall of the Daughters of the Confederacy; rooftop view and lobby of Market Pavillion Hotel; work horse slowly pulling a wagon of about a dozen people–head hanging down, barely trudging in over-90 degree heat; Rainbow Row; stable girl hosing down a black horse at sunset
Memorable Meals: FIG: 9-vegetable salad with radish chips, okra, beet, pepper, potato, cauliflower, carrot, lima beans, English peas (like, wow); fish stew served in a le creuset pot (wow) and pecan semifreddo with blueberry sauce (I’m so full of wow).
I Wanna Hold Your: fan (it’s almost 100 degrees!); package of Carolina gold rice
Listening to: Walking Tour guide talk about how many ways the slaves could buy their freedom (really?); Docent at the Nathaniel Russell House explain why they can say “War between the States”, but not “war of northern aggression”; Owner of the oldest liquor store in the US elaborate on the wonders of moonshine, absinthe and agave mescal; dog day cicadas
Smells like: horse urine; magnolias
Day 4–CHARLESTON TO PARKERSBURG, WV
Images: The charming, home-spun, tree-lined streets of Davidson, NC, which we fortuitously stumbled upon because of a detour; mountains (heart unclenching here); the magnificent facade and flower baskets of the Blennerhassett Hotel;
East River and Big Walker Mountain tunnels
Public service break from my parents’ Triptik: “Gently rolling hills, good farm country, beware of speed traps.” Oh, yeah. . .
Memorable Meals: Spatz at the Blennerhassett: A delightful Ceasar salad with slabs of roasted (?) cheese; ramen with salmon and shrimp; but there was also just some hummus and pretzels in the car
To have and to hold: my own pillow that I thought to bring along; a tip for the bellcap who is taking our numerous pieces of luggage to the 5th floor
Tastes so Good: Honey-onion pretzel bits and diet coke in the middle of a too-long drive
Listening to: Basia’s “Time and Tide”; Don McLean’s “American Pie”; New Radicals’ Get What You Give whoosh of wind on the interstate; myself snoring; Jeff snoring
Smells like: Clean linens on our king-sized bed
One Happiness: Wildflowers along the interstate: yellow day lilies, purple bachelor buttons, blue cornflowers, eyelets of Queen Anne’s lace, and purple coneflowers ( that’s a whole bunch of happiness)
Day 5–PARKERSBURG TO AKRON TO ORRVILLE, OH
Images: Creeks and rivers, cornfields and soyfields; Jeanie “J” Drive and the house where Jeff grew up;
Bettes Elementary, which looked strangely institutional and a little scary;
Cesar smiling as he walks out of work towards us.
Memorable Meals: Daniel Bocuzzi Akron (DBA): tempura mushrooms, goat-cheese flatbread; coriander-crusted duck; beet cavatelli and truffle risotto (we shared), accompanied by a yummy wine and topped off a light scrumptious dark chocolate mousse
Touch me again: heavy suitcases that get lugged up yet another flight of stairs
To have and to hold: Jeff’s hands, memories and heart as he revisits this place
Tastes so Good: the sausage gravy at Crystal Cafe, downtown Parkersburg, where the chef/owner, his wife and waitress are extra-friendly and welcoming; cane syrup soda
Listening to: Simon and Garfunkel’s America ; Jeff reminisce about his childhood; Jeff telling me about almost-nightmares about his old elementary school and places on his block; Jeff remembering his parents, grandmother, godparents, sister, brother, childhood friends, first girlfriend; Jeff saying he’s glad we’re together; Jeff saying “I love you.”
Smells like: Small-town melancholy; modern art; wind; memory; a neat yard; anxiety-sweat; overcooked coffee; rain-slick brick streets; blue sky