Monday, July 11, 2016

I've been in Florida (and Tennessee, and Mississippi, and Alabama...)

I slept well last night, probably because I spent 14 hours in the Lexus covering the 815.3 miles from Skip and Gloria Hess's home in Holiday, Fla. to my home in the Arkansas woods.

Skip suffered a stroke earlier this year and, since he's 78 and probably not immortal, I figured I owed him (and myself) a visit. Skip came to The Indianapolis News a few months after I did in 1967 and we've been good friends ever since. He and Gloria are our kind of people - smart, conservative, funny, and crazy about dogs. They have had as many as seven rescued dogs in their home when they lived in Indianapolis. They share their Florida home with four - Bo, an Aussie mix; Ben, a black lab mix; Seneca, a mystery mix; and Lacy, a Yorkie mix. Bo is their only Florida rescue and he took an instant liking to me, making a point of greeting me first thing every morning.

I left here about 6:10 a.m. last Tuesday and was in rain off and on most of the way from south of Memphis to somewhere around Montgomery, Ala. I had hoped to do the entire trip in daylight, but sunset caught me about an hour north of their house.

I stopped for an early dinner at the McDonald's in Perry, Fla. Road-addled, I left the McD parking lot turning north on U.S. 19 instead of south toward my destination. Looking for a place to turn around, I made a left turn at the next stoplight, then whipped a U-turn on the side street and headed back south. Seconds later, I noticed the flashing light bar of a Perry police car in my mirror and immediately pulled into a parking lot and stopped. I was wearing my NRA concealed carry vest with my Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol in an inside holster/pocket so, when the officer came to my door I immediately informed him that I have a concealed weapon permit and I was carrying a gun. I handed him my driver's license and permit and he asked where the gun was. I showed him the vest pocket and offered to take it out, be he said to leave it.

It took a few minutes for him to run my driver's license number and plate to make sure I didn't have any outstanding warrants, during which time he opined that Arkansas concealed carry permits are nicer looking than the ones Florida issues. Then he sent me on my way with a verbal warning to be careful. (For what it's worth, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee have CCW reciprocity with Arkansas, so my permit is valid for the entire route.)

Skip and Gloria have a lanai and pool, so daily dips were in order. We went down to the Gulf shore Wednesday and Thursday evenings to photograph the sunsets and I tracked down the Tampa Bay BMW dealership and bought a shop t-shirt.

They took me to dinner the last two evenings - a BBQ place and a seafood restaurant that serves a killer crab-and-pasta in cream sauce.

The only regret I have about the trip is that Maria hasn't earned enough vacation time to come with me. She will go with me next time.

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