By this time in my journey I have learned that each of these easterly and southerly states has a great welcome center along the interstate. No, not the ones you have to drive to. These are just over the borders. Once you hit the new state from the freeway, there is a legit visitor center to that new state. This is the place where I get my new and free maps, as well as some local information, a potty break and a little walking around. I appreciate and relish in the services offered.
I hit Florida and was immediately disgusted. I made my now routine stop at the rest stop/tourist center only to find my senses overwhelmed with crap about Disney, coupons for tourist attractions, shit to do in Orlando, and just about every flyer from every bullshit tourist attraction Florida has to offer. I nearly puked with all the commercialism. Yikes, I hope this is not it. I hope this is not all I can find. I hope there is more than tourism during this winter in the south.
I want the historic parts. I want to experience the Florida of years gone by, of the indigenous inhabitants, of the settlers, of the folks who were here before here was even a place. Fuck Disney and fuck the commercial coupons to the bullshit. I want to see the farms and the orchards, if there are any left, and the sugar cane and the oranges. I want to see who and what really makes this place a place. Salt of the earth and all of that.
I stopped in an historic museum to ask for guidance. Like, get me off this ride! I want to see the backroads of this Florida place. I got information from a three toothed-wonder of a man who wished he knew more as he struggled to get his iPad to work. He was a great help.
Now, here I am, the first week of November coming to a close. I am riding around on my bike in shorts and a tank top. It was not two weeks ago I woke to ice at camp in the Smoky Mountains. So strange all these changes as I move on my merry way. This is very foreign and I am not sure how or if I will completely adjust. You see, it is also about 6:30 pm. It is totally dark and I am outside. I got 12 hours of daylight today. I am waking up earlier, but I can in no way get to bed at the hour it becomes dark. This time and this weather are its own special challenge to me.
Here is where I am getting confused. Living up North, I know how to deal with barely 8 hours of daylight. I bake and go to the gym and shovel snow. I light a fire in the fireplace, use my twinkle lights, sit with a blanket, light a candle and watch a movie while eating popcorn and having beer. Perhaps I meet friends after work and then walk home, in the dark. I do have reflective coats and jackets for these times, just to make sure I am seen. I get out all my winter clothes that I have not seen for a year. Like a visit with old friends. Do they fit? Do I still like them? Did they survive summer storage? I would take the time to play in my closet and assess any changes that may need to happen.
I would have completed all of my canning, so my shelves are stocked. I would be planning for the Holiday’s and contemplating where to go over winter break. I would be inside. Not this year. Right now, as I type, I am sweating bullets in the hot and humid forest of North Florida. There are bugs all over and a myriad of birds and frogs and who knows what else making noise. I had to change out of my sandals due to the ants and the sand and the overall risk of something biting me. There is not one hint of a breeze anywhere. In fact, the air is quite stifling.
There is a chance of rain, so I have the rainfly deployed. My nights in Georgia had no rain in the forecast, so I did not put on the fly. I guess you could say I slept naked. LOL Not me, but the tent. There is rain predicted tonight and I will take no chances. But, this dark! What will I do with this time? This time in the dark outside?
It seems everything I knew or know about the out of doors has changed with this climate and landscape. It seems everything I thought I knew about winter has been put on its head, too. I was reading a paperback book, but then it got too dark. I saved some emails until dark so that I had something to do. I can see this will be a challenge for the next couple of months.
Perhaps it is time to seek out some twinkle lights for the tent. I will refrain from any scents, as my animal management procedures tell me to keep aromatics out of the tent. Perhaps more investment in firewood. Is it crazy that I am actually yawning already? Sweating in my underwear? Then again, it is dark. This is confusing, now, isn’t it?
I see my friends all commenting on my Facebook posts about how they have snow and cold, while I have sun and hot temperatures. Bear in mind that I am not, I repeat, NOT set up for winter camping. I was intentional in that and do not have room for all that would entail. I am prepared for the temps to drop into the 30’s, which they did and have. I am not prepared to live in the 40’s or lower for extended periods. I am not prepared for days and days of rain. Well, I am, but I do not like it. No thanks to that.
I have to give this new thing time, but so far, I do not like the humidity. I never have and, apparently, that has not changed. It is nice to be able to walk around outside in just street clothes, ride my bike, and not worry about winter storms. But, all my stuff feels wet and the air is stagnant and still. It is dark at dinner time and yet warm out I do not know what to do. A new set of challenges is upon me. Living in the South for the winter for the first time in my life. What to do, what to do. Living outside with daylight limitations. What to do, what to do.
Cheers to the twists and turns that make a life.