Our last few days on St. George between all of us we saw a Scarlet Tanager, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, and an Indigo Bunting. The migrant birds were moving through. That’s one of our cues that it’s time to go. When the birds are headed north it’s about time for us to do likewise.
A couple days later we were headed back over to Pensacola to take care of some unavoidable business. We dragged our feet though. The day before we were set to leave a spot opened up at Grayton Beach, so we stopped off there for five days and enjoyed the white sand beaches. And the occasional low flying attack helicopter.
When that week was up we finally headed for Big Lagoon. It was on that drive, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on highway 98, that we knew it was time to wrap things up and head elsewhere. We had to stop off at Joe Patti’s again to have a last seafood fest.
We came back to the crowds and cities because we needed to sell our old Volvo, which had been sitting in a storage facility ever since we bought the Wagoneer. We would have sold it right away, but we didn’t have the title. As it turned out the woman who ran the storage unit office had a friend who needed a car so getting that off our hands proved easier than we thought.
That left us with some time to catch a baseball game at the local minor league stadium. Ever since he watched the world series this fall, Elliott has been obsessed with baseball. We’ve played sandlot games and he’s got the basics down, but he really wanted to see a real game so we’d had our eye on the Blue Wahoos’ schedule and timed it right for a home game.
It turned out to be a great game, plenty of action to keep the kids enthralled. I think the final score was 12 to 1 Blue Wahoos (which are a farm team for the Florida Marlins).
At one point a foul ball came vaguely our way, landing in the stands a section below us. That prompted Olivia to ask me if people ever got hit by balls. I told her I’d never seen that happen, and that I wouldn’t worry about it. The minute I said that I thought, hmm, maybe I should not have said that. Sure enough, about ten minutes later a foul ball came right at us. It ended up hitting the ground about a foot from her, and hard enough that it bounced clear over the section behind us and out of the stadium. I think it happened so fast she didn’t have time to be any more than startled. It was moving fast enough that no one around us made any move to catch it, not even the kids with gloves.
Thinking about it later I realized at pro games a net usually covers the seats where we were, which is why you never see fouls come down on anyone. At a minor league game there’s not much net. Yet another reason to prefer the minors really. Whatever the case, we had a good time, though I must say, Major League Baseball seems to really be on a quest to alienate baseball fans. The poor park management had signs up apologizing for not taking cash anymore, but apparently MLB won’t let them. Buying tickets on the MLB site was a nightmare. Some friends of ours who recently went to the Braves game in Atlanta endured one hassle after another, including having their water bottle confiscated. The only people going to pro games anymore are true, diehard fans. People like us would never put up with it. I’m glad the kids got to experience the minor leagues first since they’re a little less tainted by the mobsters running MLB.
The next day I got busy readying the bus and Wagoneer for the long drive north. It was, naturally, hot, humid, and buggy. I always make grand plans of all things I am going to get done, with post-its the length of my arm full of tasks. In the end I usually end up doing about 20 percent of it and I base that on okay, what do I have to do to keep everyone safe and comfortable?
The bus is easy at this point. I do a tune up, change the oil, plugs, wires, all the filters, top off the fluids, lube the various undercarriage joints and make sure I have a spare fuel pump, because those always seem to go out whenever we’re on a long drive.
Less frequently I reseal the windows, but it was time. The Florida sun is not kind to rubber or sealant. One afternoon I was scraping the old sealant off the windows, prepping them for a fresh coating to withstand any rain we might hit on our drive, when I realized I was miserable. The Florida sun can feel like a heat lamp, relentless, baking, all you want to do is get out of it before you completely shrivel up like breaded shrimp. I was sweating and scraping and the old sealant was warm so it was gummy and not coming off the way it does in cooler weather and I was hot and frustrated and mad and feeling like I’d rather be at the beach and why was I doing this anyway? What kind of idiot lives like this?
Just then my daughter walked by and said hey, that’s our window. Well, we share it (meaning her and her twin sister). She pointed to the pane that is behind her head and the pane that is behind her sister’s head and then she walked off. And I stood there for a minute and thought right, that’s why I am doing this, to keep my family warm and dry.
That’s really the only job there is in life — making sure my wife and kids have a warm, dry, safe place in the world. Strip away all the pretensions of culture and what’s left? We make shelters and feed our family and friends, maybe even strangers. That’s what all creatures do, each in their own way. My way includes heat and no-see-ums, but you know what, whatever needs to be done, needs to do done.
The Wagoneer is a more difficult thing for me to get a handle on because I don’t know yet what needs to done. Right now I am just playing whack-a-mole. The first mole was the power windows, which stick. This turns out to be the bane of many a Jeep owner’s existence. Not knowing that at the time, I ordered some new plastic tracks and started tearing apart the doors. One fringe benefit of the Wagoneer is the massive tailgate, which gives me something I’ve never had — a workbench.
I replaced three of the little plastic tracks and the windows kinda sorta rolled up and down a little better. I also need to replace the felt tracks, but that can happen down the road. At least the kids could roll their windows down. They’re going to need to because the air conditioning gave up the ghost about two weeks after we bought it. I took it to a mechanic and paid him a service fee to track down the source of the leak, which turned out to be the compressor. The compressor that’s barely two years old (I have the records from the previous owner). The mechanic wanted $800 to change it out. Which was funny. Corrinne and I decided we didn’t need air conditioning that bad so long as the windows worked. I did find a rebuilt compressor for $150, so at some point I’ll replace it and get it recharged, but for now we have old school WD60 air conditioning: windows down, sixty miles an hour.
After going over the Jeep for a couple of days I headed to the parts store and tracked down some new brake pads, along with all the various filters I could find and decided that’s where I’d leave it. When something comes up down the road, we’ll deal with it then.
Lest you think everyone in this bus spends their days sweating and covered with no see ums, fear not. The kids do fun things even when I don’t. Big Lagoon finally re-opened some sections of the park that had been closed since the last hurricane (which was almost two years ago now) and there’s a new amphitheater, which, so far as I know, so far has only been host to plays and dances put on by three children.
The kids have also started doing nature journals, which they learned about at the Esturary Center back in Apalachicola. John Muir Laws has a fantastic book and series of free videos that are well worth your time no matter what age you are. In Big Lagoon we finally got to see the resident alligator, which spent the entire afternoon patiently floating just below the wooden bridge so the kids could draw it.
Just around the corner from Big Lagoon is a road named Blue Angel Parkway. At one intersection on Blue Angel Parkway there’s some big box stores and a nice large parking lot where people gather every Monday and Tuesday to watch the Blue Angels rehearse. It’s basically a free airshow. We headed over and dropped the tailgate with the rest of the spectators.
And then it was back to work. Onward and upward.