Driving From Florida to Maryland

Old Feb 16th, 2011, 01:40 PM
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Driving From Florida to Maryland

This continues my post about Auto Train. My goal is to scout possible places to live. I am visiting friends who take me around or re-visit place DH and I liked on a previous trip. At this point, I'm looking for a down town in walking distance that has a nice art community. I don't need to live on the water.

On Wed. Feb. 2, after an hour's wait, I got into my car and used google map and GPS to visit my friends in Port St. Lucie. What should have taken 2+ hours, took 3 because my two sources didn't agree. I wasn't sure which to believe so did a turn around that cost me some time. Google was taking me on one side of a square, and GPS the other. I didn't have a big map of the area to double check or the courage of my convictions to believe the GPS.

√Send your Google directions to those whom you are visiting to confirm their correctness!

My friends (B&F) live in a planned community off Rte. 1 and it is a gem. Homes affordable and come with electric golf carts. If you are looking for amenities (golf, tennis, pool, bocci, art activities, suppers, etc.), it is super. It is called Savannah Club and you can look it up if you are interested. A pair of sandhill cranes has run of the place. Also saw ibis and several brands of ducks (annhinga, mallards) from my friends' gorgeous screened porch. There is no down town however. We drove to nearby Ft. Pierce for dinner at a non-chain Tiki Bar and stopped at one of the many chain restos along Rte. 1. All of the big box stores you want are there as well. B&F swear there are only 2 weeks of awfully hot weather because of a nice Atlantic Breeze.

Thursday, Feb. 3-Cloudy but 70s

We drove to Stuart, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach and Delray Beach. I took note of places that looked interesting: Stuart (has good art and cute main street but a weird traffic circle that goofed up everyone!); Delray Beach (nice downtown); and West Palm (sweet downtown but could I afford it?). I also jotted down Lantana Moorings, Northboro and Taquesta after seeing signs or B&F mentioning. I'll look up and hope Fodorites will comment.

We drove by the huge hedges that protect some mighty big places from onlookers. We loved the cedar hedges. Stopped at Dune Deck Cafe and all ate wonderful gyros. There were some people on a public beach.

After our long drive, we ate dinner at a Longhorn Steak house and the steaks were very good. B&F ordered cheesecakes but waiter comes and says they forgot to take them out of the freezer. So we got them for free in a take out box!

Friday, Feb. 4-Off to St. Augustine.
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Old Feb 16th, 2011, 06:57 PM
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I am no expert, but my Mom and Dad lived in Melbourne on the east coast for 35 years, and there was lots more than 2 weeks of very hot weather.

Have you checked out Winter Park outside of Orlando? I remember a very nice downtown.
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Old Feb 17th, 2011, 03:31 AM
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Keep it up! Great stuff!
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Old Feb 17th, 2011, 11:53 AM
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Thanks Ackislander. Suki, same here but my friends said it's true for where they are. Of course, different folks have different tolerances for heat.

Friday, Feb. 4-Cool (if 60s is cool to you) and cloudy

We had a big breakfast and sat around bemoaning the fast passage of time. By the time we finished hugging and I gassed up the car, it was around 10:45 before I set the GPS for the St. Augustine (SA) address of my friends W&C.

Forgot to mention that yesterday we passed areas of the previous year’s fire damage. So sad to see black tree trunks. Looking at the map, we decided a stop for lunch in Titusville would be about half way. B&F said eat at Dixie Crossroads. I couldn’t find it so ended up with a BK burger. Called my SA pal who said to look for a particular road on which to turn. Said road is not on my google directions….hmmm.

Along the way, I pass Space View Park, Edgewater and Palm Court and will look for info about them online. Other Fodorites, I’d appreciate any input from you as well. Got off 95 on exit 298 (Rte. 1 from south-there is another approach from the north) and spotted a man walking along the side of the road and rolling a man-sized world globe. Hmmm.

The GPS signaled my turn off Rte. 1 and it led me to the street my friend said to look for. I vowed to listen to the GPS from then on. It turned out to be another case of Google going on one side of a square and GPS the other, but it was confusing as I didn’t know the area. Oh well. W&C's house is a huge 3-story place with no elevator. I needed my inhaler a few times but the beach and ocean view from the top story was super and worth the effort.

I settled in and we chatted about our itinerary. This will be the First Friday Art Crawl in downtown SA. W&C have made friends with 2 artists and we will see them tonight and have dinner at Harry’s. There is a free organ recital going on and we may try to catch that as well. It takes about 10 minutes to get to downtown, crossing the Bridge of Lions over the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW). It has become very foggy but feels like it’s still in the low 60s.

The holiday lights still decorate the town square and I am so impressed with it all. Sweet streets with galleries and shops. Big hotel Casa Monica (http://www.casamonica.com/), huge Lightner Museum and Flagler College all in an easily walkable area. W&C’s artist friend, Marianne Lerbs, did a series of paintings about 5 Florida women of note. These works were in the Casa Monica so we looked at them before finding Ms. Lerbs at one of the Art Galleries on King Street.

We also found the organ recital and stopped in briefly. Briefly, because it was terrible (or at least the part we heard was!), we left and had cheesy grits/shrimp and catfish dinners. All good but grits too cheesy. Got home around 9 and watch the pre-superbowl ads on TV then crashed. Also see the guy with the world globe on the news. He was raising money for environmental causes if I remember correctly.

Saturday, Feb. 5, Cloudy and cool (50s?)

We went to a nice farmers’ market and then to a grocery store, Publix, for supplies for tonight’s meal. W&C have invited some neighbors over. I notice that wine (my contribution to the meal) is about $2 more a bottle than what I spend in Md. I leave W&C to their activities and return to downtown. There is a HOHO trolley and bus service but in driving around I discover the oldest home in Florida and decide to stop there. One of the women in Ms. Lerbs series had lived here so it called out. I took a tour and learned that the home had been very small to begin with but had been extended a lot. In order to return it to its original state, they had to demolish some parts. That was a first and the opposite of many such places.

Drove around down town some more and found a public parking space behind the Lightner Museum. A young woman catches me at the back entrance and shows me the separate way into the Café now “living” where Mr. Lightner’s pool once occupied. Since it is lunch time, I go in. The room is a spectacular space with 3-stories of surrounding balconies into which shops are located. The café is open only for lunch and Art Walks dinners but they hope to extend their hours. The problem is, according to my indifferent waiter, because the security system is tied to that of the museum proper. My crêpes are spinach/cheese and shrimp (3 of em) taste heavy. $20 with a glass of wine isn’t too bad. Piano player and lovely atmosphere.

I look at a couple of the shops (antiques in this case) then proceed back outside and around to the front door. The Lightner Museum was a home and it reminded me a bit of Biltmore in Asheville-though smaller. Ahead of its time plumbing and fixtures made one appreciate how much more comfortable you can be with some money! I finished in time to see a Music seminar. Player piano and violano were all I stayed for but there is a room filled with music boxes and such. No book about the building so I didn't make any purchases in the gift shop. There were more art galleries in the front of the building and I stopped in. B&F had mentioned the Highwaymen artists and W&C also did so I was delighted to find some. They sold art on the side of the road. Not quite like Elvis on velvet but vivid landscapes. They have become very collectible.

Walked around a bit outside but started to wilt so went “home”.

Dinnertime came and a nice group of neighbors did also, bearing more wine and gifts. We talked and laughed all night long. I was so touched by the level of devotion and care these people gave to each other. Some are full timers, some half time and others visitors when possible but almost all have overcome physical adversity or were dealing with it without whining. One of the hostess gifts was a box of Dogiva goodies for the dogs. One of the guests (who shall remain nameless) ate some as the box looked just like Godiva! In keeping with the merriment level, he began to bark when his error was discovered.

Tomorrow is Sunday and we will vedge in the a.m. and tour around after.
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Old Feb 18th, 2011, 11:34 AM
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Sunday, 6 Feb., 2011-Cloudy and cool

We were all lazy in the morning. I washed a few clothes and W&C walked the dogs. We were going to go out to lunch but ate sandwiches in instead then hit the road. Drove down the A1A to next town and saw where storm washed out some land leaving 3 houses stranded. The county decided it was too expensive to relay the water lines so they are now un-rentable.
We drove around the neighborhoods on either side of the ICW in St. Augustine. Look like lots of nice houses for sale. Saw assisted living and a gorgeous little house on 39 Magnolia, a street lined and canopied with Spanish moss. The house was $700K I believe! Too much for me. Jotted down names of realtors for online research.

W&C suggest the Casablanca B&B (or Inn?) if I return to look more closely at real estate here. We go “home” and load up on leftovers and watch the super bowl. Some of us drowsed!

Monday, 7th of Feb. Raining a monsoon

Awoke at 4:30 to the sound of rain pouring on the roof of my room’s balcony (it was so nice!) and at 9:30, it was still coming down steadily.

I left at 10:16 when the rain let up. Pass a big outlet mall with a Talbot’s! Listened to Diane Rhem on 89.9 fm radio and drove toward Savannah. Traffic no problem even in Jacksonville. Figure it would take about 2.5 hours to get to the airport there from SA. Only an hour from Pt. St. Lucie to Palm Beach airport.

Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch in honor of my MIL who loved them. W&C said that St. Mary is a nice little town and that’s where I was. After lunch, it started raining again so I didn’t go to the historic area. Arrived in Savannah around 3.

The Inn is just wonderful. I’m directed to park my car behind and let in a secure back door as clerk takes my luggage to the Low Country room (the least expensive) I will call home. It is a lovely combo of antiques, modern bath and comfortable bed. TV reception a little “sucky” but I only watched news so it didn’t matter.

Will try to put some pix up of the Inn-the décor is truly special. I pretended it was my very own plantation house as I went upstairs to take 4 o’clock tea in the Tea Room. Printed drapes matched the wall paper. Sweet and fragile cups and saucers. Forget what the sandwiches were as I forwent them.

Staff had made reservations for my dinner in the Pink House at 6. Chief of staff, Trisha told me about hanging my breakfast desires on a form on my bedroom door. Continental in the room or “Chef’s Choice” upstairs.

I unpacked and sorted through my stuff then started walking toward the restaurant. Savannah has 22 squares remaining from the original 24 (correct me if I’m mis-remembering). Each is nicely landscaped and has some sort of theme. I crossed a couple on my walk.

The Olde Pink House is lovely and quite pink because, I will hear speculated, a huge Savannah fire caused a chemical reaction between original red paint and the stucco beneath it. Dinner was a cup of She-crab soup ($8), Crab-stuffed grouper with lemon sauce, mashed and mixed beans ($31.95). A demi of Chianti Classico $20. Not cheap but not awful for such a nice place. A bread basket contained an herb-covered yeast roll, corn bread muffin and a biscuit. Waitress from Rehobeth Beach Delaware and guy who guided me from the downstairs bar to the upstairs restaurant from Towson MD. Such a small world.

Strolled back to the room along a different street and found my bed turned down, a chocolate mint on the pillow and the breakfast card. Time to crash! Tomorrow I meet Paula Deen's handsome son.
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Old Feb 19th, 2011, 06:57 AM
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Tuesday, Feb. 7-Sunny and in the high 50s in Savannah GA

Breakfast was chef’s choice and it was good. Orange ricotta pancakes (I passed but don’t they sound wonderful), eggs over with sausage, fruit bowl (melon balls, blueberries and strawberries). Everything nicely arranged on lovely old china. Silver cutlery.

Almost next door is a realtor’s office so I stopped there for a card and introduced myself as someone who might be getting on their web site. No pressure from them, just “welcome” and “call if we can help”. I walked to Bull Street on the other corner and headed back toward the water (north rather than south-that confuses me for some reason). Caught last night’s square in from of the Olde Pink House. Its statue is that of Tomo-chi-chi who worked with the early settlers here?

Started walking toward the Market Place and passed the Lady and Son’s resto and made 6 pm reservations with the young lady at the door. There is a retail outlet next so I go in and get some stuff for my cat watching neighbor. Lots of cute aprons and towels with Paula’s recipes printed on them. Jars of condiments/sauces and bags of goodies. They mailed the package for me and it arrived the day before I got home!

Market Place was as I remembered. Pedestrian area with shops and restos along the way. Stopped for a chocolate gelato but couldn’t finish it-just didn’t taste the way I remembered it should. Found a gallery that sold many giclées and prints at lower prices. Many galleries will not carry giclées but I think they are a nice way for folks to get art at a lower cost. I have produced a few watercolors and the giclées I’ve printed onto watercolor paper are visually very close to the originals. I continued my walk toward the river and passed a truck with the Moon River resto sign.

Climbed the very steep steps down to the river walk area and passed a stall selling Trolley tickets. My breathing isn’t great at this point so I gulp and buy the $25 ticket. Chat leads me to learn that guy is also from Maryland. He suggests po’ boy at nearby Fiddler’s so I go there. Get the sandwich on a croissant (less bread) and enjoy eating at the bar and talking with the apparently local folks there. Bartender loves Mexico Beach in Florida and nearby Tybee Island as places to live. I add them to my research list.

I continued my walk along the river and took shots of interesting buildings. Loved “Bob’s Your Uncle” sign that reminded me of a Dick Francis character. Had to back track to pick up the trolley but I really enjoyed the tour (and the rest!).

We went first to the area where the first crops were planted in the town. It is near the Pirate resto. We passed several Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) buildings. I learned that a Paula Wallace started the school in 1979 with 71 students. It has an endowment of over $200 million and has been active in buying up old places and restoring them. SCAD signs abound. There are even dorms and buildings from a train station conversion.

The Trolley drive was longer than my “footmobile” and lungs could have taken. DH and I had visited the homes on our first visit so I didn’t do that again. There are many “for sale” signs outside some gorgeous old homes. Sigh.

I got off near Broughton Street to check out a store called Paris Market. It was filled with stuff from overseas and had a sweet little café just like what you’d find in Paris. There were 2 or 3 little 2-person tables right outside. There was also a reproduction art deco Metro sign over the basement stairs. I had a café au lait and wrote some notes.

Walked along Broughton and thought there might have been too many empty stores. Think the student population might be keeping things going with apartment rentals but maybe not retail. Nice art supply store, a SCAD theatre, some galleries and some funky shops in the area. Stopped in one gallery and bought a small blown glass bird as my trip souvenir.

By now it’s 5 and not enough time to walk back to the hotel and return for 6 o’clock reservations so I just went to the Lady & Sons and they weren’t too busy to move my time. I had a glass of McWilliams shiraz ($7), crab-stuffed shrimp wrapped in bacon with lemon basil sauce, rice and asparagus ($23.99). A pan-fried cornbread “pancake” and a cheese biscuit came around before dinner.

The décor where I am on the second floor is a combo of warehouse, primative and country kitchen. Dark green wainscoting under white plaster above. Pink ceiling. It was pleasant looking. The entrée was not to my liking. Although tasty, there were too many shrimps, stringy crab stuffing and bacon uncooked where it overlapped. It was a heavy meal.

Took a needed walk back to the hotel. After dinner drinks were being served so I had another wine and asparagus/cheese bite and chatted with Trishia. She loves her work and does a little of everything in the Inn. She said there is some drug-related crime in the downtown. I do hope revitalization can occur-would hate to see it get run down.

So, tomorrow I go to Wilmington NC and will make a breakfast stop in Beaufort SC. DH and I loved that gorgeous old town. I am getting homesick for my cat.
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Old Feb 19th, 2011, 07:50 AM
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Great report, thanks.
After similar google amps/GPS conflicts I have learned to always carry a good map!
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Old Feb 20th, 2011, 09:07 AM
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Thanks jubilada. Here's the end:

Wednesday, February 8, 2011-High 50s and party cloudy

Up at 7 and decided to drive to Beaufort for breakfast. DH and I had driven through on a previous trip and loved the old homes along the river.

Tricia is back bright and early and gives me a coffee. It is amazing to me that her enthusiasm hasn’t waned after quite a few years of performing 20 times over the tasks of running a home. I ran outside to get a last shot of the Inn in the morning sun. A pile of Spanish moss beckoned across the street. Would I get chiggers? The Trolley guy said that the moss grows on moisture and dust (and don’t I have a lot of that at home?!). I get some and wrap it in some tissue.

On the road at 9:15 and sitting in Blackstones for breakfast at 10:22. I didn’t remember the dual-line highway of big box stores on our previous visit. This saddens me. The downtown is showing signs of neglect but the Bay St. homes are as beautiful as ever. I stop by a realtors office, introduce myself and get their card. Receptionist says the climate is lovely. Unusually cool the last couple of winters.

I continue up route 17 and pass “Polite Family Road” on the way to Charleston. My Wilimington friend (“D”) said that Summerville is a nice town as well. I take what appears to be a Charleston by-pass but it feels like Daytona 500 or the autobahn with semis bearing down. A stressful 20 minutes or so until I reconnect with 17. Quiet and abandoned route for a while.

Along the way I am seeing evidence of developments started but not finished. At Georgetown, I stop at Land’s End resto on Winyah Bay before the Pee Dee River bridge. Ordered a whole flounder (10 oz). They had sautéed it hard and the taste was not as sweet as I thought it should be but it was OK. Fries, cole slaw and hush puppies came with it. Restaurant is nice and has a separate bar. The meal was less than $20.

On the road again and was wishing I’d chosen 95 for speed. Myrtle Beach goes on for f-ing ever and then it’s North Myrtle Beach! I passed Hog Heaven and a closed up Suck, Bang and Blow restos. Eesh. There was a bad accident and traffic was rerouted-just driving 2 blocks off the main road revealed a neighborhood of beautiful homes. I write down Pawley’s Island and Litchfield as places to check.

The free AAA map I have doesn’t show the parkway as a good by-pass (forgot to write down the route) so I lost time at stop lights and then it started to rain-hard. Got turned around when GPS didn’t tell me to stay left when road split at Wilmington so lost more time. GPS did get me back. Finally found D’s house and it is spectacular from what I could see. It was a dark and stormy night at this point!

A visit to her has been on the agenda for several years but DH’s illness put it on the back-burner. Their house is a gorgeous Victorian that she has given a face-lift and interior re-design worthy of a magazine. After a tour, we have supper at a local Italian place and it is very good. We talked and talked and talked.

Thursday, 10 Feb.-40s!

The weather report was for snow and ice so schools were delayed. It was only rain in D’s area. We are both pooped-me from driving and she from house cleaning. We sat around and talked some more (how DO we find enough topics?!) then went on a road trip.

She drove us to Wrightsville via Airlie. We saw Michael Jordan’s house. Other places I listed are Landfall and Rosemary Beach. Downtown Wilmington NC has more signs of retail activity than Beaufort and Savannah. The Murchison Building calls out to me. We drive around UNC Wilmington campus and nice residential area there. D says many people buying the houses for their college kids.

We stop for lunch at D’s favorite Asian place. I get a GF mixture of stir-fried rice noodles, broccoli, bean sprouts, mushrooms and mirin soy. D gets Bun Thit Nuong (a mix of good stuff I didn’t write down because we were still talking). The ladies has a fake fireplace and beaded curtains. Fun place and good food.

We drove to Kure Beach and Fort Fisher. There the sand dunes were re-claimed with the cast-off Christmas trees of the good folks in Wilmington as a base. Lots of sweet plantation-looking homes in this area but prices on the beach are not low.

At around 3, we decide we are both ready for a coffee break so head back to D’s and there we stayed. We had great plans to go to the movies but are both perfectly happy to stick around. I tell D that I want to go home tomorrow instead of Saturday so will miss her DH, kids and GB. She understands of course. Oh, we talk and talk some more.

Friday 11 Feb. 2011-50s and partly sunny

I get off around 10 and per D, take route 40 out of Wilmington and the 701 cut-off through Newton’s Grove. I pass fields of cut cotton-a few balls here and there and a nice countryside. Rte. 95 a breeze as I just go 5 miles over the speed limit so everyone goes around me. I stop at Smithfield NC and eat breakfast at a Bob Evans. The service is impeccable and breakfast is good.

At Petersburg VA, I take the 295 by-pass and find the pavement in need of repair. It has more local traffic that I would have anticipated but it wasn’t stressful driving. About an hour north of Richmond, traffic became heavier but more from the north. Again, not too bad. Just as I’m “smelling” home, radio says there is an accident on the DC beltway and I’ve already committed to this route. Just a little slow but I am home before 5 and so glad to see my cat. She covers me in cat hair and drools. Run by my neighbor’s and she has received the Paula Deen package and was waiting for me to get open to watch her open it. It was a good trip but there's no place like home.

I do recommend the Auto Train with the inconveniences mentioned in my separate post. Having my own car was a godsend when I was lost. Automatically being able to turn up the windshield wipers was a big help. I will start looking online at some of the places I liked for more info about prices, taxes, etc. How to decide? I am blessed with good friends and great neighbors. Should I move to a different climate or just buy a warmer winter coat?
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