"On the Road Again"           

"Cavalia"

 

Saturday, March 20, 2010  

Yesterday, we drove the Roo back to Southern Oaks in Summerfield – just a few miles from home.  We will be meeting some old friends for lunch today and will be attending a fundraiser for Haiti relief tomorrow.  On Monday we will attend the Webster flea market and then move to the Tampa area on Tuesday.  We have bought tickets for Cavalia on Wednesday.  At least – as of right now – those are our plans.   

We had seen ads for Cavalia and read about it.  For various reasons, we hadn’t done anything special for Al’s birthday in November or our anniversary in February.  Also, my birthday is next month.  We decided to celebrate all three occasions with first class tickets to Cavalia, a “spectacular equestrian odyssey that features a cast of more than 100 two- and four-legged artists including horses of 12 breeds, acrobats, aerialists, dancers, riders and live musicians”.  It is sort of a horsy Cirque du Soleil held in the world’s largest white Big Top tent.  The Big Top is more than 71,400 square feet of canvas that weighs 45,000 pounds.  The entire structure weighs nearly 100,000 pounds.  Seven trailers are needed to transport the tent alone.  It is now being set up at the Florida State Fairgrounds.  

Later…We met Alice and Dick for lunch and had a pleasant conversation.  We told them we had passed a street fair/flea market/festival just a mile up the road and they were interested.  After lunch we drove back the mile or so, but all the tables and booths had gone.  We all laughed about it, said good-by and they left.    

Wildwood – population under 4,000 – was founded in 1877 and today has a pretty town square.  However, the buildings lining the street opposite the square are very rundown.  There were a number of antiques/collectibles/junk shops and we wandered through them.  At the end of the block is a storefront where auctions are held and we took this picture.   

We stopped at Tin Can Pam’s, mostly because we just wanted to check it out.  It sells food and hygiene items at deep discounts.  Many of the cans are dented, but some aren’t.  We bought toothpaste and some items to donate to the homeless shelter.  There are several old, deep freezers: the kind used in homes.  We looked into each one and found several frozen meats at unbelievable prices.  It would be possible for someone to buy all their food at Tin Can Pam’s.  Hanging from a freezer door was someone’s cell phone.  We turned it over to the women at the cash register who hit redial and managed to talk to someone who knew the owner. Outside, this unusual motorcycle and sidecar is Russian.

Our next stop was at a roadside produce stand, and in Oxford there is a church with a marquee, “The Hawaiians are coming”.  Huh?  We maneuvered around some road construction through pastoral pastureland and stopped at Brown’s Country Market.  The produce here was even better, but they also have: Pickled Dilly Beans; Corn Relish; Orange Blossom Honey sticks; jars of Pit Cooked Pork with Barbeque Sauce; Amish Noodles; Vegan German Spinach Noodles; spaetzl; jars of peaches, black bean salsa, pickled hot okra and Dutch Apple Jam.  There was a whole rack of something that looked like licorice sticks, but flavored with watermelon, peach, orange, grape, blue raspberry and cherry.  We think we may return to buy a patio tomato plant.  

Back at the Roo…the weather was wonderful.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and we opened all the windows and let the air flow in.  We had left some windows open for Maddy but she loves the screen door open the best.    

Total miles for yesterday:  23.6.  

  

Sunday, March 21, 2010  

What a day this has been!  We had a long day at Fellowship, starting at 9:30 with budget meeting.  Then we had a short service and the annual meeting.  The meeting was run under Robert’s Rules and included both good ideas and bad, concise speakers and those longwinded.  After that we had food and boxed lunches.  At 1:30 the fun began.  

This program was strictly a fundraiser to benefit Haiti.  All ticket and boxed lunch receipts will 100% go to Haiti relief.  Jim McIntosh was the Master of Ceremonies and – for some as yet unknown reason – presided while wearing a full Scottish costume, complete with kilts.  The show opened with a video by Rita Ridgard of before and after pictures of the devastation in Haiti – a moving reminder of the reason we were together today.  

The program started with the 6-member “Villages Bluegrass Club”, including our own fellowship member Hal Sands playing fiddle.  Jerry Foran -- on banjo -- has shared the stage with the likes of Bill Monroe, The Johnson Mountain Boys, The Osbournes, Doyle Lawson , and many more. He has played the Grand Ole Opry and has made many radio and TV guest appearances.   

Rich Jones on mandolin and Glynda Jones on bass were originally from West Tennessee.  Rich has been playing the mandolin since 1986. Before that, he played lead guitar and bass in a country band. Glynda plays bass for the group and comes from a long line of family musicians.   

Patrick Hagerman plays guitar and 6-foot-5-inch Tommy Cordell plays the fiddle.  Tommy played for the Grand Ole Opry for ten years and won the Florida State Fiddle Championship three years in a row.  Many of the who’s who in the bluegrass world consider Tommy the best fiddle player in the world.  

In 1991, Tommy Cordell was perched on a stepladder pruning an oak tree when a 20-foot branch snapped and ripped apart his shoulder.  A team of surgeons spent eight hours repairing the damage, but the injuries from his accident were so severe that Cordell's right arm hung limply at his side.  Before the accident, Cordell had been looking forward to auditioning for country singer Willie Nelson's band.  Now it appeared his life as a professional fiddler was over.  ''I was afraid I'd never be able to move it,'' Tommy has said.  It has taken much work and stamina for him to come back.  And come back he did.    

We are very fortunate that these retired professionals donated their time and talent for this fundraiser.  We all sat in awe as they played Cotton-Eyed Joe, Rocky Top, Rawhide and the Orange Blossom Special.  Cloggers Janet and Jerry Capehart danced to Cotton-Eyed Joe.  They, too, are apparently professionals.  Rocky Top, recorded by the Osbourne Brothers in 1967, and Lynn Anderson’s version in 1970, crossed the charts from Bluegrass to Country to Pop.  

Next up was Barbara Schuster singing Wish You Were Somehow Here Again by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Barbara later told me she was nervous being in a show with so many professionals, but she was great and is a wonderful addition to our choir.  Member John Sharpe played Autumn Leaves on the piano. I remember well the year my sister played Autumn Leaves for her year-end piano recital.  My memory is that she practiced it dozens of times each day for years, but I know that is exaggerating.    

Next up were “Further Ado”, a Barbershop Quartet with Lloyd Cole, tenor; Paul Smith, lead; Jim Gehrzein, baritone and Jim Castanien, bass.  I love a cappella, and the four -- in matching red shirts -- sang Wait Til the Sun Shines Nelly, Wild Irish Rose and Sweet and Lovely. Paul had seen Al with his camera beforehand, had given him his card and asked for him to send any pictures Al took.    

The “Village Harmonica Trio”, with Bob Dauhn, John Mooney and Paul Satriano, played Sentimental Journey.  Paul then played Stardust as a solo.  The program said Barbara would sing Southern Nights and be in fins.  Huh?  She came out in a long, slinky, green sequined dress with “fins” at the bottom.  Then there was Intermission.    

The program continued with Phyllis Sharpe playing Scott Joplin’s Swipsey on the piano.  Then Bob Dauhn played It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow on the harmonica.  Barbara returned (no fins this time) and began singing Big Spender from the Broadway show “Sweet Charity”.  From the back of the room, John Deckman and Bill Denison sashayed up the aisles fully dressed as women with wild red hair and dresses.  During the song they drifted around, flirting with the men and hugging their heads to their chests.  What a hoot!  

Charles “Sweet Pea” Spencer – a friend of Bob Dauhn – sang Green Dolphin Street.  I don’t know anything about him, but he has real stage presence and was very good.  I would not be surprised if he, too, is a retired professional.  Then he and Bob and Ruth Prentice got together.  “Sweet Pea” sang, while Ruth played piano and Bob played a series of musical instruments.  Bob has a repertoire of twelve instruments he plays beautifully.  They include everything from a 1-inch harmonica to alto and soprano saxes.  A few weeks ago he played The White Cliffs of Dover on a harmonica (standard size), that brought tears to many eyes.  The trio performed Undecided, Ain’t Misbehaving and Sweet Georgia Brown.  

The program ended with Bob and Ruth playing a moving rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic, written in 1861 by Unitarian Universalist Julia Ward Howe.  Bob played several refrains, each with a different instrument.  It was a wonderful ending and brought everyone to their feet.    

There will be a second show this evening with a few changes, but we will not be there.  We had left the Roo shortly after 9:00 am and returned shortly after 4:00 pm.  We can’t imagine how all the members of the show can keep up the pace of this afternoon.  But I am sure - with them being professionals – that the evening show will be just as good as the afternoon show.  I can’t say enough about how good the show was, and all for a good cause.  

This was Ruth Deussen’s baby, with additional nods to the Master of Ceremonies, Jim McIntosh; Rita and Robert Ridgard and Heather Cox for the audio and visual; members of the Social Justice Committee and all the performers who freely gave their time and talents for the people of Haiti.    

  

  

  

  

  

Monday, March 22, 2010  

It was overcast and cool this morning.  I spent some time writing up yesterday’s activities and then we left to drive to Webster for the flea market.  The sun was going in and out as we drove past a Brahman cow lying in a field with her calf while two gray herons strutted around them.  By the time we branched off 301 onto 471 the sun was shining.  

The Webster Flea Market has been around for many years.  It was established and chartered in 1937 during the Great Depression as an outlet for farmers to sell their produce and cattle.  Initially, farm families would sell/trade “junk” items that they no longer needed.  In the early 1950s the market expanded to include new merchandise and the “junk” items are now considered to be antiques and collectibles.  The official name is the Sumter County Farmers’ Market, Inc.  And it is huge.

We parked in the HP area near a gate -- $2 to park, no admission.  We walked around the open-air section first.  The wind was gusting and several vendors were having problems with it.  It sounded like an international market with several languages being spoken and deep accents from Southeast Asia, India and the Caribbean Islands.  One vendor wore a white turban.  More vendors are under large canopies and inside huge barns.  There are handbags by the thousands and jewelry of every sort: beads; glass; metal; wood; gold; silver; copper; precious and semiprecious gemstones.   

We stumbled on the first coin dealer and he directed us to the two other dealers.  While Al spent time on coins, I walked around as best I could – it was very crowded.  Hair weaves; mini-doughnuts; tools; cosmetics; antiques; craft and gift items; junk; coins; swords and “As Seen on TV”.  The most common items were handbags and jewelry.  Glass pendants on ribbons sell for $2 each; soda from India; food items printed in Cyrillic.  A vendor selling fishing gear had tattoos all over his head and face.     

The vegetables pavilion was the most crowded and well it should be.  Everything looked fresh and delicious: tomatoes of every size; cabbages; several kinds of potatoes; rutabagas; onions; leeks; green onions; oranges; grapefruit; lettuces; green beans; several types of squash and many items I have never seen before.  Flats of Plant City strawberries sell for $9 each.  

I saw dozens of dogs – mostly small “designer” dogs - usually carried or in doggie strollers.  I saw a man open one stroller’s zippered screen and a rather large head poked out.  These strollers are usually used for small dogs.  We couldn’t resist taking a picture of this Chihuahua.  Scarily, the woman wore matching clothes.

It was nearing noon and we were hungry.  There is plenty of food – sausage subs, fried dough and hotdogs – but seating is limited.  There is also an indoor buffet, but the waiting line was long.  We decided to leave the flea market and try another place in town.  When we had driven through here weeks ago we had noticed the Rocking Chair Inn, B.Y.O.R.  The inside was something less than we expected but we were hungry and didn’t want to look any further.  The two bars had about two dozen stools and the area where tables should be was filled with a large pool table.  The menu was very limited.  This is definitely a local hangout with most of the patrons coming not for the food, but for the $1 draft beers.  The man sitting next to Al told him – in great detail – how he makes Drunken Chicken.  The food was adequate and didn’t break the wallet.  

On the way home, we saw a motorcycle towing what looked like a small race car.  The car is just for storage.  The weather continued to change.  When clouds covered the sun, the temperature dropped dramatically.  When the sun was shining, the temperature raised 10º to 20º.  Overhead, several hawks floated on air currents.  We stopped to take pictures of this bovine family: Papa Brahman, white-faced Mom and their calf.  

In Coleman there is Bobby’s Cars, Bobby’s Antiques and Bobby’s Historic Village and an office. There are also the homes he owns and a swimming pool surrounded by a white iron fence.  After decades of owning so much property in Coleman, Bobby Caruthers is retiring.  He has sold the office and many other properties and has long rented out his antique shop and Historic Village.   

Bobby spent his childhood in Coleman and worked across the street from what is now Bobby’s Historic Village, which his father used to own. The village includes a collection of historical buildings - a city jail, train depot, butcher shop, fur-trading center, an outhouse and other buildings, mostly constructed in the mid- to late-1800s. 75-year-old Bobby used to feed prisoners there as a child.  He was never afraid of them he has said, because he knew many of them personally.  Bobby’s wife, Eve, is the mayor of Coleman.    

We wandered through the antiques store and out the back door to the Historic Village.  Unfortunately, the buildings are pretty run down and will not last much longer.  The wood is rotting and vegetation is taking over the buildings – we had to look past this to see what these buildings were in their heyday.    

The store was built in 1923 by M.T. Caruthers, Bobby’s uncle.  It opened as a General Store and stayed one for over sixty years.  Bobby’s father, Joe Caruthers, took over as owner in 1947 after serving as store manager for thirteen years and one day.  Bobby grew up in the old store and was in charge of the meat department and also in charge of feeding the prisoners in the jail near the rear of the store.    

The train station was originally built in 1895 one block away from its present location.  In 1978 it was given to the city of Coleman.  The City moved it three miles to what was then the city dump.  It was used as a Boy Scout hut for about the next twenty years.  Bobby bought the building and brought it back to Coleman.  Even though the building is two stories, it was only used as a one story.  Moving this building back here and restoring it was very expensive.  This building – like the old store – was restored with pecky cypress that was harvested from the bottom of the Withlacoochee River.  The mantels have water marks on the face.  “The old trees must have laid there for 200 years.”    

The Post Office was originally built in 1849 at Sopchoppy, FL, thirty miles south of Tallahassee on the coast.  It was used as a fur trading center and Post Office.  In the early years mail was delivered on horseback.  Bobby acquired the building and brought it to Coleman in sections.  It is believed to be standing just as it did 153 years ago, facing south.  It is said that when the South was on the run, a top ranking Confederate General was housed in this building for several days.  When the Yankees searched for him, they failed to look under a pile of smelly furs that had already turned the dogs’ noses.  

The old school house was originally built about three miles east of Coleman in 1869.  During the Depression it was used as a home.  During the next several years it was moved to several locations and used as a barn.  Bobby bought it and moved it to this village.  The original bell is still with the building.  I can only wonder what was taught in the old schoolhouse. 

The 1913 jail is Bobby’s favorite building and it stands where it was built.  Railroad track lines the ceiling, walls and under the floorboards.  It would be impossible to break out, although it only housed one violent prisoner.  In the late 1920s a bank robber held up the Coleman bank.  During his getaway he ran out of gas between Coleman and Wildwood and was caught a short time later.  Other than that, the jail was used most often by Rodger Graham, the Town Marshall for many years, to put the local good-old-boys to let them "sleep it off".  In the 1940s and 1950s, it was Bobby’s job to feed them.  When Bobby arrived at work at 5:00 a.m. in his father’s store, the prisoners would call, “Bobby, bring us some cheese and soda water.”  Bobby would do that promptly because he knew they were hungover.  Today he remembers the horrendous smell because there was no toilet.  Today, for sale inside the jail are antique tools, lanterns and meat grinders.    

All these buildings were set amid huge old oak trees.  Back inside the antiques store, a room off to one side held several Chinese antiques.  We were rather surprised by the descent prices on the jade pieces.  A cat wandered around among all the antiques and enjoyed a back scratch.  

We made it back to the Roo just before the skies opened again.   

  

Tuesday, March 23, 2010  

Al managed to post this morning really early.  When we get home he will set up another picture gallery for Sunday’s program.  I took this picture because I had never before seen a huge fan in an RV window.    

The skies were clear and the temp was in the 50s when we headed the Roo south on 301.  We have driven up and down this strip of 301 several times in the past few days.  In Wildwood, there are small brick cottages like the motel type of years ago.  They sit in a semi-circle and each is no larger than a single-car garage.  They are all being lived in and there was laundry on a clothesline behind one of them.    

We passed a pickup truck with a triple cab and the Shady Oaks Gather All.  An Infrared Body Wrap is available in Sumterville – whatever that is.  We were driving through fields of horses and tree farms so it was surprising to see a Probation and Parole office.   

Buddy’s Tavern is in Bushnell.  The door was open and I could see wooden saloon doors like the ones you see in old Western movies.  Bushnell – population just over 2,000 – is popular with anglers.    

We again saw the cow that is all black from the shoulders forward and its hindquarters to the tip of its tail.  There is a wide white stripe around her midsection.  We passed what look like miniature Shetland ponies and – along where there are only trees and greenery – there is a large pink blowup chick and a blowup of a rabbit riding an airplane.  There was a long stretch where the telephone wires along one side of the road dripped with Spanish moss.  The air currents must be just right for that to happen.  Trees are cut if they interfere with phone lines and that makes for some rather odd-looking trees – the sides continue to grow outward but the middle is missing.  

Along this 2-lane stretch of route 301, it is called Treiman Boulevard and every street off it is called a boulevard, even though Richardson Boulevard is a dirt road.  The very definition of “boulevard” is “a broad avenue”.  Also, this narrow road has signs for 60 mph, which makes us a little nervous.  

We passed Corvette Generation and Young Pest Control.  I never figured out how to control my young pests.  Dade City was originally settled as Fort Dade in the 1840s - the name was changed to Dade City in 1884. We were getting hungry when we saw Smitty’s Smokehouse.  It is in a shopping center so there is plenty of room to park the Roo.  We have eaten there before and remembered the food is good.  Al had a rice dish with pineapple and pulled chicken that was excellent.  

We continued driving south on 301 until we came to CR 579.  The mailboxes are strange along here, seeming to sit right in the road.  We passed Mother’s Organics Recycling Facility and arrived at Lazydays at the Rally Park in Seffner, just outside of Tampa.  We were here last year with our Alaska caravan and won a $50 gift certificate to Lazydays.  

After setting up, we drove over to the area where rigs are for sale, new and used.  To get there, you have to walk through the Lazydays building so we could be on our own and not be bothered by a salesman.  We climbed into and out of as many rigs as we could until we couldn’t step up another step.  We are glad we did it though, because we didn’t see anything that we feel we need.  We still love our Roo.    

The weather was beautiful and Maddy loved all the open windows and screen door.  We both fell asleep during Dancing with the Stars.  

Total miles for the day:  81.3.                      Elevation:  53’.

Total miles for the trip:  104.9.

  

Wednesday, March 24, 2010  

This morning the weather was perfect – warm, sunny and dry.  We drove to the fairgrounds where Cavalia is set up, just to see how long it took us to get there and to pick up our tickets.  It took less than ten minutes to travel the six miles.  The tent looks like something right out of the Arabian Nights with several points.  It takes forty people twelve days to erect it and seven days to dismantle it.  We could see handlers walking some of the horses.  When Al took a picture of one of the horses, a handler jokingly said, “People take pictures of the pretty horses, but not of the pretty workhorses”.  Then he posed and Al took his picture.  

The route took us right past the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino so we decided to stop there for lunch.  The parking garage has several floors and we found a spot on the fourth floor.  An elevator took us to the casino on the third floor and we asked where the buffet was.  We walked through the casino and up an escalator.  The casino was extremely crowded.  When we arrived at the restaurant there were at least 100 people waiting in line just to get into the restaurant.  Really - no exaggeration – at least 100 people.  We took one look at that line and returned to our car.  The afternoon went downhill from there.  

We stopped at a small place on the way back to the Roo for lunch.  I ordered a BLT and was surprised to get it with no tomato.  The waitress checked with the kitchen and was told they were out of tomatoes.  Did the cook really think I wouldn’t notice?  To top that off, I had to negotiate to get the price adjusted.    

Back at the Roo…Al went out to Little Red to get something.  The car wouldn’t start.  In all the time we’ve had her, Red has never given us any trouble.  She is a 2004 Grand Am and even though she has “pushed” the Roo to Alaska and back, she has low mileage.  Only her tires have been replaced.  

Panic!  Our Cavalia tickets are not refundable.  Al got out his AAA card but it had expired.  Phone calls.  Our AAA account is paid up to date and we waited nervously until a mechanic arrived.  He couldn’t fix it – Red needed to be towed.  The AAA mechanic suggested where to have it towed and left.  The tow driver arrived and suggested a different garage.  More phone calls.  Should we rent a car or taxi for tonight?  Time was passing.  The front desk recommended a specific taxi driver that they endorse.  A call from the garage – the problem is with Red’s security system.  We opted for the taxi.    

We had told Hershel that we needed to be at Cavalia at 6:30 – he picked us up at 6:00.  Hershel had been in the military stationed in Fairbanks, AK, so we had something to talk about.  His cab is interesting – it has a ramp and is fully wheelchair accessible.  We arrived at the fairgrounds far too early and there was no place to sit.  We asked the young woman at the door – Jesseeka - if we could sit inside even though the doors were not officially open.  She said yes and we talked with her a bit.  She just started but has been offered a job and will be traveling with them when they leave Tampa.  

Cirque du Soleil co-founder Normand Latourelle created Cavalia in collaboration with renowned French equestrians Frederic Pignon and his wife, Magali Delgado.  It is based in Quebec and when Al called, they first answered in French.  Its promoters say the show includes “trick riding, vaulting, haute école and pas de deux, unbridled displays and Cirque du Soleil-like performances”.  Thirteen horses are Lusitanos (and brothers or half-brothers), and the remainder are Canadian Horses, American Quarter Horses, Paint horses, Belgians, Percherons, Arabians, and a young Appaloosa colt. About half of the horses were brought from southern France and the rest are from the United States. 

The horses are only asked to practice one hour each day, and get two hours each day for play. They only perform for 5–10 minutes per show, 7-8 times each week, and the horses are trained to understudy for each other so different horses can be given the day off.  These horses eat 40 bales of hay per day, and consume 1,980 pounds of grain and 44 pounds of carrots each week.  Many of the horses have their mane braided when not performing, and Templado’s (the absolute star of the show) knee-length mane takes 90 minutes to complete.  (Somewhere I read that the original Templado died in 2008, but other places I learned that the new horse with the long mane is also called Templado.)

Our tickets gave us “Rendez-vous” status.  Even though the show was not to start until 8:00, we were to have a buffet beforehand and allowed to walk through the stables afterwards and talk to the participants.  The tent is actually a series of smaller “rooms”, each with its own point at the top.  The masts rise 103’, with the tallest 120’.  The interior of the Rendez-vous room is painted dark blue with chandeliers hanging from several places around the pointed ceiling.  There were tables and chairs for perhaps 100 people, a bar on one side and gift items on the other.  There are six or eight TV monitors around the walls playing a loop of horses both in the wild and during the show.  Jesseeka lit candles on all the tables and others brought out the food.  All the workers wore black with shirts sporting the Cavalia logo on the left breast.    

Jesseeka checked our tickets and gave us lanyards with Rendez-vous passes dangling from them.  At 6:30 she opened the doors.  The people who came in covered a wide variety of dress.  We had wondered what to wear – would it be warm; cold; too much air conditioning; too little air conditioning; how would others dress; would the stables be dirty?  We had opted for jeans.  Others covered every conceivable mode of dress imaginable.  There were spiked heels; sandals; cowboy boots; sneakers; deck shoes and work boots.    

A 4-year-old brat-in-training was allowed to choose the table for her family - and kept changing her mind.  A woman wore sequined denim and work boots.  Another woman wore a blouse with a giraffe on the back and zebras on the front.  Only a few men wore sport coats – more wore Hawaiian shirts.  One woman wearing a red African head wrap walked around with a Blue Tooth type pod in her ear.  An old woman wore the same “best clothes” she had retired in 30 years ago.    

There was an open bar and people took advantage of it.  We sipped champagne and toasted our birthday/anniversary/birthday.  There were crudités; triangles of phylo dough filled with a mushroom mixture; large jumbo shrimp, both cooked and barbequed; mini caviar-filled phylo cups; a cherry tomato and feta salad; baked brie with craisins (dried cranberries); chicken-on-a-stick and focaccia sandwiches.  One woman returned to the buffet table repeatedly, each time piling her plate high with shrimp. 

The gifts included several types of tops besides the ubiquitous tee shirts; hats; books about the horses (one was $65); beautiful umbrellas with a single horse head painted on one side; stuffed horses; DVDs and an absolutely gorgeous cashmere wrap woven with the picture of Templado with his long flowing mane ($195).  

We entered the big tent through a side door and the show began with some statistics.  In the beginning, there were 29 horses, now there are 62 horses in the show.  There are 28 stallions and no mares.  The rest are geldings. The average age of the horses is 8 years.  The oldest is 19 years and the youngest is 6 months.  When traveling around the world, they travel by air with their handlers and personal veterinarian.    

There was an announcement that no pictures were to be taken during the show.  We had already asked about that.  The woman next to me evidently didn’t think it pertained to her.  She kept her phone on and the light was annoying.  When she flashed a second picture, Al reached over me and told her to, “TURN THAT THING OFF!”  An usher came running up the steps, shone a flashlight directly in her face and told her she would be escorted out if she did it again.  The worst thing about it was that she was with two young teenage daughters.  I can’t understand how anyone can be so inconsiderate and clueless. 

The “stage” is at ground level - it is 150 feet wide and takes 1500 tons of sand to complete.  (My stupid brain wants to know if they carry their own sand to every location or buy it?  If they buy it, what do they do with it when they leave?)  The show opened with two young foals galloping at full speed across the stage. 

There are 12 horse breeds represented in Cavalia and each horse is stunningly beautiful.  All white Templado raced in with the longest mane either of us ever saw and seemed to float around the stage.  His mane had to be 3 or 4 feet long and his tail reached to the ground.    

The special effects were amazing too.  A ghost horse appeared 40 feet tall, mane flying.  The background changed from arches to doorways to a wooded forest and back – all computerized.  I don’t know where they started from, but each horse entered the stage at full gallop.    

At intermission, as we walked out, those of us with Rendez-vous lanyards were ushered through the side door back to the buffet room.  Actually, between the stage tent and the buffet tent is a large open area with immaculate restrooms in a truck trailer.  Tables were set up in this open area for anyone wanting to smoke with their buffet.  Coffee and tea were served with the still open bar and fruits; cheeses; lemon petit fours; strawberries dipped in chocolate and other sweets. 

The second act seemed to build up even more energy.  Sylvia Zerbini is of special interest to us because she owns a farm in Ocala.  I believe she is genetically predisposed to risk - her father is an eighth-generation animal trainer and her mother is a fifth-generation trapeze artist.  

Her father’s family, originally from Algiers, Africa, owned one of the first circuses to cross the Sahara Desert. “Tarzan” Zerbini gained his popular nickname from his sensational exotic animal act that he brought to the U.S. in the early 1960s.  He met Jacqueline, who was originally from France and performing a double trapeze act with her sister. The two were married and along came daughters Patricia, Sylvia and Christine.  Since 1985, Patricia has owned Two Tails Ranch, a retirement center for elephants in Williston, FL.    

In her circus act, Sylvia would come galloping in on her horse, grab a trapeze bar and her horse would leave the ring.  She was one of the first to combine an aerial act with horsemanship.  Sylvia is now in her early 40s.  When she worked for Kaleidoscape she was billed as the, “Siren of the Circus, an enchantress who verbally summons her eight darling horses to the center ring -- willing them to waltz, rear, and promenade.  But that herd appears only after she has styled regally as an airborne ballerina, balancing on a lyra -- a beastly tricky three-foot-wide movable steel perch -- as well as a single trapeze, executing front and back plunges, ankle hangs and the dangerous heel catch. That’s the one she performs barefoot, so all can verify that no hook is hidden in her shoes.”  

Today she no longer performs on the trapeze, but her affinity with horses is uncanny.  She recognizes that horses are more magnificent when unadorned, without belts, buckles or sequins, and she compares their movements to dance steps. Her greatest pleasure lies in the grace of the horse and the elegance of his gallop, which motivated her to specialize in training at liberty.  ‘Liberty’ horses perform without any harness or even touch from their human leader.   

In 2004, Sylvia saw her first Cavalia performance. Four years later she joined the show.  Now, she steals the Cavalia stage in “Grande Liberté”, which she performs with her Arabian horses.   The horses gather around her with affection and do her bidding with perfection.  At the end of the act, these nine horses line up at slight angles to each other, each horse laying his head over the back of the horse in front of him.  There was no whip-cracking or yelling – just gentle words and subtle body movements.  It was as if the horses could read her thoughts and wanted to please her.  The new-age music added an ethereal effect.    

I looked up some reviews on-line and was disgusted at some of the ignorant comments.  These acts are world-class and the reviewers obviously don’t know the meaning of Classical Dressage, Vaulting, Haute Ecole or Liberty in the equestrian world.    

Equestrian vaulting is – basically – gymnastics and dance on horseback.  It was amazing to watch acrobats standing and doing handstands and back-flips on the backs of horses at a canter (just a bit slower than a gallop)!  Vaulting horses are not saddled, but they do wear a surcingle and a thick back pad.  The surcingle has special handles which aid the vaulter in performing certain moves.  People have been performing acrobatic and dance-like movements on the backs of moving horses for more than 2,000 years. The first known depiction of vaulting was from stone painting, dated at around 1500 BCE.  I believe tonight’s performance included all the mandatory moves for international competition: basic seat; flag; mill; scissors; stand and flank.   

The negative reviews I read were written about a Chicago performance of Cavalia, but I sincerely wonder if those reviewers had ever even seen a real live horse before.  I could write pages and pages about dressage, but this post is already too long.  It just irritates me when people pan something they know nothing about.     

There was so very, very much more: amazing tumbling acrobats from Morocco and trick rodeo riders racing across the stage doing handstands, hanging upside down and riding backwards.  There is a mirror scene in which two sisters dressed in long, matching white robes riding twin white stallions perform moves in incredible precision in mirror synchronization.  They end the act with the two horses standing tail to tail in perfect mirror form.  A man performs on a Chinese pole; another is tossed on a Russian bar; Bungee; trampoline; vertical rope; trick riding and lasso performances.  In a comedy scene, a horse gets a treat and sticks his tongue out.  

The performers come from Canada; France; the US; Morocco, Kyrgyzstan; Great Britain; Australia; Russia; Belgium and Mexico.  There was a high-energy finale that brought a standing ovation.    

After the show, a couple of the performers came into the buffet tent to answer questions, sign programs and have their pictures taken.  After about ten minutes, we were allowed to enter the stables – another tent.  The rules were no touching and no flash pictures.  There was a sign in front of each stall with the horse’s name, breed, age and lineage.  They were even more beautiful up close.  Some of their manes were braided but most flowed freely.  They were all spotless.  After the workout they had just undergone, they were all hungry and totally ignored all the people staring at them.  Few even lifted their heads from the fresh hay on the floor. 

While we were still in the stables Al called Hershel and he arrived about fifteen minutes later.  We were exhausted but couldn’t say enough about our evening.  The words that come to mind are surreal, magical, other-worldly, mesmerizing and enchanting.

When we arrived back at the Roo, Jay Leno was on.  We needed some time to unwind, watched TV for a while and fell asleep in our chairs.  

  

  

Thursday, March 25, 2010  

The weather this morning was perfect.  The wife of the owner of the garage to where Red was towed came by the Roo yesterday and gave Al a ride to pick up the car.  We just took it easy and all we did was a little food shopping.  On the way we passed the Mango Church of God, “Judeo Christian Values Served”.  We aren’t completely sure where they stand.  

In the afternoon we were sitting at the picnic table with Maddy when two RVers passed by.  We got to talking to them and found that they live in Chelmsford, MA, a town both Al and I have lived in separately many years ago.  Linda and Jim were interested in the custom work we had done on the Roo, so we invited them in to see it.  We then went to see their rig and what they have done.  We hope they keep in touch.

  

Friday, March 26, 2010  

The weather was pretty nice this morning.  We had seen a flyer for a movie at the IMAX Theater at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) that looked interesting.  We have been here before with our neighbors.  A few years ago we came with them for the controversial “Bodies” exhibit - exposed inner parts of real human beings.  It was very interesting.  

When we had called for information, we had been told that the first showing was expecting 200 first-graders, so we decided to wait for the second showing.  When we parked we could see the children walking along in a fairly orderly manner.      

MOSI has a DaVinci exhibit going on and I would like to see it, but we came for the movie.  While we waited in line we wished we had opted for the first-graders.  Two sets of young teenagers goofed around in line.  The group wearing parochial shirts rocked and shook one of those boxes that for $ you can try to use a small crane to pick up a gift.  They tried, but were not able to tip it over.  Where were the chaperones?    

The other group was ahead of us and didn’t even know what the movie was about.  One boy – Larry – was celebrating his sixteenth birthday so Al took his picture.  Their behavior was disgusting – both boys and girls kept hitting each other in the crotch.  It ended up with all of them holding their crotches for protection.  Again, where were the chaperones?  No one with any authority showed up until it was time for the doors to open.  It is scary to think that they are representatives of youth today.  When we entered the theater we heard them running up the steps to the top so we opted for the lower seats – a mistake.  We were too close to the screen and had to crane our necks during the whole film.  

There are only 250 IMAX dome theaters around the world, and this one is the only IMAX in the state of Florida.  The picture is ten times that of a standard theater with over 10,500 square feet of imagery.    

The movie was Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag.  It gave us a glimpse into the life of a fighter pilot.  It is a documentary of military aviation and technology with high speed chases and larger-than-life spinning and flight scenes.  The film followed Captain John Stratton (he wore his nametag through the entire film), a young American fighter pilot who flies an F-15 Eagle, the most successful fighter plane ever built.  He was eight-years-old when he decided to become a pilot.  His grandfather had been awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses and eleven air medals as a fighter pilot in the Second World War.  As a child, John was convinced his hero grandfather had won the war all by himself.  

Red Flag is the international training exercise for the air forces of allied countries.  Hundreds of pilots meet for the most challenging flying of their careers.  It is the final “tune-up” training for pilots and their crews before being sent to actual combat.    

The movie follows Capt. Stratton as he makes his way through the difficult desert training.  He is amazed at how complex, confusing and dangerous the exercises are.  We, too, were amazed and often didn’t understand the terminology.  I don’t know the statistics, but for every fighter pilot there seems to be dozens of crew on the ground to support him.    

He learns appreciation for his crew and team members who work all night rebuilding engines and reinstalling them into his plane.  Some rise at 4:30 each morning to scour the runways for tiny pebbles that can get sucked into engines and kill pilots.  Others practice running into a flaming mockup of a crashed plane.  He learns that all the pilots watch each others’ backs and that team work is the key.  He is chosen to jump out of an aircraft with a parachute, to land in the desert (similar to the Afghanistan desert) in a simulation of being shot down.  He learns to not use his GPS because the enemy can follow it right to him.  When his rescuers find him, they treat him as a captured enemy because the enemy could be wearing the uniform.  

What we took away from the movie was the importance of the entire ground crew and we wonder if that fact got through to any of the young people in the back rows.  I am not into bang-bang-shoot-em-up movies, but this gave us a real sense of what is going on “over there”, and it is not pretty.  

Since the movie was filmed, Capt. Stratton has gone on from Red Flag to serve three combat tours over Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

Saturday, March 27, 2010  

Al went to a coin show in Brandon this morning.  In the afternoon we drove to Plant City.  A year ago January, I wrote, “Plant City's original name was Ichepucksassa (also known as Idasukshed) after the Indian village that once occupied the territory.  Its name caused so much confusion that the city was renamed Cork, after the postmaster's Irish hometown.  It was finally given the name Plant City in commemoration of Henry B. Plant, and his railroad, which significantly boosted the commerce in this primarily agricultural community by incorporating it with the South Florida Railroad.”  I still find this fact interesting.    

As we passed the Hide-a-Way, we saw that the 5th Confederate Days music fest will be held in April.  We passed Bill’s Transmission, “Shift with Technology”, where Red was towed to and fixed.    

A wooden boardwalk/walkway lines the road in several places for several miles.  A sign,”Do not eat.  Strawberry is poison”.  A strange phenomenon has occurred.  The cold weather killed all the strawberries in January and caused the plants to overreact and put out more berries.  The result is too many strawberries at one time, and they have reached the point that they cost more to harvest than they are worth.  Growers are plowing them under, poisoning them or offering them free to U-pickers. 

We drove past Parksdale Farm Market and into the center of Plant City.  We hadn’t done that last year.  With a population of approximately 33,000, Plant City is known as the winter strawberry capital of the world, and hosts the annual Florida Strawberry Festival.  We stopped at the market on the way back but the line for their famous strawberry shortcake was too long.  We bought six small loaves of their strawberry bread along with several vegetables.  The bread is wonderful and freezes well.  

On the way back to the Roo we stopped off at the box office at the fairgrounds and bought a DVD about Cavalia.  I had thought long and hard about buying it and finally decided to go for it.  Am I glad I did!  We brought it back to the Roo and watched it in the evening.  It showed some of the back-story and was quite interesting.     

 

Sunday, March 28, 2010  

We were originally planning on going home today but the weather has turned really foul.  It rained all day and was dark and dismal.  I didn’t leave the Roo at all and the only reason Al left was to re-up for another day.  We didn’t want to drive in this weather and there’s no way we would want to unpack in it.    

The most depressing thing about the day was that we could not get on-line at all.  We have resorted to writing e-mails and leaving them in our outboxes with the hopes that they will be sent if we can get on for just a few minutes.    

The rain pounding on the roof sounds like a train roaring by and every once in a while Maddy looks up at the ceiling nervously and then at us for reassurance.  As long as we don’t act like anything is wrong she accepts it.   

  

Monday, March 29, 2010  

We woke up to the rain again and Al trekked over to the office to re-up for one more day.  By mid-morning, Al was climbing the walls.  We decided to go out for lunch and just ignore the rain.  I had read about Ybor City and it was one of the places we had talked about going to in Tampa.  Our first stop was at the visitors’ center – in the National Landmark Historic District - where we saw a short video about the history of Ybor (pronounced EE-bore) City.  

In 1869, Vincente Martinez Ybor moved his cigar plant from Cuba to Key West, mostly due to the political unrest in the then-Spanish colony.  However, due to the remote location, no room to expand and no connection to the continent, he began looking for a different location.  In the early 1880s, Tampa was an isolated village with a population of less than 1000 and a struggling economy.  At that time, Henry Plant was building his railroad with the promise of extending it to Tampa.  That and Tampa’s port and the humid climate – to keep the tobacco leaves from drying up – attracted Ybor to the area.    

Although the area was scrubland, the private owner wanted $9,000 for the initial forty acres, but Ybor only wanted to pay $5,000.  As Ybor was preparing to leave to look in Texas and Louisiana, the city of Tampa brokered a deal for the other $4,000.  Ybor hired someone to lay out a company town in a grid.  But this was to be a company town like no other.  Company towns traditionally had mostly single men and/or married men whose families were back home.  Ybor encouraged – and even subsidized - other businesses to attract women and children to move to this town with alligators, bears and cougars – not to mention mosquitoes.  According to an early resident, “What we found when we arrived was a stinking hole with swamps and pestilence everywhere.”   

Ybor also built fifty small houses for the workers and sold them barely above cost, payable with small deductions from their paychecks from his factory.  Many of the workers had never owned a house before. Cigar making was not just a job to the tabaqueros (literally, “tobacco workers”). The “torcedores” who rolled the finished cigars, thought of themselves as “more of an artist than a worker.” The trade was closely regulated by the tabaqueros in a manner similar to the artisans' guilds of old Europe. Beginners trained through lengthy apprenticeships in the hopes of someday becoming a well-respected (and well-paid) master “torcedor”.    

Ybor encouraged other cigar manufacturers to join him – among them Ignacio Sanchez Haya, Eduardo Manrara and Serafin Sanchez.  On April 13, 1886, Haya’s factory produced the first Ybor City cigar.  Ybor’s factory followed suit a few days later.  By the end of its first year of operations (1886), Ybor’s factory alone was producing 900,000 hand-rolled cigars per month.  This number would be dwarfed in the years to come.  

Later in the same month, Ybor City benefited from tragedy in Key West when fire raged through the island city.  Hundreds of homes and several cigar factories were destroyed, including Ybor’s still-operational main location.  Rather than rebuild in place, many tabaqueros decided to pack up their surviving belongings and board a steamship for Tampa.    

This would begin a steady increase in the number of new residents and of cigar factories and businesses.  More immigration meant more amenities such as stores and cultural events, which in turn would attract more new residents, which attracted more businesses, etc.  This cycle of growth lasted until the late 1920s, when Ybor City was home to hundreds of cigar making businesses and tens of thousands of permanent residents.    

By early 1887, Tampa city leaders saw the potential to greatly increase the city’s tax rolls from the sudden creation of wealth just a mile from downtown.  So on June 2, 1887, the city of Tampa annexed Ybor City - over the protestations of Ybor himself, who felt that relinquishing civil authority would add nothing to his company town except new regulations and red tape.  By 1890, Tampa’s population was over 5,000.  By 1900, the population was over 16,000, with most new arrivals settling in Ybor City.  During that time, Florida immigration laws were lax and many Cubans, Spaniards and Italians came and went with impunity.  

Arriving around the same time were a small number of Jewish immigrants - mostly Romanians and Germans - escaping religious persecution and looking for economic opportunities.  With no cigar making experience and unable to break into the insular industry, these new arrivals took whatever work they could find.  Eventually, many opened businesses catering to the cigar factories and their workers: successful grocery, clothing, and general goods stores; cigar box and cigar box art firms.  Vegetable and dairy farms founded in rural land east of Ybor City.   

In the closing years of the 1800's, Ybor City became a support center for the Cuban Revolution. When war broke out between the United States and Spain in 1898, the Army stationed thousands of men in Ybor City, including Teddy Roosevelt and his “Rough Riders.” On August 12, 1898, Cuba won its independence.  

Al and I found the idea of their ethnic social clubs - similar to fraternities - rather interesting.  They were founded by immigrants for immigrants and funded by dues of around 5% of their salary.  By paying their dues, members and their families were given free medical care “from womb to tomb” – a powerful reason to join.  The clubs offered gymnasiums, cantinas and lots of social events such as picnics, dances, concerts, and theatrical performances in the large auditoriums found inside of the clubhouses.  

Interestingly, there were two separate Cuban clubs. Though racism among the residents of Ybor City was not an issue, it was situated in the Deep South, so its organizations had to follow the segregationist laws of the time.  Ybor’s Cuban immigrants were often racially mixed, and skin tones within families might cover a range of colors.  Segregation laws, however, required that darker-skinned and lighter-skinned people not socialize publicly.  La Union Martí-Maceo was for darker-skinned Cubans, and Circulo Cubano for those with lighter skin.  This was especially awkward when members of the same family had different shades of skin and were required to join different clubs, but it was the law at the time.  It is difficult for me to even imagine this incredible injustice.  

One tradition that the tabaqueros brought with them from Cuba was that of El Lector (The Reader). Because the job of rolling cigar after cigar could be boring, there arose the tradition of “lectors”, who sat perched on an elevated platform in the cigar factory, reading to the workers.  They would start the day reading local Spanish newspapers and then go on to politics, and political treatises or writings about the current events in Cuba or Spain or other countries.  Usually the workers’ wives would bring them their lunch and very often stay outside the windows as the “lector” read such classic literature as Don Quixote.  We find it very interesting that uneducated workers unable to read were able to discuss current events and political philosophy.  

In 1929 - the peak year of production before the Great Depression - over 500,000,000 cigars were hand rolled by thousands of skilled tabaqueros for sale all over the United States and the world.  Ybor City would never fully recover.  The 1930s saw rampant political corruption.  Returning WWII vets in the 1940s found deteriorating neighborhoods and a VA system that would allow them loans only on new homes, which were scarce in Ybor City.    

Population declined in the 1950s and revitalization programs in the 1960s fell due to lack of funds and political will.  In the 1970s, whole city blocks were razed.  In the 1980s several artists moved into the empty lofts.  By the early 1990s, many of the old long-empty brick buildings were converted into bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and other nightlife attractions. The crowds grew until portions of the old neighborhood became a nighttime carnival, especially on weekends.  

In the past ten years, the City of Tampa has encouraged more family-oriented businesses.  New apartments, condominiums and a hotel have been built on the empty lots.  Today, everything was neat and clean and everyone we spoke to was friendly.  However, this is definitely a nighttime party town.  The nightclubs were all closed during the day and there were only a few shops open.  We only saw a few tourists.  A man walked down the street wearing a backpack and carrying a huge rake.  From a second floor balcony, dozens of white bras floated in the wind from a clothesline.   

Hexagonal cement tiles line the sidewalk – many with inscriptions.  There are a couple of cigar shops with someone in the front window hand-rolling cigars.  Al went inside and tried to take pictures but couldn’t stay long because all the workers smoke cigarettes and the air was stifling.  I went into what may be a dress shop and may be a costume store, or maybe it is a secondhand store.  I’m not sure what it is.  There were feather boas of every color, colorful skirts with full petticoats, a floor-length, green velvet cape and large, plastic jewelry in primary colors.  The men’s side included a ruffled, tuxedo shirt in black satin and cowboy boots.  Everything in the shop was totally eclectic.  

Lunch was at the Tampa Bay Brewery, “Beer is your friend”, where I tried beer, cheese and pickled jalapeño soup.  I don’t drink beer, but the soup was quite good.  The restroom was clean but the paper towel container was over my head.  What if I was still in a wheelchair?  The streets are brick with trolley tracks running down the middle of the main street – a wheelchair nightmare.  

Several stores sell water pipes – hookahs – “a tobacco pipe of Near Eastern origin with a long, flexible tube by which the smoke is drawn through a jar of water and thus cooled.”   Some are quite elaborate and sell for several hundred dollars.  At one shop – it looked open – I tried the door to find it locked.  A man came to the door and told us he was closed until after breakfast.  It was 3:30 pm!  

We had parked in a parking garage but found many parking spaces on the streets.  We returned to the garage – 3 hours for $1 – for Red.  A straggly black and white cat stalked around between the few cars.  The Columbia Restaurant had been recommended by the woman at the visitors’ center, but it had been too far to walk to.  With the car we drove by it and it looks great.  Maybe we will return just to eat there.  It is the oldest Spanish restaurant in the United States – established in 1905.   

The weather had changed dramatically and the sun was shining.  We passed Mema’s Alaskan Tacos and found a small park – La Casa De Pedroso 1895.  The history continued with the hero Jose Marti, a great lover of liberty and justice and a martyr of the Cuban Revolutionary war.  A palm tree had some sort of small orange fruit, about an inch in diameter.  I took one back to the Roo with me and tried to cut itopen, but couldn’t.  The pit is solid – like that of the Cuban people.

  

Tuesday, March 30, 2010  

We cleaned the Roo from top to bottom and headed home on the same route we had come.  We stopped at Smitty’s for lunch again and determined that this will be a regular stop.  Mable is becoming senile and just can’t do her math any more.  After our stop at Smitty’s, she claimed we had stopped for 2 ½ hours, when in reality we had only stopped for less than 40 minutes.  

In Bushnell we turned east onto CR 48 and drove under I-75.  The old military road connecting Ft. Brooke (Tampa) and Ft. King (Ocala) ran through this vicinity.  On December 23, 1835, Maj. Francis L. Dade set out over the trail with a detachment of 109 soldiers to reinforce the small garrison at Ft. King.  On the morning of December 28, 1835, Chief Alligator, leading the Seminoles and Maroons (runaway slaves), ambushed the Dade expedition near Bushnell.  Only three survived.  The Dade massacre, planned by the fiery Osceola, marked the beginning of the Second Seminole War.  

We passed a sharp turn at the Wahoo Church and encountered strong wind.  There were cattle standing up to their knees in water and a sign, “Good Karma”, with a fleur-de-lis.  I took pictures in Floral City – again – because I love its totally Southern look with huge old oaks dripping with Spanish moss.  There is also the Hills of Rest Cemetery, Greta’s Doggie Spa and Puddgie’s Hot Dog Stand, “You’ll love Puddgie”.   

We passed a junk pile with a pickup camper, rocket ship, bed frame and the hub of a semi tire.  Last time we came through here the road was under construction and the driving was difficult.  In Inverness – population about 7,000 - the Citrus County Fair began today with a theme of “Thrills, Squeals and Ferris Wheels”.  The fair runs through April 3rd.  

We weren’t far from home but Al needed a power nap.  We pulled into the empty parking lot of an abandoned roller-skating rink.  Al tilted the steering wheel up, put his head back and fell asleep.  I was reading in the back of the Roo when I heard the horn honk.  By the time I got to the front, Al was doubled over laughing and Maddy was serenely stepping from the steering wheel to the dashboard.  It was not the first time she has honked the horn, but it was the first time she woke Al up this way.  We don’t think she has a clue that she is causing it.    

We arrived home in late afternoon and unloaded quickly.  The total miles were just under 200, but this trip was packed with information and we loved it.

Total miles for the day:  94.9.

Total miles for the trip:  199.8.  

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