The last four days have been, and will be, the most casual and slowest paced of the entire 60 day trip. I saw no need to write a post saying nothing much happened so I have waited until several occurrences cobbled together can make an interesting post.
Wednesday the 21st was an excellent beach day. We spent all day at the beach, nothing earth-shattering occurred. But isn’t that the point of just relaxing at the beach?
Thursday, our nightly destination was Ocala Florida. An hour out of Miami Beach we visited the Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden in Delray Beach. 110 years ago, a Japanese graduate of New York University came up with the idea of starting a colony of Japanese farmers in southern Florida. The colony was called Yamato, after a name used for Japan. The colony had ups and downs and never really made a continuing success. One of the colonists, George Morikami, stuck it out. However WWII intervened and over 6,000 acres of the land owned by the Japanese, and other U.S. residents, was taken by eminent domain for a military base. After the war, George Morikami bought land back and in his later years donated it to the county for a park and museum to preserve the memory of that early 20th century Japanese community.
We toured the gardens first, as the weather was projected to turn rainy and windy. The gardens are spread over 16 acres and present a series of styles of gardens from Japan. As are most Japanese gardens, the theme is reflection and contemplation. A visitor is not presented with masses of flowering trees, shrubs, and plants. Benches are placed strategically and a reflective moment can be spent observing the interplay between the rocks, plants, water, etc.
The original museum is now used to display information about the original settlement. The settlement had difficulty establishing long-term continuity due to the difficulty in attracting Japanese women to marry the young , single men that were the original settlers. Second, competition from Cuban grown fruit decreased revenues. Finally, the land boom in Florida in the 1920s meant many of the settlers could sell their land for a better return than farming and they sold out and moved on. Then, the remainder got wiped out as mentioned above when the military base took their land.
This original building also is a hands-on learning area for children. Finally there was a wall display that demonstrated how KitKat candy bars took off in popularity in Japan. Uniquely Japanese flavors were added to KitKat, such as Kyoto powdered green tea KitKat and Shinshu apple KitKat.
The new museum building had an exhibit on Japanese Art Deco from the period of the 1920s and 1930s. It failed to mesmerize us.
Our second destination before Ocala was the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, a 50 acre wetlands established on utility land. It is a great bird watching area introduced to us by my cousin Chris and her husband Nelson. However, all of the parking places were occupied and there was a line of cars waiting to pounce on the first newly vacated parking space. We did not wait and continued our drive to Ocala.
Leaving early was fortunate as several downpours enveloped us as we made our way northwest along the Florida Turnpike. During one particular outburst, we pulled over along the side of the road with numerous other cars and trucks since we could not see the road or vehicles in front of us.
Ocala lodging was with a great Evergreen couple. We had several points of synergy including a connection to living in Pennsylvania previously. The Ocala area is huge with horse farms. Horses are bred and trained here and horse auctions are big business. The Ocala airport is used to send horses around the world.
Friday we drove to Niceville Florida. Niceville is in the Florida panhandle. We have toured in the area on previous trips and this was meant as a stopover on our way to Texas via New Orleans. We spent the night with an Evergreen couple. When we set this night up, the couple had indicated that on Friday nights they helped serve dinner for a church function and we volunteered to help out.
We got a tour of the Crosspoint United Methodist Church in Niceville and its church facilities and programs at its main campus. The church now has five churches in the Niceville area and seems to be dramatically serving its population through numerous ministries. The function we were at was the CR Recovery dinner. CR Recovery is a Christ centered recovery program for all types of hurts, habits, and hang-ups. The program takes the 12 step AA program and adapts it to a 12 step program with biblical comparisons. They combine it with an eight step recovery program again tied to biblical comparisons. Chris and I had helped serve dinner and clean up afterwards. It was a popular night, we gave out all of the food so the four of us went out to Panera’s for dinner.
Saturday the 25th we drove to New Orleans and once again got hit with thunderstorms. It was still raining when we arrived in the city and traffic was slow in the French Quarter as pedestrians were anxious to cross the street without getting too wet. Our only stop was at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park Visitor Center. Surprisingly, the center is closed on Sunday and Mondays due to budget cuts. The orientation film was not working but we viewed the displays and obtained information from the ranger about the site. There are actually six locations as part of the National Historical Park and we plan to visit several of them over the next few days.
We have had to plan our visits in New Orleans tactically since Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are all days in which museums and historical sites are closed. We are here through Tuesday morning. Our lodging for the three nights is through Airbnb in Algiers Point, an old neighborhood on the West Bank of the Mississippi River across from downtown New Orleans. The rain and clouds gave us limited time to explore on Saturday, but it appears to have some unique features. Most of the homes are brightly painted and we will have some photos for you in our next post.
The community is not overly served with restaurants but we found a unique spot for dinner. The Appetite Repair Shop is 240 square feet in size ( I counted the floor tiles for a measurement), only open Thursday-Sunday from 5 pm until the food is gone, and only serves take-out. When we arrived at 6 PM, we were sixth in line. It took half an hour to get our food. The chef-owner cooks each person’s order from a limited menu that changes daily. We spent our time in line talking to the other customers and getting their life stories.
Most menu items were noted as “Hot”, “Spicy”, or “Silly Hot”. We chose the already prepared banana pudding, crackaroni and cheese (an upgraded mac and cheese), and Moroccan carrots and chickpeas salad. All were excellent. We went to bed after seeing some smokestacks of ocean-going ships in the distance over the banks of the levee.
Ed and Chris
March 26, 2017