Why Grumpy Loves Florida
Randy Wayne White Novels
Life gets so busy for me that sometimes there is nary a minute in the day to spare for me to sit down with a good book and read. While in Florida, I usually read at least a couple of novels poolside; this year focusing my attention on Michael Connelly’s “Echo Park”. I love the Harry Bosch character, and as I read this book I couldn’t help think of our friend Keiber doing his gumshoe routine in Washington. I picture Keiber as having a little “Harry Bosch” in him, don’t you?
You see, I’ve always enjoyed a good detective novel and once, while on a Florida sojourn, I picked up a book by Florida author, Randy Wayne White. I believe that first one was called “Sanibel Flats”. Doc Ford, the main character in all of his novels, is a marine biologist/former Black Ops operative. If you like Florida, the outdoors, fishing and a good tale, you’ll love White’s novels. His pot-head side-kick Tomlinson, is the ying to his yang. I always find his books a great read. Randy Wayne White just happens to be a Charter Fishing Boat Captain.
I’ve only been able to find his books stateside, so while on this trip I was able to pick up two of his most recent efforts, “Black Widow” and “Hunter’s Moon”. You see, I am a true John D. MacDonald fan and White writes in a similar mode. Both authors have a great knack for describing the settings and locals in great detail as well as delving into local politics with their seasoned Florida eye. So, while in Florida, I read about Florida.
Pictured here: Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grill - Fort Myers Beach
Gotta go there sometime. but until then there's . . . . .
Cherry Pocket Steak and Seafood Shak
I think this restaurant is one of Florida’s best kept secrets.
You can find this place at the Cherry Pocket Fish Camp near Lake Wales on Lake Pierce. Getting there involves a trip on the back roads, around sink holes, and through some significant orange groves. The old place was originally described as a “Cracker House”. The decor here is that of an Old Florida “low place” but the food is exquisite and definitely Five Star.
I think the Hurricanes a few summers back helped as there have been a few upgrades like, indoor washrooms, and a paved driveway, to name a few. In the past you would have to walk up the famous hill to use the outdoor facilities.
The menu is very diverse and you can select from items such as these.
Crab any way you like it!
Cracker Platter for Two
Fried Green Tomatoes
Filet of Wetlands
Blackened Steak or, Shrimp
Key West Grooper (Basa) Platter
Raw or Steamed Oysters by the Bucket
And, folks, there is so much more.
My personal favourite is their Bayou Gumbo. (Seafood gumbo made with a dark roux, andoulli sausage and dirty rice) This pot sticker has the texture of porridge and the burn of a blow torch flame. This would be the place I’d expect to find Kooldad, maybe playing a set on the deck outdoors. I believe this is the kind of food and atmosphere he’d savour.
A few years back, four of us, my Cutting Horse cowboy brother-in-law, Big Steve; Willy Boy, Uncle Butch and yours truly, sat outside on that porch after dinner and drank 8 pitchers of beer. We listened to a Jimmy Buffett impersonator sing the night away as we told tall tales and slurred our words until we could hardly understand one another. The Shoppers who had left to go shopping picked us up at midnight and poured us into the vehicles as if our bodies had become boneless and amoeba-like. A good time was had by all.
I’ll never forget Uncle Butch saying, of course, with tears in his eyes, “This is show great shhh-pending some qwality time with my nepheeeews!”
This year 30 of us invaded Cherry Pocket with the prime purpose of celebrating Jimbo’s 60th birthday. We played Buffett on the jukebox, including a great rendition of Fins. My daughter and I led the Fin waving as we all sang the chorus. The place was jumpin’, my friends. Canucks emerging from a long winter know how to rock!
The Chef, a Hawaiian gal with a great personality, was so enamoured with our crew, she came out several times to do brief stand-up routine. She also told me I didn’t look sixty. What a funny gal!
She also said, "Don't think your gonna get laid by this Hawaiian, birthday boy!"
My birthday cake was Key Lime cheese cake with a Manhattan chaser.
“MMMMMM MMMMMM Good!”
Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Central Florida do look this place up. You will not be disappointed.
Or, you could always head off to . . . . .
The Desert Inn at Yee Haw Junction
Many times I’ve taken Route 60 from Lake Wales to Vero Beach. On this particular visit the purpose was to pick up The Skim Boarder who had flown down a week early with a couple of his buds. These three sixteen year old Canucks planned to spend their days on the beach “impressing the ladies”. Hey, if they can do it in Port Dover on Lake Erie, they can do it on an Atlantic Beach in March.
At least, that was their thinking.
Willy Boy volunteered to tag along with me; especially since this was the very same day The Shoppers were off on their Beall’s run. There was no sense hanging around the pool appearing as if we were a happy couple. (Remember! We have rules!) We figured it would take about an hour and fifteen to get to our meeting place in Vero.
But, I also had other plans for us. So, we left really early.
There is this little restaurant/bar in Yee Haw Junction called the Desert Inn that had caught my eye on many Florida “to the beach” crossings. I had heard and been told that I should stop in there and check out the atmosphere. When the ladies were with us it was always, “EEEEEEWWWWWW, we’re not going in there!”
So, given our window of opportunity, Willy Boy and I made the stop and, we’re surely glad we did.
Oh, there were a few Harleys parked out front, but the place wasn’t busy, and the atmosphere was right up my alley. The decor was retro 1960’s and the feel of the place had me thinking, “What a great location for a period movie shoot.”
This place had atmosphere written all over it, including two stuffed Jackalopes on the wall. The U-shaped bar was dark wood and the rickety stools were, at the very least, comfort for our aching butts. (Please! From the long ride down, Mr. Rotwang.) I’d been told that, at one time, chickens were allowed to run freely around the place.
I half expected to see Phukuhp drive up on a Hog or see the Lizardlady stroll by. I know Clay and his better half would have been right at home here.
The place was run by some very nice Mexican people. We didn’t have a drink because we were driving but instead ordered a platter of chicken fingers to share and two Pepsi’s. The fingers were made from scratch and were piping hot and delicious. We could look out the windows and in any direction watch the traffic roll by. This establishment is at a busy Florida crossroad (State HWY. 441 and Route 60) and close to the Interstrate.
Hey, their signature dish is their "Gator burger".
While we were there a sales lady dropped in to talk to the proprietor and it sounded like there’d been a bike rally at the Desert Inn a week before. Some of the decor suggested that this is a popular place with the Harley crowd, not to mention the two burly dudes sitting in the corner. This is one place where I didn’t want Willy Boy and me to look like a happy couple.
On the post card I picked up it said the Desert Inn features “Cracker Style Home Cooking”. The place was built in 1889 and was originally a watering hole for Florida cowboys. It is on the National Register of Historic Sites.
I think you’re starting to realize that our visits to Florida aren’t your typical Disney World big attraction adventures. BTW -we didn't have time to take in the "Brothel Museum" next door.
Maybe next year?
Baseball in March
Every time we visit Florida in March we try to take in a spring training game. We’ve been to Winter Haven, Lakeland and the Braves facility at Disney World, to name a few. This year we found ourselves in Kissimmee watching the Washington Nationals play Houston. Here are a couple of observations.
It was St. Patrick’s Day so they had Land Shark green beer for sale. We bought Bud in aluminum cans feted with Shamrocks and Green labelling for seven bucks a pop.
Houston spanked the Nationals 11 to 2. It was 5-0 after the first. No matter, we saw a few dingers.
Tickets were two for $26 for under cover seats, two drinks and two hotdogs. We gave the drinks and hotdogs to The Skim Boarder, because Jimbo and Willy Boy were determined to drink massive amounts of beer.
The guy sitting in front of me intrigued me. He looked a lot like Keiber. He was wearing a Washington Nationals hat and a Maryland Jacket. Knowing Keiber’s love of ball I almost yelled out his name to see if it was him. My, God, I’m starting to see FOD’ers everywhere. Either I’m delusional or psychotic.
Osceola County Stadium is a great little ball park. But, we were disappointed we didn't see Steven Strasburg pitch.
We had a bit of a problem because the game ended at 3:30 pm. You see, I had suggested to my daughter that she keep her cell phone on so we could keep in touch. The trouble was that my phone is Pay-As-You-Go and doesn’t work Stateside.
The bigger problem was that the girl’s were SHOPPING at the Florida Mall in Orlando, where time stands still and all thoughts of missing loved ones are like leaves on the wind.
I can hear the conversation.
“Weren’t there more of us in the van when we left the Saddlebag, girls?”
“I don’t remember. Didn’t we leave the boys at the pool?”
“What boys? We have boys with us?”
“OMG there’s a huge sale at Hollister!”
“Let’s go girls!”!”
I tried everything to reach them, including a pay phone - but with no success. We sat on the curb for two hours watching the parking lot empty and a Sherriff’s Deputy doing donuts in his Patrol Car all over the grassy lawns surrounding the stadium. I guess you’ve got to practice skid control somewhere!
The Shoppers finally arrived to pick us up at 5:30 pm.
“Well, we thought the game must be over, so we came right over.”
I haven’t been to too many five hour baseball games, have you?
Willy Boy just sighed when he saw all the bags and packages in the back seat. At least we had a two for one happy hour at Carrabba’s to look forward too.
Oh, well, as my dear departed father always said, “Who has more fun than people?”
“Stupid people, maybe?”
I think I can squeeze one or two more blogs out of this trip. Waddaya think?