She Who Shall Not Be Named adopted a border collie, Sadie, as her first ever dog. The beast requires massive amounts of time and training, yet still randomly goes haywire and bites. We searched for a better home for her – somewhere she would be busier – until we found a rescue and training place that handles only her breed, near Deland, Florida. Rather than just drive down 7 hours, drop her off and drive back, we decided to make a long weekend of it. So the three of us sped south on 75 in a rented Dodge.
Along the way, we surveyed damage from recent storms. The big peach down near Perry, GA, has been blown over, along with countless billboards. We could stand to lose a few thousand more billboards, frankly.
First stop, one gnat-infested rest stop somewhere in south Georgia. Then on to Florida!
We landed in Ocala for the night. Hungry and in unfamiliar territory, we opted for some gringo-style Mexican chain restaurant near the highway. El Terero? I don’t remember the name, and the food is equally forgettable. Our waiter was pleased when we ordered some blue agave margaritas. We were not so pleased to find them syrupy and blue in color. What the hell? If you’re in the neighborhood, skip the chains near the highway and go downtown. Ocala has a lovely town square lined in restaurants that have to be better than this crap.
Ocala also has some lovely art deco architecture, including the Marion movie theater (showing first run features.)
We wandered around for a bit, stretching our legs after a long day of driving, before retreating to the somewhat crummy but dog-friendly Days Inn by the interstate.
Also be aware that if you’re in Ocala on the weekend, don’t get up too early. The local restaurants don’t cater to the breakfast crowd! We were hard pressed to find anything open before 9.30. Eventually, Stella opened its doors. Inside, we found a cute upscale little grocery store with a deli. The incredibly friendly Jamaican chef served us the most amazing coffee and some fine day-old pastries. He was so happy to have guests interested in his coffee that he only charged us for the sopressata we purchased. They also have some interesting cheeses and more, so definitely hit Stella if you’re in Ocala.
On to the outskirts of Deland to the border collie rescue place where Sadie immediately made herself at home, rollicking in a tub of water then rolling in the sand and sprinting around the yard manically. The other dogs seemed equally healthy and happy so I felt confident we’d made the right choice.
Off to the beach!
We hit I95 north, then split off to drive along the coast on A1A where we found JT’s, a little bar/restaurant between Flagler Beach and St. Augustine Beach.
They served up some fine crab cakes and fish with hollondaise sauce, as well as Mount Gay rum, the perfect compliment to the meal.
Then on to St. Augustine where we checked in to the Sleep Inn, halfway between St. Augustine proper and St. Augustine Beach. We had a quick siesta before charging into town for a long walkabout. SHSNBN hadn’t visited the town before, so we started off with the lovely Flagler College.
Tiffany windows, terracotta details, carved wood, gilt ceilings, fountains – my favorite campus in the U.S.
Then on to Mi Casa Cafe’s patio for the appropriately-named Sam Adams’ Noble Pils. We had to down the last of the pint as some singer-songwriter began performing covers of the most depressing acoustic tunes of the 70′s.
On to St. Augustine’s fort where we sat bayside and enjoyed the breeze, as well as a view of the bay and the Bridge Of Lions.
Dinner found us at La Herencia Cafe, a mostly Cuban restaurant, for some delicious pork and empanadas. We also picked up some coconut macaroons for desert.
We hit Tradewinds, one of my favorite bars in St. Augustine. They have a mix of tourists and locals enjoying the tiki atmosphere and mostly-covers bar bands.
Tonight it was Quick Draw doing some interesting versions of classic rock, blues and R&B tunes. Alas, I don’t think we lasted longer than a drink or two before calling it a night.
In the morning we looked for coffee and pastries, only to find Sunday morning in St. Augustine similar to Saturday morning in Ocala – not a lot to choose from. We got some excellent pastries from a little shop right on the square, only to find they were about three times the price we expected. And no amazing Jamaican coffee? Dammit!
We enjoyed them regardless, sitting on a bench behind the old slave market, watching the Catholic church patrons empty out into the square.
Then it’s back to the beach – Anastasia State Park, in this instance. We’d reserved a camping spot for our final night. Anastasia is one of my favorite parks for camping. Lots of shade, clean restrooms, and an uncrowded beach. Perfect.
The sun warmed things up enough for even a southerner like myself to get in the water. We had some fine sandwiches and wine and relaxed a bit before returning to civilization to pick up supplies for dinner.
We purchased a couple of swordfish steaks and a tuna steak from the local Publics, along with some peppers and pineapple, and grilled our “catch” in camp. I whipped up some delicious dipping sauce for the fish – a mix of rum, pineapple juice, lemon juice, green Tabasco and black pepper. We did not go hungry.
Then back to the beach for an after-dark stroll. We weren’t the only ones to fill up on food from our camp site. Upon our return, I found a raccoon rummaging through our cooler. I’d neglected to lock it in the car. Karmic retribution for watching a raccoon ransack a neighbor’s campsite as a child in this very park, I suppose. The sopressata, aged Romano and dark chocolate made a fine meal for the critter, I hope.
After packing up, we had better luck with our pastry hunt on Monday morning. The Bunnery is on the main pedestrian walk in town and they serve up some damn tasty croissants.
We opted for one with feta and spinach, and another with chocolate, along with a blueberry “boy bait” – kind of a crumb cake thing. There weren’t any crumbs left when we were done.
We burned off a few of the calories with another walk, this time circling the entire fort before running out of time on our parking meter and deciding to head north.
Up I95, across I10, back up I75 through Billboard Alley. Eventually we got hungry again and opted for Smok’n Pig BBQ in north Valdosta.
Tasty pulled pork and collards, average mac n cheese and Brunswick stew, and tea so sweet you’ll have a diabetic attack before you exit the building. Not bad.
Last I heard, Sadie was back to frolicking in the tub and rolling in sand. We’ll get reports on her as often as possible, I’m sure. And yes, SWSNBN is considering a second dog.
Wish me luck.