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A whirlwind road trip to Florida between Christmas and New Years Eve reminded me yet again that techno savvy is an option there, not a ubiquitous presence.

Traveling from Massachusetts to New Jersey on a familiar route doesn’t *require* a GPS  but it is nice to know how much farther to the next road change/bio break/pit stop. Being familiar with my particular (older) model of GPS (TomTom One) I can quickly zoom in and out, locate gas stations, detours, and note interesting side attractions. The leg from New Jersey to Florida did not use my GPS. My sister has a Garmin Nuvi and not being familiar with it, it drove me crazy! I could function well enough setting the basic ‘navigate to’ and ‘way point’  but the zoom in and out frustrated me as too sluggish and inclining towards creating a new destination. Did I mention the road trip included my sister, her husband, and myself, traveling in his car/their GPS?

The non-stop from NJ to Clearwater, FL area took us 21 hours including pit stops and meals. We traded off driving times in order to keep moving. When the GPS gave confusing or conflicting instructions to the driver(s), I whipped out my Droid2 and checked things via the Navigator app. I love it when technology works!

Once at our mother’s house, however, its usability rating went way down. Mother knows where things are, but not the address, and she wasn’t always sure of the name of the intended destination. (“it’s off Main St. and there is an Olive Garden Restaurant in front of the Municipal Building” and “a lot of neighbors raved about the Chinese restaurant on Missouri Ave. It has a great buffet they say. Let’s eat there.” ) There were more destinations like these which could not easily be put into a GPS, there being multiple  Olive Garden Restaurants, Municipal Buildings, and Chinese restaurants on Missouri Ave, The bank personnel were equally at ease with giving directions sans GPS/address info. Asking directions at the local Publix and CVS were similar experiences with employees giving me puzzled looks (“What you need a GPS for?, Just go left down the street to the ACE Hardware store and it is on the corner on the left after that”).



You would think that there would be tons of beaches listed on the “nearby attractions” and “Public Parks” categories in the GPS, but there weren’t. The beaches are so ubiquitous in the Gulf Coast of Florida, that apparently you can strike out in any direction and run into several. Um… not so. My sister and I are determined souls, however, and we managed to locate Indian Rocks Beach (and another beach off the Causeway but the side we could get to was rocky and somewhat littered with people fishing). We went back a second time.


On our return trip we varied our route so as to drive on the Atlantic side of the state going north. The idea was to find an eating place that overlooked the ocean. We never found one where we thought one should be. We did find St. Augustine and spent a lovely bit of time there ($10 for municipal parking for any and all part of the day! Ouch!). Dinner was in a small cafe on the Spanish Alley. Nachos for all, wine for me, beer for the others and live music on the stage right next to us featuring mellow rock acoustical guitar. 

Did you know that Florida is nearer to the equator than NJ or MA? It is. That means the sun is out later in the day. Sundown was after 6 PM instead of 4:30 PM. MAH-velous!



corollary: Not everything on the internet is up-to-date/accurate

Living in Massachusetts for the past decade (plus) has spoiled me for all things internet, and electronic tools, gadgets, online reference/research, and even just getting around. (Yes, I have a GPS, but I get a bigger view of the errand run on my laptop than on I do on my minuscule Tom-Tom One®.)

The reliability of the location information, the banking kiosks, the local calendar events, etc. are much better in Massachusetts than here in Florida. Most, if not all, event information includes dates, street addresses (with links to mapping and driving instructions), email contact information, and phone numbers. Florida? Not so much. Add this to the growing-bigger-by-the-minute list of reasons NOT to move here when I retire.

Hypothesis: People in Massachusetts are more likely to use the internet for information than people in Florida. When you know your customers will catch you if you neglect to update store locations, you tend to keep it current. (CVS and JoAnnes Fabric Store—I’m talking to you!)

When in Rome Florida, I have found the Yellow Pages to be more a more reliable reference than the internet. Very disconcerting!

On-site electronic banking tools are not the same nation-wide (even for the same bank)— I found a local branch of my bank here (one of the Uber banks that is just shy of world dominion—I do not mean that in a nice way) and drove over to do a deposit and withdrawal.

No self-service kiosk in site.

I did locate (hard to miss, actually) the four-lane drive through. No deposit slip, no withdrawal slip in sight. Pneumatic tubes bore the check for deposit to an inside clerk who then interrogated me as to my home state, how I wanted the slips to be filled out (line-by-frickin’-line for each of the deposit and the withdrawal slips), required me to accept the tube of papers back to sign/authorize/return for processing, and finally… returned my bank card, my drivers license, my copies of the afore-mentioned slips, and my cash.

To be honest, I think she was as flabbergasted with me as I was with the archaic system she operated with on a daily basis. Back in the mid-90’s this was how I used to do regular banking in NJ. With kids in tow, you really prefer the drive-throughs but you come prepared with slips filled out, etc.

You can find a bazillion things (stores, insurance companies, car sales lots) within a five-minute drive here in the Clearwater/Tampa Bay area. You can’t walk to most of them. I don’t think they believe in usable sidewalks. There are parking lots and there are roads. Areas with sidewalks seem to surround residential neighborhoods, but INSIDE the neighborhoods I saw no sidewalks. Admittedly this is a small geographical selection of a very large state to base this hypothesis on, but it is where *I* am, so it is statistically valid IMHO.

If it weren’t for the lovely warmth and sunshine, Florida would have damn little to recommend itself to me!

Currently, I live in Northern Massachusetts. I am visiting my mother in Pinellas County, Florida, ostensibly to assist her in downsizing in preparation for a move to an assisted living facility this summer.

From the air, you can see rectangular (with 90-degree angles) ‘ponds’ almost as often as you can see ‘normal’ (organic? native form?) water bodies. Frequently there are boats moored on the water in these green rectangles. It remind me of the game “Battleship.”

People are dressed for all kinds of weather…at the same time. Driving down the street you see people in boots and sweatshirts near people in hot pants and tank tops. Some wear massively-brimmed head gear, while others sport sunglasses that would fit right in with Mardi Gras attire.

Main roadways have 40-45 MPH signs, but are lined with shops so you cannot go anywhere near that speed. Although some do try.

There are a lot of senior citizens here with deeply tanned and weathered skin, wearing red hats, sequins, the latest high-tech athletic shoes, and using walkers. Except for the hats, I was referring to the men. Men wear baseball caps with lewd sayings or team logos on them. Actually, so do a lot of the women. Many of the men sport low ponytails so length of hair is not necessarily a gender identifier.

Small dogs abound! Most are carried from poo place to poo place. Larger dogs have owners attired in designer leashes that sport attached plastic poo pick up pouches among the large silver studs. Outdoor art festivals are magnets for these life forms. Acknowledging pet popularity, many outdoor cafes and bars post ‘pooch friendly’ alfresco dining and imbibing sections.

The art festival I browsed yesterday catered to pet vanity with matching jewelry items for pet and owner/staff.

The last two images were taken with my Droid2 in brilliant sunlight and sharp shadow. I couldn’t see what I had until I got back. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Florida is almost totally surrounded by water and is filled with lakes and other small water bodies yet it in a drought. I miss the soft, lush green of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states. You don’t dare go outside barefoot because the grass is more like shards of sandpaper even when it is green, which most of it is not just now.

Compensating for the above is the fact that I can go outside in shirt sleeves and feel a glorious breeze and sun on my face. That’s more than enough for now.

…and how visitors, no matter how welcome, can totally mess up your way of doing things.

For the past few years we have been able to take a long weekend in Florida to visit my mother and get some desperately needed warmth in our dreary February days. This was the first year I made no plans outside visiting and helping her around her house. The thing is, when you visit people, or at least when *I* visit family, whatever hopeful plans I may have had voiced, discussed, and thought we had agreement on are generally shot because, um… that just seems to be the way our family rolls. (You should be thrilled I do not digress at this point. Trust me on this one.)

Due to weather issues, we ended up taking an oh-dark-thirty flight and then waiting in Newark for FIVE HOURS to catch the original flight we were connecting with to get to Florida. There was a good side to this. I finished knitting the felted slippers I was making for myself.

Mom and I pose for a quick photo

Mother treated us to a FABULOUS community theatre production of ‘Anything Goes’ and introduced us around a bit. She has been very active in this group over the years she has lived in Florida. Our family was in a local production of ‘Anything Goes’ when I was barely a teen and the songs are just so memorable that I was trying my damndest to NOT sing along out loud. I think I mostly made it.

So we are in Florida, looking at mother’s TO DO list which included cleaning/organizing the garage (full of old papers, music, and fabric that has moved more in its lifetime than I have in mine), helping set up an instruction booklet for computer things she would like to so (upload photos, participate in Facebook, etc), take down and put away the holiday lights, 10,000 angel ornaments, the tree, and related holiday decorations.

I have heard from more than one source that I am persnickety about how I do laundry. From the way I sort things to the way I fold them, it seems that I do have a preference regarding the ‘right’ way to do it.

Guess who I learned that character trait from?

‘Helping’ someone can be hampered when there are also perceived notions of a correct way of accomplishing something (theirs) and an incorrect way (what? why would there be others? what others?). The end result may be identical, but the process can aggravate the most appreciative of recipients while flummoxing the helper.

Take butter as an example. Mother loves butter. She likes to be able to spread her butter on her toast without tearing the bread. She leaves her butter out on the counter at all times so it is always the spreadable consistency she likes.

DH sees open butter on the counter and thinks ‘ANTS’ –the tiny ones that Florida has in such abundance can find their way into any home no matter how zealous the housekeeper. He put the butter in the frig like we do at home. I take it back out and explain why it is on the counter. DH searches for and finds a cover to the butter dish and moves the butter container to the counter opposite the toaster just to confuse the ants.

Guess who else it also confused? Not just by the relocation but also by the cover. Mother goes through a stick of butter within a few days so there isn’t enough time for it to go bad. And to be honest, I did not actually *see* any of the ants near the butter regardless of where the container was placed.

Another example of helping being not-so-much-helping would be the computer notebook. It is a yellow, 8.5×11″ spiral-bound notebook. If I could find the yellow notebook, I would see the notes she had and I was to write the new instructions for photos etc. in that notebook.


Mother bought at least two dozen of these yellow, spiral-bound notebooks. They are stored in piles around the desk, in a file cabinet in the garage, and stacked among other notes and reminders on the coffee table, by the TV tray used for sorting mail in front of the TV, and in the sewing area. Some have supplies lists for projects, or menus and their related shopping list written in them. Many have only a few pages of writing. Most are totally blank.

The notebook that actually had the notes was a white 6×8 spiral bound notebook. Long before that was located, I began creating a visual DIY step-by-step reference on her computer for facebook and copying photos. I had screen shots, arrows, and short text for each step. She wanted me to print it and then copy it by hand into the recovered notebook. I thought about suggesting she do that step since it would help her remember the steps better, but said nothing (I hope).

She followed the steps to organizing her photos into folders and discovered one she wanted to use as her desktop image.
Dixie sings in the grass

Mother is one of Dixie’s biggest fans.

Mother also liked my felted slipper so much I let her keep them.

For the return trip from Florida I was every travelers’ worst nightmare… sneezing and wheezing, non-stop. It could have been worse. I could have broken my foot again like I did on the the Florida visit two years ago.

Yup. That’s me. I spent 8-10 hours working in a chilly, damp garage in Florida. I shook dust off of papers, boxes, and bins. I wiped mold off same. Floors were swept, aisles were cleared, organization was paramount! Empty bins were collected in one area. Holiday decorations (New Years, Halloween, Easter, etc) were collected in another area, gardening supplies in yet another centralized location. Guess who is sneezing and wheezing now?

That would be me.

Picture it: A crowded airport–a woman sneezing and wheezing with copious tissues, napkins, and wadded Kleenex bulging out of her pockets. Red-nosed, fuzzy-headed, and still drippy… yup, still me, scrambling, begging, badgering, and beseeching flight attendants for additional soppage material.

I have to go back to work tomorrow, I have PT before work. BEFORE work! Yeuck! (I was not diligent in maintaining the exercises while on holiday in the Sunshine state…)

After a dose of sinus medication and TWO hot toddies I am still dripping, still sneezing…. but I admit, I don’t mind at all… To bed, perhaps to dream (of warmth and health)…

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