Day 28: Tuesday, October 26th, 2004
        What could be better? Beautiful hot Florida weather. Tenting just a few feet away from a pool and hot tub. Reliable internet connection constantly at my fingertips. If the sun wasn't so strong I could sit by the poolside and work on my web site all day. Ideal...

        Last night I decided to try out my $30 worth of medication I got for my bruised rib. First we have the muscle relaxant Flexeril. May cause drowsiness, dizziness, and blurred vision. For some reason they recommend not driving after taking this. Then we have the lovely painkiller Vicodin. I've received spam about this so I am anxious to try it out. It has basically the same side effects but can cause addiction if taken too often. They may have made me a little drowsy but I can't be certain. I was pretty exhausted anyway. One thing I do know is that four hours after taking the Vicodin I woke up and felt so awake that I knew it had to be morning. It does say you are supposed to take it every four hours so maybe they've got a built in alarm included.

        Woke up again at a proper time with a stuffed up nose. Yup, definitely a cold. I debated whether I should just completely relax at the campground for a few days, explore all the local sites while I am here, or just move on. According to MapQuest I am currently 38 hours from home. I decided to stay on for at least one more night and spent most of the day updating my web pages. (Though I did take a brief visit to a nearby beach after breakfast.)

        Oh yes, when I was at the local drug store picking up a few necessities, the older woman at the counter smiled at me and said "Your leg is beautiful." I had to ask her to repeat that one. Sure enough, that is what she said. I didn't know quite how to respond to that comment other than smile and thank her. Only the second time anyone has complimented me on my legs. The last time was back when I was biking near TUNS and some guy thought my calves were great. I fear he was hitting on me. 

        I also looked up information on bruised ribs but couldn't find too much. Most seemed to agree that they could take a long time to heal, but estimates ran anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months. Regardless, I was a little worried that I might not be able to just recuperate here in Florida.

        But what do I do? Simply go home? If I just went back now I would feel like I was returning with my tail between my legs in failure. I don't want that. Maybe if I can just have one more wonderful moment to finish the trip with I can return home and feel good about it.

        Unfortunately, by evening I was deciding that Naples would not be the place for that. Technically it should've been great. But I couldn't really find anything of interest to do in the area. Lots of historic buildings to visit and plenty of air boat tours through the everglades and such, but none of that really interested me. Skydiving could've been nice, if I'd been feeling just a wee bit better...

        Besides, I felt like I was the only person here at the campground. I would see the occasional person cleaning their RV but that was about it. I was the only low-rent tenter there and also seemed to be about the only one using the pool. Surely there had to be better!

        Searching online, I tracked down Yogi Bear's Jellystone Campground in Madison. Up in northern Florida it was in the neighborhood of a whole bunch of springs I was interested in checking out. And it was a family campground with a water slide and mini golf. Sounded promising. The only problem was it involved about six hours of driving. Still, it was in the right direction so it would be almost six hours closer to home.

Day 29: Wednesday, October 27th, 2004

        It happened again. I woke up around 2am, feeling wide awake. What weird medication! I also had some really unusual dreams, though I can't remember anything worthwhile from them now.

        Got off to a fairly early start but felt bushed after just a couple hours of driving and wondered whether I would be able to make the rest of the drive up to Madison for the night. (And here I am with dreams of driving 38 hours non-stop to get home!)

        While eating at the Steak and Shake (where I did not have any steaks or shakes) I had my laptop out writing in my diary and the waitress comes by and shakes her head saying "Work work work!" Oh yeah, I am such thge workaholic!

        I did manage to make it to Madison and even made pretty good time. I checked into the place and had my tent set up before six. The folks laughed a little when I asked if they had any tenting spots available at the moment. They said pretty well everything was booked up for the weekend but that right now I had my pick of any of the waterfront tent sites. Sure enough, I pretty well had the entire campground to myself. A few seemingly abandoned RVs off in the distance but that's about it.

        However, I couldn't complain. The place was absolutely beautiful. I took site #10, which they said was the best. Overlooking a large pond (or was it a small lake) and in the shade of gigantic trees with drooping moss it was such a contrast to all the recent campgrounds where I was told to go set up over on that there patch of grass over yonder.

        I checked out the campground and the waterslide was only running on the weekends. Meanwhile, the mini golf seemed available but since the office had closed while I was setting up my tent I was out of luck there. The last visitor at my spot had left half their bundle of wood so I decided to have a campfire - my first since arriving in Florida.

        Unfortunately it was that trick wood again that doesn't actually burn. I tried for half an hour or longer, getting especially annoyed at it since all the bending and moving seemed to be aggravating my sore ribs. I finally gave up on it after successfully toasting one marshmallow and then cooked up some hot dogs with the Coleman. Once again I found myself wondering if I would stay here a little longer or just head for home. I keep flip flopping. It didn't help matters when shortly afterwards a bunch of teenagers in a pickup truck with some cage on back drove by with a couple guys in back apparently waving shotguns and yelling. Maybe I was just hallucinating. (I saw the same truck the next day - it was used for collecting the campground garbage - so I am guessing the owner's son and his friends were just whooping it up, thinking that the area was pretty much vacant.)

        But they weren't my only surprise visitors that night. They always say not to feed the wildlife, but what if they are cats? I saw a fairly young looking cat come by and after a bit I decided to toss him some pieces of a wiener. He wouldn't come near me but he gobbled them down. But it also seemed to bring a few of his friends out of the woodwork, including one that came down from one of the trees. Do they live up there? I had four of them wandering around my tent by the time I went to bed.

Day 30: Thursday, October 28th, 2004

        After my third night of waking up on schedule in the wee hours of the morning I decided that I've had enough of the medication. Like every other medication I've ever taken, it doesn't seem to do anything for me anyway.

        I paid for another night at the campground and then set off in search of some of those springs. I was also hoping to check out the local Pizza Hut's all you can eat buffet dinner. It didn't say what time it would be and knowing these crazy Americans, dinner might mean supper.

        So off to Blue Springs I went. The map I had was somewhat useless. All the locations of the springs just seemed to float magically in areas without any roads actually leading to them. Fortunately, there was a sign on the road directing me to the first spring. When I got there, there was a sign saying there was a $5 park fee for being there. The ranger's office was open but empty. I drove around the area a bit but it seemed to have a rather dilapitated look to it. As I was preparing to leave some guy came over as if he was going to say something to me. I rolled down the window but he just stood there looking at me. Finally, I asked him if the park was open. Since he had already used up his quota of sensible conversation for the day, he simply said "Naw" and looked at me as if I must be some sort of idiot for not knowing it already, despite the wide open gates.

        Shaking my head at the stupidity of some people, I set off to check out the next spring. But this one was obviously closed because the bridge leading to it was washed out. I completed a full loop, checking out several other springs on my way back to the campground but couldn't even find any of them. No signs at all. Probably all closed for "spring" cleaning.

        I made it back to Pizza Hut at 1:30 to (obviously) discover that the buffet ended at 1:30. So it was off to McDonalds. The all-black staff seemed to be more than willing to show that the cliches I see from movies are indeed true as they stood around ignoring me and having a conversation where "mother f-ing" was used about as commonly as "the". So do people talk that way and then movies are made showing them talk that way or do people watch movies with people talking that way and decide it is the cool thing to do? They eventually noticed me and managed to interrupt their busy duties to serve me.

        After the morning's failure I decided to try once again. This time there were a bunch of springs further south as well as a Manatee Park and Keaton Beach which was known for its beautiful sunsets. Once again, of the few springs that I found they were either completely closed or were closed to swimming and only open to picnics. Even the Manatee Park (which took forever to find) was mostly closed down. No swimming and only a few trails were open. I was so annoyed at that point I didn't think to ask whether any of the open trails would lead to manatee areas.

        By then it was nearing sunset so I was racing the sun, hoping to get to Keaton Beach in time. And I managed to get there with just a few minutes to spare. Unfortunately, it was rather anti-climactic. The sun just dropped below the horizon and that was it. No spectacular light show like the sunset I saw on my first night of tenting.

        To make matters worse, as I was wandering across the sandy beach in my bare feet I decided to take a short cut across a grassy section. Bad idea. The whole area was covered in tiny burr-like plants that jabbed into my feet, feeling like hundreds of little needles. Sharp enough to even puncture my finger tips when I tried removing them. Truly nasty little things.

        The only good news from the whole trip was that I didn't run over a skunk on the way back. Well, actually I did run over him, but so perfectly that I never touched him. He just appeared in the middle of the road in front of me and seemed so confused by my lights that he never moved at all. I got back to the campground around 8:30pm and decided to make breakfast - scrambled eggs over the Coleman.

        An utterly frustrating day. I drove at least 5 hours and had nothing to show for it except the usual aches and pains as I crawled into the tent. Once again the idea of speeding north seemed pretty darn attractive. Actually, the idea of teleporting north sounded very attractiver. Even if I decided to stay another night here I would have to pack up my tent and move to another spot. True, the place would be swarming with people on the next day and I could have fun playing mini golf or even daring the water slide. But I was just getting so tired of it all.

on to the next day...