Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
5:33 PM EST, November 25, 2013
It's Thanksgiving week, so it's time for a traveling man to count his blessings.
I'm thankful for the new tires just installed on my well-traveled, utterly reliable 2003 Ford Mustang — and the company expense checks that helped pay for them. Although I'm not suggesting that a mechanical failure is imminent, the car has more than 274,000 miles on it, so I'm knocking on wood now and would appreciate it if loyal readers would do the same.
The good news on the car front: The automatic window on the driver's side now works, so it's no longer necessary to open the door to pay tolls or ask for directions.
Ah, directions. I'm also thankful for GPS navigation, although it shouldn't be relied on to reach some of my out-of-the-way destinations. Use a gadget to find quirky Solomon's Castle, about 30 miles east of Bradenton, and you'll end up in the middle of an orange grove.
On such occasions, I'm grateful for my dog-eared 2007 Rand McNally Florida Road Atlas, a traveling companion as utterly old-school as the guy in the driver's seat. In addition to its logically indexed maps, the atlas is a wealth of information on state parks, city-to-city mileage estimates, spring-training baseball sites and Florida trivia.
Without the atlas, for example, I wouldn't know that Miami was the first city to install an automated teller machine for rollerbladers. I can't be sure, but I think that information will come in handy for a bar bet someday.
I'm also grateful for my go-to boxed set of traveling music. "El Cancionero: Mas y Mas" spans the career of genre-bending roots-rockers Los Lobos. The four discs are a dazzling demonstration of the band's range that confirm the wisdom of my plan to hire these guys to play my wedding reception, if I ever take that plunge again. (Don't hold your breath.)
Finally, I'm grateful for the destinations that make my weekly excursions so interesting. This year, I've savored the aroma of cigars in Ybor City, sampled oysters in Apalachicola, searched for bargains at the long-running Webster Flea Market in rural Sumter County, found sports history at the World Golf Hall of Fame and gone eye-to-eye with pelicans in Cedar Key and manatees in Homosassa Springs.
A lot of my best ideas come from readers, the blessing that tops my Thanksgiving list. Keep those suggestions coming.
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