Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A plan emerges

We are at the Wal-Mart at City Square, near the airport at the north end of Jacksonville, Florida (map).

We needed to get out of the truck stop yesterday afternoon, but with Ida not weakening as fast as expected, and still threatening the gulf coast, we did not want to overshoot Jacksonville or the early turn onto I-10, the fastest way to Hattiesburg or Baton Rouge. This Wal-Mart had been our original goal for Sunday night, and it served the same purpose last night. We did not realize it when we first set our sights here, but a bonus was that there is an Olive Garden in this same complex.

When we first pulled in to the enormous City Square shopping center, we were disappointed to see a sign forbidding overnight parking of trucks or RVs. It was not listed as prohibited, though, on my big Wal-Mart "no no" list, so we checked with customer service, who informed us that we could park overnight "in the last row of the garden center." Sure enough, the entire swath along the garden center, between Wal-Mart and Lowe's, has been occupied by tractor-trailers since we arrived. We picked a discreet spot next to some of Wal-Mart's ubiquitous shipping containers -- it seems no matter how big they build the new stores, they still need extra storage.

We loaded up on supplies in the store, then headed over to OG for dinner. On the way we walked past a huge Gander Mountain store, and I found some much-needed sandals for 60% off, and Clarks at that. In fact, there are quite a few interesting stores here, and even a multiplex cinema; we ended up making an evening of shopping.

When we had not gotten any calls by mid-morning regarding the storm, we knew we would not be needed this time. So we dragged the scooters out and rode the dozen miles into town for a nice lunch at the University Club, followed by a quick riding tour of downtown Jacksonville. We needed to be back for a 3:30 Red Cross conference call, though, and we made it back just in time to escape the rain that Ida brought here with her.

We'll be here for an uncharacteristic second night. I managed to get in touch with our local friends; he's a tin pusher at Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) and has offered us a tour tomorrow. The center is actually in Hilliard, so heading further south from here would not be the right move; I suggested we'd move tonight to the Wal-Mart on Lem Turner, just a few miles from here and actually the closest place to the ARTCC we could legally park. When he heard that, he wrote that we should emphatically not stay there (he feels it's not a good neighborhood) and suggested we stay where we are instead.

That gave us the opportunity to patronize yet another business here in the City Square; it turns out there is a massage studio just the other side of Wal-Mart called "Massage Heights" (a chain, I think) and we went in for a pair of Swedish massages at the special introductory rate of $40 for an hour. What a treat. There are half a dozen other restaurants in this complex as well, should we have needed one, but today's big meal out was lunch. But we are definitely marking this place down on our list of great overnight stops, considering it is easily accessible from both I-95 and US-17.

Our friends here in Jacksonville also happen to be among the owners of the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, a couple hours west of here in Live Oak. This weekend is the Bear Creek Music Festival, and since we have the happy coincidence of being in the area and having some time on our hands, we've decided to attend. I'm sure we'll enjoy the festival, but mostly we are looking forward to spending some time with our friends. The last time we tried to do this, during Magnoliafest a couple years ago, we had to bail out before the festival even started, to respond to massive wildfires in California.

So tomorrow morning we will head up to Callahan or thereabouts, and find a place to "day park" while we zip up to the ARTCC on the scooters (security at a restricted FAA facility would plotz if we rolled up in the bus). From there we will head south on US-301 to US-90 and west to Live Oak. Of course, I still have no clue what we'll be doing once the weekend is over.

Photo by ASurroca, used under a Creative Commons license.

1 comment:

  1. Have you considered the Stephen Foster State Park in White Springs, FL, just to your west? My wife and I stopped there about three years ago just for the night and now plan to spend two or three days there next month on our way to Naples and Key West. We didn't see very much because of our tight schedule the first time but I made sure we have more time on this trip.


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