Travel Log 2010: Day 2

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Today started out with us heading down to Starbucks (sorry Jason, there was no Conscious Cup) for some morning pick-me-up and some breakfast which we decided to eat out on the beach.

We didn’t get to enjoy the beach too much because we had to get back inside to get ready so we could head to Citra, just north of Ocala, for a family reunion with Tammy’s family.

We left Daytona a little before noon and realized we were going to be late (surprise, surprise) for the 1 p.m. start of the reunion because according to Google Maps the drive was going to be nearly 2 hours.

On our way out to Citra, we went through the Ocala National Forest which was pretty uneventful except for one sign that looked like it had a bear on it. Neither of us could image bears living down here in all of the heat and humidity and started trying to figure out what else that sign could have been.

Jiffy Stores and Tom Selleck’s sister
As we were getting closer to Citra, we stopped at what Tammy’s family calls “the Jiffy store” which is a gas station/convenient store. We grabbed a couple of waters and went to check out. What I saw at the counter has caused nightmares. I’m used to seeing stray hairs, sometimes even clumps of hair, on the occasional woman, especially when we venture below the Mason-Dixon Line and if that’s all I had seen, I don’t know that it would have left such a mental scar. This lady had visible black hairs on her chest. HER CHEST!!

I could feel my jaw start to slack as my eyes locked on her patch and had to make sure to keep my mouth from hitting the counter. In my mind she had more hair than Tom Selleck, which probably wasn’t the case, although if there are more than two black hairs on a woman’s chest she might as well as be Tom Selleck. I wonder if she was ever part of the Bearded Woman exhibits for a circus.

We pulled out of the Jiffy Store as I was trying to mentally scrub my brain from the female furby and headed to visit Tammy’s family.

All in the Family
We turned down the dirt road toward the family reunion and tried to dodge all of the holes in the road, especially since I didn’t have the Dodge Charger or the insurance. Tammy pointed out the next dirt road to take and as we topped the hill I saw a LOT of people, which I wasn’t expected, gathered under a big tree in the middle of an open field.

We nervously got out of the car and started walking down toward everyone. Tammy’s grandmother (Dad’s mother) was walking toward us (and her house) so we stopped and talked to her for a minute. I almost let the cat out of the bag by wishing her a happy birthday, which she didn’t know was real reason for the gathering. Fortunately I didn’t say anything because it would have ruined the surprise later.

We made our way down to the shade of the tree where everyone was sitting and I surveyed all of the food, including the huge smoker which had cooked a whole pig. I met several members of Tammy’s family, most of which I can’t remember, we did share one thing in common, we were all sweating like crazy.

After a quick prayer by the 92-year old Uncle C.E., who still drives but “not around Jacksonville or big places like that,” the line quickly formed around the grub. Being the “new guy” I didn’t want to be first in line so I stood toward the back with Tammy and waited for the line to go down a little. At this point Tammy’s Uncle Mike told us we better get in line because “food doesn’t last long with this family.”

He was right. By time were in line and got up to the food, there were only a handful of ribs left so I quickly grabbed a few and handed some to Tammy. I could tell they knew how to smoke ribs as there was NO BBQ sauce in sight. They apparently subscribe to the same school that I do: If the meat is done right then BBQ sauce isn’t needed because the flavor is all in the meat.

I filled my plate with crowder peas, homemade macaroni and cheese, baked beans, green beans, homemade creamed corn and corn bread and found myself an empty chair to chow down. I was contemplating another plate when I saw people coming back with dessert plates. No round two for me as focused my attention to the banana puddin, it’s not pudding with a “g” but puddin’, homemade peach cobbler, blueberry surprise and various other sweets. I told Tammy she had to get her own plate because I wasn’t sharing any of my goodies. The one thing I regret is that I didn’t get any of what someone called, “Jelly Cake.”

Someone Saved My Life Tonight
After we had eaten and were basking in that feeling you get after you eat so much that you don’t want to move, I felt something hit my head. I figured it was just a leaf or something falling from the giant tree we were under. I didn’t think anything else about it as I continued to sit in my chair and let my stomach expand. Tammy noticed I appeared to have a spider web hanging from my head, then she realized WHY I had a spider web hanging from my head…there was a spider crawling on my chest.

That’s when Tammy jumped into action and swatted it to the ground. We quickly found it crawling away and both said we’d never seen a spider like that. It was a light brown and with its legs was about as big as a quarter.

Then we laughed at how funny it would have been if on the first real day of our vacation I would have been bitten on the neck by a spider and had to spend the rest of the week with a softball-sized knot on the side of my neck. It really wouldn’t have been funny, but it sounded funny at the time and it was visually funny thinking about me with a giant knot on my neck.

We then watched as a dirt dobber flew down and stung the spider and tried to drag it away. I’d never seen that happen before, but soon found out that dirt dobbers, called mud dobber here, sting the spiders, lay eggs in the and drag them down a hole in the ground. Crazy…

Meeting the Dixie Chicks
Not long after lunch people started slowly heading back to their homes. Tammy and I pulled our chairs up to Uncle’s Neal and Mike, Aunt Bobbie and enjoyed catching up with them. It had been around 15 years since Tammy had been able to spend that much time with everyone.

Tammy and I ventured around the back of the house to check out the chicken coop which they named Dixie Chicks. As we were standing back there, it started raining, but we were under the canopy of the trees and didn’t rained on.

The remaining people headed home and we took the party inside to talk more with everyone. Around 8 we headed up to Tammy’s Granny’s house to visit with her and Uncle Neal. Granny was telling Tammy stories of Tammy’s father, Paul, who passed away when Tammy was 19.

I know Tammy enjoyed hearing about her father growing up.

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