So after my recent hectic trip to New York City last fall (which I still haven't finished telling the story of...), then followed by the Christmas season (busiest time of the year for a mailman), plus a couple quick there-and-back trips to Los Angeles (each for different reasons, but both pretty cool), I was pretty much in need of an actual vacation. One in which the emphasis on the word "vacate" would be very heavy. I was aware even before any of the aforementioned events that I would be wanting to have a week filled with pretty much nothing, and had begun planning this trip back in September. I managed to make it fit in nicely with my work schedule, found very reasonable flights, set-up the rental car, places to stay, and was good to go.
By the time the trip actually rolled around, I was pretty much ready for a nice break. As much as I enjoy my job, and running around doing things all over the place, the time had come to not do a hell of a lot for a bit. I was leaving on a very early Sunday morning flight, and amazingly, a friend offered to take me to the airport. I was perfectly happy just driving and parking the car at the McCarran lot; I told friends even before they asked that there was no way they were taking me. Not many people would want to pick someone up at 4AM on a Sunday to bring them to an airport...thanks, Rob!
Even though I was forced to switch planes in Atlanta (a direct flight was just not possible), I still had a very nice ride there. Got out, trammed my way to my next
flight's terminal, got on, and we were airborne within 10 minutes. All things in life should go so smoothly. Once I arrived in Fort Lauderdale, I went to my rental car counter. Having already paid for the rental car months ago, it wasn't much to get me to upgrade a little. For a very small additional fee, I wound up renting a black 2011 Ford Mustang for the week. The son of a co-worker friend has a 2008 model, and I do kind of like the new Mustangs, so I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to see just how much I might actually enjoy driving it. Over 1,000 very comfortable and smooth miles later, and I can see me buying one of those in the future.
Roughly the first quarter of those 1,000 miles on the Mustang were put on while driving away from the airport towards my main stay of the week. I have an uncle that lives in The Villages, a 50-years-of-age-plus community in Central Florida, about halfway between Orlando and Gainseville. It has over 70,000 residents, making it the largest 50+ community in the United States. It's about 260 miles from the airport in Fort Lauderdale, but I planned it that way. I got a better deal flying into there, and I really enjoy driving...and I was on vacation with little to no timetable to stick to. Just the way I wanted it.
Somewhere along the way up north I found me a Cracker Barrel restaurant (using the AroundMe app on my iPhone...if you travel at all, a rather invaluable tool to have), which I'd been looking forward to going to for some time. I was first introduced to Cracker Barrel by artist Charles Vess back in late November of 1997, when I stayed at his studio for a few days conducting an interview that was intended to be published in The Comics Journal. Vess has been in the field of comic books and illustration for probably close to 40 years now. One of his best known projects is probably Stardust, which he did in collaboration with author Neil Gaiman. He was, in fact, working on Stardust at the time I stayed at his studio. The book was eventually adapted into a movie starring Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Ben Barnes, and a host of others. For a variety of reasons, the interview remains unpublished to this day, but I think it was a great in-depth piece, and someday I'll get around to fully transcribing it, and maybe it will eventually get published somewhere. And the trip itself will make for a nice blog entry someday, too.
Cracker Barrel's are not to be found in the Northeast, and definitely not in New York, where I grew up. But once Vess introduced me to them, I've been hooked. It's a Southern chain, with good Southern cooking and hospitality. Vess' studio was in Abingdon, Virginia, within spittin' distance of the Tennessee border. The closest ones to me here in Las Vegas are in St. George, Utah, and Kingman, Arizona. I always hit the Kingman one on the way to and from Phoenix, and whenever I travel to other areas of the country that have them, I include them in the on-the-go itinerary. Using the AroundMe app, I located one in Stuart, FL, and loaded up on a good meal there. They were also kind enough to seat me near a wall outlet so I could charge my dying iPhone...the Mustang I rented did NOT have an iPod dock, which I found rather odd, so it was in desperate need of recharging, as was I.
I see that this entry is starting to take on a life of its own, and due to being a little jet-lagged, and having gotten in very late (didn't get to bed until after 2AM, and was awake a little after 6AM), it's obviously not going to be finished today, so I'll just post what I've got, and come back for more later...
Blog Post Soundtrack; Soulfly, Queen (live), Hater, KoRn, Rage Against The Machine, Yawning Man