Salvador Dali, wild dolphins, and impromptu Jacuzzi hopping…
Thanks to the generosity of a loved one who wishes to remain anonymous I learned I would be able to get the van up and running. It would take some significant time, but I didn’t have to call it quits. I was lucky enough to be offered to stay in the living room of a local while waiting. That’s one thing the road will teach you, to accept the help and generosity of others.
One of the things I wanted to take away from this journey is the ability to say that I did it all on my own- that I could fend completely for myself and find a way to survive even when put into dire situations. I thought leaving home, living in my car, hanging out in the middle of nowhere and all sorts of new strange places.. that’s sure to be the challenge I’m looking for. However within the first week I had already started to realize that even when on your own, you are always dependent on others. Leaving home and venturing out into the world just shifts your dependence from your inner circle to the world at large. Humans are social and communal creatures and putting yourself out there the way I am displays that natural urge to help each other, and the infinitive need for that help whether it be as little as borrowing the use of an electrical outlet when the fridge won’t get up and running or as large as being taken into to a stranger’s home for weeks on end when stranded in a town far away from home.
Anyway, while stuck in St. Petersburg I figured I might as well make the most of my time here. I had already done the lounging and wandering thing, so I decided it was time to do the tourist thing for a while. I looked into some nearby attractions and sought advice from the locals I had the privilege of meeting. I decided on visiting the Dali museum and Sunken Gardens.
In 1903 a plumber by the name of George Turner purchased an old sinkhole on six acres of land. He drained a ten foot lake on the property and began planting fruits and vegetables in its place. Over a century later, those gardens still flourish with over 50,000 tropical plants and flowers. I enjoyed a beautiful and meditative walk through the exhibits of the Sunken Garden featuring Japanese gardens, flamingos, a snapping alligator turtle, and more.
The Dali museum was an entirely different kind of beautiful. I was first introduced to Dali through my love of Lewis Carroll’s work Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. A few years back a friend clued me in that an original copy was being released to the public and Dali had done the artwork to coincide with the novel. I of course had to get my hands on it. His work intrigued me as it was just as abstract and delirious as the story I fell in love with. So when I heard one of the biggest collections of his work was in town, I had to go see it.
Being in the museum was comparable to walking through a dream, full of contorted images that are just nonsensical enough to make you understand the message being conveyed to you. I found that most of the works that left the other viewers with quizzical faces taken aback by the blunt oddities painted on the canvas were the ones that brought a smile to my face, as these were the ones I instantly comprehended.
Believing that the van would be ready to get back on the road shortly, I decided to wrap up my time in St. Pete with a dance class. Upon telling my Uber driver my story, I found myself on a whole new adventure. He invited me to tag along on a night out the local way. Just a few short hours later I found myself sneaking in and out of luxurious 5-star hotels right off the Gulf of Mexico. Jacuzzi hopping was the entertainment for the night. The small thrill of racing through the maze of hallways like you know exactly what your doing and sneaking past the hotel staff was exactly what my rebel soul had been calling for. We even managed to meander into a fire lit lounge after hours. We ended the night on the patio of a bar in downtown Gulfport playing bags, giant Jenga, and Connect Four.
It turns out the Uber driver is working on building a freelance marketing company based in social media advertising. The next morning he had a meeting with a boat charter and talked his way into bringing me along for the ride. The boat took us out to an island for the day where we lounged and watched the ocean wave and commented on all the different sea shells washed up on the shore. The best part was the views on the ride home consisting of multiple dolphins chasing down the waves breaking behind the boat, jumping and swaying with the momentum we left behind. It was a truly magical sight to see. I sat staring off the back the entire way to the dock.
After the boat ride and some homemade veggie burgers I called another Uber to bring me back to the apartment. An older women in peacock décor head to toe arrived to pick me up. Her story blew me away. After being spontaneously left by a man who clearly didn’t deserve her vibrant soul, she and a girlfriend took off to travel in an SUV. In their 70’s, they are still going strong enough to rough it on the road. They even had the luck of getting into a party with a professional hockey team! Little did they know when going to sleep in their car at the end of that night that the parking lot gates would lock until the next evening when the bar opened up again. The security guards could not believe their ears when these ladies explained how they managed to get locked in the lot the next morning.
After having a good laugh with Uber driver #2 and collecting some good tips for the road, I headed to meet my host for the last few weeks at an up and coming coffee shop. They were hosting a cappuccino making contest. Street food, hipsters, craft beer, and watching artisans craft fancy shapes using special milk pouring techniques into fresh cappuccinos. A new experience to say the least.
That night I headed to bed eager to wake up, retrieve the van, and head up north a few hours to Ocala National Forest for a gathering with the Rainbow Family.