Sunday, January 12, 2014

Jacksonville, FL

We drove through Jacksonville a week or so earlier on our way to St. Augustine. There was construction on the interstate. Narrow lanes, no shoulders, and shifting lanes all led to white knuckle driving that we absolutely wanted to avoid this time. Luckily our GPS has a "Least Use of Freeways" option that came in handy. We were doing fine until we got into downtown Jacksonville. The GPS took us all over the area with turns every half mile or so. We kept laughing about it and wished we had a dash camera to document our journey down the rabbit hole. It was time to go over a bridge, but it was closed due to construction. We turned off the GPS and drove around the bridge as best we could. Eventually we felt lost so we turned the GPS back on, but it led us to a tunnel that had a nine foot clearance. Once again it was time to use our common sense of direction and turn off the GPS. We found ourselves driving through the ghetto and really bad parts of town. We passed tons of businesses with tall, barbed wire fences, run down houses, and a restaurant called Hip Hop Fish N Chicken. We were blown away by it all. A simple one hour drive turned into a four hour expedition.

A Truck using blinds for the cab. We've never seen that before!
Finally we made it to our destination: the Pecan Park RV Resort. This park is definitely the most well put together park we have ever been to. The paved roads and sites in such a large space made it look like a little suburban neighborhood. It was perfect if you can get over the deafening roar of commercial airplanes flying over your head every hour or so.

Downtown Jacksonville
Our neighbors on our right were a married couple in their late twenty's with five kids. It was the first time we met someone RV'ing full time who was within our age group. She got pregnant at sixteen. Her and her boyfriend decided to get married and have been together ever since. We never got to meet her husband. He worked with his dad running their own paving company. In fact, his parents had a camper parked across the street. Josh and I could be wrong, but everything about them screamed American Gypsy. We had just finished an entire season of TLC's "My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding" on Netflix. If we hadn't watched the show, we probably wouldn't have thought anything of it. Of course we never asked and they never said anything about it, so our suspicions were never clarified. 

By the time eight o'clock rolled around that evening, it was time to feed the dogs and find a place to walk them. Right next to the park is an open field where they hold a weekly flea market. As we were walking we saw a group of people hanging out under a carport that had one wall, two buildings (more like sheds), and music playing. We had come across a little "hole in the wall" bar/restaurant. The waitress was extremely happy to have us there and took no time at all to introduce us to the owner Phil. He told us how he started a fenced in gator pond there for him and his friends to hang out and drink. Eventually, his friend talked him into getting a keg or two and starting his own bar. The Tiki Island Tap House has been open since April 2013. They have beer pong tournaments, karaoke, live bands, mud wrestling, car washes, mud truck shows, and delicious pulled pork BBQ. What was once a fun hangout for a couple of friends quickly grew into a small community of fun-lovers. I think the funniest moments of the night were when Phil would randomly walk around setting hamburger buns on the tables. Some patrons would laugh and say, "No thanks Phil. I'm not hungry," even though they knew the bread was for the fish. We would stand out on the viewing dock, break up the bread, and throw it out to the fish hoping to see one of the six alligators. It was too cold for any of them to come out unfortunately. There were a ton of fish though! It was fun to see large catfish nibble.

After talking for awhile and explaining our life in the RV, travels, and goals, they "just had to hear me sing." Fifteen minutes later and a quick run to the RV for my guitar, they had two mic stands and a chair set up for me. What I thought was only going to be a couple of songs quickly escalated into a two hour concert. It seemed everyone wanted to film me, talk about music (the Hick-Hop genre was a popular topic), and listen to me play and sing. I guess you could say it was my first gig! I made a promise to Phil that I would come back and play for at his bar when I got famous. We met a lot of colorful people that night and made a bunch of memories Josh and I won't forget anytime soon. We developed a lot of inside jokes from that night! We went to bed way too late (or early depending on how you look at it) and squeezed in as much sleep as we could before Grandpa's funeral the next day. 

When the alarm went off the next day, it was tough for both of us to get out of bed. Lucky for Josh, I had enough motivation for the both of us. I let him sleep in while I got most of everything ready. I immediately snapped into our morning routine. We needed to get ready for the funeral, take down camp, drive thirty minutes to the Ramada, get a room, put the dogs in the room, and get a ride with my dad to the church...all in about three hours. 

 Morning Routine/Getting Ready for the Road:
  1. Feed the dogs and take them out
  2. Eat breakfast
  3. Take a shower (we have to shower at least thirty minutes apart to have hot water for both of us)
  4. Sweep out the RV
  5. Dump the grey water tank (water that drains into the sinks and shower) and the black water tank (everything that is in the toilet)
  6. Fill up our fresh water tank using our RV water filter
  7. Pull the awning in
  8. Transfer our laundry, guitars, and bass from the cab to the bed in the back
  9. Lock up our 20 gauge Mossburg shotgun and put it in the back as well
  10. Put the dogs in the kennel and turn everything off
  11. Unplug our shore power cord from the site
  12. Take our blinder off the front of the cab
  13. Plug in our GPS and we're ready to go!
At the Tiki Island Tap House. Behind me is the gator pond.
We made it to the hotel with thirty minutes to spare. After figuring out where our room was, we had to break down the kennels and bring them up to the room. It was too hot and humid that day to leave the dogs in the RV while we went to the funeral. The service was held at The Church of our Savior Episcopal Church. It's a beautiful church that sits right along the St. John River. It's such a beautiful, peaceful place; it's truly ideal for a house of God. The service was beautiful. I hope it offered other family members and friends as much peace and closure as it did for me. 

The church view.
After attending a reception the church held, the family went out for lunch where we were able to catch up and talk about Grandpa. My mom flew in for the service. While Josh took a nap, Mom and I went bowling after lunch, and we had a blast! She had an early flight the next day, so she had to go back to her hotel. Josh and I got changed and met my dad, uncle Charlie, and his lifelong best friend Greg at the hotel bar. My uncle Charlie picked the hotel because he knew Ralphie May was performing at the Comedy Zone that night. Unfortunately both of the shows were sold out for the night. Josh and I asked the desk before the second show if they had any seats available and sure enough they did. With every laugh, our sorrows went away.

Uncle Charlie and I

Daddy and I

After a quick breakfast and we said our goodbyes, it was time to pack up the RV and head to Lamont, FL! 

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