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Lunch in Lake City

You might assume that I was all driven-out following the camping trip, however, I was not. Monday morning, bright and early--oh wait, not so bright at this time of the year. I digress. Early, the Pilot hit the road once again, this time headed to Lake City with Gail behind the wheel, and Bruce behind the mobile phone. :)

Our mission: to check off the punch list before the Olive Garden opened to the public.
Timing: Well, it's everything, isn't it?

So, it was that just after 9 that we pulled into the empty parking lot. Me, I noticed the banner hanging stating they were opening for lunch rather than the 4 PM Bruce was expecting. The good news is the list was short, so perhaps it would work after all.

As we got out of the car, a funky green VW Bug pulled in adjacent to our parking spot.
After using their facilities, I left Bruce to his thing, and headed to the car to figure out how to spend two hours in Lake City. On my way out I ran into the occupants of the Bug sitting on the little front porch, or whatever you call it, just outside the doors to the restaurant. Well, you know me, I had to have a little chat, which worked out perfectly, because they were definitely up for a chat! And a photo!
Here's how it went:

Me: I guess you want to be the first to eat at the Olive Garden?
Lady in blue: That's our plan!
Me: You are here pretty early.
Lady in blue: You bet! I've waited 22 years for an Olive Garden to come to Lake City!
Me: Wow!
Lady in blue: I even took my Korean exchange student out of school so we could be the first!
Me: Wow! 

What doesn't show up very well in the photograph are the two dachshunds waiting in the car for the OG to open as well. Pondering this interesting experience, I took off for downtown. Not much there, except for the creative sign, or at least an attempt at one, on the side of the building housing the cafe I visited last trip to Lake City.
Do you see it on the left? Espress Who U R, indeed.

What next? The Lake City Mall, all dressed up for Easter:
Sad to see no folks along with many closed up shops. As I made my way through the Belk store, I remembered how much our Mom liked working for the retailer, however, in those days, and I may be wrong about this, but seems to me the merchandise was better. Now what? Keds, my friends, Keds. Passing a shoe store, I saw a window advertisement for Keds, and decided to check them out. Didn't take me long to say yes to a new pair of navy blue Keds.
Attempting to pay for them with my credit card for convenience sake, the young clerk apologized for the delay saying they were on DIAL UP!! Get a SQUARE folks! Cash is king in that store.

Still not 11, my appointed time to meet Bruce, but with nothing left to do, I went back to the parking lot and found this:
As I sat there, more and more folks lined up, coming from every direction. I have to say, seeing this made me very happy. Closer to 11, Bruce and his superintendent, Jim, came out of the restaurant and we lined up with the customers, a first for Bruce. Twenty years, and many, many Olive Gardens later, he's never once eaten the first meal served at one of "his" new restaurants. Seated by the manager in the bar area, we joined the other happy patrons enjoying a delicious early lunch. Say what you will about OG, but from this experience, I glean that there are still small cities all over the country that are wishing, and hoping, an OG would come to their town. Otherwise, they probably have to eat out at places like the sad litte cafe where they invite you to Espress Who UR! Following our meal,  I noticed the green bug still parked in the lot--they were making the most of their visit!

Let's take the scenic route home, shall we? 

Just outside downtown, instead of heading North on 44, I went South, and what a lovely drive it was. No real traffic to speak of, wildflowers along the highway, and sights like this one:
I pulled off the road to take this, running across the street and once there, stepping right in the middle of an ANT bed!!! Jumping and slapping at my feet (in their new Keds, I might add), I managed to get out of there with only minor bites, and a few blurry pictures! 

Our next stop was O'Leno State Park, a lovely heavily wooded park, filled with all manner of trees and loads of blooming dogwoods. What a treat it has been to go to North Florida this year and see the dogwoods!
The most interesting feature of this park is the Sante Fe River which, if you can believe this, runs along nicely only to disappear underground and resurface about three miles away!!! The suspension bridge, built by the CCC, was off limits as they were repairing part of it.
Following the path adjacent to the river took us through an area where a controlled burn was still smoldering:
Soon we came to this:
And that was that. The river just plain stopped. This looks kind of eerie, and to tell you the truth, it was. Here's a little close-up of the top left of the algae covered water:
Yup--a gator and a turtle! Although there is a swimming area, after seeing this, I'm not so inclined to want to do so.

Onward to our next stop--Ginnie Springs, just outside High Springs. Long ago, along with some other folks, we camped alongside the Sante Fe River at this private park. Here, the river is lovely and wide with some brave folks tubing on what I'm certain is very cold water:
Much prettier, right? There are over 2,000 camp sites! During our short visit I saw loads of them filled with yellow wildflowers.
Plus, no gravel--a very good sign! We're definitely going to return for a longer visit soon.

Are you tired of these little travel posts? I'm not. I want to go more and more places to see what there is to see! Bruce left early Tuesday morning for California. As you might expect, I had loads of chores to do, a bicycle to ride, shopping, ordering, and so on. The Santa Monica Seasons 52 is finally just about done, however, a few snags popped up yesterday, forcing Bruce to stay another day. Now, after all the misery that project has given him, it only seems right that he should eat their first meal served to the public, don't you think? Last night, a final hurdle was crossed at his Century City Seasons. A long- delayed, and I mean long, water feature is finally doing it's thing; Bruce and cohorts ate dinner there to see it in action. Whew--another thing to cross of his list.

Me, I'm thinking of going out to see the Bay Hill Golf Tournament today courtesy of our son Bill. I'd better get moving....
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