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Issue #193, Epic Road Trip, June 15, 2018: Collier-Seminole State Park and Tigertail Beach, Florida

June 15, 2018 I am listening to bass notes from frogs from the gully across from our camp: a steady drone of unusual sounds which has been emanating from the marshy environment of this spot, and that includes the weird goat-like bleatings we hear as the evening light falls, and the air becomes thick with mosquitoes.

dredging contraption
sitting idle at a state park
useful life over

a grand achievement
to build a road through a swamp:
eighty feet a day

Just walking to the bathroom is a stressful experience, as there is a certain species of fly that dive-bombs your face and launches directly into your ears and eyes, weirdly happening in the same physical spot, as if they keep to a certain location; the no-see-um’s are also terrible, and have left numerous welts across my elbows and under my arms. Last night I spent about 20 minutes swatting mosquitos from the inside of the Cricket - they seem to swarm in whenever someone opens the door for even a moment. Yesterday we probably had the hottest and buggiest day of the trip. We started off slow with a waffle - egg - hash brown breakfast provided by Paige, and then after visiting the dredge on display we tried to ride our mountain bikes on a ‘mountain bike trail’ which was more like a trek on an old road through the swamp, not far from the entrance to the state park.

sketchbook in backpack
reflects my wishful thinking
on buggy, hot ride

As soon as we started down the humid, overgrown route, it became obvious it was not going to last long. Almost immediately we started getting dive-bombed by the ‘fighter jet flies’ making it hard to ride without constantly having to swat at the highly irritating insects; on top of that, it was super hot and humid. I had decided that for bug protection I needed to wear my long pants and long-sleeved shirt, the latter of which - being made of a synthetic fabric - compounded my own personal distress. After about a mile traveled on this three-mile route, we came across some signs that indicated “general caution” at the presence of alligators; and after a second of such signs, we decided to head back to camp. Not a great way to start the day.

at the second sign
warning of alligators
we choose to retreat

tall grasses and flies
swat them quick, or they’ll bite you
make them go away (phoenix)

So buggy and hot
your kids are dying - please help
just turn around now (Phoenix)

humidity high
the second shirt of the day
tossed in the back seat

red-faced, on the floor
he recounts the last hour spent
on buggy trail

greek memorial
for he who bequeathed the land
at humid state park

After cooling off with a soda within the cool confines of the Cricket, we decided to head for a beach somewhere, the closest being a public area called “Tigertail beach” near Marco Island, so we drove through the swamps to, weirdly, a completely wealthy enclave, where expensive homes on manicured lawns were backed up to canals, like streets of water; every house seems to have a boat parked in back. Nobody was outside, or even there, as far as we could tell. Perhaps this area is a winter-time retreat.

Feeling hungry, we went into a restaurant with a blue-and-red chicken and rooster decorative theme, and chowed down - the kids had burgers and fries - and then headed out to Tigertail beach, which required walking about 1/4 mile on reflective limestone shell-sand to a place where everyone but us was sitting under big umbrellas, looking out towards the gulf of Mexico. A line of beach condos stretched into the distance, and huge puffy clouds built up overhead. Phoenix and Orion and I all got into the warm, light green, salty water, and Paige waded. I swam for awhile but soon had had enough, so I retreated back to a spot in the hot sand where I could sketch. I did a drawing of chairs and an umbrella and wanted to do a sketch of a couple sitting in the water, under their umbrella, but when I asked, they declined; the guy was rotund, fat and bald,; his wife equally disproportionate.

After some time we retreated from this cultural sea-side oven, struggling a bit more with the back door of the Volvo, which suddenly started ‘not opening’ unless extra vigor was applied to the handle - similar to the hose of the shower nozzle that hooks into the Cricket - which Orion announced was not working after we had returned from the bike ride. After some stress arouind this issue, Paige fiddled around with the nozzle, turning on the water at the same time as inserting it, did it suddenly start working again - wow!

Anyway, as soon as we reached Collier-Seminole campground, it began to pour; the rain came down in torrents, adding to the marsh-like quality of the place, no doubt providing extra incentive for more insects to reproduce. The immediate effect of the rain, though, was to decrease the amount of bugs, and so it was a relief; I was able to practice my guitar and drink a beer. After the rain abated, I went down to the ‘blockhouse’ a structure near the entrance of the park, and did a drawing. While sketching I listened to the banter of a family nearby, who seems to be camped out here for awhile. They are sleeping in a large domed tent with two kids (named Zach and Olivia), 8 and 5, who came over to investigate while I was drawing. Olivia told me, “We lost our house in the hurricane” and her dad, who also briefly came over to see my drawing, seemed weather-worn and somewhat sketchy. Paige heard the mother unleashing F-bombs to the kids, and I heard equally harsh language from the guy. Also, here in the campground, are some families in large converted school busses, who seem to be here on an extended stay.

they live in a tent -
while I sketch, their kids mention
that they lost their home

raccoon in dumpster
creates unique impression
of creatures gone bad

moving a few feet
between one and five am:
frog near the bathroom

dive-bombed by fat flies:
using precision guidance
to target my ears

muggy cyprus swamp
gives way to well-manicured
Miami suburb

palm tree wilderness
where natives one lived and roamed
with reptiles and bugs

easy to spot them:
lumbering prehistoric
RV behemoths

solo/group kukai
jonathan machen