The elephant will remain

February 2, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Tom Claridge

Thanks to the Internet, you may not have noticed any more than the usual number of grammatical errors in the Citizen’s news and opinion columns. As has been the case in years past, your humble Editor took his trusted laptop Mac down south for what was expected to be 2 1/2 weeks in warm sunshine.

The destination again this year was the amazing city of Palm Coast, mid-way between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Perhaps Florida’s only fully planned modern city, Palm Coast today has a population of about 70,000, beautifully paved streets and bicycle paths, a dog park that puts Orangeville’s to shame, no slums and no public transit worthy of the name.

Wife Pam and I used our Air Miles collection for flights to and from Daytona Beach International Airport via Atlanta and found the service timely and on the whole much better than we had anticipated based on previous experience.

Our destination was sister Mary’s townhouse, which she and her late husband Bruce Haire purchased in the depth of Florida’s real estate collapse.

Located in a 14-unit condominium that overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway, the townhouse was the perfect home away from home with all the modern amenities and even a small table for my computer.

The weather wasn’t quite what we had expected, or what had been predicted in some long-range forecasts. As you might expect, central Florida is significantly cooler than southern parts of the peninsula, with the average mid-winter high temperature in the upper teens Celsius.

Although it was well above 20º C when we got there on January 9 and made it into the 20s on three or four different days, most of the time it was chilly enough not to be wearing shorts, and on one day the mercury didn’t get above 7º C.

However, the cool weather made it ideal for travelling and we did take some great day trips, the greatest being to Blue Spring State Park northeast of Orlando, a favourite wintering spot for Florida’s endangered manatees.

Unlike some other marine mammals, the fascinating manatees can thrive in both salt and fresh water but cannot survive in cold water.

Last year, the Gulf Stream waters were so warm that most of the manatees didn’t bother to swim up the St. Johns River from Jacksonville to Blue Spring, where the enormous springs produce 1.4 million U.S. gallons of crystal-clear water every day at a constant 70º F (21º C).

When we visited Blue Spring last February there were only a handful of manatees to be observed from the boardwalks, but this time we were told no fewer than 314 had been counted in the inlet overnight and dozens were within sight as noon approached.

Another fascinating day trip took us to a region west and north of Ocala where the rolling countryside (not found anywhere else in Florida) was apparently ideal for horse-farming, most of the farms being owned by millionaires.

With the possible exception of B.C.’s Vancouver and Victoria, Florida’s Palm Coast and St. Augustine offer North America’s greatest contrasts in neighbouring cities’ appearances.

St. Augustine bills itself as the oldest continuously settled (by Europeans) city in the continental USA. The city itself has fewer than 13,000 residents but the area population is similar to Palm Coast’s at 70,000.

The old city is famed for its narrow streets, some being barely wide enough to allow cars to pass.

Our regular visits to Palm Coast’s dog park, which unlike Orangeville’s includes a large pond, trees, picnic tables and benches for the dog owners, provided an opportunity to chat about more than the weather. Sadly, we discovered that most of dog owners were fans of Donald Trump who see him as the first honest politician in Washington and probably subscribe to the President’s portrayal of the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN as purveyors of “false news.”

During our visit we did manage to take in two great movies at Palm Coast’s Epic Theatre – Darkest Hour and The Post.

In case you haven’t seen them, they are both based on events in recent history, the Battle of Britain and the leaking to the Times and Post in 1971 of the Pentagon Papers, which disclosed how the administrations of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson had all lied to the public about U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

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