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Weather-wise, I’ve seen worse Februaries. So has Punxsutawney Phil.
February 2017 launched with an especially warm welcome for me, since I hopped Amtrak in beautiful downtown Florence, S.C., early Wednesday morning, Feb. 1, hoboing my way down to small-town Palatka, Fla., which has no beach or Disney to speak of. But it’s the closest whistle-stop in proximity to my son’s new home in north-central Florida.
When I say early, I mean early on Amtrak time, because this was at 3:50 a.m. The train was already 45 minutes tardy arriving from its last stops in beautiful downtown Fayetteville and Dillon, S.C.
The conductors wasted no time ushering us jacket-wrapped Carolinians aboard Amtrak’s Silver Meteor No. 97. As they hurriedly pointed us toward vacant passenger seats, the Silver Meteor resumed its southbound trek extending the prior morning from Boston through Pennsylvania groundhog country and down to Miami by nightfall.
At this time of day, there’s not much to see out the train windows and not much else to do but sleep, for those who can. Fortunately, I had a double seat to myself to stretch across, my pillow and fur blankie, and two melatonin to help deliver me through subsequent station stops in Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., before finally reaching Florida by mid-morning.
The Sunshine State did not disappoint.
While Carolinians farther north shivered and continued to don jackets, for the next five days I basked in braggadocio and 70-degree temperatures in beautiful downtown Gainesville, Orlando and the historic Gulf Coast town of Cedar Key.
Two statements I overheard (because I’m still a nosy reporter) summed up one’s good fortune of being in Florida in the wintertime.
The first was a man obviously from somewhere up North where the weather was much more wintry. He was striving to offer instruction to someone on the other end of the line.
“As soon’s ya shovel the snow, it’s back up to the rooftop!” he shouted into his cell phone as he stood next to Cedar Key’s balmy bay dotted with pelicans and seafood restaurants starting to fill with Friday night music and diners.
“What do I care?” he added. “I’m in Florida. I don’t give a rat’s (rump).”
The other noteworthy quote occurred as we were tripping across Cedar Key’s streets lined with quaint houses, artsy shops, a museum, an old grocery store and more pubs and eateries.
A man strolling with a child called to a man riding a motorized scooter chair, asking a question that seemed simple enough: What time was it?
“I dunno!” the rider responded, reckoning the lowering sun’s rays to the west indicated it might be around 5.
That was good enough for me. When it comes to wintertime on a leisurely Florida weekend, until it’s time to catch Amtrak again who’s really watching the clock?
Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.