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19 In a Row
Written By: OC Fotoguy
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Finally some music I can listen to and enjoy!  I’ve sat here since Friday evening and listened to a Frankie Valli/Four Seasons tribute band, not what I like, and then all day Saturday listened to country musicians butcher rock tunes and most singers had no range at all ... only one channel, loud.  There was a perennial local favorite, The GladezMen, who plays his brand of everglades southern rock with local musicians backing him up. They’re always enjoyable and put on a good show.  Gator Nate Augustus, the lead guy called the group the Chokoloskee Boys this year.  Chokoloski is a village south of EverGlades City where the road ends in the Florida Bay.  Today, Sunday was back to local country musicians, with some of the country stuff easier to listen to than others.  I accepted it, knowing where I was, a country music area.  At the end, the last act, two black chicks took the stage with a backup band.  One played the guitar and didn’t sing.  The other just sang and wow! what a voice.  She said between songs she was #8 in the most recent American Idols TV competition.  I don’t watch much TV, but it’s hard to believe other contestants could’ve been better.  I was surprised the crowd that had obviously liked all the country music stayed and enjoyed the black gals too, in this southern red necked town!  I knew this year’s Festival music would be lacking, since one of my all time favorites, the Lynyrd Skynyrd Band, who played here last year and the year before, would not be here this year.  Who could match them?  That last band was Tanya Turner.  Wow, lots of soul in that voice and her sound lifted my impression of the music totally.  All’s well that ends well!!! 
This festival at EverGlades City was all about the music for me.  I walked through the food vendors and critically eyed the seafood they were offering.  I immediately realized that there were no locals amongst the vendors and I’ll bet there wasn’t a fish that was caught in local waters of Florida, either. Ten years ago it was all local, now it’s all “carnival” like food vendors.  Plus, I saw surimi mixed in with the seafood on their grills.  It looks like lobster, but it isn’t.  It’s processed Alaskan Pollack fish and artificially colored red on the surface to appear like lobster.  There’s no sign saying it’s lobster, though.  It just looks like it.  What a Rip Off!  As if that wasn’t fraudulent enough, as what was cooked was sold they’d add raw fish, shrimp, and other stuff to the grill and the liquid from what was thawing mixed with what was being served.  They’re going to kill somebody someday!  Who knows how many people will think tomorrow they must’ve picked up the flu or something, but really they have food poisoning!  I may write the mayor a letter, educate him, and ask why local fishermen don’t participate anymore.  I don’t dwell on things like this, though.  I just by-passed the seafood at this seafood festival and ate a pulled pork sandwich and chicken cooked over a wood fire.  Both were very tasty.  The best seafood was not at the festival, but at the Oyster House Restaurant about a mile south towards Chokoloskee.  There the fish, grouper and pompano, that I had plus Trigger fish, which I’ll try next time, is locally caught, grilled to order and delicious.
In Everglades City I don’t expect to be recognized.  I do the festival low key, sip several cold ACBs, people watch, and enjoy the sunshine on this mid February weekend.  I’ve been here for the last nineteen festivals in a row. Now the T-shirt sales people recognize me; the guy who runs the sound system does too; and there was a guy who worked for the EverGlades City Water Plant, who told me if anyone gives me trouble, where I park my nest (slide-in camper on a pickup truck) near the entrance to the plant, to tell them that I was their security!  Later I saw him working for the National Park Service as a heavy equipment driver.  This festival I heard someone call my name as I walked towards where the bands play.  It was Seacret’s Jim Long, who overwinters in Marco Island near here.  As I put my kayak in the water at the Turner River, a kayak guide started talking to me like he was an old friend; well I guess sort of he is, I’ve seen him many years here.
Back in America’s Jungle, Big Cypress National Preserve the camp resident host is a familiar acquaintance, as is the guy who keeps track of the game taken by hunters in the various hunting seasons there.  Back in the late nineties and early two thousands, when my winter travels began, I spent months there; now my stays have become weeks long.  I’ve become so familiar with the trails, dirt roads, animals, plants, birds and environment, that I can answer people’s questions better than the park rangers.  My winter meandering sojourns have evolved to include not only southwest Florida and the Keys, but west by following US Route 10 to Texas, through southern New Mexico, southern Arizona, then north to the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas, southern Utah and the Grand Canyon; sometimes other places, and then back to Ocean City.  I used to come home by way of US Route 40. That became drudgery and it was cold. Now I take a leisurely southern route back to northern Texas, through Louisiana, Mississippi, the Smokey Mountains and North Carolina stopping in small towns, eating local food, and warm weather to Virginia Beach and slip across the Bay Bridge and I’m home. 
Last winter I made it to Sequoia National Park, Calif., to see the eighteen-story trees.  My next trip I hope to include at least a month in Indian country of Four Corners (Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah).  There’re lots of western John Wayne landscapes and scenery there, but most of it is on restricted land with lots of the Indian’s rules.  I’ll see how it goes and what I can do without permits or hiring a guide, etc.  That’s not my style and too restrictive for me!  I just want to enjoy the scenery in solitude and peacefulness, not re-enact one of the old shoot up cowboy and Indian movies.  I disturb nothing, make no noise, leave no trash and nobody will know I’ve been there.  I hope to avoid being chased around by the Indian fuzniks.  Although, it would be a reversal or parody to those old movies.  Maybe the Indians are just getting even!
Bob R  o.c.FotoGuy
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