Today we were on our way home so we were up, packed and on the road early. More storms were predicted today so no more back roads we started and ended on I-75. We were fortunate that there was a cloud cover affording us cool weather on the road. I commented on this to Randy and he said, “Yes that is good just as long as the clouds don’t spit rain down on us”.
The ride was uneventful stopping a few times to get gas and the Florida Welcome Center. I love this center because every visitor who visits is offered a small cup of Florida orange or grapefruit juice. The cup of juice was cool and refreshing. I asked Randy to take a picture of our fellow traveler, ‘Biker Bear’. Biker Bear was given to me back in 1995 by Don Peterson, a teacher I worked with at Willow Springs Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia when he learned that Randy and I were taking a trip up to the Americade bike rally in Lake George, New York. The bear has been traveling with us on long trips ever since.
Randy took the picture and then we were off again. A short distance from the welcome center I felt something touching me on the back. The last time I felt something like that it was my prescription sunglasses that fell off the bike and before we noticed it a car had run over them.
I immediately put my hand back and realized that Biker Bear was gone. “Randy, Biker Bear is gone”, I yelled into my helmet. Randy asked if I wanted him to pull over. “Of course,” I said. So there I was heavy boots, long jeans, jean jacket and helmet walking down the emergency lane of I-75 looking for a stuffed bear. I can only imagine what motorists were thinking as they drove by. I looked on the road and then started to look on the grass to the left thinking that perhaps the bear had bounced off the road or a large truck had blown it off the road.
After a few moments of walking a car pulled off onto the emergency lane and stopped and the driver asked if I was okay. I said I was and he asked, “Is everything okay?” My only answer was, “I lost my bear”. He quickly responded saying, “I saw him. He is in the middle of the entrance lane onto the highway”. I thanked him profusely and took off at a faster pace to rescue my bear. I found him face down on the road watched to make sure I wouldn’t get hit by a car or truck and picked him up. I turned around to find Randy walking up behind me. He had taken a picture of the bear in the road and me picking him up. As I said, I can only imagine what people were thinking. Very funny! Biker Bear spent the rest of the ride in the trunk.
We managed to make it all the way home without incident rain and enjoying familiar sights along the way like Paynes Prairie State Preserve. Paynes Prairie was the first Florida state preserve and is now designated as a National Natural Landmark. I love driving by this part of I-75 becuase the terrain looks so wild and untamed.
It was about 1:45pm and we had not eaten lunch. We decided to wait just a bit and then head to our favorite Mexican restaurant in Belleview, Florida. We have been going to this restaurant with our friends and neighbors Bob and Sandy Kessler for the last two years and frankly any other day of the week we get the urge for their delicious food.
The menu at the El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant has become our favorite comfort food, and a wonderful evening of socializing with our friends Bob and Sandy over the last several years. Owners Wendy and Cesar know that we like to get our chips, salsa and beers and just talk for a while before ordering. The salsas are very good. My favorite is the verde (green) with a wonderful bite sometimes as soon as you eat it and sometimes a little later. Either way it is wonderful. Wendy and Cesar just know after all the time when we need refills or time to take our order. They are always friendly stopping by during the meal talking with us and always keeping up-to-date with things that are going on in our lives.
I love El Rodeo because the food is consistently fresh, delicious and reasonably priced. We have tried many items on the menu and loved them all. I love the chalupas. These crisp tortillas are piled high with refried beans, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and guacamole. They are always fresh, light and delicious. Today Randy ordered a chalupa and a chicken enchilada.
They were very happy to see us again and asked about our trip. Cesar commented that he wondered if we would be coming in as soon as we returned from our trip. I told him that eating at El Rodeo was the only thing on our minds today besides making it home before the rain.
We surprised Wendy ordering dessert today. Since it was the last day of our trip I decided I wanted just one more dessert before returning to my regular diet. Randy ordered the Sopapilla and I ordered the Flan.
Both desserts were both eye appealing and delicious. The flan was a wonderfully creamy custard covered with just the right amount of a caramel sauce of burnt sugar and vanilla to make it the perfect end to a perfect meal. Randy’s sopapilla was a different version from what I remember being served in other restaurants. I loved the presentation of this great tasting dessert. The delicately fried pastry was crisp, sprinkled with cinnamon and then drizzled with honey and just a hint of chocolate. Randy enjoyed his dessert very much.
Appetites satisfied it was time for us to head home and find a piece of furniture to collapse on. Emptying the bike could wait. I took one last look at the odometer and noticed that we had traveled 2,256 miles. I think the motorcycle needs a rest too!
I just want to take a moment to say that I really enjoyed sharing our trip to the Natchez Trace and back with everyone. And, I really enjoyed reading your comments each evening. I will be taking the next week to catch up on this and that and then back in the kitchen to cook up some great foods. Stay tuned.