Our visit in Florida was a short one, and the day after our river adventure we headed north to the Charleston area. As chief navigator, my role was to find the most direct route, using the least possible Interstate travel. The Mister loves the back roads. When our children were small, I pretty much insisted on driving the major highways, taking comfort in the familiarity of rest areas and accessibility to places where I could pick up an extra package of wet wipes or even have a prescription transferred. If you’ve ever traveled with a toddler prone to ear infections, you know what I’m talking about. Now that the kids are older, I’m a little more adventurous. (Besides, when do you ever see a great antiques shop on the interstate?)So we said our goodbyes, scooped up our youngest niece, Miss M, and set out for the Isle of Palms, where we would be joined by Son1, who was still in Memphis. The Mister was making good time on the old state roads, and I was needle-pointing like a maniac, when I felt the van slowing to a stop. (Good, I could go for a Starbucks, I thought.) When I looked up, we were stopped beside what must have been an old Stuckey’s, now hanging on as an independent roadside “attraction.”
Me: What are we stopping here for?
Mister: I think I stopped here when I helped my aunt move down here from Vermont!
Me: When was that?
Mister: Let’s see, I guess that would’ve been 1993.
Me: How can you remember that?
Mister: It was one long trip.
Me: No, I mean, how can you remember this is where you stopped?
Mister: Oh, they have an alligat0r pond around here somewhere.
Me, eyeing the drainage ditch, only yards away: I don’t see an alligator pond. Where are we anyway?
Mister: Oh, it’s probably kind of grown over; it’s behind that big sign, I think. We’re in Starke; you know, where the state prison is.
Me, eyeing the other cars: Oh, um, yeah, I guess I did know that.
So, in we all troop. The kids fan out to look out all the amazing souvenir creatures that can be made from shells. The Mister, of course, strikes up a conversation with the proprietor/clerk, who from the looks of things was probably there in 1993, and confirms that there is indeed an alligator pond round back. I head on outside, and he follows a few minutes later with a small bag, which I realize must be what we’ve come to call a “pity purchase,” that is, some small purchase made entirely because we feel sorry for the store owner. In this case, it turned out to be beautiful white sea star for me and a jar of coconut toast spread.We find the pond, complete with large gator, probably about 10 feet in length. The pond was triple-fenced, and I took some comfort in that. I wish I had a picture to show, but the pool was so shadowy and shady that a good shot was impossible. Nevertheless, we succumbed to the Seminole legend, and tossed in a few coins. My wish came true almost immediately—minutes later I was back in the air-conditioned van, and we were driving away—the Mister and I each thinking the other was completely