May the pie be with you: the lovebug menace
Today was a big day. Today we were going to Yoder's Amish restaurant in Sarasota. After a quick Cherry Cobbler yogurt, we jumped in the car and headed straight out.
We planned on visiting a few birding sites on the way to look for Florida Scrub Jays before hanging left towards Sarasota. The journey was enlivened by the usual unusual. A pest control company car with mouse ears and a tail - the ears lying flat whilst moving, only to jauntily pop up when stopped at traffic lights. My favourite sight today though was the proud dog owner with a licence plate telling the world exactly who wore the trousers in their house - check out the photo.
With head down, perusing the map, I heard the light pitter patter of rain on the windscreen. I remembered the sky being blue and free of cloud, so with a slightly confused frown on my face, I looked up. It wasn't rain causing the noise. It was lovebugs. We were fairly deep in the American back of beyond by this point, with few trailers and even fewer houses but a hell of a lot of fields and scrub. This would appear to be your average lovebug's most favoured holiday destination. Our wipers were soon clogged with their sad little squishes as we drove through swarm upon swarm, and our screen wash was rapidly diminishing. We stopped for gas and made free with the available squeegees. The truck drivers had the same idea, although they had a much bigger job - most of their white cabs were now black with flattened bodies. Urban legend holds that lovebugs are synthetic - the result of a University of Florida genetics experiment gone wrong. Their remains turn so acidic, they corrode car paint work. Hence all the hard work with the squeegees.
We finally tracked down the scrub jays and now we'd got our eye in, they appeared perched on every telegraph wire around. We stopped by the roadside for Mr F to photograph them whilst I wandered off after a tortoise I'd spotted in a field. It was at this point, that we were bombarded by another swarm.
To be honest, before I'd seen them, I imagined lovebugs to be an interpretation of our cute British ladybirds. Nope, they're not the most endearing of creatures. Named 'lovebugs' as the majority you see are actually 2 individuals 'in flagrante'. They remain stuck together after mating for several days and individual swarms number in the hundreds of thousands. Yes, you read that correctly - hundreds of thousands.
After several seasons in the tropics, with only tent canvas between me and the local bitey, stingey, crawley population, I'm not that bothered by insects anymore. When you share your daily life with bullet ants, tarantulas, and stuff you can't even come close to identifying, the homely British money spider no longer cuts the mustard in the scary stakes. I'm not saying I would be quiet as a mouse if something leggy landed unexpectedly beside me, but the scream would be down to shock rather than any issue with it's hairy legs. I'm almost positive on that front. Almost. Well, at least I'm used to Mr F's hairy legs.
Now it's all very well driving through bugs at 60mph when you're surrounded by glass and metal. When you find yourself knelt in the scrub happily photographing tortoises, it's a whole different matter. I'm sure the car wasn't that far away a minute ago...oh gods, they're in my hair...quick, run!
We continued on (minus several hundred bugs and quite a bit of hair) and drove a lap around Lake Placid just so we could say we'd seen it. Alas, we can't say the same for the monster croc courtesy of 20th Century Fox. Job done, we reprogrammed the satnav for the main event of the day, very possibly the entire trip. At least for me anyway. We were finally off for pie at Yoder's.
For those of you who don't know, this is no ordinary restaurant, nigh empire. Run by the Yoder family from the local Sarasota Amish community, the menu is pure and simple country, comfort food. A meal also contains more calories and fat than your average weekly shop put together. We parked up outside the produce store (to be explored at leisure later) and headed to the restaurant. It wasn't quiet by any means but we were seated pretty much immediately and got stuck straight into the menu.
I had a sly gaze around at my fellow diners' plates to gauge the portion sizes. My assumption was correct and I reminded myself to order something sensible. Our waitress, who was about as Amish as me, helped us with our order. Mr F went for a half portion of Manhattan (a pot roast 'sandwich') with mashed potato and lashings of beef gravy. When it came to me, I didn't really have a choice - it had to be the fried chicken. Just as famous as their pies, their chicken pieces are taken from some of the world's largest birds - very possibly related to giant moas. To accompany them I opted for homemade crisps and coleslaw. A very sensible order I thought. When I asked our waitress if the crisps were good, the look she returned me said it all. Stupid to even ask really.
Mr F's half a cow and gravy, could hardly be described as small and he reliably informed me that it was damn fine. My fried moa was moist and succulent - the best I'd ever had and very probably, the best I will ever have in my lifetime. I will never eat KFC again, at least, not without a look of sad disappointment on my face anyway. This visit was all about the pie though, so as our eyes met across our sort-of empty plates, we both calculated whether consuming more food would do us actual, physical harm. Decision made, a Chocolate peanut-butter cream pie and a Banana cream pie were ordered. Our waitress must have been well used to serving tourists with eyes bigger than their stomachs as our take-home containers were delivered to our table shortly afterwards. Such was the great service at Yoder's. This also led to me drinking way more coffee than was legal in an effort to reach the bottom of the mug before it was topped up - I failed. The subsequent trips to the little girl's room, allowed me to appreciate just what happens if you eat at Yoder's on a regular basis. I will never strut my stuff on the Milan catwalks (a very good thing) but today, in this restaurant, I felt positively skinny. I would have bested Naomi with my sashay back to our table, even in Westwood heels.
As we left the Yoder empire, the clouds were brewing and it wasn't long before a rumbling thunderstorm hit with distant flashes lighting up the sky. As Florida is touted as the lightening capital, I'm surprised we hadn't seen more. The rain fell with vengeance but at least it saved us a trip to the carwash - no lovebug-etched paintwork for us! Back at base camp and with clear sky once more, we nipped out to see if those 'slow water movements' Mr F had seen the evening before, really were manatees. Nope, merely jumping fish. To quell our sadness, we had leftover cream pie for dinner. Nothing is ever all bad.
No. of dolphins seen: -1
No. of manatees seen: -4
No. of lovebugs squished: 700,000
No. of pies eaten: 2
No. of grams of fat eaten: 22,000,000