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Woodworking: Journey from home: Often a second look makes it seem better

Some say that familiarity breeds contempt. But after our second annual road trip to Sarasota, Fla., I'd say instead that familiarity breeds, ah, well, acceptance.

Let's back up.

Last year we thought it would be fun and informative to travel through the bowels -- I use that term advisedly -- of the nation.

Start at Illinois, continue through Indiana, go on into Kentucky, Alabama and finally Florida where we'd hit the Gulf Coast and our rental unit in Sarasota.



We soon discovered that downstate Illinois is a vast wasteland of soybeans and corn stubble, falling-down frame granaries, steel storage bins and hopeless little towns begging for a paint job.

Indiana was a tad better because its elevation rose infinitesimally every 100 miles or so. We also admired the architecture at Wabash College.

Kentucky was just OK, and Tennessee was barely tolerable, especially after I found out that the county which encircles Lynchburg, home of the Jack Daniel distillery, was dry.

Then came Alabama where we had a difficult time finding a restaurant that wasn't a Waffle House or a filling station with an attendant that had teeth.

Florida, of course, showed some signs of civilization, but it's awfully, awfully long. But when we arrived at Village des Pins, a lovely resort, we swore that if we ever came back we would fly, whatever the cost, then rent a car as soon as we dropped down.

Yes, we swore.

And we swore even more when we found how much it cost to fly to Sarasota and how much it cost to rent a car in the state where Ponce de Leon discovered the fountain of youth -- a fact I learned in sixth grade geography.

Why didn't they teach us that Illinois is flat?

So it was then that we resolved to begin Trek #2 in our new auto.

We were staying an entire month so Ruth packed the little car to the gunnels.

I donned a straw hat in the manner of Pa Joad and we squeezed into the Hyundai 4, heading south.

On the morning of our departure, I went to the River Falls Medical Clinic for a stress test, joking to the technicians that my real stress test was about to begin, i.e. the 1,500-mile 'Grapes of Wrath' junket.

I'm happy to report that no such stress was visited upon us. We were aware from the beginning that downstate Illinois was the most boring place in Christendom, so we just put up with it, then marveled at new oil wells sprouting up between the hay bales of Southern Illinois.

Indiana proved pretty enough, unless you're allergic to pork products. And almost every state we cruised through had rest areas with flush toilets.

Going deeper into the south, we found fewer toothless filling station attendants, more modern gas pumps that accept credit cards, just like in civilization.

The sunsets in Tennessee were spectacular. Best of all was a brief visit to our friend Zara "Zay-Zay" Grace in Montgomery, Ala.

More about "Zay-Zay" next week.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.