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Trip report

The piece of US 17 near us runs from Punta Gorda to Orlando. It's the highway we take to go to Bok Tower. It is also the highway Charley took to lay waste to the middle of the state. From where we live, we drive east to Arcadia--40 or so miles north of Punta Gorda--to intercept US 17.

As we approached Arcadia, we saw ever-increasing numbers of houses with blue tarps on their rooves. And lots and lots of damaged live oaks, many with half of their tops ripped out. Charley must have denuded many of them because now, two and a half months later, they are growing clusters of new leafy stems at the ends of their limbs--giving them the look of those silly poodle-ball topiaries [no offense intended to anyone who likes that sort of thing] only on a major scale. World's largest bonsais, I told Ms Fatma.

As one approaches Bok Tower, the road skirts the edge of a hill, and when we looked down from the road over the tops of a housing tract. More than half the rooves were blue. And there were piles of rubble everywhere.

Most of the mess at Bok Tower proper has been cleaned up and they are beginning to replant. We noted a couple of dozen newly set out palms. And the paths are all cleared and recently re-mulched with chipped and shredded material that Charley left about. And the swans in the reflecting pool are fine and as obstinate as ever about moving out from behind their island to get their picture taken.

For those of you who have been to Bok Tower, all those orange groves around the base and up the sides of the "mountain" do not appear to have lost a leaf and the fruit looks ready to be picked and shipped to the juicer. At this time of year trucks towing huge open trailers full of loose oranges dominate the roads in that part of the state, much like logging trucks do on the Olympia peninsula and coal trucks do in southeastern Kentucky. You share their roads with them at your peril.

On the way back, we stopped at the Two Star Nursery in Bowling Green. Charley blew the shade cloth off his shade house that was full of zygote cactus he was prepping for Christmas sale, then a big oak [3-foot diameter trunk] uprooted and took out the frame of shade house. Fortunately, he had moved most of the zygotes into a barn-like structure when he first realized Charley was headed his way. But even so, he says, very few will be ready for Christmas sale.

Island Jim Southwest Florida 27.0 N, 82.4 W Zone 10a Minimum 30 F [-1 C]

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