Sometimes a surprise is good! We had pulled into a place to sleep and met some other travelers parking up. As we all tended to do, we talked and exchanged information about good places to go where other friendly people would gather. Given some vague directions on how to find some other ‘alternative’ people having a ‘gathering,’ we decided to go check it out. Warmly welcomed upon arrival, we mingled and integrated into the scene as if we were old friends.
Someone said, “There are some other people here from Tennessee, Ash and Kaba! It would be best if you met them. They’ll be here in a little while.” So we hung out. I played guitar, and people talked. It was a lovely time. When the people from Tennessee arrived, Donna looked up, and to both of their surprise, Donna said, “Andrea!”. Andrea (now Ash) said, “Donna!” Andrea/Ash was Donna’s daughter, Megan’s, first-grade teacher in an alternative school in Nashville. Donna jumped up and hugged her, and they giggled and talked into the night, trading news and memories.
Ash told us that we should visit Gainesville, Florida, and visit Dorothy and Greg at the “Heart Lodge” outside of Gainesville. Ash said that one man had started a commune in Gainesville and was very open about selling marijuana. He drove a truck with it advertised all over it. The police didn’t even bother him. There were also Hare Krishnas cooking up free meals for the masses. The community was thriving! It sounded like another hippie paradise! She also told us that when we made it down to Key West, we needed to look up “Rich In Spirit.”
While Ash and Donna reminisced under the starry night, I naturally played guitar and jammed along with the other people around a fire. We eventually crawled into the van and snuggled into a restful sleep listening to the crickets and people talking in low voices as they nursed the fire’s dying embers.
We climbed out of the van in the morning, stretched, and returned to the fire pit where someone was cooking up some chai tea. I had never had chai tea, and it was tasty, although it was something entirely different than regular coffee or tea. We hung out for a while until people started packing up, and after a good round of hugs and promises to “see you in five minutes,” we also left. The next stop was Gainesville.
Lunch with the Krishnas
It was lunchtime when we arrived in Gainesville. We managed to find and dine with the Krishnas and their free luncheon. They were chanting, singing, and serving up some incredibly delicious food served to anyone who would come and partake with them. They were a pretty lively group of people! As you would imagine, we enjoyed it a lot!
One follower explained that the food served is called “Prasadam,” a term used by Hare Krishnas to mean “Krishna’s mercy.” ‘Made out of love for the pleasure of Krishna,’ Prasadam is the remnants of an offering made to Krishna.
They offer pure vegetarian food, which means no meat, fish, eggs, onion, or garlic. Karma is removed from the provided food because it is of Krishna. So, feeding us Prasadam helps us all to grow spiritually. What a lovely thought! What a beautiful day in Gainesville!
As the evening approached, we made our way to the Gainesville gathering, a party already in progress. Mushrooms were the theme of the night. I’m not a big believer in hallucinogens as a party drug, so we sold a few things to make some gas money by opening our van in the parking. The festive atmosphere made for some interesting conversations with some young hippie kids. Eventually, the famous truck covered in slogans and marijuana factoids went slowly past us. A professional sign painter well did the crisp designs.
The driver was not what you might expect, casually dressed and well-groomed, looking like someone who might run for local government office. I believe that he may well have been seriously considering that very possibility. He had his adoring fans, like any rockstar. Sometime during all of this party wildness, someone told us that if we were going to Key West, we needed to look up “Rich In Spirit,” who played guitar on the sunset cruise of the “Schooner Wolf.” There was that name again so, of course, we had to find him when we got there.
But first, we found Dorothy and Greg at the “Heart Lodge” outside of Gainesville. They were some charming people who had a motto that stuck with me, “Love works, Fear don’t.” Greg told us the root of all trouble and disharmony is fear. Greed, anger, shyness, destructive behavior, and many other actions and emotions are grounded in fear. Love is constructive, bringing courage, caring, and empathy for each other. They gave us a couple of T-shirts they had made with the motto emblazoned on the front, “Love works, Fear don’t,” which we proudly wore!
Nestled on the edge of a forest, the Heart Lodge offers a relaxing respite from the outside world. The spring-fed pool in the back was very cool and refreshing, so I took a skinny dip. The place was undoubtedly a paradise. They said Ponce De Leon once stopped here on his search for the legendary “Fountain of Youth.” All I know is that I certainly felt refreshed after that little dip.
We could have stayed on for days hanging out with Dorothy and Greg. The time we spent there was enjoyable, but we had ‘itchy feet’ and felt we needed to move on. So, when we left the paradise of the “Heart Lodge,” we decided to shoot straight through the rest of Florida to Key West. The Conch Republic is a ‘hip’ tourist destination; we had merchandise to move and have a good time doing it!