BRADENTON, Fla. - It wasn't easy getting here. In fact, it was one of the most unusual trips we've encountered since coming south for the past several winters.
Our first week has been interesting, too, but let's start from the beginning.
We left Altoona on Super Bowl Sunday and arrived in Lorton, Va., at 1 p.m. The Auto Train was scheduled to depart for Florida at 4 p.m., but because of the winter storm, which hit the south the week before, the train, which should have arrived about 9 a.m. Sunday, pulled into the station at 3:30 p.m.
It takes about 4 hours to get the train ready again, but the station had several TV screens and we - Lanes, Cambergs and Beichlers - were able to watch the first half of the Super Bowl there, helping to pass the time. The train finally departed Lorton at 8 p.m. for the 17-hour ride. By the way, we had dinner about 10 p.m.
We finally arrived in Sanford, Fla., at 1 p.m. Monday - 4 hours late - but it was worth the wait since we were greeted by sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-80s.
Despite the heavy traffic, the 2-hour drive to Bradenton was pleasant, passing Disney World and other familiar sights on I-4. However, when we arrived at our Timber Creek condo, we learned there was no hot water. That was taken care of Tuesday and we've been running ever since.
We've gotten together with Altoona friends Ken and Betty Wilkinson and Lee and Nee Nee Fagley and visited my cousin and his wife, Tom and Andrea Lane.
One of the nice bargains here is the 50-cent movies at the DeSoto Mall each Tuesday, and we took advantage by viewing "Last Vegas'' and "Captain Phillips.''
We also spent a couple of hours at the Anna Maria Island beach on Wednesday and, in an exciting moment, were attacked by sea gulls in search of food. We escaped without injury.
We also drove out to Pirate City, but no activity on the ballfields. Players should start to filter in early next week. While there, though, we stopped at neighboring Mixon's Fruit Farm for some of its famous orange juice.
Eating stops included South Philly, Boston Market, Steak 'n Shake, Demetrios' Pizza House and Anna Maria Oyster Bar.
Incidentally, Sam's Club gas is selling for $3.23 per gallon.
Until next week
Jim Lane, a retired sports editor of the Mirror, writes from Florida in February and March.