A biker lounged across a bench Friday morning next to a partially worked crossword puzzle.
A breeze blew through the oak that shades the parking lot and a friendly guy named Mike Justice stood next to the store's open — that's right, open — doorway.
That feeling of welcome and relaxation, in other words, has returned to the rural crossroads north of Brooksville; the Lake Lindsey Grocery — a.k.a. Lake Lindsey Mall — has reopened under the ownership of Justice, 44, a former electrical lineman from Crystal River.
The store's previous owner, Carolyn Todd, closed it suddenly in September, saying revenues from the small convenience purchases couldn't cover her rising expenses.
In November, I wrote about the demise of this community institution and favorite rest stop of motorcyclists and bicyclists, and I wondered if anyone would dare to reopen it in this grim economy.
When I heard that Justice had done so, and that he is rebuilding the store's inventory and plans to reopen the deli next month, I decided to mention it in a column.
And, since it is near the end of the year, I thought I might as well fall back on an old trick for filling space during the holidays, and update a few other columns, too.
So here goes.
I always liked the idea of THE Bus, and, other than having a hard time figuring out its schedule, I have enjoyed riding it. In July, I wrote that the notoriously underused public transportation service "could become the vital public service it has never really been.''
A few minutes after writing that, I caught the first full bus I'd ever seen in the county. That became a common sight in the county, and ridership continued to rise through September, when the system carried an average of 673 riders.
That number has fallen since as gas prices dropped and fares increased, but I think THE Bus proved residents will use public transportation in Hernando. I think I was right.
I was wrong here. The only question about the County Commission races, I thought, was which Democratic incumbent would be more popular with voters: Diane Rowden, who, in my mind, made the "right'' votes in courageously opposing unnecessary housing projects, or Chris Kingsley, who has called himself "reasonable'' for his compromise positions.
Both of them, of course, lost their elections after developers, Realtors and builders poured tens of thousands of dollars into last-minute advertising campaigns targeting them.
So, at the moment, it seems, commissioners can be neither right nor reasonable when it comes to development. The only way to survive is to be all for it, though I'd be delighted if the new commissioners, Jim Adkins and John Druzbick, eventually prove me wrong about that, too.
The Biker Rodeo
Yes, I saw and heard some objectionable stuff at this event in Jimmy Batten's pasture east of Brooksville on the last weekend of October. One guy who called himself a "real biker'' bragged about consuming 48 Jello shots the previous night and about loving his Harley-Davidson motorcycle more than his wife. I saw a rodeo event that involved water balloons being dropped on women's breasts to the drunken hoots of a mostly male audience.
But almost all of the 2,000 bikers obeyed the law. They kept the noise down enough to generally avoid disturbing neighbors. And in the end, Batten did exactly what he promised: He distributed $14,000 raised from the entry fee and beer sales to help disabled veterans.
The Florida Trail
Mitch Almon is doing a great thing by extending the Florida Trail across Hernando, opening seldom-explored corners of our beautiful county to residents and, hopefully, attracting visitors willing to drop a few bucks into the local economy.
He got one step closer to his goal this month when a crew of volunteers from the Student Conservation Association built a 40-foot bridge over a swale east of the Withlacoochee State Trail. That means the Croom and Richloam tracts are linked by a trail except for a 2-mile road-side stretch, Almon said.
He and his fellow Florida Trail volunteers will now work on extending the trail west toward the Citrus Tract in a route that I hope will include Hernando's most scenic outlook, Chinsegut Hill.
The Christmas tree
It seems funny to use valuable newsprint to update the status of our family's giant Christmas tree. But, judging from the number of e-mails I received on the column I wrote about the tree earlier this month, some of you care more about it than about, say, dishonest land speculators. I figured you would be glad to hear the story had a happy ending.
My neighbor Jim White is one of those super-resourceful guys who could be airlifted into the Alaskan wilderness with a survival knife and a chain saw and, in a week or two, turn out a tidy A-frame cabin.
After reading in my column that our tree stand had collapsed under the weight of our 15-foot cypress, he offered to lend me a stand he had previously welded together from a propane tank and the rim of a truck tire.
It worked to perfection. My wife and I have been bent over with sore backs for the past two weeks, but the important thing is we had the most magnificent tree in the neighborhood. Thanks, Jim.