Posted by: justnaturallyme | April 21, 2009

Scary Sadie’s Curse

Most people think a writer’s life is all glamour and fun. Well my friends, I’m here to tell you there are days that are just down and dirty. Oh, in retrospect they’re funny but at the time they make you wish you were a Wal-Mart greeter.

The salad bar Saddlebrook's  Dempsey's RestaurantA few years back I had one of those days. I was doing a combination book signing/information-gathering trip, zigzagging from St. Augustine to Tampa then back via the East Coast. I had set six book signings promoting my current book, Last Step. Now Last Step has nothing to do with travel. It’s a mystery romance about a mother’s quest to find the truth behind her daughter’s drug related death. However, since, authors aren’t all rich from the sale of their books; I’m also a travel writer. I enjoy the excitement of new places and love passing that information on to my readers. This trip was going to provide more excitement than even I craved.

Normally, with travel writing, you get comp lodging, attractions and even meals.Book signing tours are different. If you’re with a small press or print on demand, you’re on your own.

don CesarThis trip was a combination, I did get some lodgings and attractions comped in Lake Wales, St. Cloud, Sebring and Tampa. The rest of the time I was on my own so I decided to take my pick-up and slide in camper to save on expenses. Where I didn’t have comp lodging, I planned to boondock.  Besides selling books, and getting material for travel articles, I needed to locate interesting ghost stories for my new book, Finding Florida’s Phantoms.

Right from the beginning, the Florida book picked its own direction. I would hear about a place with a ghost. When I checked with local people I found no story there but learned of another story nearby. This created a lot of surprises but that was okay. In fact, most of these new places had never been written about so it was a “scoop” for my book.

Chalet Suzanne RestaurantBy the tenth and last day of the trip I had experienced the usual ups and downs. I had spent nights in fabulous places like Saddlebrook Resort and Chalet Suzette I had discovered lots of ghost stories like the long dead former owner of the Hunter-Arms who still supervised the maids, and the spirit on the third floor of Kenilworth Lodge in Sebring. I had found lots of good magazine article material like the Plant City Strawberry Festival where I parked in the front yard of a lovely older couple who lived near the fairgrounds and rented parking spots. Have you ever tried to sleep in a camper with the sounds of the roller coaster and carousel just two blocks away? Still even though this wasn’t exactly free, it was boondocking as I had no hookups or facilities. What I did have was walking distance from my main destination at a fraction of the cost of an RV park. Lesson here, if you are attending a festival or event that draws a large crowd, don’t be afraid to approach people living on the fringes that may have a large lot or even a unused space in their driveway. They may be happy to get a few dollars extra for that space they aren’t using anyway. This is one of the safest places to be due to all the event traffic and the property owners nearby.

It was March 17, St Patrick’s Day, when I rolled into Melbourne. I had spent the night in a Wal-Mart lot in Vero Beach. I felt very safe as there were people coming and going all night. The lot was between a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club and I parked close to the Sam’s side because they were closed at night. So the traffic in the Wal-Mart lot was more comforting than disturbing.

Next morning I drove into Melbourne. I had time before my 3PM signing at Books-A-Million. After checking the known local haunts I began looking for new blood. There was an Irish festival downtown that was as good a place to start as any. I learned of a coffee shop on the beach that was reputedly haunted so I headed there. I ordered tea and a muffin at Murray’s. The china was chipped and the service was slow. The owner was cooking inside. Since the place was packed and they were two people short, she informed me briefly, “Some people claim to have seen things but I don’t believe it.”

I asked if I could come back after they closed, around four, and talk to her. She agreed. If I knew then what would befall me, I would have accepted her disbelief and left, never to return. But, of course, curiosity drew me back after the book signing.

I was in a good mood as I approached her parking lot. The signing had gone well and I was heading home as soon as I left here. I pulled into the lot and all that changed instantly. Crash – the edge of my camper top hit a slightly overhanging limb. I had safely entered this same driveway just hours ago but the overhanging oak limb had just enough hook that it got you if you pulled in close to the tree side of the driveway. I had and it did! It slammed the top driver’s side of my camper like a giant battering ram. The force of the blow threw the camper backward. It popped the safety chains like they were made of paper instead of heavy gauge steel. I jumped out and surveyed the damage. My camper sat almost completely off the truck with one corner smashed into the dirt and only a few inches of one front corner still on the truck.

I rushed to the restaurant door and frantically pounded. I could see the owner and another person inside but she wouldn’t answer the door. My husband later suggested she was afraid I wanted to sue. I was just seeking help or even consolation and a Coke while I decided what to do.

As I turned from the porch, three men who could have passed for Hell’s Angels approached me. “What happened?”

“I was just pulling in and knocked my camper off.” My need for help was stronger than my fear of their appearance. I need not have worried. They were more like regular angels; abet slightly tipsy angels, than anything else.

Donald, Scott and Beef spent the next three hours helping me right the camper and get it reattached to the truck. As my guardian angels had been strenuously celebrating St. Patty’s Day, I had the added burden of being careful no one got hurt in the process.

After attaching it as best they could, my helpers queried, “What brought you up here anyway?”

I replied I was a writer looking for ghost stories. That elicited boisterous laughter. Beef replied, “Ma’am, there ain’t no ghost here. It’s just Scary Sadie’s curse. A woman named Sadie lived here before it was a coffee shop. When she had to move, she cursed the place. It was Scary Sadie’s Curse what got you.”

Needless to say, I drove the ensuing 140 miles or so home that night praying no one stopped me with my one working taillight and my very insecurely fastened camper. I guess Scary Sadie had finished with me as I made it home with no more mishaps.

For those of you who worry about boondocking, this should let you know you may be in more danger from other things, seen and unseen, than muggers breaking into your camper. Still, exercise caution especially if you are a woman alone at night in your camper. Never open the door for a stranger. Keep a cell phone handy in case anyone tries to break in. And do beware of Scary Sadie.

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