I went to a barbecue with my Dutch friends (and some lovely regular old American friends, too) at their rental house in Inverness this past weekend. Inverness?, you may be thinking, Why Inverness? Or, if you are not from Florida, you might be thinking, What’s an Inverness? Is that some sort of belly button condition?
This was the same question I had. Not the belly button one, the Why Inverness? one. Not that I had anything against Inverness, it’s just that it’s slightly in the middle of nowhere.
Actually, it is beautifully in the middle of nowhere. Google Maps instructed me to take US 41 to get there instead of the interstate and I am so glad that I heeded that suggestion.
US 41 comes through Tampa as Nebraska Avenue–not the nicest section of the road, think pawn shops and streetwalkers–but as it goes north out of the city it becomes a bucolic highway. There are a few stop lights as you pass through “Old Florida” small towns. There are rolling hills and there are lots of beautiful oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. Traveling north on US 41 transported me back in time a little bit and was well worth the extra minutes in the car, even though on the drive home I had to pump the brakes to avoid hitting a deer that ran out in front of me (this is rural, y’all).
Anyway, back to the question of Why Inverness? It’s not exactly the location that comes to mind when you think about foreigners traveling from Holland to Florida for vacation, right? You would probably expect them to go to coastal areas or even (shudder) Orlando.
Well, it turns out that there is a Dutch company–I believe it is called Varblikjëfuchuscoontschvënhet…or something like that ;)–and this company bought some land in Inverness and then sold those parcels of lands to Netherlanders to build vacation homes. The streets in the development are even named Dutch-like. There is a Windmill Drive and a Vermeer Avenue. Who knew there was a Dutch vacation colony in the middle of Florida?
So, that is why I got to take a delightful trip on an old Florida road to see my friends from Holland in Inverness. How I even know these people in the first place is an interesting story in and of itself.
I started listening to a podcast many years ago called The Dawn and Drew Show. This “show” was, and still is, a husband and wife that live in Wisconsin who basically just shared their lives with their listeners through the podcast–kind of like an audio version of a blog. You might be wondering, Why would you want to hear about the lives of some couple that you don’t even know? I don’t know, probably for the same reason I like reading novels or watching reality television. I find people interesting and I love the feeling of being a “fly on the wall” and getting a glimpse into what makes people tick.
Of course, it helps if the people you are watching/listening to are as funny and bizarre and as open and marvelously uninhibited as Dawn and Drew are. I felt like I got to know them as I listened. I know…that sounds stalker-ish. But you are reading this story about me, aren’t you? Ha! Who’s the stalker now? Just kidding.
Thousands and thousands of other people found The Dawn and Drew Show too and it became a very popular podcast. They attracted listeners from all over the world, won awards and even eventually managed to quit their day jobs and become professional podcasters for a while.
Through all of this, when they would travel they would arrange meet-ups with listeners and it grew over time into a large, fun, weird, extended family. Or, as Dawn jokingly dubbed it, their own “Minion Army”.
In 2008, Dawn and Drew took a trip to Florida and some of the Sunshine State listeners got together with them while they were here, including the Netherlanders and me and the others from this weekend’s barbecue.
Now, four years later, we are still in touch and hanging out, all because we were somehow all lucky enough to stumble on to a podcast way back when very few people even knew what a podcast was. A pod-what?
I love that the Internet and podcasts and blogs have the power to make the world a smaller and friendlier place. Because of listening to a couple in Wisconsin, I met a couple from Kentucky who moved to Florida and then invited us all to their house, where I met people from Holland who just happen to have a “secret” Dutch vacation utopia less than two hours from where I live in Tampa. How beautifully complicated is that?!
I love the friends that I have made through Dawn and Drew and I also love the people that I am starting to get to know through blogging.
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