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Not so fair traffic on way to Manatee County Fair

Side of Ranch: Jay Heater

The pigs at the Manatee County Fair had plenty of room, the motorists trying to get there ... not so much.
The pigs at the Manatee County Fair had plenty of room, the motorists trying to get there ... not so much.
  • East County
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I felt like I was taking the Grumpy Old Man 101 course.

Maybe it was just me, pressures mounting from the working world, deciding to let it all spill over in my car, even if no one was there to listen.

Perhaps you've had a day like this ... no matter your age.

The day, last Saturday, started out well, with an interview with the Blankets 4 Babies committee from the Lakewood Ranch Women's Club. How could that not make me smile? These ladies literally sit around for hours upon hours each day making blankets for a child they never will meet ... never will see.

Jay Heater
Jay Heater

Besides all that, they were funny, giggly, compassionate, and just pure fun.

Then I drove away.

The rest of the day promised to be just as enjoyable. My next assignment was taking photos of the Manatee County Fair. Racing pigs, cows, candy apples, jugglers. My job can be sweet.

I just needed to swing by my office on Lakewood Main Street, check some directions and head out. I pulled out to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, and headed north. For a minute. Then traffic came to a halt. and I inched along, Problems on Interstate 75 had forced drivers to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. It was Saturday, it was 11:45 a.m., and I had plenty of time to look for alligators and exotic birds along the side of the road. Man, I live in a beautiful place. Usually.

Since I didn't have an appointment, I tried to relax. I could make the most of my time, thinking about story ideas for the paper. Hmmmm. I considered growth issues, and road changes, and school overcrowding. It wasn't helping. I bopped myself on the side of the head. Be gone bad thoughts. Think babies, baby giggles, baby blankets."

Twenty minutes later, I was approaching State Road 70 and I had a decision to make. I couldn't find anything out about the I-75 trouble and I could see Lakewood Ranch Boulevard continued to be a mess. So I turned east on State Road 70 to White Eagle Boulevard, headed to State Road 64 and got back on track going north on Upper Manatee River Road. It was a proud moment.

I was back on my happy trail again and figured that would be the worst of it.

To my dismay, I headed into Palmetto and once again became locked in concrete. I was moving a car length a minute, and figured I would get to the fair in April if nothing changed. Trucks around me were driving over the median to make U-turns, but my car rides too low to make such a move. I figured, how bad could it be? I would wait.

I started working triple time on negative thoughts. That old Michael Douglas movie, "Falling Down" came to mind. He just blew everyone away after getting stuck in traffic. It was my turn. I had fallen, and I couldn't mentally get up.

This mindset was going south and building momentum. It was time to do something, anything, to get my mind off my troubles reaching the fair.

I flipped on the radio. That's better. Queen was playing. Freddy Mercury could lift my spirits. He could make me forget I couldn't get to the fair.

"Can anybody find me ... some bunny to love?"

Nope that wouldn't do it.

I went down the dial to the country station.

"... Take me home, country roads ..."


I went to the classic rock station. "And here's a double shot from ... Traffic."

No, no,  no.

Suddenly, I did get something to take my mind off the traffic. A cramp, In my right foot. Please not now. I need that foot for the gas pedal, and the brake, and the gas pedal, and the brake. I started squirming around in my seat, Maybe the left foot will work. 

Ah, glorious mother of the traffic gods, I saw a detour sign. At least I could get around the mess. I snaked up to it and followed the freight train of cars snaking around the block. We ended right back where we left, only headed the opposite direction. I pulled the car over and walked over to a deputy. I told him I was trying to get to the fairgrounds.

"You can't get there now," he said. "Today's is the Martin Luther King Day parade. Come back in two hours."

I have to admit I thought the Martin Luther King Day parade was on Martin Luther King Day.

My chest felt like an alien was inside trying to get out. I spit out the usual dumb remark. "Are you kidding me?"

Ah, no.

"We advertised," he said. "It's every year."

There was no way he could be right about the fair being an impossible dream, so I spent another 30 minutes trying to find a secret passage through the neighborhoods. I finally gave up, and fought a lighter brand of traffic home. I arrived at my door five minutes before 2. And I had to go back ... again.

I was stupid angry, not especially at anyone in particular. Why doesn't Manatee County have a plan to get folks into the first Saturday afternoon of the county fair? It's only been here 103 years.

Why couldn't a parade route be located in a more accessible location? Or maybe be held in the morning, away from the fair's opening time? Can't brilliant minds coordinate such things?

Why wasn't there a sign anywhere in the area, a few miles back, saying "Keep out if you aren't going to the parade?" I doubt all those cars pulling U-turns over the median knew about the event.

Was it just me, Mr, Grumpy, acing the course?

Or could you be next?


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