Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Adventure Begins

On the first day of Local February, I was quickly reminded why cash is king.  I do not drink coffee, opting instead to get my caffeine fix out of a 32oz container of diet soda in the mornings.  Generally, I would satisfy this craving by stopping at one of the 5 chain gas stations I drive by on the way to work.  I also use a debit card for this $1.06 transaction card because frankly, I never carry cash. 

What I didn’t realize is that not one of the locally owned convenience stores in my neighborhood will let you use a debit or credit card for transactions under $5.  Three locally owned convenience stores and one $2.50 ATM fee later, I realized that I will need to either carry cash or give up diet soda for the next month.  This was a difficult decision, but diet soda won out and my glove box is now equipped with a $20 bill and several dollars worth of coins. 

I do budget myself $20 of mad money every week and with the warm weather accelerating the start of my kayak and surfing season I thought this would be a great week to obtain a mount to attach my GoPro video camera to the kayak and surfboard.  A trip to Black Creek Outfitters ( was in order.  

Black Creek has been owned by the Butler Family since 1983.  Originally, the business was started as a windsurfing sales and instruction outfit in Orange Park.  What many people may not realize about Jacksonville is that we have one of the premier locations along the East Coast for windsurfing and kite surfing at Hugenot Park along the Ft George Inlet.   Today, the store boasts an impressive selection of camping, hiking and backpacking gear along with clothing, outdoor shoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards.  Black Creek would later open a location across from what is now the Markets at Town Center in 1997.  This location (today’s destination) also boasts a private ‘test lake’ out back so you can conduct a ‘test paddle’ before your purchase. 

What I really like about Black Creek is that its staff is extremely knowledgable.  I once had a clerk at an outdoor big box store in town try to sell me ‘snow chains’ for my shoes before a winter trip to New York City.  All I was looking for was some inexpensive water resistant shoes (I surmise accessory add-ons must net decent commissions at that particular chain).   Today a friendly employee named Spencer, who was later revealed to be an accomplished rock climber, offered some helpful advice as to the best position to install my mounts.  $19.99 later a local purchase was made.  Spencer was the kind of guy you wanted to have a beer with while talking outdoor sports, however lunch break was almost over and I don’t think my boss takes kindly to liquid lunches.

Later that evening, I enjoyed dinner at Moon River Pizza in Murray Hill (  

Moon River, owned by Dan Bottorff, has quite simply become the social mecca of the Murray Hill neighborhood.  The restaurant has become the place to celebrate neighborhood Little League wins, a meeting point for neighborhood activists interested in making their community better and a gathering place to share a slice and a beer with your neighbors on a relaxing Friday night.  Apparently, this Friday night there were quite a few neighbors looking to unwind from the week’s stresses as indicated by this line (which stretched out the door and along the sidewalk).  

This is the kind of third place I mentioned before that every good neighborhood needs, and it’s great to see the commercial center of Murray Hill benefitting from the spark created by so many young families moving in and socializing at a place like Moon River.  Oh, the pizza is pretty good too. 

And so ends day one. What’s your favorite neighborhood gathering spot? 

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