Different Strokes for Different Folks – Day 10

Day 10 — April 10, 2003 — Thursday

Different Strokes for Different Folks
 

\I am posting a short report for now, as we are on a tight schedule tomorrow.  We need to be in Panama City for an interview with a television station.  I’ll supplement this report tomorrow night.

This is Day 10 of approximately 100 days, so 10% down and 90% to go.  It was the second day in a row of overcast skies, and it sprinkled on us several times throughout the day.  The temperature was in the low 60’s and dropped to 50 when we rolled into Tallahassee.  At this rate, we’ll lose our tans by Texas.

Today should have been two days.  I simply scheduled too many miles to be covered in one day.  It took us five hours to go the first 100 miles.  It seemed like stoplights were every few feet along Highway 41 from Fort Myers to Tampa, and the traffic was terrible.  I will look again at the remainder of the schedule and see where I need to add a day here and there.

We had some fun today, but we couldn’t see as much as we would have liked.

The day started with a bang at the world’s largest shell factory in Fort Myers.  The Shell Factory must sell every souvenir item ever made, and if that’s not enough, they have people making new ones every day!  The place occupies 18 acres; it looks like the size facility needed to mass produce jumbo jets.  A Super Wal-Mart seems tiny in comparison to the Shell Factory.  We were there early in the day, and there weren’t many customers, but it has been in business since long before I was a little boy, so they must do a good business.

As we drove on, I noticed a manufacturing facility called Tervis Tumblers.  We went into their factory store to discover that Tervis is indeed the manufacturer of fabulous insulated glassware that we were given by Barbara’s parents.  These glasses will keep a drink cold like nothing else will, and the glassware is virtually indestructible.  We toured the place and bought an American Flag tumbler and a Texas Tech tumbler.  Amanda helped us.  If you want some great glassware, buy some online from www.tervis.com.

Lunch was a treat as I spotted a little place that a tourist would never visit, Big Dogg’s, and Barbara agreed to stop.  We had a great Philly Cheese Steak.  Holly was our window waitress.

All day long, we saw one 50’s era motel after another.  It continues to be both amazing and gratifying that these places still exist…and most are still operating.  I could have taken a hundred pictures of “classic” motel architecture and signage, but time was not on our side, so I just snapped a few.  The Cadillac Motel featured an old Cadillac out front, and the Warm Springs Motel had an especially flat-roofed look.

I do regret that we were unable to see the Shuffleboard Hall of Fame in St. Petersburg.

We stopped a number of times for mailboxes, to photograph other roadside stuff, and at Warm Mineral Springs (where you can swim in 87-degree water), but our next big stop was in Tarpon Springs.  Tarpon Springs is a predominantly Greek community that was originally established for sponge fishing.  And we were there to see Sponge-O-Rama.  Words cannot really describe Sponge-O-Rama.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, Sponge-O-Rama has the worst-looking displays of any attraction we have ever seen anywhere.  It was a very amateurish job when it was constructed 50 years or so ago (almost any grade schooler’s science fair project would be more professional these days).  But what is amazing is that the windows to the displays do not appear to have been cleaned in 50 years, and there are burned out light bulbs, and parts of the displays have deteriorated.  It would be fascinating to speak with the owners to ascertain why the place looks like it does.  Is it that they don’t realize it’s so bad?  Is it that they don’t care?  Or is it that they now consider the displays to be camp, realizing that a lot of people will come because they’ve heard how bad it is?  We fall into the latter group, but we somehow doubt that the owners see it that way.  We went to Tarpon Springs to see Sponge-O-Rama just because we had read that it was so bad that it was funny.  As we exited, we passed by a young family, and the mother was reading all about how sponges are harvested from the ocean, and she was dead serious about the experience and the information.  Boz and I felt bad about sharing looks and whispers of disbelief.

There are a lot of ways to say it, but our lesson for the day is to remember “different strokes for different folks.”  One of the most amazing things about us humans is that we are all so very different.  Some of us find places like Sponge-O-Rama to be funny while others take it as a serious educational experience.  I’ve always preached to salespeople how important it is to recognize that everyone is different, to find out what is important to someone, and then tailor the sales presentation to deliver the appropriate appeal.  I call this The Platinum Rule – “Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves.”  It’s important to realize that everyone is different and to celebrate this rather than belittle it.  As we all know, this is far easier to say than it is to do.

***

Our tape recorder seems to be working well now.  It had better be, as we record about 20 minutes worth of thoughts, observations, and information each day.  More of the book material is on tape than in these daily reports.  We’ve driven 2,270 miles so far, and we aren’t even out of Florida yet.  We haven’t gotten lost in several days.

It’s April 10 29872 9:25am after we did a lot of website work. We’re off from Fort Myers.

We’re going over the Kalussahatchee River?  29877 9:37am It started out kind of a little bit of blue sky, but it’s pretty much overcast and windy 66 degrees

29880 9:43am We have little sprinkles on our windshield.

29882 9:48am It sprinkled until just a minute ago when we pulled into the world’s largest shell factory.

We just finished the Fort Myers Shell Factory. It was truly a treat; the place is about the size of a building in which they would manufacture the space shuttle. It’s just immense and they have every tacky souvenir item ever made. And then they have folks sitting around, because there weren’t that many customers there, making other stuff. There was an entire normal size souvenir store filled just with magnets.

Tropical Golf Acres 29894 10:26am We have blue skies and scattered clouds.

South Punta Gorda Heights 29897 10:33am

We just passed the Cadillac Motel 29900 10:38am

Charlotte Harbor 29906 10:47am

Peace River Health Massage and Spa 29908 10:52 Their entire roof is an American flag.

Murdock 29912 11:01am

We saw a bowling alley in the Keys that was closed, unfortunately, but it was called The Fish Bowl. It probably gets best name for a bowling alley.

North Port 29917 11:10am

29921 11:24 We’re at Warm Mineral Springs. We’re taking a picture of the Warm Mineral Springs Hotel which is like one of your classic roadside motels, architectural magnificent pieces.

We just paid a brief visit to the Warm Springs International Spa Resort and Wellness Institute where you can swim in 87 degree water. They had evidence of pre-historic man having been here 10,000 years ago.

We never saw a sign, but we’re in Venice 29935 11:54am We saw the My-Way Diner; they sell hot Cubans. Unfortunately, Barbara said it looked a little dirty and she wouldn’t eat there. Then we noticed it had been closed, probably by the Health Department.

Before I do another one of these trips, I need to investigate whether it’s possible to finder mount a camera and then that way I could just point the car in the direction of what I wanted to shoot. I wouldn’t have to get out of the car and take my glasses off and stuff.

67 degrees. We haven’t put the top down because we’d freeze. It’s definitely cool up here. I’m hoping this will go away because our tans will fade fast.

I just saw the Venice City Limit sign 29936 11:57am

Nocomas? 29938 12:03

29940 12:27 We just had an excellent philly cheesesteak at Big Dogs. Sadly, I lost my information on several restaurants we’ve been to. I have a business card for Harriette’s and one other place. Big Dogg’s was definitely not a tourist trap; it was just a little hole-in-the-wall place on the side of the road. There were local construction and landscape workers eating there.

Oscar Scherer State Park 29943 12:32pm I’m not sure what they have there, but they have palm trees on the way in.

We were driving down the road at 29945 12:40 and saw a sign for Tervis? Tumblers. I just thought that it possibly could be the plastic glassware that I like so well to drink out of. So we pulled in, and indeed it is the original. It’s been in business since 1942, and they make this insulated tumbler. I have a Texas Tech one and an American flag one. We have the website: www.tervis.com. Amanda was the person who helped us at Tervis Tumbler.

Ospry 29946 12:53pm

Spanish Point, it says it’s a historic point 29947 12:55pm

Sarasota 29954 1:10pm

Ringling Boulevard in Sarasota 29957 1:23pm

29960 and 1:30 We just took a picture of Mel’s Twisty Treat. It’s a building built like a vanilla ice cream.

We’re turning left onto Myrtle Street to see Sarasota Jungle Gardens. It’s two blocks off Hwy 41 on Myrtle Street just passed the Twisty Treat.

University Street where you turn left to go the the Ringling Museum. We are at the Classic Car Museum in Sarasota. There are lots of great old cars.

Hwy 41 has heavy traffic and tons of stoplights; we’re moving awfully slow.

Bradonton 29970 2:00pm

Zolfo Springs 29972 2:04pm We’re looking for a farm that grows fruit and makes pies.

We’re crossing the Manatee River

I believe we crossed the Little Manatee River and then the Hillsborough River

We’re getting off exit 275 on the 75 at Hwy 56 so we can cut over Tarpon Springs

61 degrees 3:02pm We have some more sprinkles.

30061 3:37 We’re at Tarpon Springs

We just visited Sponge-orama. It’s free. The exhibit is as described in the book. It’s kind of sad to think that somebody thought that was really good when they made it.

Tarpon Springs is a great community and it looks like it’s a place that would be fun to walk around for an hour or two, but we don’t have the time so we’re on the road again.

It’s been really overcast with ominous looking clouds all day. We had a few little raindrops at 4:13; we probably had 3 or 4 minutes worth of raindrops earlier.

The lesson for the day is going to be that “there are different strokes for different folks,” “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” “there’s an ass for every saddle,” “whatever floats your boat,” “I like tomatoes, you like tomatos,”

We’re probably in Anclote? 30072 4:16pm

Port Richie, the little city by the river, and we just crossed some river named Huskahatchee? or something like that

Bayonet Point 30079 4:32pm

Hudson 30081 4:35pm

We just passed the Sideshow Museum and Gallery 30083 4:38pm

We’ve reached Spring Hill 30088 4:48pm I just took a picture of the “Get Bin Ladin” weapon of mass destruction

30095 5:00pm We’re at Wiki Watchie which is much bigger than it was when were here as little kids. They also have Buccaneer Bay Water Park as part of Wiki Watchie

It’s 54 degrees and a little after 5:00pm in Florida.

Sugar Mill Woods, a deed restricted community. 30111 5:18pm We’re making good time here on this US 19.

We’ve reached Homasassa Springs 30116 5:31pm We just hit Circle K for a nutritious meal of Fritos, cheddar cheese sauce, a chocolate bar, and Canada Dry Ginger Ale for 2.

The Eully Sugar Mill Ruins State Historic Site, 2 ½ miles off the road, but we’re going to have to skip it because we’re running so far behind today.

Homasassa Springs Wildlife State Park is on our left we’re also skipping it  because we’re behind and as Barbara said “It is nearly raining.”

Homosassa Springs is the manatee capital of the world.

Crystal River 30132 5:40pm

There is very good patriotism in Crystal River; they have a flag on every light pole for miles it seems. We’re very impressed.

Red Level 30129 5:55pm

Just going over the With Lacoochie River, entering the city limits of Ingliss 30134 5:59

Because of the time factor and weather, I’ve skipped several very good picture opportunities. I could’ve taken a thousand motels that have been here for 80 years or so, a great big gigantic dinosaur, a few other things.

Because we’re running late, we’re going to give up cutting to Gainesville for dinner. We’re going to stay on 19 and we’ll have to record the cities so we have them for posterity.

We just passed over the Wakassa or Wakasassa River 30155 6:21

City limits of Otter Creek 30158 6:24pm

Usher 30165 6:30pm

Chiefland 30170 6:34pm

Chiefland’s the kind of town that you definitely would have driven through going somewhere else on a vacation as a child in the 50’s.

We appear to be in a town called Fanning Springs 30179 6:46pm

We passed by a bar called Big Dawg’s with a trailer sign out front saying “Karaoke by Stacy tonight.” It would have been fun to stop but it seems like it might be too early.

We’re passing over the historic Suwanee River 30181 6:49pm

We have seen a lot of fruit stands and peanut stands, but we haven’t stopped or taken pictures. We don’t have room in the car to put any fruit so we skipped these places.

We’re in the town of Old Town 30184 6:53

We’re in the town of Eugene 30190 6:59pm

We just met a couple of young ladies. They waved when they saw the sign on the car.

Cross City 30193 7:01pm

When you go to these small towns that are off the tourist roads, the biggest business is clearly religion.

Shermont 30194 7:04

On this stretch of highway, it’s important to remember when you get to these small towns to really slow down. Having driven this from Orlando a number of times during college, you see a lot of guys getting tickets.

Just crossed the Steinhachee? River, so we must be in the own of Tennille 30211 7:20

Salem 30320 7:28pm

We took a sunset picture just outside of  Perry, Fl. It wasn’t a very good sunset picture but as they say since it’s free sometimes you get what you pay for. We also got a call from a girl at a television station in Panama City and they want to do a story about the trip around America.

We just crossed the FenhollowayRiver

Town of Perry 30236 7:44pm

One of the things I like best about driving these roads is that you see these classic old motels that are still in business. You seem them in every town. You see them even in the bigger towns and as Barbara says “you can’t imagine anyone would stay in them.” I’m sure a lot of them are nice for what they are, but they are classic to look at with unusual architecture, great signage usually.

Econfina River 30252 8:05pm 50 degrees

We just entered the town of Iddo 30254 8:07pm

Eridu—we’re into these “do’s” around here 30257 8:09pm

Ucilla River 30263 8:14pm

We just entered the town of Lamont 30263 8:15pm

We reached the town of Capps 30270 8:21pm

Waukeenah 30272 8:23pm

We cut up to I 10 on Hwy 59; this will make it easier to find a hotel. We’re 14 miles from Tallahassee 30283 8:35pm

We rented a hotel at about 9:15pm 30306

Mailboxes are Fun – Day 9

Day 9 — April 9, 2003 — Wednesday

Mailboxes are Fun
 

Today was an “off day” – basically a travel day.  “All” we saw were three world’s largest; two world’s smallest; highways with warning signs for crocodiles, panthers, and endangered deer; roadside gorillas (2), a fish, a camel, and a panther; a wide variety of funky mailboxes; the African Queen in Key Largo; two world capitals; the Everglades; and suspected Weapons of Mass Destruction.  It was a Quirky day!

 

This is the first morning that we walked out to see an overcast sky; it was that way virtually all day.  Key West was in the rearview mirror about 9 am.  On the drive down, we missed several “attractions,” so we made a point to see as many as possible as we headed back to the mainland – 125 miles from Key West to the Everglades on the Overseas Highway.

 

The first stop was a sight that was high on my list of things I wanted to see on the trip – the Perky Bat Tower.  So, when we reached Sugarloaf Key, we began the search for the Perky Bat Tower.  We didn’t have good directions, so we cruised the island for a while with no luck.  After asking three different people for directions, we finally found it – out in the middle of a swamp-like nowhere.  The 35-foot tall tower was built by Mr. Perky in 1929 to fight mosquitoes.  His plan was for the tower to house a colony of bats to eat the many mosquitoes in the area, but the bats stayed away, and the mosquitoes stayed put.  This odd structure is a National Historic Landmark.  We enjoyed seeing it.  I figure the Perky Bat Tower qualifies as the world’s largest mosquito tower.

 

We drove right through the National Key Deer Refuge as we headed up Highway 1 in Big Pine Key.  The world’s smallest deer (only three feet tall) are on the Endangered Species List, so there are warning signs on the road.  There are 250 Key Deer on the island, but we didn’t spot a one.

We stopped at the roadside area for the Historic Seven Mile Bridge and photographed both the old bridge and the new.  We also stopped in Islamorada, sport fishing capital of the world, to see the Hurricane Memorial.  On September 2, 1935, over 400 refugees drowned from 200-mile-per-hour hurricane winds.

 

One of the many emails that I received from people before we began the trip was from a man who collects photos of unique mailboxes.  As a result, I have tried to pull over to take photos of the more unusual mailboxes that we see.  Today, we snapped a porpoise, Uncle Sam, fishing lure, alligator, and seahorse.

 

We passed by several attractions that we just couldn’t stop to see – too much quirky stuff still on the itinerary.

 

In Islamorada, we stopped for photos of the world’s largest lobster – a really well done statue.  There we saw a Dad with his camera trying to get his reluctant young teenage sons to pose in front of the lobster.  I yelled to them that, if they are lucky, when they get much older, they will actually be glad they had their picture taken in front of the world’s largest lobster.  They laughed, and Dad got his photo.

 

In Key Largo, dive capital of the world, we were excited to stop to see the African Queen, the boat from the movie “African Queen.”  Sadly, there was a sign that said “I am not available to take any tours at this time.”  Another stop in Key Largo was to see the very unique Jules’ Undersea Lodge, a hotel located 22 feet beneath the sea.  Neither Boz nor I are certified scuba divers, so we were happy to just take a picture of the sign out front.

 

As we ended the drive through the Keys, we saw a warning sign “Crocodile Crossing – Next 8 Miles.”  Unfortunately, there was no shoulder to pull off onto to enable Bozzie Jane (not me!) to get out to take a photo of the sign.  We had the same problem in the Everglades when we saw a “Panther Crossing” warning sign.  Barbara didn’t feel there was room for me to pull over.  In the Everglades, we also saw signs that looked like warning signs to keep your arms inside your car, so we did.

 

As we drove through Homestead on the way to the Everglades, I screeched to a stop when I saw several missiles on the side of the road.  I’m not sure, but these may be Weapons of Mass Destruction that the Iraqis are hiding out in this remote area of South Florida.

 

The drive on the Tamiami Trail through the Everglades is not very exciting – no cool mailboxes – just a lot of places that take folks on airboat rides.  They could use a Perky Bat Tower up there – wall-to-wall mosquitoes no doubt.  When we reached Ochopee, one of the few towns we saw in the Everglades, we pulled over to find the world’s smallest post office – a little 5-foot by 8-foot building that serves as the post office and a Trailways Bus Terminal.  There was one postal lady inside at a tiny desk.

 

After the Everglades, we drove through Marco Island, and then we drove through downtown Naples, one of the most upscale (aka wealthy) areas in Florida.  We passed through Bonita Springs and ended the day in Fort Myers.  The sun was big and orange on the horizon, but we couldn’t get over to the coast for another coastal sunset photo, but I got a pretty good picture from the side of the road.

 

We had three excellent waitresses today and some excellent grub.  We spotted Harriette’s in Key Largo – a small, roadside restaurant with a parking lot full of cars, so we figured it had to be popular with the locals, and it was.  A waitress out back on a smoke break encouraged us to come on in, and she (Lisa) ended up being our waitress.  Harriette’s was great – a classic small-town café, decorated accordingly.  Not an attempt to make a restaurant look like a small town café, this was the real deal.  I’ve never eaten dolphin, but I had a fantastic blackened dolphin sandwich today.  I was relieved to learn that my dolphin was a fish while those loveable creatures we see on TV and at marine parks are mammals.  A little further down the road, we spotted a really cool alligator mailbox, and when we stopped, we found ourselves at the Crack’d Conch, a restaurant that we heard had excellent Key Lime Pie.  Our waitress, Kathy, gave us two pieces of pie for the price of one as she felt the slices were a little small.  Then when Boz asked if they had some food she could give to the skinny cats she spotted on the way in, Kathy had the cook fry up some fish for Boz to feed the cats.  Two pieces of pie and food for a half dozen cats for $3.19.  Nice lady and perhaps the best deal we will find on the trip (other than the sunsets, as we all know sunsets are free)!  We reached Bonita Springs about 6 pm, and we saw a shiny stainless steel diner called Mel’s, so we pulled in.  Our waitress, Rebecca, was delightful – by far the most enthusiastic waitress/waiter about our trip, so she is the leader in the clubhouse for Best Waitress in our Best & Worst Competition.  I happen to love hot dogs, so I had the foot long Cadillac Dog, and it was the best hot dog I have ever eaten.

 

Small towns are so wonderful.  In Key Largo, I skimmed through the local weekly newspaper, and I happened to read a story about the opening of a new location for the local American Legion Hall.  The article said “After a nine year odyssey, the American Legion has a new home.”  Oh to have such an uncomplicated life that the trials and tribulations of finding a new home for the American Legion Hall is an “odyssey!”

 

It was a funny day.

 

We had three minutes of sprinkles today, so with the three seconds of raindrops on Day 6, the weather has been mighty nice.

 

The lesson we learned today is that if you can have a great time seeing little more than unusual mailboxes, you can have fun anywhere in our 50 states.  Barbara noticed an older, retired couple sitting near us at dinner.  They never spoke – never even made eye contact with each other.  We have no idea what their life was all about, but perhaps they would have been happier if they had learned to enjoy the fun of a mailbox.

 

 

Searching for Jimmy Buffett – Day 7

Day 7 — April 7, 2003 — Monday

Searching for Jimmy Buffett but finding Huey Lewis
 

The drive from Miami to Key West was enjoyable – not nearly as long as we thought it would be.  Our timing was lucky, however, as the weekends are much busier.

 

We saw the biggest American flag we have ever seen at a used car dealer in Miami.  We’ll see the world’s largest in Long Beach, California, but this one was mighty big.  We hit a car wash to get a week’s worth of dirt blasted off the AmericaMobile, and we finally found a really nice American flag license plate at Discount Auto Parts.  So we were standing tall as we began our search for Jimmy Buffett.  It’s about 150 miles from Miami to Key West.

 

We visited two tourist attractions before we headed south.  We started the day at Monkey Jungle.  Boz loves monkeys, and we enjoyed seeing and feeding the monkeys.  At Monkey Jungle, the animals run free, and the guests walk through cages.  It was very interesting to learn a little about monkeys; they are very much like humans.  For example, they eat fruit like we do – just the good part, while I would have thought “animals” would eat the whole thing.

 

The guide introduced Ray and May, two orangutans, and a silverback gorilla, King.  Ray and May were funny.  King was a little sad.  He had been rescued from a circus where he was mistreated.  The circus pulled his two front teeth, so King has been rejected by potential mates and has lived his life alone.  He has also gained a lot of weight, and they’ve put him on a diet to lose 100 pounds.  You could see how bummed he was when the guide threw him a bag of diet food – carrots, celery, lettuce – rather than tasty fruit.

 

We got the biggest kick out of the variety of monkeys who run wild over the cages through which the guests walk.  There are bowls on chains every 20-feet or so, and they haul these up to grab food the minute any is dropped in.  There is a very distinct pecking order among monkeys, and it was interesting to observe this in action.  We were also struck by what amazing athletes monkeys are.  It was nice to learn that monkeys live much longer in captivity than they do in the wild.

 

Monkey Jungle was established by the DuMond family in 1932, and they still own and operate it today.  We thought it was very expensive ($15.95 each), but the fee really seemed to be more of a donation for the care of the animals, the rainforest, and research, so we didn’t mind.  It isn’t a busy tourist attraction; there weren’t over a dozen cars in the parking lot when we pulled in.  It seemed like Monkey Jungle is a labor of love by the family and staff.  www.monkeyjungle.com

A little further down the road was Coral Castle, a most unusual labor of love.  I had read a lot about this place, so I knew what to expect, but it is still amazing to see.  Coral Castle is a home, furnishings, and property constructed entirely out of coral.  One tiny little 5-foot tall 100 pound man, Ed Leedskalnin, built it all singlehandedly.  He built it as a monument to the woman he loved, Agnes Scuffs, who called off the wedding just hours before the ceremony.  Some of the coral sculptures in the “garden” weigh as much as 30 tons, and the story is that Ed somehow managed to work with these massive pieces and move them into place without help as he “understood the laws of balance and leverage.”  There are over 1100 tons of rock!  It’s hard to believe, but Coral Castle is not as impressive unless that part of the story is true, so we choose to believe.  I probably wouldn’t have doubted it if there hadn’t been a staff member trying to convince us that there were energy fields in the ground there.  I didn’t buy that.  Coral Castle opened in 1923.  Some call it “America’s Stonehenge.”  Coral Castle is right on Highway 1, so it was easy to see as we headed south to Key West.  www.coralcastle.com

 

The drive was very pleasant and didn’t take nearly as long as we thought it would.  Most of the drive is on narrow stretches of island land, and the islands are connected by little bridges.  Then there is the big 7-mile bridge.  We were immediately struck by the color of the water; it was an unusual greenish blue near Key Largo and then it became an amazing turquoise a little further south.  In one of my pictures, you can get a sense of the color, but the color is even more vibrant in real life.

 

There are many more keys than I thought.  I couldn’t tell how many there were from all that I had read in preparing for the trip.  Now I know why; you get tired of counting.

Key Largo is the dive capital of the US, because of the coral reef.  Key Largo has Jules’ Undersea Lodge, an underwater hotel.  There are a few other “attractions” along the way, but nothing too significant as far as we could tell.

 

We had a list of a half dozen restaurants, so we kept looking for them.  Then I spotted Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen and slammed on the brakes.  Mrs. Mac’s is exactly the kind of restaurant we are searching for on the trip – a place where the locals eat (and those tourists lucky enough to have heard about it).  It has a truck-stop-like appearance on the outside and a wide variety of license plate décor on the inside.  Flying Saucers are their specialty – delicious sandwiches in round pita bread pockets.  For dessert, we had “frozen” key lime pie, and boy was it good – very refreshing.

We were excited when we reached Key West.  It’s always more exciting (to us at least) to visit someplace new, and neither of us had ever been to the Keys.  Key West is much bigger and more commercialized than we expected, and it is busy.  Since Monday is a slow day here, we are so thankful that we didn’t hit it on a Saturday!

 

We just drove around at first, and we drove right up to the Southernmost Point statue.  Barbara took my picture, and I took a picture of Cuba (at least I pointed the camera in that general direction).  Cuba is just 90 miles from Key West.  We hit Duval Street – where most of the action is – one tourist-oriented restaurant, bar, and shop after another.  It’s a cool-looking place, but talk about commercialized – WOW!  We expected to see Jimmy Buffett relaxing in the corner of a thatched roof shack of a bar, but that’s not what we found.

 

We checked into the hotel (two nights in the same room is a real luxury), rested just a bit, and then raced back downtown to try to catch the sunset.  We saw an incredible sun from the road, but just had remnants of the sun behind some clouds when I managed to get past the crowds to get a camera angle.  I got a decent photo, but we will get their earlier tomorrow.  The sunset is a BIG deal here.  Key West is advertised as THE place the sun sets.

 

A man we met at The Museum at Ragtops in Palm Beach recommended a restaurant, but we couldn’t find it.  When a timeshare salesman on a street corner indicated the restaurant catered to a certain type of clientele other than husbands and wives, we decided to find another spot for dinner.  Key West is known for great restaurants, but we didn’t have our book with us, so we just stopped at the Hog’s Breath (www.hogsbreath.com).  We enjoyed the Hog’s Breath in Carmel many years ago.  It was fine – nothing special – much more of a bar than a restaurant.

The message that Boz and I got from Monkey Jungle and Coral Castle was that the power of love can accomplish amazing things.

 

***

 

It would be great if we could all vacation and just tune out business, but that’s never been possible for me.  There’s not a lot going on, but two or three business matters have to be dealt with periodically.

 

I’ve taken 511 photographs in 7 days.  At this pace, I’ll take over 7,000 photographs over the course of the trip.  I’m using a Sony DSC-F717 digital camera with a 10x zoom lens and a UV filter.  I’ll use my wide angle lens for the first time tomorrow when I shoot the sunset.  With a 128 MB memory stick, I can take about 50 large format pictures before I have to download.  I simply download the photos to my laptop every night and recharge the camera for the next day.

The first week is now history.  We had a great time — only one less than pleasant day.

 

 

Beauty Everywhere – Day 6

Day 6 — April 6, 2003 — Sunday

Beauty Everywhere
 

The Miami area is much prettier than we expected, and it is big and busy.  It’s also very clean — not the picture I had of it in my mind’s eye.  I haven’t been in Miami as a tourist since I was a child.

 

The entire South Beach area is an Art Deco District with one building after another done in great art deco style.  Our hotel, the Blue Moon, was nice and well-located, though a Marriott Courtyard is even nicer for half the rate.  We met Michael, Belen, and Ernesto — all staff at the Blue Moon.  (I give everyone we meet our Round America card and encourage them to check out the web site.)

 

Our day began with a walk up and down Collins Avenue (A1A) and Ocean Drive – the street next to the beach, as well as a walk along the beach.  Lots of action of all types – a very busy place.  We saw beautiful beach areas, beautifully designed buildings, an amazing sandcastle, and a wide variety of people.

 

We saw a big group of what appeared to be weekend bikers, and we spent a few minutes speaking to Jay and Rich.  They gave us several suggestions for our next two days in Key West.  Nice guys and great-looking motorcycles.

 

Miami Beach is a real melting pot.  There were times when we rarely heard English being spoken.  While we saw people of all races, religions, and from many different ethnic origins, everyone seemed to get along fine, and the differences were essentially invisible.  It’s an up-tempo place, and you would never know our country was at war.

 

We looked for a place for brunch, and after walking past sidewalk café after sidewalk café with mainly empty tables, we came upon a big place that was standing-room-only.  True to the herd instinct that affects most of us, we followed the crowd and grabbed a table the second we saw some folks leave.  Without realizing it, we were at the News Cafe, one of the places I had hoped we could eat.  The News Café has newspapers and magazines from anywhere and everywhere and a big menu.  The café opened in 1992, and for the last nine years, it has been named the Best Outdoor Café.  The café originally had seats for eight, but it now seats 350.  True to one of the Rules of the Road that we established, I tried something new – Eggs Florentine (eggs benedict with spinach).  It was good though not served hot;  our waiter (Mark H according to the bill) had (sadly) the personality of a wet dishrag; and the service was very slow.  Some places are spectacular successes in spite of themselves.  The people watching at the News Café was extreme.  At the table next to us was a 65 to 70-year-old man cuddling with a teenage girl, and she wasn’t his daughter.

 

After brunch, we went to the Wolfsonian Museum.  It had been highly recommended by several books that I had read, and we really enjoyed it.  The Wolfsonian is primarily a museum of design, and it was great fun to see everything from London subway signs to 1940’s era electric fans and appreciate them from a focus on the design.  It makes you realize how strongly the sales of all products are affected by the design and packaging.  Surprise, surprise, we especially enjoyed a patriotic display.  The Wolfsonian also had a portrait exhibit, and the most interesting piece was a sculpture that is a 360-degree profile of Mussolini.  It was displayed right next to a bust of Mussolini, and the 360-degree profile was truly amazing.

 

We then walked the rest of the scenic part of Ocean Drive, visited Jerry’s World Famous Deli, and then walked throughout the Lincoln Road area of sidewalk cafes, galleries, and shops.  A street market was being held, so we saw all types of stuff.

 

We walked through the Romero Britto gallery.  He is a Brazilian artist, and both Boz and I were really taken with the incredibly vibrant colors in his art.  We have never owned anything like it, but we both loved his work.

 

In the Lincoln Road area, it was nice to see that places like Starbucks were blending into the art deco surroundings.

 

Our next stop was Coral Gables.  This community has changed very little from the 20’s, and it was really enjoyable to drive through the residential areas and see great-looking 1920’s era Florida-style homes.  The developer of the area had a very strong plan for how the area should look and be maintained, and even the water tower is themed.  The Alhambra Water Tower looks like an ornate lighthouse – truly unique.  We also saw the most impressive Biltmore Hotel and the University of Miami.

 

We didn’t meet a lot of people today, but in addition to the folks at the Blue Moon and the bikers, we met Geeta from Guyana and Pat from Antarctica at our hotel, and we met Marvin from America at dinner.  We also appreciate the free admission to The Wolfsonian provided by our new friend, Oscar Alvarez; he comped us because we are members of the press.

Tonight is laundry night, so we are staying at the Candlewood Suites, a very nice and very affordable chain that we got to know in the Orlando area.  Our room and the amenities here are much better than the Blue Moon at less than half the price.  I’m not knocking the Blue Moon — just singing the praises of nice, much more affordable places to stay while spending over 100 days on the road.

 

It was a very enjoyable day.   We will tend to have a better time on the days when we aren’t driving several hundred miles and can relax enjoying a stop.

 

The lesson we learned today is that you can find beauty in all types of people, places, and things.  The Wolfsonian certainly demonstrated the beauty in the design of everything from war bond advertising to electric fans to underground (subway) signs.  The entire Art Deco District was certainly very beautiful – though we don’t always think of areas and buildings as beautiful.  Even Starbucks was beautiful by blending into its art deco surroundings rather than sticking out like a sore thumb.  Coral Gables was filled with beauty because the area was so well designed and has been largely insulated in appearance from the development of the last 75 years.  And we saw a lot of “beautiful people” today – people from a wide variety of places and backgrounds.

 

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If any of you friends or relatives want to join us at any point, please do!  Bring your own car if it is before May 15 as we will be in a two-seater until we switch to an SUV in mid-May.  Once we switch to the SUV, we will have room for two to join us.

 

We received more emails from folks who read about our trip in their local newspaper!  That’s exciting!  Today we received two more invitations to come by for pie.

 

I may move my political commentary to a page that links from this page, since this certainly isn’t the purpose of our trip or our writing.  That way, those of you who are anti-war, Democrats, or not as patriotic as we are will not have to read what we talk about and believe.  I would have never thought to discuss politics as one of the topics on my daily report, but when you have as much time as we have to be side-by-side talking and listening to reports about the war on the radio, the discussion of political issues does occupy some of our time every day….  I continue to receive a number of emails each week from people encouraging a Boycott of France.  I’m all for it.  Many Americans lost their lives helping France in times of war, so I find it absolutely despicable that the French would campaign so hard to hurt our country.  The French hate Americans, so who needs ’em?  I strongly agree with those who feel the French no longer deserve any business or help of any type from Americans.  We will never go to France again, and we will do everything possible to avoid buying any French products.  On the flipside, we will do anything and everything we can to support our friends in the United Kingdom!  Click here if you’d like to see a list of French companies and products to avoid.

 

One of the most important things we have done in each major tourist town is stop at an information center or hotel to pick up brochures for every attraction of interest.  Excellent resources.