...rented a car sat. july 25 around noon. friday night and the peabody lobby was like a concert hall hours after the house lights went down. spent most of friday night in the pool and was quite well rested when i checked out.
sat. was only too glad to get the hell out of orlando leaving the factory outlet stores and tourist information centers behind. orlando surely has more tourist info centers than tourist attractions or even tourists for that matter. this trip was going to be different. unlike any other i have taken. for starters it was the tempo. slower, i had to be back by wed. but having travelled through and seen a lot of florida before i did not have even a half decent agenda or sense of purpose. every moment was long drawn out and a decision unto itself. so it was a lot of backroads... very easy, the latest j.j. cale album "guitar man" cranked way up, slow and well within the designated speed limit of speed limit plus five, another facet of wonderfully implicit american hypocrisy. needed to stop for directions to get out of orlando... all roads just end up in disneyworld around there. a guy selling sunglasses by the side of the highway was very helpful. told me how to avoid the turnpike and the tolls. a good salesman too. sold me a 12 dollar pair of glasses for 5 bucks. polarized black lenses and all. in fact so polarized as i found out later, they are almost opaque but the florida sun worked its way through so they were quite functional. so from yeehaw junction i took 441 down south through little towns down to lake okachopee. had a couple of jr. bacon cheeseburgers for dinner. that was the other thing about this trip. cheap american fast food all the way. and a conspicuous absence of alcoholic beverages. anyway, it was getting late as i reached the bottom of 27 and not willing to pay 30 odd bucks for a campsite with r.v. hookups adjoining a jacuzzi, i headed east and into the spring break town of ft. lauderdale. walked around the ritzy strip on las olas for a while... the usual designers boutiques quaint art galleries, scrubbed sidewalks, starbucks with a father son duo, oozing kenny g. from a synth and sax within. here i sat for a while and watched as the drum machine changed gears a couple of times, while snorting a latte. a set of business cards in front stated that the duo were available for weddings and private parties and yes, they even played bar mitzvahs. drove out to the beachfront around midnight, slapped on my blades and zipped up and down the path along the beach a couple of times stopping in to hydrate at the louder and more populated bars along the way. practiced backward crossovers in a parking lot till i was unsuccessful and dizzy, then crashed on the beach for about an hour or two. woke around 3 am, headed south on 95. drove past miami and reached the top of the keys around sixish in the morning. the tourist info centers were still closed, so not knowing anything about the other keys drove dead south to key west where i had been before.
sun. the sunset around the keys is supposed to be quite famous. the sunrise as i drove down was not bad either, even through polarized black lenses. reached key west around 9 and headed straight to the zachary taylor state park. swam around, slept till noon and then got out on my blades to explore the island. rode along the coast past south beach, smathers and before i knew it was way over by the island airport parched, exhausted and close to passing out. got a drink at a tiki bar at the ambassador hotel by the airport and figured since i had come this far, i may as well circumnavigate the island. its not too bad since the island is some 5x3 miles dimensionwise but the sun does pose a problem. anyway, from that point on it was a water stop from one tiki bar to another. stopped in at capt. tonys for a pirates punch that took my mind off the blister the size of a barnacle on my foot. made it back to the state park to cool off in the water. rested, showered and headed into town. went looking for a bite at a place called camilles but it was closed. ate at a dump called two friends, no great shakes. swung by sloppy joes that had a country band going in full swing, so left in a hurry. hung around a place called boston billy's just off duval st. for a bit, checked out a campsite in town which was quite unacceptable. the key lime village where niyamat had stayed not too long ago was booked up so started a drive up a little later than midnight. 30 miles up from there is the bahia honda state park where i sneaked in and made camp since it was late and there was no one around.
mon. the state park is quite nice, beautiful beach but 25 bucks to camp like other key state parks is ridiculous. which is why you sneak in at night like me in low gear with the stereo turned down and black polarized sunglasses on. breakfasted at a greasy spoon called the stuffed pig around marathon key. spent the afternoon at the key biscayne park which is cool if you have a boat and quite inaccessible otherwise. my rental car not quite equipped with the chittychittybangbang option was useless so i headed into the everglades. the everglades are scary at any time and this was the peak of the off season. right outside the everglades is the miami-dade correctional facility. spent the early evening driving around the swamp walking little trails being kissed to death by mosquitoes. sprayed half a can of repellent on myself and still came out perforated like a postage stamp. was too lazy to walk a few trails and ended up off-roading the rental through the swampiest muck it will probably encounter in its car existence. then i would stop at a vantage point and jump out of the car really quick to prevent the mosquitoes hovering outside from getting in. the dozen in the car were bad enough. drove this interesting snake bight trail through the mangrove and sawgrass swamp that ended in a little dock from where one could see a bunch of interesting aquatic birds. on the side of the dock was a web at least 3 feet by 3 feet with an orange and black marked spider at least as big as my palm. not that i have a problem with insects but when i looked up there was a canopy of webs above my head with at least a dozen similar arachnids. needless to say i got the hell out of there as quickly and softly as possible. it was like out of a horror movie. spent the evening with an entire campsite to myself. not a soul for miles. i guess the free camping offered by the park off season is not incentive enough. made myself some tuna, mayonaise and mosquito sandwiches washed down by campsite water and tried to turn in by 10. the isolation was a bit much and compounded with the heat and skeeters it was hard to sleep. the isolation and quiet in wilderness enclosed by the hand of man and surrounded by manmade structures designed to keep those in, in and those out, out can be quite unnerving. its the touch of civilization that is far more disturbing than comforting. called ringo from a pay phone by the abandoned park store late at night. the voice at the other end seemed far away. visions of serial killer thrillers that started ...deep in the florida everglades, kept flashing through my head. woke around 1am from the heat and a sound that turned out to be a swamp rabbit or racoon or some small furry animal. too wired. drove around for a bit and then crashed in the car with the engine and ac running off and on in hour long shifts, taking care not to empty the gas tank.
tues. woke around 8 breakfasted on tuna, mayo and bread and headed down some other trails. saw a few gators on the anhinga trail. also a dead bream on the trail that some bird must have lost interest in but then a ranger came and kicked the fish into the swamp and it swam away. also a couple of huge mutant looking swamp grasshoppers. did a couple more trails and then i was happy to leave. had the worst ever key lime milkshake at this farmers market type place right outside the park called "robert is here", operated quite amazingly by a bunch of minimal-english-speaking chinese. made up for it with yet another mcmuffin/mcsomething lunch and then just headed up north through miami and on to west palm beach. the population there is prabably restricted to people of age and bank balance in millions over 75 and their support staff. the scary thing though were the gargantuan condo buildings that lined the coast and the syncopated sound of pacemakers taking an evening stroll along the beach. once again slept in the water, swam on the sand, cleaned up and had a reasonable dinner of fajitas and margaritas. lingered, helping close a bookshop/cafe and then wound my way back along the turnpike, returned the car and was on the red eye back to toronto by 9am.