Also, the Everglades and Key West
Wed 9 May 2012 - Sat 12 May 2012 88 °F
Well, well, Florida. Aside from an amazingly run of bad luck trying to find a decent wifi connection (first world problems!), we have had a pretty damned awesome time here so far. Remaining activities: camping in Everglades National Park tonight, and a drive out of the state toward Alabama tomorrow.
On Wednesday night, we found ourselves a surprisingly decent cheap motel right across the street from Daytona Beach - I think it was called Budget Inn Express. The rooms and exterior were newly painted, and it was run by a South Asian woman who had scented the lobby like spicy incense and curry, so I was sold. Oh, and it was only $40 per night. What. I continually find it difficult to accept that RV parking and camping is routinely around the same price as a cheap motel.
Thursday morning, I took my turn in the driver's seat, and the first place I steered the Magnum was out onto the beach. Yes, Daytona is one of the few places in the USA where you can actually drive on the beach itself (for $5 per day). It's not quite the international speedway, but that didn't stop me thinking about all the money I fondly fed into Daytona USA arcade machines back in the days when one would actually leave one's house to play video games in dedicated venues. The beach speed limit was only 10 miles per hour, but that beats standing in front of an arcade game.
Then it was off to our first true nerdgasm of the roadtrop: Kennedy Space Center. I think one of the reasons Matt and I work so well as a couple, especially when traveling, is that we shared the same obsessions as kids; we each went through phases of intense interest in Ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, and space. I was lucky enough for my space fascination to carry me all the way to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1994, where I spent a week at the NASA Space Academy earning my Level II NASA wings. It was a very cute experience, in retrospect: a kind of crash course in the very, very basics of being an astronaut, full of hilarious cultural clashes and 14-year-old hormones run amok.
So going to the Kennedy Space Center was a bit like being a kid again, especially since the park is kind of geared toward kids. Which is fine; if you want a return to living in a country with a decent space program, you probably have to start by inspiring the next generation to actually give a shit. I found my moment of shivering awe in the Apollo/Saturn V facility, where we were treated to a three-screen documentary about the launch of Apollo 8, ending with a bone-shaking recreation of the actual launch (they had some pretty boss subwoofers in the theater). I was actually choking back tears when it was over, and it only got worse when we exited the theater to find ourselves in an enormous pavilion containing an actual Saturn V rocket.
I don't agree with Ayn Rand's views about nearly everything, but one exception is that I too feel fiercely proud of humankind's greatest achievements. (The difference is that I sort of feel that the greatest achievements of all are the result of many people working together, you know, collectively - a feeling that seems to be shared by all the astronauts in every documentary, who rush to lavish praise on the 100,000 nameless people on the ground who make each mission possible. Sorry, Ayn, this is not really the work of solitary misanthropic geniuses.)
The next day, we finally made it to Miami, a city awash in the colors of the 1980's that I have secretly wanted to visit since Miami Vice (though the pop culture reference we kept making as we were driving around was GTA: Vice City). We swam in South Beach, where the lukewarm and gorgeous waters are so clear that when two $20 bills accidentally floated out of Matt's shorts, he found them both on the sandy sea floor within five minutes. For dinner, we ate delicious Cuban food in Little Havana, and afterward drove around the fairly impressive downtown area.
If I can whinge for a minute, I have to say that Miami's inner-city highways are a confusion of utterly terrifying spaghetti roads, and our Garmin seemed determined to try and kill us. "Take ramp to highway [whichever] on right." OK. Note that the highway is comprised of ten lanes full of Bentleys and Ferraris traveling at 70mph, but our Magnum has a pretty great 0-60, so we make it easily. "In 300ft, take exit on left." WHAT. YOU WANT ME TO VEER THROUGH FIVE LANES OF SPEEDING SUPERCARS AND TAKE A HAIRPIN TURN EXIT IN 300FT. WHAT THE ARRRRRGHH--
Today, after checking in at Everglades National Park to make sure there are available campground spots, we drove through the Florida Keys to Key West.
I am pretty sure Key West was created to give me somewhere to retire. I am obsessed with cats and chickens. Key West is obsessed with cats and chickens. I hate the cold winters of the North East. Key West is frost-free. I love a city with a huge LGBT scene. Hello, it's Key West. I like to be able to see the ocean now and then. Water, water everywhere. The only sticking points of retiring here one day are the cost of real estate and the unfortunate consequences of hurricanes. This is why I need to become stupendously rich and also learn how to control the weather with my mind.
Oh, once again, we have time-lapse videos from Day 6 and Day 7:
And of course, there are pix aplenty at pix.roadtrop.com.