…that and my friends were taking their kids to Disney and I thought it would be cool to just turn up on their doorstep one evening…
Barack Obama 2012 election poster Florida
…I’ll leave any further comments there for fear Im never allowed back into the US. Suffice to say anyone going to the US on holiday, be prepared for a long wait and you will need a holiday if you manage to get into the country!
Mitt Romney 2012 election poster
Off I creeped out into the dark wet night of praying to the baby jesus to let my new sat nav app boot up and sometime this century find a couple of satellites.
Having spent the best part of the previous 2 weeks watching the box set of ‘The Wire’ I realised that my theory of just keep driving in a straight line away from the sun (hence towards the Atlantic coast) might have more dangers than just ending with a sudden splash.
Finally the sat nav booted up and I then turned around and went back the way I came and another 10 mins to my hotel. The setting sun theory was a good one, but only in the hour or two that the sun actually sets and can still be seen in the sky. This isn’t Ireland and the sun sets quickly here. Lesson learned!
I checked into the hotel that had been recommended by my tour operator and was assured that for the one night stay (most expensive of the trip) that everything was indeed included… …except for the 24 dollar overnight parking fee. Like seriously, what the fuck? 24 dollars to park overnight in an empty car park? Later in the trip I got a hotel in Kissimmee for less than that a night! OK after spending one night there I thought Id better spend a wee bit more for somewhere I was likely to live through the night, so well and truly shafted I dumped my gear and headed for the nearest open place selling MSG, trans fatty acids, corn oil and other such poisonous chemicals that masquerade in a food shaped lump in this corner of the free world.
Oh and a trip to walmart for sunglasses, suncream, after sun, coolbag, gallons of water and loads of other things that would make just over 2 weeks on the road a pleasant trip.
Fort Lauderdale beach shoreline
The beach was covered with cordoned off areas where the sea turtles were laying their eggs, something I really wanted to see but probably either too late or not long enough in one place to give myself a real good chance of seeing it. As it was I had another hotel near Miami airport to get to tonight so it was time to hit the road early am to try and get used to driving on the wrong side of the road again. Or in truth to get used to driving in bright light again!
Sea Turtle nest on Florida seafront
Crocket and Tubbs obviously didn’t have any parking problems, and I now realise that the 3 hours I spent searching for a hotel in Miami Beach with free onsite parking was a complete waste of time. For almost 2 hours I drove around Miami Beach trying to find somewhere to park…. …every time I rolled the window down the sweat broke on me. Jesus its hot! Its Miami so I met a lot of guys called Jesus. In fact almost everywhere I went I was addressed first in Spanish. I learned more Spanish in 2 weeks in Florida than I did in a month in South America! I guess they have pasty faced grey haired white people in Cuba as well…
The hotel was near the airport, very near the airport, under the flight path… …that’s why I was cheap. They also had no reference of my booking and having dragged my bags from the car, past the construction work in the parking lot, up a set of stairs to reception in 40 degree heat I had lost the will to live and just wanted to get into my air conditioned room and die quietly in the corner. After a lot of discussion in Spanish and pointing to my printed out reservations it was decided that my sat nav was shit and that I was looking the other airport hotel in the chain which isn’t really near the airport at all.
An hour in the car, traffic etc I was checked into a good business hotel in an industrial area of Miami. It was a nice hotel but it had a level of security that would put some of the old border RUC stations to shame. Get the notebook out and take down the following. 1. Don’t drive at night. sorry scrub that 1. drive up to an hour before nightfall. 2. check when nightfall is.
I went back to the hotel and emailed a photographer I know who lives in Miami Beach and asked him who I had to kill to get a parking space. He said I should get there early as it was a weekend and there would be a fair few parking spots on the shoreline. So we arranged to go for coffee in the morning and I went out for something to eat and to bed early to rearrange my travel bags and camera equipment (again don’t ask). This was my first experience of the king sized bed. A bed I can lay spreadeagled on sideways and still not touch the edges. I would get one but I don’t think it would even fit in my bedroom!
bags packed on a king size bed in the USA
Sure enough found a parking spot at 9am no problem at all, so spent an hour or two losing a couple of pounds in sweat walking up and down miami beach before my colleague arrived. I asked him who I had to kill (I’d been watching too much Miami Vice in the runup to this trip) to get a decent cup of coffee on this continent and he took me to a wee cuban place where I was served a beautiful cup of coffee as I slowly melted on the barstool. You know you are in trouble when the waitress asks if you want a towel to clear the sweat up as you drip profusely!
We spent a couple of hours talking shite, taking a few photos and generally swapping stories before I headed back to the cafe for something to eat. Eating in the USA now fills me with dread, not the shite that passes for food per se but the whole tipping thing. Like seriously just tell me how much something costs, stop nickel and diming at the back end. I know the Florida economy is in the shitter but thats no reason for automatically adding on an 18% tip. Seriously! More on that particular bain of my life later.
guest check bill with tip in the usa
Still tomorrow is another day and there’s another walmart to visit and a camping/hunting shop to hit when it opens as I don’t have a sun hat with me. Now up until recently I didn’t need to get a sun hat as I had thick hair…. ..now I don’t and my head hurts a lot now in the sun. Tomorrow I was going to my first NFL game, the opening game of the Miami Dolphins season…
…another one to tick off the bucket list…
At 10am I was there for the store opening, looking one of those wide brimmed sun hats that don’t really blow off in high winds…
…oh and today, can you make it a waterproof one? Torrential rain and thunderstorms! Typical! I was looking forward to the tailgate party sections but most of them were under cover as it was one of those wrath of God type storms. Then it all cleared for the game which was opened by a couple of F5s on full afterburner just before kickoff.
Miami Dolphins tailgate party
I know we tend to slag off American sports over here but they really do razamatazz very well indeed. Great entertainment for a couple of hours, plus Miami won. Well I heard they won as I was about 10 miles from the stadium. I’d checked out this morning and all I possessed was in the boot of the car so I had been warned to park in the inner car park early, leave everything in the boot at the hotel and not to stay too long. Id also been warned to get on the road away from the stadium early or Id be driving through the night to get to my next stop.
Miami had been good, too hot, too humid, too difficult to park, too dangerous in places and probably been there and done that by now but I would like to have gone up and down Collins Avenue in a Ferrari!
Art Deco district Miami Beach
So off to my overnight stop before the long trip down US route 1 to Key West…