Alligators and anhingas - that is.
Mrs H and I have just returned from a day of kayaking and exploring the Everglades. Bravely brushing aside warnings about the heat and mosquitos (we arrived from Hong Kong, after all), we spent three hours in peaceful waterways - and about 3 minutes in a choppy uninviting lake ("it's like Scotland!") when the weather changed.
We are spending a few nights in Key Largo. Strong winds mean that sailing and snorkeling are likely to be off the menu at present. The good news is you don't have to go far to see sea life - sitting at a pier (pictured below) last night we saw a huge ginglymostoma cirratum (aka nurse shark), swim under our dangling feet. Yikes.
Key Lime pie, however, is firmly on the menu - and a new favourite desert.
Alligators and anhingas - that is.
Mrs H's favourite part of Miami was undoubtedly "cruising" Ocean Drive, where our entourage consisted of our Nicaraguan and Mexican friends, along with Enzo, a crowd-pulling bulldog.
With the roof of the convertible down and some carefully chosen tunes (Mandarin pop), we cruised at about 3 mph past hip art deco hotels, "GLB" bars, Cuban hangouts, and a group of five supermodels in a pink Mercedes Benz.
Or perhaps it was all a strange dream?
Leaving our canine babe magnet behind, our Mexican host also gave us a very memorable bike tour past Miami's best thongs, silicon implants, and bronzed pecs. Weaving in and out of the traffic with unbridled Latin bravado, we somehow survived and spent the rest of the day soaking up some rays on South Beach.
Another highlight was a fun dinner - at Boris Becker's favourite Italian restaurant.
Yes, perhaps it was all a strange dream...
Posted by hkorbust on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 4 comments
Blogging today comes from sunny West Palm Beach, FL, and a comfortable "converted motel". Lots of French here - must be dans le guidebook.
Probably the highlight of the past few days has been a trip to NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The highlight of the highlight was a 30 minute presentation by astronaut Jon McBride, who spoke about his distinguished career with the administration. We also saw parts of the International Space Station being assembled - by the Italian Space Agency. Perhaps it was a new kitchen?
Further south, Palm Beach seems to be populated mostly by gardeners and builders at this time of year. In winter, America's uber-rich arrive - movie stars, business folk, and even the occasional ponzi schemer. But as explained to us - "they must be afraid of the heat".
We cycled around the island, past unimaginably large and ornate mansions, manicured gardens and hedges, as well as luxury yachts that would make Mssrs Dunross and Gornt - or any Hong Kong Taipan - salivate. Perhaps this is freedom?
Posted by hkorbust on Friday, July 16, 2010 0 comments
Blogging today comes from the Fawlty Towers Motel - seriously - in Cape Canaveral, FL. Our room is located slap bang between Ron Jon's famous surf shop ("only 184 miles to Ron Jon's!") and a less celebrated adult emporium.
Driving south from Georgia, we stopped at St. Simon's Island (where a G8 had once been held), and also Jekyll Island where the men that made America once holidayed. We ate lunch at the Island Club, where I ordered a "JP Morgan" sandwich in honour of one of its former residents.
Soon after we entered "the Sunshine State" - and it started to rain almost immediately after crossing the state line. The night was spent camping in incredible heat at St. Augustine. We visited the never-conquered Spanish fort the next morning.
Today, for a fee of five dollars, we drove on Daytona Beach and swum in the pristine Atlantic. We also visited a wildlife reserve at Cape Canaveral. With NASA's space shuttle launch site as a backdrop, we saw one manatee, one 6-ft alligator, one extremely large crab, and multiple pelicans, egrets and herons.
Posted by hkorbust on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 0 comments
Blogging today comes from the somewhat upmarket Savannah Bed and Breakfast Inn, Georgia, where we have spent three comfortable nights recuperating from long drives, catching up on washing, and "hanging cool" - as Mrs H puts it.
Hanging cool has been made easier by virtue of some new wheels - a jet black Chrysler Sebring convertible, which should be fun for Florida's A1A. We had to exchange cars as between Atlanta (Marietta) and Savannah our trusted Ford Escape required a change of engine oil. We swung by Savannah's airport to make it happen.
Alabama - like Texas - was crossed in a day, and got nothing of the time that it may deserve. We did drop by Birmingham for a stroll in Vulcan Park, where we came across our second snake of the journey - this one well over 1m long. Thinking it was dead we tentatively passed by, only to find that it had slithered off on our way back.
Savannah itself is green, well-kept, filled with parks, fountains, and inviting avenues. Everyone is friendly - "how y'all doing?" being the greeting of choice. A 30 minute drive to Tybee Island also marked our safe arrival on America's east coast.
One strange coincidence - I ran into someone from my old Hong Kong kindergarten and primary school in our hotel here. Even in five years in HK, I had not met someone who had been there, so it was quite a surprise to find this connection in GA.
We set off for Florida tomorrow - amidst 100 degree heat, and evening thunderstorms. Really hoping the east coast heatwave will be over soon.
Posted by hkorbust on Monday, July 12, 2010 0 comments
Blogging today comes from the Ramada Motel in Marietta, in the outskirts of Atlanta Georgia. We have some 4,000 miles on the clock now.
Hot, steamy weather; occasional heavy downfalls; BBQ pork a local favourite; a grand old hotel; rickety old trams; a rowdy bar and entertainment district; neon signs. Memphis should be twinned with Hong Kong.
We caught three blues bands - one at Morgan Freeman's joint, one in the park, and one superb band in the Rum Boogie bar, which has hundred of signed guitars suspended from the ceiling.
Mrs H and I invested significant time in learning about the struggle for civil rights in the US and were deeply touched by a museum on the site of Martin Luther King's assassination.
On a lighter note - this might make our parents jealous - we also visited the birthplace of rock n'roll, Sun Studios, where we learned about the discovery of Mssrs. E. Presley, J.Lee Lewis, B.B. King, J. Cash, and many others. Listening to Elvis' first ever recording, along with "Great Balls of Fire", in the original studio were notable highlights.
And we swung by Graceland to pay our respects to the King. We took some tips for our future home - in particular green shag carpet, for the floors, wall and ceiling. "Uh huh!"
One unusual Memphis event is the procession of the ducks at the Peabody Hotel. At 9am each day, five mallards arrive in an elevator and waddle across a red carpet into the fountain in the lobby where they spend the day splashing about. At 5pm - in front of throngs of tourists - they waddle back to the elevator and up to their "palace" on the roof.
Posted by hkorbust on Friday, July 09, 2010 1 comments
New Mexico marked the start of long, long drives, which have taken us to familiar sounding places - Oxford, Leeds, and Birmingham.
The temptation to drop by Newcastle, Oklahoma, was also too much. We stopped for breakfast at a place called "Big Dave's" (or similar). The menu featured "all you can eat catfish". Newcastle (Tyne and Wear) would be proud. I managed to pick up a copy of the "Newcastle Pacer" for 50c- the equivalent of "the Chronicle"? - which featured a nice pullout map.
Then, on the drive out of Oklahoma, through West Texas, we came across an unusual series of Cadillacs planted nose down into a large corn field. Graffiti was the order of the day - and the opportunity was used for some shameless blog promotion.
Next up was Arkansas (where the mispronunciation of "Arkansas" is illegal). It was rather a "hit and run" on this state unfortunately, but we did camp in a lovely spot in Hot Springs on Lake Ouachita, and also visited the Clinton Presidential library in Little Rock.
Arkansas local radio was a treat, and confirmed the state's position on the bible belt. A programme called "Politics and Religion" decreed that a new world order had been established when George W. Bush met the Pope, and that the United Nations will spawn the anti-Christ. Concerned listeners called in to discuss whether they were bad Christians because they could not speak in tongues. Interesting stuff.
Posted by hkorbust on Friday, July 09, 2010 4 comments
Blogging today comes from the luxurious Best Western Motel in Santa Rosa, NM, which marks our first night alongside Historic Route 66 - the Mother Road. We are in the company of a group of topless, hairy Norwegian Harley Davidson/brandy enthusiasts.
Earlier in the day we passed through Los Alamos ("the Hill"), a town formerly closed to the outside world, and the birthplace of Trinity, Little Boy, and Fat Man - and who knows what other nuclear weapons. It is now in charge of maintaining the USA's nuclear deterrent - "stockpile stewardship". Its history and contributions are noted at the Bradbury Science Museum.
Even more interesting is The Black Hole, a seemingly endless warehouse of old scientific/nuclear equipment. Quite how this previously "Top Secret" material found its way from the maximum security facility to this thrift shop is rather perplexing.
If you're interested in Geiger counters, centrifuges, cables, techtronic oscillators, scientific calculators from the '60s-80s, this is your place. If you are trying to construct a Tardis or sonic screwdriver, The Black Hole is your best bet.
Amongst the more curious items we came across were coffee machines used by the USA's top nuclear scientists, rubber stamps (with strange codes like "PROPIN") and even used floppy discs ("Mike's documents" - one said). Occasionally the FBI pop in to confiscate sensitive material - who knows what you might find.
One of the staff - a former security staff member of Los Alamos walked us through some of the more interesting items, before we embarked on a lengthy discussion on China and Asia's banking systems. Quirky indeed.
Posted by hkorbust on Sunday, July 04, 2010 0 comments
Two relaxing nights were stylishly spent with a family friend of Mrs H in Taos, New Mexico. The adobe house was in itself spectacular, and afforded 360 degree views over the town and the Sangre de Christo mountains.
Taos represents a fascinating confluence of Spanish, Anglo and Indian cultures - all set against the backdrop of a desert, a ski resort, hippy hangouts, nuclear testing facilities, and possibly UFOs.
Taos Pueblo iteslf was an educational morning trip. Mrs H engaged in significant shopping amongst the local craft stores, and we gorged ourselves on "fry bread" and raw honey in the midday sun. Our evening meals consisted of barbecued organic T-bone steaks from the local ranch on the first night, and spicy New Mexican fare on the second.
A special mention for frontiersman Kit Carson, who we had first heard of in connection with an Indian massacre at Canyon de Chelley. In Taos, we were surprised to see his name celebrated- in road names, place names (Carson National Forrest), and at his own home museum. He is a more complex character than we first thought, marrying an Indian wife and adopting Navajo children to rescue them from a life of slavery.
Posted by hkorbust on Sunday, July 04, 2010 0 comments