A Travellerspoint blog

Goodbye Party Central. Hello Amish Country.


View Gulf Coast Road Trip 2010 on slugtrek's travel map.

We never actually went clubbing in Miami. After wandering around the Art Deco District at night we quickly realized it really wasn't for us. Instead we went to a giant art installation that had a DJ, a couple roach coaches, and a giant fountain of Vodka. It was bizarre, but much more our style. There was a huge... thing. I don't know how to describe it, so I'll just let pictures do the talking. Underneath it was the DJ, a bar, and hammocks. It was awesome.

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Then we climbed the Great Vodka River. The installation was created by Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich, and featured a three story high structure with a channel of Vodka spiraling down the middle. At the bottom was a group of women who would climb the structure one by one with buckets of Vodka. Upon reaching the top they'd pour their buckets into the stream, then head back down to chant with the others. It was really weird, so obviously I loved it to pieces.

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What a great way to end our stay in Miami.

The next morning we headed off to the Everglades via the Tamiami Trail. We took the obligatory airboat ride, being careful to choose one of the more ethical companies in the area. They had an alligator show, but it didn't feature wrestling like some others did. Unfortunately this was also a hot spot for tour buses, so the boat was packed to capacity. We did see a few gators, but at the speeds the boat was going the pictures were either too blurry or too dark. I did get some cool looking shots of the swamp (well, technically the Everglades is a giant slow moving river, but it is very swamp-like).

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And then we got to see Snappy, the baby gator. The dude holding him was one brave dude. Just minutes before this he was in a cage with six adult gators like it was no big deal. He hand fed them, pet them, and talked to them like they were old pals. Maybe they were, but I still wouldn't stroke a 6-foot long gator like a puppy. But hey, good for him.

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Afterward I had gator bites. Kind of weird considering we had just spent the previous couple of hours appreciating and learning about alligators, but I love giant doses of irony for lunch so I had them anyway.

With my recent heightened interest in photography, I decided to stop by the Big Cypress Gallery featuring the work of Clyde Butcher. He specializes in black and white swamp photography. I took a walk behind the gallery to try my hand at photographing the swamp and, while I got some decent shots, it doesn't even begin to compare to Butcher's work. But I'm going to post some anyway.

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Our third stop on the Tamiami trail was a visitors center. It was a convenient place to stop and take some decent pictures of gators. As we were driving I spotted dozens just sitting along side the road, but there wasn't a convenient place to pull over until there. The gators were just lounging about without a care in the world, so I really go to go crazy with photos. I think I ended up with over 50 shots from this one little section of swamp. Gators are so lazy, they make excellent models.

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Our last stop on the Tamiami Trail was the "Smallest Post Office in the USA." I think this along with my Merlion pictures from Singapore has started a "Pictures of Me in Front of Stupid Things" series of photos. Someday I'll have to make it the Carhenge and the Biggest Ball of Twine to complete the set. And, of course, they all have to feature me with Colbert-style thumbs up.

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We exited the Tamiami Trail in Naples, but there really wasn't much there of interest to us so we continued on to Sarasota. As we got close I used Yelp! to find some food in the area and we ended up eating at an Amish style cafe called Yoder's. Who knew there was an Amish community in Florida? I certainly didn't, but the food was delicious. There were several groups of elderly Amish folk eating in the diner, but there was also a mix of other Floridian locals and tourists. I didn't want to be rude and take pictures of the Amish people, so I just took a picture of the side of the building instead. Here is the only photographic proof I have that I was in Amish country.

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On this trip I have now eaten Amish food, Cuban food, Brazillian food, fish in a fancy restaurant, fish off a roach coach, and pizza from a restaurant that encouraged me to "Keep on Shroomin'."

Our next stop is only 2 1/2 hours away, so we'll be playing tomorrow by ear for the most part. We'll see what happens. One thing is for sure: we are only two days away from swimming with Manatees!

Posted by slugtrek 16:19 Archived in USA Tagged art parties trees animals birds night boats florida photography tourist_sites Comments (1)

Miami: High Rise Hotels and Stilt Houses

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View Gulf Coast Road Trip 2010 on slugtrek's travel map.

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We arrived in Miami yesterday and headed straight to the Art Deco district (we wanted to go to the hotel first, but we made a wrong turn and ended up in the main tourist district instead). It's pretty much what I pictured it to be, right down to the overpriced seafood restaurants. We saw it both during the day and night, the latter confirming my suspicion that Miami is in love with neon lights.

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The high rise hotels stretch for miles along the beach, but being the budget travelers that we are, we are staying in a small two story motel crammed between 30+ story buildings. Unfortunately there is a palm tree in front of the sign, but it's called the AAE Lombardy and it's advertised as a "European Style Hotel/Hostel." Perfect! It's a tad run down and noisy, but it's only about $50 a night, bed bug free (at least our room), and minutes away from tons of cool stuff on Miami Beach. And it's only a block away from the ocean! And it has a kitchen!

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The view of the nearby high rise outside of our window.

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The high rise hotels along South Beach.

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Today we headed out to Key Biscayne. It was a last minute decision because we didn't really have any plans, but it worked out well. I got to see the famous "Stiltsville" houses. I really wanted to see them, but I didn't think we'd have time. As we were pulling up to the tip of Key Biscayne I spotted them in the distance and promptly freaked out. They are just a mile off shore, meaning they were officially outside Florida's jurisdiction during prohibition. That made it a perfect place for all sorts of illicit activities. At one point there were over 30 of them, but now only seven remain in various stages of decay. A few of them have been preserved rather well, but from the shore they all look like tiny blobs floating above the water. I'd love to get a closer look at them someday. Hopefully before another Hurricane blows through and wipes them all off the map.

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There is also an historic lighthouse at the tip of Key Biscayne, which was rather fun to walk around.

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And be all Artsy Fartsy with.

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Speaking of being Artsy Fartsy, this city has spectacular architecture. I guess pictures of architecture is my thing or something because every time I stuck my head out of the window to take a picture of yet another high rise Josh would roll his eyes. Oh well! They're pretty cool.

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Tomorrow we head off to do... something. We'll probably take the Tamiami trail and see some alligators, but who knows where we'll land or what else we'll see. Stay tuned!

Posted by slugtrek 11:26 Archived in USA Tagged beaches buildings florida photography Comments (2)

Welcome to Florida

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View Gulf Coast Road Trip 2010 on slugtrek's travel map.

As expected, I couldn't sleep on the plane. But the free WiFi on the plane and the pint of beer I had in the terminal made it tolerable. Not to mention the epic storm we flew over somewhere over Kansas (it's flat, News at 11:00). There is nothing quite like seeing lightening strikes from above the clouds.

We are finishing up our last day in Boca Raton, where we've been staying with his grandmother at a country club. The view from her patio is of a golf course which, although it's not exactly the most exciting view, exemplifies Boca Raton quite nicely. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Boca Raton.

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This place has a reputation for being the place where elderly Jewish New Yorkers go for retirement. Almost 1% of the population speaks Hebrew or Yiddish at home, no joke. It's country clubs and gated communities as far as the eye can see. The shuttle driver warned Josh and I to be careful while driving due to the high population of elderly people. Thanks for the tip kind shuttle man! We pick up our car tomorrow, so we'll be taking that advice to heart.

But today we did make an excursion to Delray Beach, where Josh got to have pizza. For those of you who don't know, he has a gluten allergy, so having pizza is a very big deal. Despite Josh's frightened look, I assure you he was quite excited. I had flashbacks to his grand face stuffing adventure at the Risotteria in New York. Like then, he left the restraraunt ready to burst. And he had leftovers! Yum.

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The thing that has surprised me the most about Florida is the weather. I knew it was tropical, but the humidity in the air still struck me like a ton of bricks. It's almost as bad as Malaysia. Almost. And the clouds are utterly bizzare. They don't cover the sky, but rather race high above you in giant clusters like huge cotton balls. At one point we saw a giant dark storm cloud spanning the sky in the distance and, just like Malaysia, it quickly dominated the sky. Then it started raining. Then it started pouring. Then it was over.

Tomorrow is the beginning of the road trip segment of our trip. Until then, have a squirrel.

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Oops, wrong squirrel. Try this one instead.

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Posted by slugtrek 18:01 Archived in USA Tagged weather florida photography Comments (1)

Last Post From The Left Coast

All our bags are packed and we've officially checked in for our flight online, so I guess that means our trip has started. Now comes to anxious process of waiting for our flight. It's set to leave at around 11:00pm tonight and arrive in Fort Lauderdale tomorrow morning. It's a Red Eye flight and I'm notorious for not being able to sleep on planes. Thus, I'm fully anticipating being deliriously sleepy tomorrow. Thankfully we have two days to relax in Boca Raton with Josh's grandmother, so I should be able to recover. If not, I'll do what I always do and guzzle caffeine until my heart is beating out of my chest (you aren't suppose to consume copious amounts of caffeine while traveling as it will dehydrate you, so do as I say and not as I do).

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we've added an extra day in Miami. We'll be arriving on Thursday instead of Friday. Josh and I have decided that we have to check out the club scene, even though neither of us are really club goers at all. We are actually both tragically un-hip. But fear not! We have studied scenes from Dexter and Burn Notice in order to pack the right attire. I think that the very fact that we are studying TV shows to fit into the club scene means that we are both far too dorky to get into a club in the first place. But we'll try!

I also have a brand new DSLR to play with on this trip, which should be interesting. As many of you know, pictures are an integral part of my travels. However, this camera is intimidating me. Thankfully I've had a crash course in outdoor shooting from several people who actually have a degree in photography. I was a Film and Digital Media major, so I'm familiar with things like F-stops, ISO settings, and white balancing, but it's completely different having to explain them on a test and actually putting it to use in the field. I've had two photography jobs where I've worked with DSLR's, but they were both in portrait and studio settings. Shooting outside with varying lighting situations is an entirely different story. Hopefully I get some decent shots. In the one week I've owned this thing my pictures have improved by a ton, so maybe by the end of this I'll actually understand what the hell I'm doing. Here's hoping!

I'm going to try to take a nap before the flight. As promised, since AirTran is offering free WiFi via Google, I may post at 30,000 feet just because. But other than that, there's not much more to do but wait.

Posted by slugtrek 15:41 Archived in USA Tagged florida photography preparation planning air_travel Comments (0)

One Month To Go

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We’ve started booking the trip and just wanted to have an update about our itinerary. We’ll be arriving in Florida on the 30th of November and spend three days visiting Josh’s grandma in Boca Raton. On December 3rd we’ll be renting a car and driving to Miami. We have a room in a place just one block from the beach and just a short bus trip or car ride from the infamous South Beach area.

After that we are giving ourselves two days to get to Crystal River. We plan on using the Tamiami trail through the Everglades until we get to the Gulf Coast. We’ll probably land somewhere in the Naples or Sarasota area for one night before getting up to the next destination. On the morning of the 6th we’ll be getting up bright and early to swim with the manatees at Riverventures. We are suppose to meet them at 6:00am and be out on the water by 6:45am. A few months ago this may have been ridiculous, but my current job has me getting up regularly at 5:00am anyway, so this isn’t much of a stretch. Josh, however, may have trouble. Thankfully they’ll be serving free coffee, so hopefully that’ll provide some comfort.

Then we are allowing ourselves three days to get to Baton Rouge. There are just too many interesting things to see between those two cities that we can’t decide which to stop at. We’ll just go and see what happens for that part. Some possible places to stop at include places along the Florida coast (Destin, Pensecola), Mobile, or Biloxi. There’s some beautiful scenery along the way, so it should be a worthwhile trip. Then, as we said in our last post, we’ll be taking the Great River Road down to New Orleans.

We’ll arrive in the city on December 9th and have six days to explore. Thanks to some United Rewards points we got a pretty decent hotel a few blocks from the French Quarter for what it usually cost for a crappy motel on the outskirts of town. It’s the St James, if you’re interested. Our trip also happens to coincide with a couple of interesting festivals. The Treme Creole Gumbo Festival and the Bywater Holiday Arts Fair are both on the weekend of the 11th. Don’t be surprised if this is where your Christmas gifts come from!

So this has shaped up to be quite an awesome trip. And it’s pretty cheap too! We’ll be staying at mostly locally owned hotels and taking advantage of every discount we can (rewards points and club cards included). While on the road we’ll also be eating from local markets frequently. However, the food in this region is incredible so we’ll be eating out quite a bit too.

On a side note, we’ll have a cat at home that needs care for those two weeks. If you or someone you know wants to volunteer to take care of him let us know. We’ll pay you of course, and besides, look at this cat (below). He’s awesome and you’ll love him.

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Posted by slugtrek 14:38 Archived in USA Tagged florida new_orleans planning gulf_coast louisiana Comments (0)

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