Miami, revisited

Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile, revisited.  For shopping, restaurants, coffee houses. Miller ale house, Ben and jerry’s, ramen.

Aventura mall (the pet detective mall). Big mall. Hi end food court ($15 price point vs $8 compared to regular).  Stuff like Lobster Roll, Poke 305, Mediterranean, Brick Oven Pizza and Chinese.  As well as old standbys such as Shake Shack and HaagenDaz.

Little Havana, revisited. Versailles Cuban Bakery. Get the Cafe con Leche at the window. It’s reason all by itself to go there. Get a chicken empanadas, too, if your hungry. Tastes better than the beef.

Dolphin Mall, Ridiculously busy.  But LOTS of tables w outlets.

Shops at merrick park. Hoity toity. Open air. No food court. Not a lot of places to get snacks. Lounge seating outdoors. Expensive looking bistros. But otherwise, very relaxing atmosphere. Nice big crate and barrel.

Lincoln Road mall revisited in south beach. Think Santa Monica shopping.

Again, if you want to see the beautiful people, Miami’s South Beach is where to go. This weekend had Volleyball for Models, so more beautiful than normal.

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Right in front of the Lummus Park where they have bathrooms and shower facilities. The restaurants are a little pricey in front of the Art Deco Hotels on Ocean Dr.  Around $20-$50/person price point.  But you can find a early bird steak special for $10.

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There is an ESPN Studios presence there as well.

Parking is affordable, but never free.

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Shepherd Artisan Coffee with a Affogato, $5.

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North Miami, Broward county just has the normal stuff in Florida. Drive down US-1 to see beach towns.  Broward County library, yes that is a homeless tent town.

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Palm Beach! WTF

No, there’s isn’t anything wrong with sun and beach here.  It’s all as advertised. Well… maybe. It’s actually too warm. I can’t believe it, but my body hasn’t acclimated to the gentle, breezy 80F weather and is still expecting 30F gusts of freezing wind.

But Florida has a thing for my rear passenger wheel. This time someone slammed into it, while parked. And from what I hear from the mechanics, you should get comprehensive insurance in Florida bc uninsured drivers in accidents here are very common.

Sigh, a sketchy driver who refuses to give his insurance information, lots of KFC and a replaced axel 5 days later, and we are back on the road.

Tampa, Manatees and other vacationers

Tampa Bay, Bucaneers football. Manatees. And mid-70 F weather. It is so pleasant not to be in a jacket.

How can you not like a nice lady holding a plush manatee?

Manatees are like the fugly cute of the water. No aquarium-like shots like the promotional below (where you get to see that sad Eeyore expression on their faces). The viewing area south of Tampa, is free.  The area is frequented by manatees bc they like the warm water flowing from the electric plant (Mr Burns jokes aside). So they can just lazily float around in murky water, but like the seals of California coast, you can see them in semi-natural habitat, co-existing w us. There was even a few pups w them, just as lazy.  One manatee was very active searching for something underwater.  He must be well-known since he was the only one with a radio tracker attached (I hope just a tracker. I just had thoughts of the remote controlled cockroach).  Most look like they are in a suspended animation, but watch for their nose. It’ll pop up for air every few seconds.  Free.  No parking fee.  No admission fee.  They also have a pool of stingrays, manta rays and horseshoe crabs.

They soooo have a lost sleepy look in their face.

But you don’t see their faces much.

They will happily accept a donation, though.  There is also a concession stand for snacks.  And a gift store.

And they share the water with a lot of different aquatic life.

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More oriented toward the solitary bull, I returned to the original nocturnal bird sanctuary in Clearwater. Just as much activity as I remember.

But the bay is beautiful. Driving over it on a bridge is beautiful.

Nearby are amusement parks, just like Florida. Busch Gardens I believe. But so far, the serene environment is soothing and comfortable in Feb. Pirate festival starts in Feb (Madrid Gras like).

Oh my God, There is a place in the USA like Jasper, FL

As a tow truck operator told me when I asked for a tire shop “Sir, it’s Sunday and you are in a most desolate place”. From another desolate place, the guy in Austin, Nevada said that tire is only to get me back on road, and needs to be changed asap (ironically, it replaced another tire blown out w low tread there). On the other side of the country, when it failed, it really failed. This is why you replace tires w/o tread.  Wow, I thought it had a few thousand miles left on it.

A short drive to a Walmart solved my tire problems.

Tires are conveniently priced at $60. Gas is 20 cents than in Georgia.

And Florida is much more rural than you ever expect by hearing the word “Florida”.  It’s a little like going to a Latin American rural area. But it’s sub-tropical existence, like anywhere else on the Gulf, but the difference being, the entire state is in a subtropical zone.

Northern Florida is relatively rural.  Except for Tampa and east coast near Miami.

World of Coca Cola, Atlanta

I thought it was industrial bottling company or syrup lab tour. But it’s really the marketing dept tour.  More of a musuem.  I feel like that guy at end of Clockwork Orange with his eyeballs kept open to watch images. But here, it’s Coke, Coke, Coke. For $17. The first thing is an introduction from a tour guide while in this wide expanse of Coke media imagery. Then they lead you to a movie of what is probably Coke’s latest marketing campaign.

Then you walk in the secret formula’s inventor’s history as a pharmacist.  Below is the Declaration of Refreshment.  No, I’m joking.

Its history of its expansion into a company now.  The formula was once collateral for a business loan and kept in a Chicago Bank vault until the loan was paid off.

An double door vault w alarmed lock with biometrics, guarding the formula.  They even let you try the biometric sensor.  Just don’t do it while the tour guide is watching.  Heh heh heh.

There’s a small exhibit showing their bottling processes.

A theater with motion feedback. Not pictured.

You get to take your picture w the Coke bear, who looks like he returned from the planet Hoth on the red eye.

They have an exhibit about Coke art. They even allow you to create your own Coke label.

The lounge leading to the exit, has flavors of Coke you can try from every continent.

And it always ends in the gift shop.

I was thinking it’s all one big brain washing facility. Hmm hmm, hmm hmm, always Coca Cola. Jeez, where can I get a Coke?

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Sloss Furnaces, AL

Old pig iron furnace. Free.

And that’s really all you can say about the place. One day, they’ll cordone off and expand the area and it’ll be a really nice park.  It’s currently on the National Register of Historic Places.  The gift shop will sell concessions to people who sit for the serene area. The visitor center has a movie describing the furnace’s significance (Birmingham was built around it). Metal Art exhibits from the artists that use the facility still. All free.

And gift shop. Not free.

She says there are ghosts there. But I think it’s a testament to industrial American can do spirit. It’s a huge ex-facility where they used to burn coke/coal to melt and process raw ore, into iron ingots. Something, I don’t think anyone has ever seen outside the industry except in real life.

It’s really not that fascinating, unless you think that places like that are spiritual in its own way. Like a great Shinto temple. Or a lesser pyramid. And just as interesting, but not as aesthetically pretty.

Huntsville, space camp for the middle school crowd

Or the stunted social growth adult. I gotta stop going to space and science museums. But why else stop in Huntsville?

But if you have a youngster, there’s a few rides, interactive exhibits (I liked the design your own plane and fly it) and an IMAX theater inside. It comparable to Houston’s, except in Houston, you can go into the space shuttle. Oh, and you get to see some kid’s project from the space camp I assume.

But if you’re in the area, pieology has a great fresh baked individual pizza! It reminds me of Patsy’s in NYC.

And a coffee shop next to it open til 9p.

Coffee and Donut Crowd

Cops are going to be an inevitable part of the vagrancy strategy road trip. In all cases, treat the uniformed officer w courtesy, esp as he’s probably trying to size up the situation in seconds.

Cops in Virginia Beach past Chesapeake tunnel on a different trip, stopped my car for tints, and searched my car. No written warning, but he said there was a lot of drug traffic in area. But eventually 6 officers were around me.

2 Park Rangers in Arcadia natl park offered a written warning for sleeping at Sodus Point in am.  If you see the view there, you kinda understand the reason to wake up there.

Nashville area police officer was called by property manager of a mini storage I was parked at that night. Asked to move that night.

Albequerque police stopped me for driving too slow. Seriously.  Written warning.

Phoenix area cop knocks on window in front of Planet Fitness. Asks if anyone is inside besides me and then says I’m ok and goes away.

Anacortes, female and male cop knocked on my window. Asks if anyone is inside besides me. Told me City ordinance says I can’t sleep in street (next to abandoned house). But for one night I’m ok. (Or don’t be here tomorrow). I tell him I’m still in town only bc my car needs repair.

Boise male cop knocks on window. He says a neighbor called. He says I need to move. He understands that I probably just needed a place to sleep.  But I need to move.

Cop in Columbus Montana comes at night and tells me I need to move bc neighbor called. Tells me a better place in town to park, for the interim traveler.

Denver female cop stops me for running stop sign. I told her I didn’t see it at all. I was going to a park, from Ikea during day. She asks my business. And verified my identity. No written warning. Didn’t know where she came from.

North Dakota state trooper pulls me over for broken taillight at night. Let’s me go when he sees repair kit. He was following me for a while.  I just didn’t know the “damn tailgater” was a state patrol.

Most recently a male cop (Indianapolis or St. Louis) stopped me for driving without headlights on at night. I was driving from nearby mall, into Walmart. I was surprised the short trip drew attention. No idea where he came from. I apologized for the lights. He let me go. No warning.

Yes, they are around.

Indianapolis

Late night coffee shop open until 1a, at the Thirsty Scholar.  In case you’re looking for a place to lounge.  Couple of universities in town as well.

Indy 500. The Brickyard. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Racing Hall of Fame has $10 admission to see the cars that have raced here.  Ironic, that in Indianapolis, there are more potholes big enough to eat a tire, than I remember in NYC.  Just in case you drive around town.  Northwest of downtown.

Mr. Rex at the Brickyard, seems to have had his teeth pulled backward from the force of acceleration.

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Circle Center mall, parking is like $6/4hrs, $12/more than 4hours. Crowded. Not a lot of lounging space. Food court is hectic.  A few closed store fronts.

It is across from St Elmo steakhouse which is out of my budget range.

On way into downtown, you will see some pretty big stadiums around the White River, so sports is probably a big part of the downtown economy here.

Castleton Square mall, biggest mall in state. No where to just relax and quietly loiter. But all the usual stores and food court. 20 north of downtown, though.  Cincinnati Reds’ was holding a autograph signing there. Dmitri Young has lost weight. I had to hold off my secret wish to beat up on a mascot (really, it’s not a mean thing, I just it would be fun getting into a fight w a giant foam creature).

Foursquare got this recommendation right (rare occurrence) for cheap eats. Just Judy, breakfast place w big portions and reasonable prices.

Not a fan of Nick’s Chili. They recently spent some money it seems, finishing the facilities, so the store environment is comfortable and clean. But the chili needs more ground meat. But you get to select additions like cheese, onions, beans, spaghetti. They need to sell hamburgers so they have more ground beef to put into chili. Right around the corner from Indy 500.

 

St. Louis, start of the mighty Mississippi River

Before here, it’s the Missouri River.

Busch stadium and the Gateway Arch is downtown.

Outside of stadium is a sports bar complex.

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Get off the 8th and Pine light-rail station and there are signs that direct you to see the arch.

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Eventually you see (and get tickets for $13 to tram to top) :

St. Louis galleria is a nice regular mall west of downtown.

Pappy’s BBQ’s ribs are awesome and burnt ends are like BBQ pot roast. Deep fried corn on cob is interesting, but not much different from flame roasted.

Olive Blvd (west of downtown) has a collection of Asian restaurants and groceries, if you’re looking for some authentic asian food.

It’s warmer here, but still not enough for Ted Drewes Frozen Custard which the internet mentions a lot.  Next time.

Slowly working myself south.  I am an illustration of why nature invented wings.

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