Saturday, August 29, 2009

Back in Florida...

We arrived in Florida a couple of days ago, and are still recovering from the cross-country drive of 2880 miles.  Even though tiring, it was fun road trip, and we got to see part of the country neither of us had seen before, parts very disappointing and other parts quite unexpectedly beautiful.

On the disappointing side, Palm Springs and nearby southern California desert communities were at the top of the list.  For all the wealth that flocks into Palm Springs, the town itself is among the tackiest we've ever seen.  I cannot imagine why anyone would want to vacation there, much less live there.  We could hardly wait to escape the hedonistic cheapness of it all.

On the upside, we found that Sun City, Arizona, where my old high school buddy John Mueller lives, was pretty comfortable.  We still can't imagine living in the dry southwest, but the community was really clean and not at all tacky in the way of  Palm Springs.  We spent the night at his home, played music and talked away the evening, and then went out to breakfast before we set off again on our trip.

We put some miles on from Arizona through New Mexico, driving through a dust and rain storm, and following Interstate 10 down to El Paso, Texas, where we spent a night.  I considered taking a job in Las Cruces, New Mexico, back in the 1980s, and driving through only convinced me I'd made the right choice to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area and teach at De Anza College rather than New Mexico State University.  The country side was pretty, but who could be this far from the water?  Certainly not Penelope or me.

The drive through west Texas, I've been told many, many times, is deadly - flat, barren, and dry.  But we found it quite beautiful.  The rock formations between El Paso and Fort Stockton were wonderful, and the ranching country on to San Antonio was not so deadly as we expected.  Of course, the 80 mph speed limit made it fly by quite nicely.  We spent a night in San Antonio, and then drove through the hill country (you know, Lyndon Johnson's world), and on to lunch with Marty Melosi, a friend of mine at the University of Houston.

The next leg of our trip took us to Baton Rouge, where we spent a night in preparation for a couple of hours drive to New Orleans the next day.

We arrived in New Orleans at about noon, got a room for $55 in the French Quarter at the Prince Conti Hotel just a block off Bourbon Street.  While folks said this was their slowest week in the year, it was slower than we could have imagined.  Almost no one walked the streets, and we felt as though we had the French Quarter to ourselves.  We had coffee and beignets at the famous Cafe du Monde down near the French Market, enjoyed some street jazz and later some blues.  We had an expensive and well-worth-it dinner at Broussard's, just across from our hotel, and then went down to hear jazz at Preservation Hall.

The next day we left late morning and drove through Mississippi and Alabama to Apalachicola, Florida, home to wonderful oyster beds.  We paid almost twice as much for a room here as New Orleans (that's a sign of things, I think), but we had a very economical and superb dinner of oysters and lobster bisque at a little waterfront oyster restaurant.  The next morning we found a wonderful little breakfast place called Tamara's Cafe, and easily could fall in love with this little town on the northwest gulf coast of Florida.

Our last day of travel across Florida was through a constant downpour of rain, which lifted only when we got within about sixty miles of De Land. ... As far as road trips go, this one was pretty good, but I think I prefer the sailing voyages over the highway ones.

More photos


Blogger said...


I never understood the facination of Palm Springs, Indian Wells or any of the Southern California Desert either; except Joshua Tree, that's beautiful.


5:52 PM  

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