On the Road with Tom Sadowski, Part 2: The Quest Continues
Thursday, February 12, 2015 9:34 AM
Of course we have taken this trip to New Orleans to search for Maine's lost party heritage strictly for religious reasons. Would anyone leave Maine in February on any other account? The entire Mardi Gras celebration is religiously rooted in Lent, and, as we all know, Lent is the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter when we all do penance for the sins we may have committed in the run-up to Mardi Gras.
Spent a few hours at the Virginia Fine Arts Museum because I found out they have a collection of genuine Faberge eggs. There are a few things that an individual will probably never see in their lifetime — like the president, the Pope and Faberge eggs. (Photos by Tom Sadowski)
Day 4, Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Visited with relatives in Flint Hill, Virginia, all day. They took us to a big-city supermarket called Wegman's, where we were easily overwhelmed by the sheer size of the establishment. It was so big that we couldn't find the exit and thought we might have to stay the night. No big deal, since we could live out the rest of our lives there never wanting for food. Not much in the entertainment and bedding department though. I did visit their party aisle, and it was just the usual party plates, hats and crepe paper, but a lot more of it. There don't seem to be any special party abilities here, although they had a beer section about the same size as a Home Depot.
Had a big family dinner complete with children and distant cousins. No, they were not on the menu, and yes, we did find our way out of Wegman's.
Day 5, Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Left Flint Hill en route to Richmond, Virginia. Have logged 801 miles so far. Beautiful blue skies and 29 degrees here, which is, if my arithmetic is correct, about 29 more than they have back home.
In Richmond, Virginia, we receive our first authentic "y'all" when ordering lunch at a cafe. We are delighted, as we have been studying the language and customs of the South for weeks before embarking on this trip. I ordered lunch in my best Southern drawl, which the staff may have misinterpreted. I guess possum pie is an acquired taste.
Spent a few hours at the Virginia Fine Arts Museum because I found out they have a collection of genuine Faberge eggs. There are a few things that an individual will probably never see in their lifetime - like the president, the Pope and Faberge eggs. This was my chance. Faberge was the go-to jeweler in Imperial Russia. When the Tzar had no clue as to what to get his wife for an Easter present, he would turn to Faberge to whip up a jeweled bauble in the shape of a large egg so that he wouldn't look like a schmuck come Easter Sunday.
The museum has five of these ten-million-dollar-plus eggs. Turns out, four of them are presently on tour so we got
to see only one. Worst luck: the museum would not let me touch it. The experience was good, but similar to jumping the White House fence to see the president only to find out he is giving a speech in Omaha while you are being tasered.
The roads in South Carolina are very smooth and like new. It could be that they have never suffered the ravages of studded tires or the heaves and potholes brought on by frost. Or, it could just be that the roads are new. Someone should look into this.
Arrived in Wilmington, North Carolina, at 8:30 p.m. where we saw our first palm tree. It was in an alley behind a bar and it was, in my opinion, dead, but it was a palm tree.
The weather here is rainy, but it's not like the winter rain back in Maine that is actually out to kill you. The outside temperature is 53 degrees - same as we keep the house in the winter. It is very pleasant although the locals here bundle up to stay warm. The hotel desk clerk told us horror stories about the summer where it doesn't just get hot, it gets "stupid hot" - the kind of heat that would kill off 90% of Northerners. There would probably be many more Northerners in town right now if they weren't all back home desperately trying to make it to the next spring.
Day 6, Thursday, February 5, 2015
There seems to be only one place for breakfast downtown in Wilmington. It's the only breakfast place I've seen outside of Alaska where they feature a whiskey bar alongside their eggs and sausage.
On the road to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina we noticed that palm trees and Spanish moss are almost as commonplace as signs in storefronts declaring "no concealable weapons." It's so much of an issue that we just ended up leaving all our guns in the car.
Myrtle Beach has lots of mini-golf places, driving ranges and major golf places. If you forget your clubs, you can pick up any caliber of golf club at the local Goodwill Store for $2.95. Some are more shiny than others. They will make you a deal if you buy them in bulk.
This time of year, Myrtle Beach has a deserted boardwalk, an empty amusement park and about 1.2 billion hotel rooms. This being "winter," they are offered at a substantial discount. You can get a room with a view of the ocean for less money than a nice dinner for two - assuming there are cocktails before and after dinner.
The beach is almost endless, and, as far as I can tell, it is made up of beach sand. I did not notice any Maine-style rock outcroppings or, for that matter, any rocks whatsoever in the vast expanse. It could easily accommodate the entire population of India, but at one point I counted only two people strolling on the sand and they may have been in love so obviously they had no idea of their actual, physical location. It's not like the beach is frozen over with little ice balls racing by, chased by the wind. All the water you can see is liquid and, indeed, I understand that it's 49 degrees F. Not exactly tea water, but good enough for a quick dip.
Found ourselves in Beaufort, South Carolina, for the night. Sort of lost our way and ended up out on one of those peninsulas that extend into the Atlantic where the elevation rarely gets over 15 feet. Not to worry though; I saw one of those "Evacuation Route" signs by a little bridge in case the big tsunami comes. I plan to use that bridge in the event of an evacuation. I am just wondering what bridge the other quarter million people who live out here will use.Day 7, Friday, February 6, 2015
Crossed into Georgia with the temperatures in the high 50s all day. We took the interstate in order to make up for time lost at the Goodwill Store back in Myrtle Beach.
After being accosted by at least two dozen billboards inviting us to stop at "Peach World," we pulled off the highway at the right exit, but there was no sign as to which way to turn to see the #1 tourist attraction in Georgia along I-95. You would think that you could see Peach World from there. After all, it was not a Peach City or a Peach Town we were looking for but an entire Peach World. We did manage to find sort of a "Peach Old-Timey General Store" but in all fairness, Georgia peaches were out of season.
Back on the highway we pass a dozen motorized recreational vehicles and some vehicles pulling travel trailers. Curiously, they all have license plates from Quebec. Are these indeed Acadians continuing to migrate south after all these years? There are no outward signs to indicate this group knows how to party, as they are mostly older individuals. Really old. We tried to flag them down but they were wearing those dark old-people sunglasses that allow them to ignore anyone they please. They ignored us.
Crossing into Florida, we stopped at the official Florida welcome center. We weren't there for 15 minutes before we were robbed by a vending machine trying to sell us a "Sunshine Pass" for Florida toll booths. The money went in but no pass came out. Wait until the governor of Maine hears about this revenue-producing stream.
Spent some time checking out the Saint Augustine lighthouse. This is a serious lighthouse and could actually house a number of Maine lighthouses in its cavernous interior. Of course the State of Maine does not charge you to look at one of their lighthouses up close and personal. Wait until the governor of Maine hears about this revenue-producing stream.
Day 8, Saturday, February 7, 2015
Stayed at a motel in Cocoa, Florida. So far we have traveled 1,731 miles. The guy in the hotel room next to us said that it took him 17 hours to drive from Michigan to the Florida Keys. I must say he was more than impressed when we told him it took us eight days to cover the same distance.
Now that we are in Florida, we've noticed the motels no longer supply us with a blanket. There is only a sheet and a bedspread. This is either a very interesting Florida tradition or the places where we are staying have less than five stars on TripAdvisor. OK, less than three stars.
The road to New Orleans is long and sometimes we go into a driving stupor. Suddenly we find ourselves in the city of Miami Beach. It is 75 degrees so at last we know it's safe to take off our long underwear and woolen caps. They may actually be causing the stupor. We are here to visit the daughter who managed to escape from Vacationland right after she graduated from college. She works as a botanical garden professional by day, and at night I understand she is an electronic dance music club member. She helps explain some of the current trends in partying to round out my research. She seems to know a little too much about partying.
Day 9, Sunday, February 8, 2015
Night spent at the daughter's apartment in Miami. The apartment can't really be called postage-stamp size, although if you described it as a standard postcard size, you wouldn't be far off the mark. Apparently the apartment rents for about $2,500 a month per square foot plus utilities and a pint of blood, which I am told is a real bargain for above-slum-grade rentals.
Spent Sunday morning street-fighting with what was probably a majority of Miami residents to get just three of the two million restaurant seats that the city offers. Seems everyone is going out for Sunday brunch and they mean it. Since we left all of our concealed weapons in the car, we were no match for the native Miami crowd.
We took a good old-fashioned Sunday drive and headed to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. They have the largest exhibition of Dale Chihuly glass sculptures on display, peppered over 83 acres of the garden. If someone finds that the red glass display is chipped, it is exactly the way we found it, if anyone is asking.
Day 10, Monday, February 9, 2015
So far, 1,982 miles on the trip odometer and it's 79 degrees. We took to the road from Miami west and shot across the lower part of the state to the Gulf Coast right through the heart of the Florida Everglades. The Everglades are very impressive, especially if you are awed by endless, flat swampland. We stopped at a rest area halfway across the state. There were three cars there but maybe 200 parking spaces. I counted more black vultures at the rest stop than people.
Drove into Cape Coral to stay with old friends for the night. This is near Fort Myers. I wanted to see the fort, but after asking around, I found out there is no actual fort in Fort Myers. Neither is there a fort in Fort Lauderdale - or Fort Pierce. It's just one of those troubling discoveries you make on a road trip.
Ate at the famous Bert's Bar and Grill in Matlacha. They have a great many license plates nailed to the interior wall there. We found a Maine vanity plate on the wall that spelled out "Stress." Apparently someone arrived here from Maine, found it desirable and left their stressful Maine plate at the bar. It makes sense; when we tried to talk to some of the locals about our frozen pipes back home, they kept thinking that we were referring to a cocktail and not to our home plumbing.
Next week: New Orleans.