The Carps Tour the Land of Chads

Having use-or-lose vacation time going into the new year, I took the first week of January off and we drove south to what was supposed to be warmer weather.

Naturally, that was the week that Florida had a cold wave.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of the trip was early the second day, when we followed Spider Robinson’s advice and turned off I-95 onto A-1-A to Callahan. It’s a nice little town. We ate at a Huddle House, throwing jokes back and forth that probably mystified the inhabitants. Noted a Tiger Food Store; they must realize Tygr is a Callahan fan! :wink:

Nearby was what we decided was The Trees’ Revenge: a severely trimmed-back tree had heavy cables running from one of the few remaining branches. Suspended from the cables was an Asplundh tree-removal truck with all four wheels missing. (I decided I didn’t want to know the reasonable explanation for why this happened; it makes too much sense just as is!)

We ate dinner just south of Frostproof, and I upset the waitress by asking her what they planned to rename the town (a freeze being forecast for the night).

Drove out the Florida Keys all the way to Key West. The place is definitely overrated: take one island, at the end of a long stretch of highway/causeway. Place beaches around the edges. Fill the remainder with every sort of retail establishment devoted to removing funds legally from tourists. Install crowds of people, none of whom, including us, have any idea where they’re going. Put some in cars, some on trolleys and tourist trains, some on bicycles and putt-putt rental things, some on foot. Probably a lot of fun things to see and do there, but nowhere to park, no directions, no nothing. (Note to gay membership: the city does have a Gay and Lesbian Visitors Bureau, on the main street.)

Miami: contemplate any large city with inordinate amounts of traffic, substitute palm trees for the local arboriculture. Blah. Miami has an orange with sunglasses that does the Times Square ball trick for New Years (Raleigh uses an acorn). Also has a satirical parade in which a “Fidel Castro” was carrying an “Elian Gonzalez” and a bunch of kids were dressed up as “the Million Chad March” (wearing signs indicating what sort of chad they were), among other, more local humor.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Preserve: There is something absolutely terrific about having a nature preserve cheek-by-jowl with Cape Kennedy (which we skipped this time, having been there a few years before). It was wonderful to drive through. We observed a wood stork (FKA “wood ibis”) which I gather is quite rare, along with a multiplicity of herons, egrets, and such. Had one egret do a seagull-leading-the-car stunt for about a half mile of road…beautiful! Wild (technically feral) orange trees in full fruit. Nice place.

Well, I hate to see a thread by such a respected poster fall right off the map, so I’ll reply. Glad to see you had such a good time in our state, like every other tourist… :wink: As for Key West, I haven’t been down there, but if I go I’ll remember to just take the ferry from Ft. Myers Beach and not drive it.

'Nuther Floridian checking in. Glad you had a (mostly) great time here.

Jeez, too bad my e-mail was down (can send, but not receiving right now); I could have given you some pointers for the area. I love MINWR (Refuge)! The Scrub Jays are fun to watch, and yes, the woodstorks (aka “Iron Heads” and “Flint Heads”) are a protected species (the rookery at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (Naples) had a good number of young this year, IIRC, so the species may be on the rebound, though we have some apprehension with the dought were in for this year’s brood). Spring and Fall migrations at MINWR and Canaveral National Seashore are the best times - the songbirds fly through, followed by the hawk migrations. Too cool.

Too bad you skipped KSC; there have been a lot of changes over the last couple of years - there are several new exhibits, as well as the eagle nest on NASA property (marked on the visitor map by a large ‘X’, accessible by bus tour only, and I think they may be incubating eggs at this time - the pair have fledged young there for about 20 years now).

Florida - if you don’t like the way we count our votes, visit one of the other 63 United States.

Coconut Grove, FL checking in. I was at the King Mango Strut, too (Castro/Elian parade). I was the one drinking. You must have seen me. I do the run down the Keys every once in a while, the views of the water are breathtaking, and the Sunset Party at Mallory Square is an interesting cross between a circus and a sundown. True - parking is a b*tch, but I take two wheels, much easier. Sorry 'bout the cold snap. Pissed us off, too.