|Garden gnomes American stylee|
We have arrived in America and are like a couple of country girls on their first visit to the city. First impressions: F**k me everyone is big! Having gone through the privations of the Himalayas and the miniaturization of everything in Japan, this is somewhat overwhelming. People are big. Cars, roads, houses, buildings, food portions and coke cups are obscenely huge, Everything is clean, well ordered and manicured. The people are warm, and friendly and actually its quite fabulous living the American life for a few weeks.
We are staying with Dave and Leo, a great couple for whom we are doing a bit of Workaway whilst they are here and a bit of housesitting, when they’re not. Rachel found their ad on Trusted Housesitters and they looked great fun with their matching bow tie and shirt combo and have proved to be good company. We have had entertaining chats. good food and a foray into their extensive drinks cabinet and interesting lives. Just one point of interest being they do naked trekking!!?? We have a couple of dogs and a snake to look after. Andromeda (the snake) does very little, Windsor (an old long haired retriever) does a little more but mainly lays around life pretending to be an orang utang and being hairy. And lastly Colby, A very energyetic, Weimaraner who has a dodgy tum, is rubbish on the lead , is very loving and too smart by half.
We Have been left a pick up truck to get about in and get to go shopping for food, take out, drive to the beach, walk the dogs, say Hi to the neighbors and mow the lawn. It’s a good experience and makes you appreciate Florida for the places that aren’t Disney, Uniersal, Outlet malls or wet and wild and what regular life could be like here.
A few days ago we jumped into our pick up truck, tuned the radio to the local station and headed for the turnpike and onto the Interstate which runs pretty much straight across Florida from Miami to Naples. The Road for some inexplicable reason has a 55mph speed limit on it. Even though it’s almost empty and you can see for miles in either direction. Its dull driving and with cruise control on you can’t even alleviate the boredom by getting cramp. Still, I shouldn’t complain as it only takes an hour or so to get from the house to the heart of the Everglades and ‘Shark Valley National Park’. There are no sharks. Or, for that matter, any noticeable valley. In fact we heard that the highest natural point in Florida is only 5 metres above sea level so even if there was a ‘valley’ it would likely be a bit shit.
|Not a shark|
So after this plainly misleading start we unloaded the bikes which we had in the back of the truck and set off on a 15 mile bike ride through the everglades. It sounds more “out there” than it actually was since the route follows a loop road created in the park 30 years ago. Even so, the sun beat down, the temperature soared, the sky was a brilliant blue and, actually, we were alone in the silence. It was lovely. The first half of the ride followed a canal or drainage ditch in which we came across occasional alligators measuring 6 to 7ft long. These creatures just basking there a few feet from our juicy ankles. We saw a baby alligator, a couple of herons (big ones), a couple of turtles, some Florida gar (a fish) and mile after mile of wetland grass waving in the breeze to the horizon. The far end of the loop has an observation tower that rises a few metres above the ground (its dizzying) and one can see for 20 flat miles in any direction. The second half of the ride we saw wetland grass – that's its. Just grass. No critters, no people, no nuffin. But then it’s a national park and lets not forget we had just biked past 6 big live alligators in the middle of nowhere!
|Simpsons sky in the Everglades|
It doesn’t matter if it’s withered or wobbles, whether it’s tight and toned or a loose bag of bones, whether you are stacked or racked…Miami’s South Beach welcomes you all. Here amidst the myriad of shapes, sizes and colours the sport of people watching is carried out from behind designer glasses peering over equally expensive cocktail glasses. Here you are treated to a level of body confidence we have not seen anywhere. Huge women wearing thongs and desperately struggling bikini tops saunter down the road with mountains of fat overflowing everywhere and are proud! Huge beer bellied blokes sit like so many Buddha’s eyeing the big girls whilst innumerable jocks (who in 15 years will become the new generation of beer belly boys) flex there arms and tight white, wife-beater clad torso’s as they are passed by very cute looking roller-skating , blond, beach bunnies. It’s a treat to observe and I offer a resounding Hoorah to each and every one of you for putting yourselfes out there and not giving a damn.
|Palm Beach - Weird. No discarded flip flops|
Palm beach, in fact, Miami is a very cool (Hot too - 94 today). It’s flashy and trashy and soaked in money and beautiful blue water. The buildings are eye catching with that famous
Art Deco theme showing up everywhere in some form or another. Down on 11th Street , the heart of the iconic styled district we stopped at a silver clad, red leatherette seated diner for Cubano sandwiches and air con relief. Then, fed and watered and some $45 poorer, headed off to see the famous, spotlessly clean, expansive, crowded beach. Lifeguards in red shorts on four wheel drive buggies, garbage collection lorries emptying the hundreds of bins and various other service vehicles whizzing about to insure that no American need suffer the indignity of laying on a grubby piece of sand. It’s not my (very English) cup of tea. But it is what it is and it's a showpiece worth seeing…especially if that 25 year old chick in the hi-cut bikini skates past.
|My lovely wife at Palm Beach|
So, I gotta go and sit in the hot tub and stare at some lizards for a while.
Next stop – our belated honeymoon on a cruise ship to the Bahamas with 4 days of excess everything at the Grand Lucayan Resort.