One one of my trips back to the van from utilizing the camp facilities last night, I spotted a large owl perched on the edge of a children’s swing set. I said hello to it, and it flew past me and off into the darkness. Was a very cool moment. 🙂
I often frustrate myself with my own internal paradoxes. I am a very social creature, but at the same time am also very fond of being alone. There have been many times where I’ve wished that I’ve had somebody riding with me on this trip to share the experience directly with somebody that I cared about – and yet, I’m happy that I’m doing this alone. There’s a great deal that I’m learning about myself – what I want, what I need, what I can keep and what I can let go of. This is my walkabout; my time of internal searching and learning, and yet I’m also running around the country taking pictures of enormous man made lobster sculptures and other bizarre tourist trap type things. It’s a fairly bizarre combination of experiences, but hey – it works. I’ve planned things fairly minimally, so the rest is somewhat chaotic, keeping me on my toes and therefore keeping me from getting bored and disappointed.
I’m finding that I need a certain amount of chaos in my life to function without sliding into depression.
In the past, I’ve tried a couple of antidepressants, but they only make me nominal – allowing me to push the button that makes the paycheck come out that I try to keep myself entertained with. I don’t really feel much of anything on them, and it just makes me a good little worker monkey that exists for the sole purpose of working. I got tired of living in a beige box, so I broke out. Although living in the back of a conversion van isn’t easy, it’s been wonderfully liberating and educational.
It definitely ain’t boring. 🙂
Onward to the trip report.
Friday night, I drove out to Fort Lauderdale beach. It was my intention to hook up with a Facebook friend that I hadn’t met yet IRL. He doesn’t get off work until after midnight, so I did a little walking on the beach and in the water before heading back to the van and tucking in to sleep for a few hours in the parking lot so that I wouldn’t beg off again like I did last weekend due to sleepiness. He called at about 12:30, and I suggested that we meet at the Wreck Bar in the Sheraton, not knowing that it closed around 11pm until after I walked over to it. I then suggested another bar nearby and headed over there.
In the makeshift courtyard sat statues of Jake and Elwood Blues, which kinda made me go, “Huh?” I shrugged and headed over to a table in the courtyard where I could be easily seen, and struck up a small conversation with a couple at a table next to me. We chatted a little until my friend showed up, and then he and I started talking about metaphysical stuff. Next thing we know, it’s 4am and starting to get a little cold on the beach (we’d since driven to an awesome pizza place, then taken a walk on the beach). It was a GOOD conversation that completely made my night. Deciding that it was probably time to head off in our respective directions, we parted ways and I ended up back at the 595 Truck Rest Stop at about 4:30.
Once again, great place to sleep, good food, friendly staff. Unfortunately, I could only sleep until about 9:45am until the truck became too hot to sleep in.
I then got some food in me, while watching a show about serial killers. One of the waitresses explained that she turned the show on because it irritated the shit out of the other waitress, then we laughed conspiratorially. They’re all really cool, friendly ladies there. After a couple of trips to find a portable air conditioning unit that got me nowhere, I headed down to Homestead, FL to check out Coral Castle (PICS).
For those unfamiliar, Coral Castle is a stone structure built by diminutive Latvian American eccentric Edward Leedskalnin. It remains a mystery as to exactly how ‘Ed’ got these enormous limestone coral stones into place – much less how he moved them from the original location in Florida City to their current location in Homestead. He refused to let anybody watch him while he did the actual moving and placement of the stones
There are some who claim that Ed used mystical means to move the stones, and others that claim that there is a resonance in the monument itself. The place is peaceful, very relaxing and inviting to look at. The constructed stone furniture is surprisingly comfortable. It has a really neat ‘otherworldly’ feel to it.
During my walk around the grounds, I encountered two guys that had purchased these rubber horseheads from amazon.com. One had a regular brown horsehead and the other a white unicorn head. They asked me if I’d take pictures of them whilst they cavorted with the heads on, and I agreed, laughing. They explained that they’d been trying to get other people to take pictures of them, but nobody would do it. They figured I’d be up for it, and they were right. 🙂 I did, however, have one condition.
A couple of months ago, I recounted a story on Facebook about how I’d encountered a little girl in a McDonalds at about four in the morning. Being that I was exhausted, I was EXTREMELY punchy – and so when she said that she liked me hair and asked me how I got it that way, I explained, “I ate a unicorn. Yep. Ate him all up.”
At first, she had looked confused, then as confusion slowly turned to discomfort, her sister took her hand and led her off to the bathroom. I explained this event to the guys, then said that I wanted a picture of one of them in the unicorn mask looking over at me with a terrified look. After they stopped laughing, they agreed and an indelible moment in trip history was made.
Ah, Coral Castle – what madness hath been wrought? Admission was $15 to get in. WORTH. EVERY. PENNY. Seriously. If you ever get down Miami way and can squeeze in a trip to Coral Castle – DO IT.
Next, as I meandered my way back to Miami, I stopped off at Monkey Jungle – “Where Humans are Caged and Monkeys Run Wild!” Sadly, it was too late to do the Orangutan Hangout. 😦
If I’m being honest, the entrance fee wasn’t really worth it. Sure, you get to see monkeys running around – but lots of them ARE in cages, as are the birds and other things. The only monkeys running free were small macaques. There were these little steel bowls on chains that you could put food into, and the macaques would pull the food up to them and pick it out of them. I really loved some of the trees, but felt bad for the monkeys that had to endure children yelling at them to do stupid things.
Still – there are pics and vids.
Sunday afternoon, I took a Swamp Buggy ride, and while it was semi interesting, I think I would have far preferred the airboat ride.
It was a fairly mild weekend, and I’ve relaxed through a lot of it. Next weekend I may look at relocating up in northern florida for the week so that I can get to St. Augustine and Cape Canaveral. We’ll see.
I did do a bit of running around today (yay, Coral Castle!), but haven’t yet gotten around to writing the trip report. I’ll get pics and words up about it later.
I did, however, go ahead and pick up a small, inexpensive 5,000 BTU home/window air conditioner today. The LOWES staff assured me that I would be able to use it in a room without having to actually put it in a window, but I’m dubious. It does come on, and does cool the van, but it also blows out hot air through the back venty thing (that’s a technical term, son), which I figured it would do, and wonder why the sales staff didn’t think it wouldn’t do. I’ve got it on the floor, tilted, and have plastic under it for any condensation runoff – but because heat rises, my upper body stays warm and I have to put a blanket over my legs.
Ah, First World Problems.
I don’t plan on running it for hours at a time, so I’m wondering if the setup will be ok. Only time will tell, I guess. They did say I could return it if it didn’t work out for me…
It got up to 90 today.
I’m guessing that’d be about 5 or 10 degrees hotter in the van.
I’ve been drinking what seems like a metric ton of water, and putting ice on my head on and off throughout the hotter parts of the day. Grueling is the word of the day. If I didn’t have the box fan, I’d be completely screwed.
This weekend, I’m going to price portable AC units. Still, I’d rather be out here doing this than in a cubicle. 😀 Makes life interesting. The plan for this weekend is to hit the Coral Castle, take in a swamp tour and maybe find some more weird shenanigans to get up to via roadsideamerica.com. Meeting up with a Facebook friend in Miami tonight, and will likely stay at the same truck stop that I stayed at last friday night, then I’ll figure out where I’m going from there.
Ah, life. She is exciting, no?
Apparently, every friday night down at The Wreck Bar in the Sheraton hotel in Fort Lauderdale there is a professional Mermaid show that starts at 6:30 and lasts for a half an hour. Unfortunately, I didn’t get out there until around 7:30, and the 6:30 show is the only one of the week. The only people swimming around in the pool at this point were kids, which was actually kind of creepy.
I then drove down to Miami to hook up with a Facebook friend that I hadn’t met yet IRL – he’s a professional cook and doesn’t get off until around midnight or 1pm. I had quite a bit of time to kill, so I chose to swing bythe oldest monestary in the US – the Spanish Monastery (http://www.spanishmonastery.com/).
After that, it was time to get on the road again. I was headed for the Florida Keys for the first time in my life, and I wanted to get out to Key West before the sun went down. The Keys themselves are completely amazing. I had never seen water that clear or blue, in real life. It had always been in pictures or movies, and I always figured people were bullshitting me – that it was a trick of the light or the film was altered.
I stopped off at a couple of places to check out the water, and found a place where I could walk right down to the water. The shoreline consisted of tree roots and lots of dead coral and stones. I found a surprising amount of Holey stones and collected both those and some dead coral as I walked along. I took a couple of pictures there, then headed further south. After a stop at The Island Fish Co. Tiki Bar and Restaurant down in Marathon for food (delicious She Crab soup and Ceasar salad), I then stopped at Gulf Island Strand on Manasota Key to meet a friend at Hurricane Hole before continuing down to my destination.
By the time I started driving through Key West itself, the sun had gone down and all the night lights were on. I found myself wondering if Key West would be one of those places that looked much better in darkness than it did during the day. Key West at night is spectacular. The people are really friendly and laid back, and the banyan trees were magnificent. Again, something I’d only seen in pictures before. They were fascinating.
Apparently this is where several people in the building were chained and beaten to death. There are stories that, during the construction excavation, sixteen bodies were found. Tony’s is a fairly raucous place, and while I was walking around, a woman requested that one of the live musicians play a fun, raunchy song. Everybody seemed pretty laid back and happy, for a place with such a dark initial history.
I then visited the marker at the point of the Southernmost Point in the continental US. Even late at night, tourists were gathering around this enormous concrete marker, getting their picture taken. From this point in Florida, Cuba is only 90 miles away.
Slept soundly through the night, even though the campground was apparently full of very happy drunk people. I woke to find what I assume are frog ass prints from a frog that had hopped across my windshield at some time during the night. Sunrise was fantastic as the first blush of the sun began coloring everything around me.
I headed down to Smathers Beach back down in Key West and collected my Orisha Yemaya, taking her with me out to the ocean where I then sat in the water with her. I really thought I’d start crying when I sat in the clear water of the Keys with my ocean mother, overcome with emotion. Instead, I was filled with this sense of.. rightness. I was exactly in the right place at the right time that I needed to be. I sat in meditation in the water for a little while, just listening to the waves roll in. They would push these large quantities of what looked like sea grass to the edge of the shoreline where they would build up, looking like little hazmat breakers that kept water from going further inland.
After my happy time in the water, I headed to a small harbor cafe for breakfast. The moment you walk in, you’re transfixed by a large painting of a nude woman in the corner. It draws your eyes away from everything else in the room. The food was delicious, and then I was on my way back up to the mainland. I started driving back up the Keys and drove into Bahia Honda State Park. Once again, I found myself overwhelmed by the beauty of the coloring in the.water and the variety of the landscape. I walked up to the old Henry Flagler East Coast Railway bridge, and looking down and out at route 1 and the beach below, took another video. If I wasn’t so completely sun sensitive, I would’ve rented a canoe and paddled out to one of the islands around the area.
I found that my best vantage point for viewing the spectacular array of colors is at noon, when the sun is shining straight down on everything.
Throughout the cypress trees were these large, bushy flowering plants that were growing along the trunks of the trees themselves. The sight from one bridge in particular had me turning the car around to snap pictures of it. It was a small patch of classic swamp, another thing I’d always wanted to see in real life but hadn’t until now. I was happier than I had any right to be about that picture opportunity.
Living out of the back of a van only gives you so many food options. At the moment, I’m on day three. Granted, I have a small cooler with grapes, carrots and lunchmeat in it, but I’m now finding myself on a different diet. Mostly fruit, beef jerky and veggies. I’m guessing I’m going to lose weight on this trip, which can’t hurt. 🙂 I’m working my way through a gallon of water and plan on getting a little swimming done tonight. My goal for the rest of the week is not to have to drive the 45 minute into town to pick up supplies again until the weekend.
I wish I had a camera that could capture the amazing night skies out here. There’s something sublime about being able to sit back in a camping chair and just BE with the night.
This friday, I’m thinking of heading out to Miami to check out one of those ‘mermaid’ bars where they have ladies swimming around in a pool that’s reflected behind bubbles behind the bar. Apparently ‘the show’ starts at 6:30. I then want to head out to calle ocho to get me a Cuban Sammich. 🙂 NOM.