Down through Florida
As we woke up in Perry, Florida on Thursday May 10th, we realized that we were getting closer to the end of this adventure. Yes, we still had a weekend on Key West and a few days in NYC ahead of us, but this would be the last long leg of our trip. While gathering our stuff, we switched on the morning news, and realized the entire area (well, actually most of northern Florida and southern Georgia) was attacked by heavy wildfires. No wonder the vegetation had looked a bit charred the day before. We decided it was no need to stay and wait for the flames, so after picking up breakfast from the Subway next door, we started the 400+ miles trip down to Miami.
The weather was nice and warm, but the sky was filled with smog and haze caused by the fires. We figured it would clear up and get better as we got further south, but meanwhile it made for quite comfortable driving weather. We headed for the I-75 and then took the Florida Turnpike past Orlando, with nothing more exciting happening during those 4-5 hours than a stop at an automatic windshield washer.
Automatic windshield washer north of Orlando
South of Orlando, we decided to head out for the east coast. Or to say it with Rob Van Winkle: Yo, we continued to A1A - Beachfront Avenue! We didn’t see any hot girls wearing less than bikinis, nor Rockman lovers (whatever that is) driving Lamborghinis - but that might have been reserved for the part of the road that goes through Vanilla Ice’s Miami hood. We entered the coast quite a bit further north around 5pm, and as we entered Palm Beach county, we decided to stop and see how the Atlantic coast beaches compared to those in the Gulf.
We drove out to the beachfront in Jupiter, just north of Palm Beach, parked along the road and headed for the sandy shore. We passed a sign telling us to take our shoes off and keep off the dunes. Turns out, this is a nesting area for turtles, and you wouldn’t want to mess with the vulnerable coastal system by scrambling turtle eggs with your feet.
Sign at the beach in Jupiter
Unfortunately for us, but quite fortunately for them, we didn’t see any turtles on the beach. Even still, it was quite exciting to be there and envision those brave little bastards crawling out across that very beach to make their first dive into water! We got to shoot some photos of other wildlife, though; a few surfers wrangling the moderate waves - and some humongous birds windsurfing along the shore. Selma communicated a bit with her GF back home, who was in full distress after her laptop suddenly died. Back home, the rain was pouring down, and we realized we were lucky to be on a beautiful beach on a summery day.
A bird taking off into the haze
But as for the comparison with the Gulf coast beaches, this one didn’t really stand a chance. The sand was nice (with the turtle factor being a big plus), but not as bright white as along the Gulf coast. The impression might have been weakened by the fact that the haze caused by the fires up north was still present (contrary to what we had expected). And of course, neither of us would mind having a beach like this in our ultimate vicinity.
Hey - they’re behind you, Louis!
But our goal for the day wasn’t to perform comparative analyses of the Florida beaches - we had to move on to get down to Miami before dark. So we got back in the car and continued down the coast past Boca Raton, Ft. Lauderdale and Hollywood, before entering Little Cuba a little before 7pm.
We headed straight for Miami Beach, and caught a glimpse of the lifestyle of the rich and famous as we passed the Palm and Star Islands on the MacArthur Causeway. The flashbacks to Miami Vice grew stronger as we located Ocean Drive, in the heart of the Art Deco District. After driving up and down the street looking for a parking spot, we finally managed to find a free slot along the curb. We walked up and down, admiring (and trying to photograph) the neat architecture while the sun set in the ocean behind tall palm trees. We tried to find a nice place to eat, but every place along the street was packed.
So - we ended up at a TGI Fridays, pretty far south on the strip. The meal wasn’t all that exciting, but at least it was familiar: after settling down at our table, we realized it was a suitable place for a dinner for this next-to-final stop of our road trip, since most of our trip planning had taken place at a TGIF back in Oslo.
Ocean Drive at night
After dinner, we walked back to the car - and with the darkness that had emerged while we were eating, the bright neon lights of the Art Deco buildings along the Ocean Drive were showing off all their glory. We tried to get a few cool shots, but without a tripod present it ended up as a blurry galore. With more time on our hands, we could have stopped to shoot some photos of the illuminated causeway, but we were eager to find shelter for the night and told Kitty to take us to a motel close to the Miami Airport.
From Miami Beach into downtown Miami at night
We ended up at the Days Inn Miami/Airport North, which is located about as close as you can get to the airport. After some problems communicating with the mostly spanish speaking staff, we were given a room - and after a super cute and friendly janitor helped us pump up yet another blocked toilet (we had some fun with one of those in LA as well), we could finally go to sleep.
And tomorrow: The last official stage of our trip!