Coast to Coast: A Road Trip
* In the city
* City people
* Dragon's Lair
* Fun and Fake
* First Impressions
* New Blog
March 16, 2005
Fun and Fake
After leaving Key West our plan was to head up the west coast of the Florida peninsula to a town called St Petersburg. At this point I should mention something about the van we picked up. It is a 7-seater Dodge 'Ram' that we like to call a motorhome even though it is not. A fair few times we've tried to explain to bemused people about our 'RV' with it's 'chair-beds' but they don't seem to buy it. Regardless ont his particular occasion after about 7 hours of driving we had to resort to sleeping in the car. I have never done this before but in South Florida where the temperature is warm and with chairs that do recline all the way back - it was not too bad, no worse than sleeping on an aeroplane for instance.
St Petersburg, FL
We rolled up in St Petersburg and found that both the two hostels that were isted had closed down. One was a hotel that was being renovated and seemingly had people living there - we checked in anyway. The problem with St Petersburg is I think the problem with a lot of not-too-big American towns. They seem empty and soulless in their centre. The streets are too wide - typically having 4-6 lanes for just a normal road and there is no one walking about on foot. I have a feeling it is to do with the car and that because there are so many services (typically restaurants, supermarkets and malls) on the edge of cities at the interstate exits that people drive out of the centre. This means the downtown area can often feel very lifeless. One of the main reasons that we'd come to St Petersburg though was its Salvador Dali Museum which is the largest of its kind outside of Spain. This was good and I particularly appreciated his work on perception and his so called masterworks (giant paintings). Although I'm not much of an art conneissur I think it's good to to experience some once in a while and Dali is nothing if not interesting.
Next up we visited that bastion of all that is fun and fake: Orlando. We actually stayed on the outskirts of Orlando and never went into the city itself., i wouldn't really be surprised if half the people that went there did the same. On the first night in our hostel I kind of got some food half stuck in my throat which led to an encounter with a man who would only identify himself as 'New York'. He was quite kindly and helped me till I'd dislodged whatever was stuck in my throat. He was an interesting if slightly pitiful guy. He had retired from the NYPD and now lived full time in the hostel (in a dorm). The only thing he really had was his car (which he washed religiously). I din't know what type of existence it would really be to aged 50 and live in a (motel-style) hostel dorm on the side of a busy road. I would have felt sorry for him if he didn't have such a belief in himself. He kind of showed me that you never really know what fate is going to deal you (in his case a string of divorces) but that if you react postively there's no need to be down about it.
We visited Disney's magic kingdom which was an interesting experience. It was much more aimed at kids than we would have hoped. The parade and fireworks were good though. One thing I couldn't believe is that they fingerprinted you as you entered the gate. I couldn't believe it! Fingerprinted at a theme park! I asked why and the only explanation given was that it was to link you to your ticket. I thought 'I know what you're doing, you still haven't explained why'. Depressingly I couldn't see anyone else refusing or asking why. It is not a good portent for civil liberties I feel. We also visited Gatorland which is notable most for the amount of Gators it had. At one point Howard beckoned to me turn round and beneath us there were literally a pile of Gators. Gators so thick they were crawling over each other. It was a truly strange sight.
Richard, Savannah, GA, 16th March
Posted by Richard on March 16, 2005 09:42 AM
Category: East Coast USA
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