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Archive for the ‘Florida’ Category

The Farewell Tour

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 19, 2010

August 11-15, 2010

All Pictures

It’s a long ways away

The Long Drive Home

Since I’m going to Japan soon and Mark isn’t, we dropped him off in Flint and made our way south. Don’t worry, Mark is coming to Japan. He’ll come shortly after I get there.

It’s a long drive from Michigan to Homestead so my mom and I made several stops along the way. Mark found a great website and gave me the link. It’s called RoadsideAmerica.com. There are lot of interesting things to see out there!

Not everything was worth a blog entry. Some of our stop was just entertaining enough to break up the monotony of a 3 day car journey. I will just talk about the more interesting ones here.

One last game of soccer

One Last Goodbye

Our first Mark-less stop was in Columbus, Ohio. I have one more chance to see my brother again and to try to talk him into visiting me in Japan. His second son, Alex, and my mom will be spending Christmas with me.

I played a game of soccer with my brother and his boys. It reminded me of the year I lived in Columbus. This was where I learned to play basketball and where I started exercising. This game also reminded me of how out-of-shape I am. I do need to start exercising again.

JV #55

You play Basketball!? ha ha!

In high school I was far from what anyone would call athletic. I had never ran without cause to. I never lifted weights, unless I was trying to retrieve something. But I was, and still am, very tall.

I moved to a new city and a new school. I was going to spend one year with my brother and see what life in the states was like. My mom wanted me in a private christian school. After weeks of searching my brother picked Tree of Life High School for me.

One day a man approached me as I was walking in the hall. “You’re new aren’t you.” he said as he sized me up. “If you want to make some new friends and play basketball, come see me. My office is in the gym.”

At dinner that night I told my brother about my odd encounter. He rolled over laughing. “They think just because you’re tall you can play basketball. You play basketball!?” He fell on the floor holding his sides.

I thought it was funny that anyone would mistake me for a potential basketball player, but I didn’t think it was that funny. “You don’t think I could make the team?”

Malcolm: “No. Have you every played basketball before? Would you even know what to do with the ball?”

Me: “Wouldn’t they teach me?”

Malcolm: “They would if you could get on the team. But you have to get on the team first.”

Me: “Alright. I’ll get on the team. Then they’ll teach me to play. Then I’ll play!”

They misspelled my name… and I changed my major. Biochemistry!? What was I thinking?

The next day at lunch I went to the athletic office at school and signed up to be a Lady Trojan. I was put on the JV team and played my heart out. I never became a fantastic baller, but that was never my goal. I did however, manage to go on and earn a basketball scholarship for college.

Think of all the goodies it can hold.

The World’s Blankiest Blank!

The next stop was to see the world’s biggest basket. It’s actually a 7-story office building and headquarters of the Longaberger basket company. When you go inside it looks like you’re outdoors. There is a piano that plays itself and many cozy rooms with examples of how you can use your Longaberger basket.

in Ottis’ cell

Well I’lllllll Be!

The next day we went to Mayberry. This was my first visit to a fictional town. Well, it’s actually Mount Airy dressed up to look like Mayberry. Mount Airy is where Andy Griffith is from. So to capitalize on his fame, the town recreated Mayberry in it’s downtown area.

This is the actual boyhood home of Andy Griffith. There is a statue of Opie and Andy in the town. You can see the shops, stores and other characters in the town, but the most popular one is Barney Fife. He now has a cafe and his likeness is seen all over the town.

World’s biggest fire hydrant

If we were just driving without unnecessary stops we could have made it home with only one overnight along the way. But how boring is that? Besides when will I have the opportunity to see the world’s biggest fire hydrant again?

one log you say…

One of our stops was in St. Augustine, America’s oldest city to see a home built from one single redwood log. It was very hot inside since there are no windows. But it comes complete with a kitchen and fridge, a bed room, dining room and sitting area. But where was the bathroom? A sign near the house said that “business” was done outside…

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

The World biggest Basket

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 40°03’49.1″N 82°20’46.7″W

By Car, from Columbus –

  • Take I70 East, exit 132,
  • then turn left onto State Route 13 north.
  • Follow State Route 13 north to State Route 16 East and turn right.
  • From State Route 16 East, turn right onto Dayton Road.
  • Turn left onto East Main Street.
  • The Home Office is located on the left.

Address:

One Market Square
1500 East Main Street
Newark, Ohio 43055

Phone:

  • 740-322-5588

Website:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Most M-F 8:00 – 17:00

Notes:

  • This place is an office building. You are welcome to come in, ask questions, and take pictures in the visitor’s area only.

Mayberry
(Mount Airy)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 36°30’06.3″N 80°36’24.8″W

By Car from I77

  •  Take exit 100 to Hwy. 89 East.
  • Turn left onto Pine St./Hwy. 89.
  • Follow Pine to Renfro St., turn left.
  • Follow Renfro Street and take a left onto Independence Blvd.
  • You will see the Blue Signs that say Visitors Center.
  • Once you turn onto Independence take the next left onto Main Street.
  • Follow Main Street until you see the Big Granite Building located beside Barney’s Restaurant.
  • This is The Chamber of Commerce Building and the Visitors Center is located in the Chamber of Commerce Building at, 200 N. Main Street.

Address:

200 North Main Street
Mount Airy, North Carolina 27030

Phone:

  • 1-800-948-0949

Website:

Downloads:

Notes:

  • There is free parking behind the Old City Jail on the intersection of Moore Ave. and Renfro St.
  • You can go camping in this area.

The One Log House

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 29°53’58.5″N 81°18’48.8″W

Go to the old down town of St. Augustine in Florida.

Address:

19 San Marco Ave.
St. Augustine, FL

Phone:

  • 904-824-1606

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

  • The log house is in the parking lot of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not. You don’t have to pay to see it.

Map:

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Posted in Columbus, Florida, Mount Airy, Newark, North Carolina, Ohio, St. Augustine, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Take Your Personality with You When You Leave the Train*

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 18, 2010

July 29-31, 2010

All Pictures

fun on an @

Demelza is coming!

Did I ever tell you about DD? I’ve known her for years. We met in the first grade and have been in the same class from then until 10th grade. You know her. Or at least you know some of her work. She used to edit this blog, in her spare time.

The last time I saw her was back in… 1996. I was on spring break from high school and flew back to St. Croix to see my mom. We went kayaking and swimming one day and had a great time. Unfortunately, I can’t find any of the pictures we took back then.

She came up to see me for a weekend. It’s funny, but when you have a good friend that you haven’t seen in a long time and then you meet that friend again, it’s like the time and distance melts away. I felt like I had last seen her a few days ago. And she looks great! Other than her being taller than she was the last time I saw her, she looks the same.

I wonder what skin care product she uses…

Free Metromover

Bienvenidos a Miami

Since I had to drive into Miami to pick Demelza up, I thought Mark and I could see some of the sights downtown. We parked by Bayfront Park and walked around. Then we saw the Metromover trolleying around above our heads.

We had already paid for 2 hours and had more than an hour left. We hopped on the mover to see where it would take us. The Metro Mover is completely free and there is no driver; it’s all automated.

We got off at the Freedom Tower. There was a torture exhibition there, but I didn’t feel like paying the entry fee. So, we got back on the free mover and returned to our car. Our next stop was South Beach.

South Beach in Miami

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for a swim. It took us 20 minutes just to find parking. We walked along the shore for about 10 minutes then headed back to the car, then to the airport to pick Demelza up.

dinner at a diplomat’s house

It’s in the eyes; yes, the eyes.

The JET Programme hosted a pre-departure orientation at the Japanese consul’s home. It was actually the orientation for group B which was leaving the next day. I am in Group C, but I am the only one in group C. So rather than having me go solo at group C’s orientation I was invited to the earlier one.

Miami’s Japanese Consul General and me

It was splendid. I got to meet some of the teachers who would be in my area. One of them would turn out to live in the same building that I will be moving into. I met the Consul General and had a great dinner. There was only one thing wrong.

Mark eating Indian food at the Japanese Consul General’s home in Miami

Demelza was in town for only a few days and this orientation took half a day of my time. I was allowed two guests, but they had to be strictly family and significant others only. Mark, my boyfriend could come as my significant other, but Demelza could not.

My mother, the stubborn woman she is, would not let me go to the orientation without Demelza. “You can’t just leave her at home after she came all the way here to see you!” So Demelza came. I wasn’t going to mention anything about who she was to anyone there. I’d never seen any of these people before and most of them, I would never see again.

my “half-sister” and me

Everything was going great until a lady, one of the JET’s mom, asked, “How are you two related?” I stood there just blankly staring at the woman. I’m not a very good liar. She continued, “I just know you two are related. Are you cousins?”

“We’re half-sisters,” Demelza spoke up. “Yes. Half-sisters,” I repeated with a cordial smile. “Half-sisters,” I said once again to make sure the lady believed me. “I knew it!” the lady said, “I could see it in the eyes; yes, the eyes…”

The Miami JETs

She left, no doubt to brag about her astounding ability to spot relatives. Demelza turned to me and whispered, “I practiced that on the ride over here in case someone asked. I hope I was convincing enough.”

“We love public transportation!”

Traveling With the Masses to See the Fishes

Mark and I had been using my mom’s mini van to get around. But this day she needed her van. Staying at home all day didn’t seem like any fun, so we opted for public transportation. Our destination? The Miami Seaquarium!

I was excited. I had never used public transportation in Miami before. Outside the US, I’m all about buses and subways. In the states, I  either have or borrow a car.

The buses in Miami come with free wi-fi.

I looked online and the cheapest option for us was to get a 5USD day pass. We could have gotten an EasyCard, but since it would only be used for one day, the EasyTicket was the better choice. Online there is a list of places where the EasyCards and EasyTickets can be purchase. The one nearest us was at a Sedano’s grocer.

The next day my mom dropped us off at the bus stop. I felt like I was 12 again. All that was needed was for my mom to kiss me goodbye, tell me what time I had to be back, and to warn me not to talk to shady looking characters.

Mark is cool today.

We had no trouble getting to and from the Seaquarium, partly because as we were waiting for our bus in Homestead we overheard a conversation. There was a guy in a distinct blue shirt and he was telling his friend that he was going to Dadeland South Metro Station. That’s was our first stop. So we just got off when he did.

To our surprise, he and his uncommon shirt was on our return bus. It was raining outside and in the darkness of night we couldn’t see out the bus. But, we knew we had reached our destination when Mr. Blue-Shirt made his way to the back door of the bus. He, without knowing it, helped us get off at the right stop once again.

Mark getting friendly with a stingray

The Seaquarium was great. We made a point to see every show that was offered. It took us 3 hours to get there by bus, so we weren’t going home without seeing everything!

Demelza and I after being splashed by dolphins

That’s how Floridians roll.

Here is a little insight on the behavior of Floridians. Floridians love to be in control of the weather. Take a Floridian up north, no matter what time of year, and he or she will complain about how cold it is. Put that same Floridian back in Florida and he/she will breath a sigh relief for surviving the cold then proceed to turn the AC to max power.

I haven’t gotten to the truly astounding part yet. When the Floridian has cooled down, the knob on the AC will not be changed. Instead the Floridian will search in a purse or backpack for an “emergency” sweater and put it on. If you ever see a person driving around in their car in the summer with a sweater on, that person is most likely a Floridian.

I am now a Floridian. The Seaquarium is outdoors except for a few cafeterias. It was very hot. The day started out with us making sure to sit in the non-splash zone at shows. Then towards mid-day I wanted to stand right next to the water so that I could be splashed. I needed to cool down and the dolphins did not disappoint.

All Pictures

* The Metro Rail announcement as I heard it.


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Bayfront Park

How to get there:

By Public Transportation –

For driving directions click the link on “How to get there”.

Address:

1075 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, Florida 33132

Phone:

  • 305-358-7550

Website

Cost:

  • The park is free to enter.
  • Events might have entry fees.
  • You have to pay for parking.

Hours:

  • sunrise to sunset

Notes:

  • You have to pay for parking.
  • There are many public parking spots across the road from the park.
    • It cost 6USD for the first 2 hours and 3USD for every hour after that.

Freedom Tower

How to get there:

Address:

600 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33132

Phone: 

  • (305) 237-3010

Website

e-mail:

  • truth@freedomtowermiamimural.com
  • freedom@freedomtowermiami.org

Cost:

It depends on the event

Hours:

  • Tu-Su 12:00-19:00

Notes:

  • You can park along Bayfront Park and walk or take the Metro Mover to the tower.
  • Events

South Beach

How to get there:

  • 25°47’41.2″N 80°07’32.2″W

There is no address but here is what Wikipedia has to say about its location:

“It is the area south of Indian Creek and encompasses roughly the southernmost 23 blocks of the main barrier island that separates the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay.”

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Free, but the restaurants and bars here are a bit over priced.

Hours:

  • You can’t close a beach this big!

Notes:


Miami Seaquarium

How to get there:

  • 25°44’03.4″N 80°09’53.2″W

Address:

4400 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, Fl 33149

Phone: 

  • (305) 361-5705

Website

Cost:

  • 3-9           28.95 USD + tax
  • Adult      39.95 USD + tax
  • Parking  8.00 USD
  • Buy online and save 2.00USD
  • There is a 50% discount with an IATAN ID card.
  • If you are driving, please remember that there is a 1.50USD cash toll fee to get on to the Rickenbacker Causeway.

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 18:00 Everyday
  • Last show starts at 14:30
  • Ticket Booth closes at 18:30

Notes:

  • This is one of the places in Florida where you can swim with dolphins.
    • The fee is about 90USD. Check out the Seaquarium’s website for the details.
  • You may want to bring your own lunch; it is allowed. The food here is not that good and grossly overpriced.
  • If your bring your own water bottle you can fill it up for free at any of the many water fountains around the Seaquarium. Otherwise, purchase one bottle from a machine (3USD) then refill that at the water fountains.

Map:






Posted in Florida, Miami, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Conch Republic

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 9, 2010

July 27, 2010

All Pictures

Big People

West in Spanish is Oeste.

First off, the name Key West has nothing to do with its location. I used to think that since it was the island in the keys that was the furthest west, it was called Key West. But it’s actually a misunderstanding.

The name was Cayo Hueso, or Bone Key. The Native Americans who lived in the area used this island to bury their dead, so the Spaniards called it Cayo Hueso. This could be translated to Key West by any English speaker who flunked 9th grade Spanish.

Mark is looking for a fight.

How the West Was Won

This island has the craziest history stories. No wonder writers come to Key West to become inspired. Of all the tales I heard on this trip, the one I enjoyed the most is the one about the Conch Republic.

It is a well known fact that many Cuban immigrants come into the US by way of the Florida Keys. The United States Border Patrol decided to put a stop to this and illegal drug import. In 1982 they put up a checkpoint on the road out to the keys.

7-mile bridge

If you’ve ever driven down to the keys, you may know that one little car accident or one slow driver can cause a huge back up. There are only 2 roads going into the keys and then eventually only one. Both of the roads had only one lane going in either direction back in 1982.

Oscar the cat and his trainer

The inspections at the checkpoint caused many delays to visitors of the keys. Many tourists didn’t think that the keys were worth the hassle and stopped going further south than Florida City.

delicious street smoothies

The people of Key West were unhappy. They needed tourists with money to come in and spend senselessly. They asked the government to stop. But they were ignored. Then they changed tactics.

They seceded from the union and made themselves a new nation, independent of the USA. They called themselves The Conch Republic and as their first act as a nation, they declared war on the United States.

They threw Cuban bread at some naval soldiers working at the checkpoint then quickly surrendered. Since the war was over and they were on the losing end, the Conch Republic asked the US for foreign aid. Hey, why not?

waiting for sunset

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Key West

How to get there:

  • 24°33’18.4″N 81°46’48.2″W
  • Website directions
  • Take US 1 south and don’t get off.
  •  Key West is at Florida mile marker 0.

Phone:

  • Tourist Information in many languages – 1-800-771-KEYS (5397)

Website

Downloads:

Hours:

Notes:

Parking is hard to find, but whatever you do, do not park illegally. If you do and you just get a ticket, consider yourself lucky. This is not a good place to get your car towed.


The Conch Tour Train

How to get there:

  • 24°33’32.4″N 81°48’24.1″W

Go to the north end of Duval street.

Address:

Phone:

  • 1-888-916-8687 (TOUR)

Website

Download

Cost:

  • Adult – 29.00USD (Buy online for a 3USD discount)
  • 12 and under – Free

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 16:30 daily.
  • Train tours departing at least every 30 minutes.
  • Closed the last Saturday in October (Fantasy Fest)
  • All tours are subject to change. Call to make sure there are no changes.

Notes:

  • This is not a hop-on, hop-off tour. There is one stop at a gift shop where you can eat and use the restroom.

Southernmost Incorporated Place in the Contiguous 48 States

How to get there:

  • 24°32’47.3″N 81°47’50.9″W

It’s on the corner of Whitehead St. and South St.

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available.

Notes:

  • It’s free to visit and always open.
  • It’s not really the southernmost part of the US, but it’s pretty close.

Map:

Posted in Florida, Florida Keys, Key West, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sweet Sixteen

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 9, 2010

July 26, 2010

All Pictures

Mark on his coral throne

Unsolved Mystery

The first time I heard about this place it was during an eerie episode of Unsolved Mysteries. Robert Stack walked up a darkened alley way and told the viewers about the Coral Castle. The question to be solved was how this scrawny little guy built the castle all by himself without heavy machinery?

I could not find the episode of Unsolved Mysteries, but there is a show about the castle with Leonard Nimoy — you know, Spock. In Search Of dealt more with asking questions about the supernatural, whereas Unsolved Mysteries was more about solving crime, finding long-lost friends, and unexplained happenings.

Sweet Sixteen

Edward Leedskalnin designed and built the coral castle. He seemed like an odd ball to most people who met him. The story goes that he made the castle for the love of an unnamed 16-year-old girl.

They were to be married but she supposedly broke up with him sometime before the wedding. I’m not sure if the girl actually existed. If she did, she might have just been the object of Leedskalnin’s unrequited love.

The whole story inspired Billy Idol to write a creepy sounding song about the whole thing. Parts of the video was filmed at the coral castle.

The Hype

The castle is old. It’s been years since Edward built and maintained his home. Many things don’t work as well as they did in the show you saw above. But you can see that they did work at one point. That giant door in the picture about has lost some of its ball bearings, but two people can still move it with a little bit of effort to start.

But how much of the story is true and how much of it is hype built up by the new owners to get tourist into the gate? I’m not sure, but there is a lot of hype. For me, it was still worth seeing though, even if it was just to satisfy my childhood curiosity.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

The Coral Castle

How to get there:

  • 25°30’02.7″N 80°26’39.3″W

SW 157th Ave off of Dixie Highway

Address:

Coral Castle Museum
28655 South Dixie Highway
Miami, FL 33033

Phone:

  • (305) 248-6345

Website

Hours:

  • Su – Th 8:00 – 18:00
  • F & Sa 8:00  – 20:00

Cost:

  • Adults: $9.75 each
  • Children, under 6: No charge
  • Children, ages 7-12: $5.00 each
  • Senior Citizens, 62+: $6.50 each

Notes:

  • A Floridian can enter for free with a non-Floridian paying guest. Bring ID.

Map:

Posted in Florida, Homestead, United States, The | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Blinded Me With Science

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 8, 2010

July 21, 2010

All Pictures

My uncle proving that heights are no big deal

Blinded Me With Science

My uncle Mike is a cool guy. He’s very easy going. He’s the husband of my mother’s sister, my aunt Audrey. When we finally got to Tampa, my mother and her sister didn’t want to do anything. My uncle Mike on the other hand, was willing to do whatever.

Mark needed to stop at a library to print some stuff and use the internet. Uncle Mike found a chair and a book and relaxed until we were ready to go. Not once did he ever look bored or hurry us along.

playing with the aging machine

It was uncle Mike that recommended MOSI. So we went; just the three of us. We got there a little late in the day, so we couldn’t see everything. But we all made sure to ride the high wire bike.

It’s mostly for kids, but there’s lots of stuff for adults to learn too. It’s a very hands-on museum. And there are many kid-volunteers working there. I didn’t get to see any of the movies but I hear the IMAX films there are very good.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

MOSI

How to get there:

Address:

4801 E Fowler Ave
Tampa, FL 33617

Phone:

  • (813) 987-6000

Website

e-mail

Cost:

  • 20.95USD for basic entry

Hours:

  • MOSI is open everyday of the year
  • 9:00 – 17:00 Monday – Friday
  • 9:00 – 18:00 Saturday & Sunday

Notes:

  • Parking is 4USD per car.

Map:


Posted in Florida, Tampa, United States, The | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Not Manuel’s Isthmus!*

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 28, 2010

July 10-13, 2010

All Pictures

Panama City Beach’s beach

Boogie boarding

We drove for 10 hours from Hollywood, South Carolina to Panama City Beach, Florida. Mark did most of the driving in our van and we got to the camp about 3 hours ahead of Malcolm’s SUV. He had to remount the tire on his trailer.

Since we where there before everyone else, Mark and I went swimming. There was nothing else to do. Malcolm had most of the stuff and all of the food. We took the kids that were with us and headed for the sea. Alex, my nephew, was hoping that while we were having fun, his dad and brother would arrive and put up the tent without him, so he wouldn’t have to help.

We had some boogie boards with us. We tried to ride the waves. It took me a couple of days to get a hang of it, but I did. I could still use some more practice though.

When Malcolm came we told him about the waves. Some of his sons, his daughter, niece, and Laura, the family friend, went to the souvenir shop and bought boards of their own.

We spent most of our mornings in Florida boogie boarding. In the evenings, we all swam in the heated pool at our campsite. At noon, during the hottest part of the day we went to the unheated pool at the campsite. I felt very spoiled with so many swimming options.

Fixing something delicious

The End of Camp-Food

In the picture above is my sister-in-law, Vonia. She did all of the cooking on our camping trip. She did a most fabulous job!

When Mark and I go camping, the food is okay if we can find a restaurant near by. If not, it’s mainly ramen and PB&J. It never occurred to us that one should enjoy eating while on a camping trip.

Then I met Vonia. She camps with a slow cooker and a rice cooker. While everyone is out enjoying the waves, playing with Mark’s aerobie, exploring a navy ship and submarine, our delicious dinner or lunch is cooking.

I ate so well on this trip. She made everything from beef stew and curry goat to pancakes and tamales. I have been so inspired that for our upcoming road trip to Canada, Mark, mom, and I, are bringing a slow cooker and a rice cooker.

All Pictures

* “Manuel” as in ex-Presidente Noriega and isthmus as in Panama. I like people to think that I am more geographically and post-politically aware than I really am.


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Raccoon River Campground

How to get there:

  • 30°11’41.9″N 85°49’43.7″W
  • From 79 head east on Front Beach road.
  • Then turn right on Alf Coleman (rd or st?).
  • Then turn right again on Hutchison Blvd.
  • The camp will be on your right.

Address:

12209 Hutchison Blvd
Panama City Beach, FL 32407

Phone:

  • (850) 234-0181
  • Toll Free: (877) 234-0181

Website

Download:

Cost

Hours:

  • check in time is 13:00
  • check out time is 11:00

Notes:

  • There is a library across the street from the camp site on Hutchison Blvd.

Map:

Posted in Florida, Panama City Beach, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My First Stay at a KOA

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 25, 2010

July 1-2, 2010

All Pictures

It’s summer in Florida; expect some rain…

Camping in the rain?

We started out on our long trip with a stop in Tallahassee so that Mark could see his old high school friend. They kept in contact through e-mail, phone calls, and Skype. But, they hadn’t seen each other in many years. So when they found out that they were both in Florida, they arranged a meeting in Tallahassee.

Mark and I planned on camping at the KOA in Monticello right outside Tallahassee. But when we got there it was raining the end of the world type of rain for which Floridian summers are known.

Camping in the rain is not so bad. All new tents are water proof. The difficult thing is setting up a tent in the rain. First off, the ground on which you build your tent is not dry. It’s cold and wet. Second, while you set up your tent in monsoon type weather, no matter how hard you try to keep things dry, water will get in. Third, all the stuff you take out of your car to put in your tent will get wet.

When we got to the KOA one of the owners of the campground, or as they say it, “Kampground”, asked us if we would rather a “Kabin” instead. It was only 45USD and completely waterproof with no assembly required. We took it.

Old Grandpa Mark

The “kabin” came with three beds, one a queen sized bed and a set of bunk beds. The beds have no bedding, but we had our sleeping bags and pillows. We just waited for the rain to stop a bit before taking our stuff out the car.

Looking for stuff to do in Tallahassee

Sightseeing in the Capital of Florida

I have been a resident of the state of Florida for about 5 years and this was my first time in Tallahassee, the state’s capital. When Mark’s friend arrived I suggested seeing the sights of Tallahassee.

There isn’t much to see. We drove around downtown Tallahassee, but because of the rain and the overall lack of interesting things to do, we didn’t get out of the car.

You see, most state capitals are placed in very uninteresting cities. There are some exceptions, like Atlanta, Georgia or Columbus, Ohio which are both the biggest cities in their respective states. But for the most part, the capital city of many states are in the boonies.

Robot Sushi Chef

What do Americans Know about Sushi!?

Although we weren’t really hungry we decided to get a bite to eat since there was nothing else to do. We looked up restaurants nearby on our GPS and found a Mr. Roboto.

Maybe I would have enjoyed it if I didn’t know what real sushi tasted like. It was ok, but it was all sushi rolls with very little fish in it. The one I ordered had more cream cheese than salmon.

Don’t get me wrong, not all American sushi places are like this. It’s just that many are. If you want better sushi in this country, you’re going to have to pay more for it. Or you can go to a grocery store. A tray of sushi there costs about 10USD and it’s better than the stuff sold at most low-end restaurants.

Vampires at the car museum

It’s Not Just about Cars

The next day, all three of us went to The Tallahassee Automobile Museum. It was good. There were tons of cars. But I felt that they could have done more to make my car viewing experience a little better.

First off, there were too many cars in the building. They were all wedged into their little parking spots and we could not walk around to look at the cars from different angles. They had many repeats with the same make, model, and year, but in different colors. I would get rid of the repeats and try to spread the cars out a bit more.

The museum was not as interactive as I thought it should have been. I understand that many of the cars are old and they wouldn’t want people to dirty or break anything in the cars. But, they weren’t all old. They should have put a few cars on display that guests could climb into and take pictures.

It seemed to me that while buying items for display, someone forgot that they were buying things for a car museum. Okay, I can see adding motorcycles. I can see getting a replica of Lincoln‘s hearse. I can kinda see having the hundreds of bikes. But what was up with the pianos and the vampire slaying kits?

I was so confused walking around in the second room upstairs. Was I in some old guy’s garage?

Wow! Look at all this non-car related stuff.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

KOA
(Tallahasse East)

How to get there:

  • 30°28’36.9″N 83°55’16.6″W

by car –

Take exit 225 off I-10 in Florida.

Address:

Tallahassee East / Monticello KOA
346 KOA Road
Monticello, FL 32344

Phone:

  • (850) 997-3890

Website

e-mail: tallehokoa@aol.com

Cost: 

  • (20~50 USD)

The cost of the cabins, or as KOA calls them, kabins, tents, and lodges vary from campsite to campsite. But, both options are a lot cheaper than most motels.

Hours:

Most KOAs close after 20:00. You can only check-in after 20:00 if you have reservations or can do a self check-in.

Note:

  • This KOA came with a free waffle breakfast, free cookies, and free OJ.
  • Most come with free wi-fi, but not all.
  • The kabins do not come with sheets.
  • Bring your own towels and toiletries. Only toilet paper and hand soap are provided.

The Tallahassee Automobile Museum

How to get there:

  • 30°29’10.1″N 84°09’43.2″W

by car –

  • Take exit 209A of I-10
  • Then take high way 90

Address:

6800 Mahan Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32308

Phone:

  • (850) 942-0137

Website

Cost:

  • 1 Adult $16.00         2+ Adults $13.50
  • Students $10.75
  • Kids 5-8yrs $7.50
  • Kids under 5 $0.00

Hours:

  • M – F 8:00 – 17:00,
  • Sa 10:00 – 17:00,
  • Su 12:00 – 17:00

Notes:

You are not allowed to touch most of the cars.

Map:

Posted in Florida, Monticello, Tallahassee, United States, The | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Beach Hunting

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 13, 2010

June 28, 2010

All Pictures

Just park here.

The Car: The Heart of America

Unlike Europe or Asia, you need a car to be a somebody in the United States. Sure, some cities have buses and subway systems, but for the most part if you have no car you are… well, a loser.

No public transportation system covers any whole city and it’s suburbs. Taking public transportation in most places means that you will have a longer commute. And there is still a lot of walking involved, since most people don’t live or work near a bus stop or subway station.

In most of the world public transportation is liberating. When you have a subway card instead of a car you don’t have to worry about parking, gas, insurance, or car maintenance. In the US, not having a car leaves you isolated and friendless.

If you are lucky, you might have a friend who is kind enough to drive out to where you live to pick you up and take you places. Most friends are not that kind unless they live next door to you and you pay for the gas.

Heading past Key Largo

Where do I park?

Case in point are the Florida Keys. You can take a bus to most of the keys, but there is no getting off the bus, exploring and then taking the next bus. You either go to Key Largo or  some other island and stay there.

To drive down to the Keys, just go to Miami and head south. Pass Homestead and Florida City by taking US1.

the 7-mile bridge

To find a nice beach in the Keys, just drive until you see one. Park your car and swim until you get tired. Then, get back in your car and look for another beach. There are two I’d like to recommend. Anne’s Beach is good, but there are very few parking spots. And there is a nameless beach on the southern side of the 7-mile bridge.

Make sure you find a legal place to park. Having your car towed away while in the Keys is no fun. No one will want to come get you. You won’t be able to find a taxi passing by. And it’s really hot. Besides, parking on some random side of the road is a little very dangerous.

There are many state parks in the Keys and some have nice beaches. It costs about 5USD to enter, so ask about the beach before you pay to go in. I’m not sure if the $5 gives you entrance to all the state parks for that day or if you have to pay another $5 to get into another park.

Remember that it’s Florida. Watch out for the wild life.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

The Florida Keys

How to get there:

  • 24°34’10.9″N 81°47’53.3″W (Key West)

By car –

  • Take US1 south or I95 south.
  • I95 eventually merges into US1 and ends in Key West.

By Bus –

Greyhound goes all the way down to Key West from Kendell and stops at many of the keys in between .

Website:

Notes:

There are many places along the keys to go swimming for free. The problem is, that there is nowhere to legally park. There is no guaranty that paying to enter a National Park with beach access will result in a satisfying place to swim, but you will have legal parking.

Map:

Posted in Florida, Florida Keys, Islamorada, Key Largo, Marathon, United States, The | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Time to go Home: USA

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 26, 2009

June 28, 2008

Do I remember how to get home?

I Need to Travel Like People Need to Breathe

At the end of this trip it had been about a year since I was in the US. The plan, when I left Korea, was to start a new life in the US, the country to which I belong. I would get a real job, buy a car, get a mortgage, and get all the other trappings that come with being a rooted non-wanderer.  I even started applying for jobs before I left Korea. But somewhere in Vietnam I realized that I would not be happy here.

I love traveling and I cannot live anywhere for too long without feeling boxed in. I crave seeing new places, finding new ways to live, and getting immersed into new cultures. I must travel to live, like people need air to breathe.

SMOEs week-long orientation at the Hyundai Center in Seoul, South Korea

SMOE

While stuck in Mongolia during this trip and searching the internet for ways to leave Ulaanbaatar, I came across a job ad for S.M.O.E., the organization that places native English teachers in the Seoul public schools. I applied for the job and sent in my resume, covering letter, and references; all before entering Russia.

Shortly after that, while in Finland, I got a reply and set a date and time for a phone interview. Luckily for me my mom had an international cell phone on which they could call me, or else I would have had to call them from a payphone somewhere. An S.M.O.E. rep called me while I was waiting for the Eurostar back to London. By the time the call ended I knew I had the job. The next day I was e-mailed an official letter stating that they were offering me a job and a list of things to do to get a visa.

Within months I was packing my bags again to head back out into the world. She never said it, but I think my mom was hoping that I would live in some other country so she could come visit me. She’s already been to Korea. My mom is a traveler too.

Nomads

My family (years before I was born) moving from Panama to Grand Cayman. The little boy is Malcolm.

A Reading Rainbow Kid

I love to read. So let me recommend some books about traveling. These are books that I have read, loved, and enjoyed at various stages in my life.


The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Map:

Click here for Google maps

Posted in Florida, Miami, United States, The | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

 
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