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'18 Travels through America

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Saturday 31 March Day 39 ~ Jacksonville, FL
Updated in the Allier, France ~ Tuesday 24 April

 

 

We're looking forward to meeting up with our friend D again, she's a lady with a wicked sense of humour and a zest for life, very kind too.

Arranged to meet her at Rosa Parks Transit (bus) Station which is the terminus for the public airport bus, so easy for us. She has invited us to go to a performance of a passion play at a local church, she told us she has wanted to go for years and hadn't managed it. She's a regular church goer, religions are not our thing but we are always open to a new experience, and it will please D.

 

We arrive and so does she, we can walk to the church from the bus station which is great. We're off to the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, not like any church we've ever been to. We enter the Main Auditorium (which implies there is at least another) and find at street level the large foyer filled with stands showcasing different aspects of the church and the passion play. D asks where we should go to get the best view, one of the ushers gives her a hug and takes us upstairs and says pick any door and choose whatever seats we wish.

 

Knock me down with a feather is the effect on Rosie and I, D had an idea as this church services are broadcast on tv every week. As we walk through the doors into the auditorium we gasp at the size, it's a very spacious 10,000 seat theatre/church/auditorium. Apparently their average Sunday congregation is 7500, amazing. Several things come to mind at once. We must be in the Bible Belt? Why is D the only black person here? Is this her church? The answers are -Yes - it's the 'white' Baptist church - there's a smaller 'black' one nearby that she belongs to. It's quite a reminder that race can affect even the most basic things in the south such as worship.

 

People arriving all the time, all are pleasant and friendly even though the three of us are obviously not members of this church. Many go out of their way to welcome us all, particularly D, it's a nice atmosphere.

 

 

Auditorium starting to fill up. It's wider and much deeper than the photo, seating continues round the side of the stage and behind the photo position..

 

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Start to think of this building and what the upkeep must be, later learn is on a complete full-size block and the church own another 7 full blocks neighbouring it here in downtown. This church holds a lot of sway in the affairs of Jacksonville, obviously some of it's members hold important positions in the life of Jacksonville or are particularly wealthy. It all ties in with what's in front of us and confirmed by the quality of the play, which turns out to be a musical. The highlight is a religious version of Nessun Dorma sung by three tenors.

We have no idea if some of the cast are professional and some amateur church members, but whoever they are including the orchestra they were unbelievably good, fantastic live music.

 

It starts with an orchestral piece, never heard better from any symphony orchestra ever and very beautiful. Then the play unfolds starting in the garden of Eden through to the resurrection of Jesus. The show moved many people to tears or halleluiahs, shouts of delight and despair. We're sure that some in the audience thought it was real such was their reaction, an extraordinary display of believing and quite moving too. Here's a few photos, but they can't show just how mesmeric the Jesus character was.

 

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So impressed with every aspect of this afternoon, we have much to talk about. Also we haven't seen D for a year and a bit to catch up on. We head out to Cracker Barrel, a place D uses every week or so, chance for us to take time to eat, drink and talk.

 

We have a lively server, a 30 year old young lady who has loads of energy, loads of talk, loads of ideas and a big smile. Trying to order is pure theatre, Natalie our server made sure of that.

Once that was accomplished we talked about many things Jacksonville which was predominately black until the city boundaries were altered extensively to make the city physically much larger. Now it's a white majority.

D is a well educated person, her hubby works for FEMA with a good job, she worked for the Pentagon and was there on 9/11, missed being killed by her boss changing her schedule slightly, her boss was killed.

We talk about race here and her opinion is race problems in Jacksonville have increased since Trump was elected, same has happened in the UK since the anti immigration Brexit vote. She talks about as a young woman she toured Europe with girl friends and would love to visit again but hubby isn't a traveller, except for his job.

 

Natalie is single, looks after her disabled mum but is planning to be off somewhere else soon as her brother is having her mum go live with him. She explains that she is a free spirit, likes to change direction and just pick up work when she gets to where she ends up. She knows that she'll return to Jacksonville to take some of the load off her brother but needs some space for a while. She said she has done this before several times, it keeps her going, interesting girl.

 

We are there for at least a couple of hours, Natalie says that she will look out for D on her weekly visits. They have the measure of each other with many knowing looks, but also smiles too.

 

Then it's time to go as D wants to get back to hubby, he doesn't get home very often or for long and she's given us most of her day, think she misses him a lot as his base is 200 miles away.

 

This is a sad farewell as we know D wont get to Europe again and we are unlikely to get back to Florida for many years if ever. She drops us at our hotel, after big hugs she's gone.

 

Packing for tomorrow morning early start, reading and writing, another Amtrak train in the morning, we just love them.

Edited by v v

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Third, and this is the killer, there are about 4 other rental agencies all in a line in this smaller airport, he said "I'm sorry to say that none of the other agencies will rent to you either for the same reason". And that's it.

Did you actually verify this with any of the other agencies at the airport, or did you just take the Dollar manager's word for it?

 

I see you contacted the place you had booked through in the UK, but did you also contact Dollar's corporate customer service in the U.S.?

 

To me, this has the fishy sound of something that was decided by a local franchise operator, rather than by Dollar itself (or their corporate parent, which is Hertz). I say this especially because the only time I've had an issue with a car rental, it was due to a franchisee not following corporate policies, and the corporate office did wind up "making me whole."

 

I guess I'll wait until you post what happened in Miami to see if there's a resolution to this!

Edited by trainman74

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Don't want anyone to misunderstand my post re Iran.

 

I have nothing against Islam,( but do against Fanatical Terrorists that use Religon as a tool for Terrorism)nor any people in other countries ( well maybe North Korea and it's Robots), but with the current geo-political climate, and considering our current occupant @ 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., don't think that I as an American should visit any Muslim dominated country right now.

 

Hopefully things will change soon since HATE is not a Human Value! I look forward to your trip and reading about y'alls adventures, I'm envious!😁😎

Edited by Bob Dylan

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Sad to say that there is,way too much of this Corporate Directed BS going on in lots of businesses!

 

Probably using American Express or one of the other "Premium" Cards is the only way to ensure that crap like this doesn't occur during travel.

 

Looking forward to the next Chapter in y'alls adventure, and for sure y'alls next trip to Iran!!! (Not sure I'd want to visit a Muslim Country right now????) or South America!

 

An AU friend is in Paris right now, hope Spring has Spring on the Continent!

 

All our cards are Visa based so not sure that if American Express only had initials and a surname that it would have made any difference. We had also used the same card before, that's about 4 days before.

 

The weather here in France has been as good as it gets for the last 10 days, your friend has arrived in Paris at the perfect time.

 

We're already looking at maps and options when we should be getting down to some serious work here, we're months behind with our schedule. So far we have 3 rough plans for Iran and none for S America, hmmm. Can someone make sure that nice Mr Macron persuades your great leader not to cancel the nuclear treaty with Iran.

 

 

 

Third, and this is the killer, there are about 4 other rental agencies all in a line in this smaller airport, he said "I'm sorry to say that none of the other agencies will rent to you either for the same reason". And that's it.

Did you actually verify this with any of the other agencies at the airport, or did you just take the Dollar manager's word for it?

 

I see you contacted the place you had booked through in the UK, but did you also contact Dollar's corporate customer service in the U.S.?

 

To me, this has the fishy sound of something that was decided by a local franchise operator, rather than by Dollar itself (or their corporate parent, which is Hertz). I say this especially because the only time I've had an issue with a car rental, it was due to a franchisee not following corporate policies, and the corporate office did wind up "making me whole."

 

I guess I'll wait until you post what happened in Miami to see if there's a resolution to this!

 

 

Good point trainman74, no didn't try elsewhere. It did occur to try others but only after on the way back to the hotel, but we were quite deflated at the airport, about as down as we ever get so speed of thought wasn't there. The manager at Dollar was very confident about it, and that he was doing the right thing. He offered his business card so whoever was to sort this out could contact him. Not the move of someone who was making it up as he went along.

The actual process of handing over the documents and the card to the clerk went something like this. Look at the detail on the passport, driving license and invoice for the rental, last look at the card. Not try to process it at all but ask if we had another card from either of us with our first name spelt out. So the clerk knew what she was looking for.

 

Haven't contacted Dollar at all as my contract is with the UK agency. Have to say here that a few years ago we booked one, then 6 months later another fly drive vacation to the US, using this agency for the car rental. First Rosie had a close bereavement 2 weeks before our leaving date and we cancelled the whole trip. The rental agency were brilliant. 6 Months later the same thing happened and my mum died 2 weeks before we were about to travel. They didn't question anything and sorted everything out again.

I have gone easy on the company because of this history but do think they are as bad now as they were good then, we owe them I suppose.

 

We're off to the UK in the morning, but will write about the Miami car rental as soon as I can within the next week.

 

 

 

(snip)

Looking forward to the next Chapter in y'alls adventure, and for sure y'alls next trip to Iran!!! (Not sure I'd want to visit a Muslim Country right now????) (snip)

I know Iran is portrayed as a boogieman country in various places around the world, but it’s undeserved IMHO. As are other ‘Muslim Countries’.

 

The only reason I’ve not yet visited Iran is that I needed to make sure I was granted entry to the USA, and the USA makes things very difficult for those who have an Iranian stamp in their passports.

 

I’m likely off to Iran next, and everything I’ve read details the generous hospitality of the Iranian people, their genuine interest in you as a foreign traveller. And this level of hospitality is common throughout the Islamic world.

 

I spent several weeks in Turkey recently, and even though that government was becoming less liberal, the people I met were lively, unafraid, interactive, proud of their culture and history, generous, and inclusive. I felt safer walking the streets late at night there than I do in parts of my own Oz city. There was a much lesser level of street aggression, likely because there was nowhere near the level of drunkenness and drug taking there compared to most western cities, and much less macho posturing that’s so prevalent in the Anglosphere.

 

Iran is becoming more liberal, it can scarcely not do so because of the huge proportion of its population under 30. It has a literate, well edicated, and engaged city-based population with a vibrant culture. I can’t wait to get there.

 

I’ve never conflated a government’s actual or purported harshness and belicosity, with its people. Most people around the world are interesting and interested.

 

The most populous Islamic nation on the planet is Australia’s nearest neighbour, Indonesia. It is a country which is well under most peoples’ alarm radar, and rightly so.

 

I reckon we have nothing to fear from experiencing life in other nations, regardless of their predominant religion. Be open minded, act as if you are a guest (you are), be ready to accept a different normal, and everything’ll go swimmingly and leave you proud to be a member of the human race.

 

In relation to different normals, I’ve just discovered you in the USA have decided not just to drive on the wrong side of the road, but to turn on and off your light switches the wrong way around too! But I’ll just accept that as another odd cultural difference and get on with things :-)

 

I’m sure the Iranians aren’t as odd :-)

 

 

That's great! when do you start making plans for your Iran journey?

 

Will you write a blog or travelogue on this site or somewhere else, what about writing about your preparation for your journey? Do you know when you are likely to go, and when there how will you get around, car, car and driver, trains, buses?

 

Completely agree with you on not mixing governments and their peoples. Have never been anywhere there hasn't been something fundamental that I didn't like but that has nothing to do with the type of people you meet unless your visit is an official one.

 

I think it is possible to get into trouble anywhere, as you say you know places in Oz, I know places in London I'd never ever go day or night. The probability if using plain common sense of getting into trouble is pretty low, but always possible. If you don't think it's possible then there's complacency creeping in.

 

Maybe US politics is using the M word as a banner to encompass a lot of bad things that are happening, repeated often enough people will believe. That's not to say that there aren't international politics that stink in their objectives, but isn't there something about he (the country) who is without sin may cast the first stone.

 

Hope you do publish something about preparing and going on an Iran journey, I'm sure it would interest many.

 

 

 

I know Iran is portrayed as a boogieman country in various places around the world, but it’s undeserved IMHO. As are other ‘Muslim Countries’. The only reason I’ve not yet visited Iran is that I needed to make sure I was granted entry to the USA, and the USA makes things very difficult for those who have an Iranian stamp in their passports. I’m likely off to Iran next, and everything I’ve read details the generous hospitality of the Iranian people, their genuine interest in you as a foreign traveller. And this level of hospitality is common throughout the Islamic world.

I don't have any problem with average Iranian citizens. By all accounts they're calm, educated, and reasonable. I do however have several problems with their irrationally oppressive government. Hard to visit the former without living under the latter.

 

 

I spent several weeks in Turkey recently, and even though that government was becoming less liberal, the people I met were lively, unafraid, interactive, proud of their culture and history, generous, and inclusive. I felt safer walking the streets late at night there than I do in parts of my own Oz city.

Becoming less liberal? You mean the jailing and torturing people based on the whispers of vindictive neighbors and disgruntled coworkers, the enacting of a faith based judicial system with government sanctioned discrimination, and the systematic dismantling of any meaningful political opposition? I guess that's one way to put it.

 

 

Mr DA, think that mcropod was separating the regular people you meet from a country's politics. Has to happen everywhere doesn't it or none of us would travel. As to Turkey the same applies. Do you think that by people not travelling to these places it makes the situation better? I don't.

You know Rosie and I love the US, but there's a couple of things that go on there that really upset us, and it's ingrained in your DNA. But unless we visit we have no chance to understand why. For a third example we've even had 3 master classes about why people own guns from some serious well intentioned people. We wouldn't own a gun but with their view of the world we almost understand why they do.

 

 

Don't want anyone to misunderstand my post re Iran.

 

I have nothing against Islam,( but do against Fanatical Terrorists that use Religon as a tool for Terrorism)nor any people in other countries ( well maybe North Korea and it's Robots), but with the current geo-political climate, and considering our current occupant @ 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., don't think that I as an American should visit any Muslim dominated country right now.

 

Hopefully things will change soon since HATE is not a Human Value! I look forward to your trip and reading about y'alls adventures, I'm envious!

 

Bob, and we thought you were a rufty tufty person. Trouble is nowadays in countries that don't have English as a first language Rosie and I get mistaken for Americans or even Aussies! Not going to stop us.

Edited by v v

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Amazing to experience that show in the church, it surprises me every time that religion is so strong in America, the UK being so secular in comparison.

 

My own worst car hire experience was in Florida, a lot of "hidden fees" suddenly added!

 

I was prompted to check my own cards, my bus pass and my mastercard both have my first name, the visa one does not.

 

Seems so bonkers to need as " I.D." if you have your passport, etc, etc.

 

I would have probably phoned the local TV station, the tourist board, and tried to show how much potential damage there was to the Florida tourist trade.

 

It wouldn't get me a car hire, but it would make me feel better. :D

 

My "East Enders" accent often gets me mistaken for an Aussie, when I travel.

 

Ed.

Edited by caravanman

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Mr DA, think that mcropod was separating the regular people you meet from a country's politics. Has to happen everywhere doesn't it or none of us would travel. As to Turkey the same applies. Do you think that by people not travelling to these places it makes the situation better? I don't.

 

Just because you're a guest in a foreign land doesn't mean you have to check your brain at the border. If you're going to vacation in a country like Turkey while they're cracking down on intellectual thought, outlawing public dissent, and torturing political prisoners you're not doing anyone any favors by sweeping such issues under a rug with vague euphemisms and cultural whitewashing. That being said, I honestly think average Iranians and Americans probably have far more in common than many of us realize and that we could potentially get along quite well if only we could admit that we're being manipulated into distrusting and despising each other by our own governments, our own media, and our own religious leaders. Visiting adversarial cultures can be an important part of a shared awakening, but it's also important to realize that not everyone who declines to do so is ignorant or uninformed. Some of us still have moral or ethical complications when it comes to spending money in a market that funds a government with which we strongly disagree. Although these days I have almost as many problems with the moral and ethical judgment of my own government as I do with Iran's.

 

 

You know Rosie and I love the US, but there's a couple of things that go on there that really upset us, and it's ingrained in your DNA. But unless we visit we have no chance to understand why. For a third example we've even had 3 master classes about why people own guns from some serious well intentioned people. We wouldn't own a gun but with their view of the world we almost understand why they do.

 

I doubt it has anything to do with our DNA or genetic predisposition. That being said, it's hard to give specific answers as to what precisely is driving America's quiet acceptance of routine violence or our bizarre fetishization of military style weaponry. In the US most publicly accessible social and cultural research is funded at least in part by our government. Unfortunately for the last two decades the American government has been specifically barred from performing or promoting gun related research. The Columbine Massacre occurred 19 years ago and since that time there has been very little in the way of meaningful gun related research from which to inform our citizens and policymakers. As a result of this and other obstructive influences average Americans are surprisingly uninformed when it comes to understanding the causes and repercussions of rampant gun related violence. Just because we live through it on a daily basis doesn't mean we fully comprehend it or even take it seriously.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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Mr DA, think that mcropod was separating the regular people you meet from a country's politics. Has to happen everywhere doesn't it or none of us would travel. As to Turkey the same applies. Do you think that by people not travelling to these places it makes the situation better? I don't.

 

Just because you're a guest in a foreign land doesn't mean you have to check your brain at the border. If you're going to vacation in a country like Turkey while they're cracking down on intellectual thought, outlawing public dissent, and torturing political prisoners you're not doing anyone any favors by sweeping such issues under a rug with vague euphemisms and cultural whitewashing. That being said, I honestly think average Iranians and Americans probably have far more in common than many of us realize and that we could potentially get along quite well if only we could admit that we're being manipulated into distrusting and despising each other by our own governments, our own media, and our own religious leaders. Visiting adversarial cultures can be an important part of a shared awakening, but it's also important to realize that not everyone who declines to do so is ignorant or uninformed. Some of us still have moral or ethical complications when it comes to spending money in a market that funds a government with which we strongly disagree. Although these days I have almost as many problems with the moral and ethical judgment of my own government as I do with Iran's.

 

 

You know Rosie and I love the US, but there's a couple of things that go on there that really upset us, and it's ingrained in your DNA. But unless we visit we have no chance to understand why. For a third example we've even had 3 master classes about why people own guns from some serious well intentioned people. We wouldn't own a gun but with their view of the world we almost understand why they do.

 

I doubt it has anything to do with our DNA or genetic predisposition. That being said, it's hard to give specific answers as to what precisely is driving America's quiet acceptance of routine violence or our bizarre fetishization of military style weaponry. In the US most publicly accessible social and cultural research is funded at least in part by our government. Unfortunately for the last two decades the American government has been specifically barred from performing or promoting gun related research. The Columbine Massacre occurred 19 years ago and since that time there has been very little in the way of meaningful gun related research from which to inform our citizens and policymakers. As a result of this and other obstructive influences average Americans are surprisingly uninformed when it comes to understanding the causes and repercussions of rampant gun related violence. Just because we live through it on a daily basis doesn't mean we fully comprehend it or even take it seriously.

 

 

 

I think we agree on what you covered in the first paragraph, except for... "Some of us still have moral or ethical complications when it comes to spending money in a market that funds a government with which we strongly disagree."

 

​It's pretty easy to make sure that most of your visitor $'s goes to the man in the street, they are often more downtrodden than any visitor with a conscience.

 

As for your second point about gun control, it was only to explain we now understand a little as to why some Americans want to own guns, and we wouldn't have had that insight without visiting the US.

If we ever meet 'On the Avenue' as both Bob Dylans would say, I'll buy you dinner and we can set the world to rights. It's not really for me to discuss American politics on this forum but happy to face to face.

Edited by v v

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Sunday 1 April Day 40 ~ Jacksonville, FL to Miami, FL
Updated in the Allier, France ~ Monday 30 April

 

 

It's an Amtrak day again, hooray! But it may be our last ever Amtrak train, oh no! Up at 6am ready to go at 6:30am. Our first and last taxi for this trip, amazed ourselves that planning all the public transport has worked just about every time, no major hiccups at all, thanks google.

 

Very pleasant on-time taxi driver, quite elderly so I loaded everything into the car and think even closed her door for her. Still in the 25 minute drive to JAX station she entertained us with stories, she was a real sweetie.

If you've never been JAX is a very pleasant small Amtrak station with good staff, couldn't fault anything about it.

 

 

Early morning mist almost, looking down the track to where our train would appear from

 

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The 97 Silver Meteor to Miami pulled in right on time, excellent. On boarding we were assigned numbered seats, there was also an announcement that single passengers should take any open seats next to another passenger as there were many about to board a little further south, good organisation. Coach passengers were a real mix, all the better for it too.

We just sat back and enjoyed northern Florida, we really like this part of the state. Winter Park is one of our favourite small towns too, just got something about it for us. Orlando has lots of changes, many getting off, even more getting on.

 

At one stop in a small central Florida town the station platform was too short for a LD train, as we had seen several times before the train blocks a road crossing. The drivers are oh so patient as it often takes 7 or 8 minutes to get everybody who's leaving off and new boarders on the train, here's a classic photo

 

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As we travel south the train travels at maximum? speed as much as possible, but the track deteriorates. We mistakenly buy 2 cups of tea, some of mine ended in my lap even though it was firmly in the middle of the carry box on the pull down table. Writing was impossible, so we slept a little. We were woken by a man singing, he wasn't a good singer but appeared to be really enjoying himself and wasn't doing too much harm. You meet all sorts on an Amtrak train.

 

All the extra speed brought us into Miami 55 minutes early, that is a lot of time made up since JAX. Maybe the engineer had an important dinner date he dare not miss, he certainly didn't hang around anywhere.

 

 

Miami welcomes us all

 

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We detrain in Miami (MIA) nice temperature and a lovely light. If you can't relax here you can't anywhere. We're catching a bus to Miami International airport to try to rent our next Dollar rental car. About a 25 minute wait for the No. 42. Straight from the station to the multi-use transit center just on the edge of the new car rental complex. Now here goes, do we get our car or not.

 

Seen straight away, hand over the same documents as in Jacksonville and the same card. The clerk is chatty, then looks at her screen, looks at me, looks at the screen, does that a 3rd time and then a big smile, what did the UK rental agency write to them? The rest is as always simple, quick and efficient. Instructs us where we collect the car and we are away.

 

Pretty impatient drivers around the airport area but it calms down a little as we drive further away. Simple drive to Homestead south of Miami, straight to our hotel, The Floridian. Well priced, room in good condition and poolside with a very pleasant sitting and pool area in a central courtyard, we're here.

 

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Tomorrow is another day we have really looked forward to, a return trip into the Everglades, but there is a surprise.

Edited by v v

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Good segment Jamie, looking forward to the next Chapter in y'alls "Farewell to the USA" Tour.

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Monday 2 April Day 41 ~ Everglades, FL

Updated in the Allier, France ~ Wednesday 2 May

 

 

Easy start to the day, Rosie bought some supplies and we're off.

 

At the entrance to the Everglades National Park we pay our $ 25 entrance fee - this gives access for a week - and drive through to the Visitors Center.

 

The plan is to drive as far as we can, Flamingo Visitor Center on the tip of mainland Florida which is 40 miles from the entrance. There are numerous trails off of this one and only road in the park and we intend to walk many/most of them, we have a whole day and evening to do it.

 

Rosie volunteers to get us a map from the visitor center, she also gets a full induction course too. These Rangers can be so helpful. Considering the large numbers of people in and around the Miami area we are surprised at how few visitors we see in the park. We understand that a previous hurricane had damaged some of the infrastructure but surely that's not why people come here. It has to be for wildlife and the vastness of the remote area.

 

It has been maybe 15 years since we were here, the Everglades were the highlight of that vacation. After a couple of stops we think we are in the wrong place to see wildlife, a few birds and a small snake.

 

 

No idea what this is but it is very attractive

 

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Then we came across this Barrel Owl, it wasn't asleep so must have been pulling a funny face

 

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One of the info tablets described how the water across the Everglades is like a sheet just a few inches deep, and from what we saw it was just like that

 

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Nearby was this Dragonfly

 

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This really nice raised boardwalk was on Mahogany Hammock (a hammock in the Everglades is a small islands slightly raised above the water level)

 

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If you like remote and wild places the Everglades are beautiful, several hours after starting out we are at the end of the road at Flamingo, but where is everybody, there are only a handful of people around? Many of the park buildings are still in their disrepaired state, although a couple of parts were open, but no refreshments as the cafeteria was closed too. The whole site at Flamingo had this almost abandoned air, have the parks had their funds removed as it all looks forlorn?

 

Now it's late afternoon and we know we should be seeing Alligators and the salt water Crocodiles at this sort of time, so we walk all the way round the waters edge, as we get past the canoe hire mooring I spot a Crocodile inside the empty marina. Being in the marina it gives us a chance to get near as there are pontoons sticking out into the water, this medium sized crocodile is fascinating as he's moving around slowly but can't see why, here are a couple of photos

 

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We spend another hour or so there, have a little to eat from our supplies and make a move as there are still 2 or 3 trails we want to walk, but not in the dark. Nearing the park entrance a most glorious sunset was forming in the car rear view mirror, quite spectacular!

 

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One last trail to walk, nearly dark now but suddenly we see a few people looking for the twilight animals too, this is Royal Palm Visitor Center, the silhouette of the palms is really beautiful

 

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As we were leaving the center Rosie spotted an Alligator in the center of the pond. The camera couldn't quite cope with this light level especially at a distance from the subject, but the orange range finder light flash did pick out the Alligator's eye!

 

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On our way back to Flamingo we swing into a Cracker Barrel to eat, we were pretty hungry and it all went down well. We sat there and talked about the day. We still really enjoy just being in the Everglades as that sort of open space is our thing, but here is the surprise... where is the wildlife? Apart from the various animals and birds in the photos above, we saw another 2 birds, another small snake and that was it. This is a gigantic nature park, we have more wildlife in our front field than we saw today.

OK, we could have just gotten unlucky, but the difference between now and 15 years ago is more than enormous, anyone know a reason?

 

Tomorrow Rosie hopes to go for a paddle in the warm water of the Keys, a sort of early start as we want to spend a little time there and are looking at driving a bit more than half way to Key West.

Edited by v v

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I don't have a definitive answer as to what happened to the birds and wildlife in the Everglades Jamie, but species are vanishing all over the world due to poachers, climate change, development and failure of governments to care for our parks and wildlife areas.😣

 

Really nice pics, and the Park sounds wonderful!😎

 

Looking forward to your trip to the Keys, I haven't been in Southern Florida below Miami in over 30 years!

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Wow! Loving the pictures (namely the owl, dragonfly, and crocodile)! Keep 'em coming!

Edited by cpotisch

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I don't have a definitive answer as to what happened to the birds and wildlife in the Everglades Jamie, but species are vanishing all over the world due to poachers, climate change, development and failure of governments to care for our parks and wildlife areas.

 

Burmese pythons are part of the problem. They have established a breeding population in south Florida, and the mature snakes are top predators and are wreaking havoc on other species. Misguided people obtained pythons as pets and then released them when they got tired of having an animal that did little other than eat and sleep.

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I don't have a definitive answer as to what happened to the birds and wildlife in the Everglades Jamie, but species are vanishing all over the world due to poachers, climate change, development and failure of governments to care for our parks and wildlife areas.

 

Really nice pics, and the Park sounds wonderful!

 

Looking forward to your trip to the Keys, I haven't been in Southern Florida below Miami in over 30 years!

 

Thanks Bob, I think Willem has part of the answer below but for the whole length of the road there was an eerie lack of wildlife.

 

BTW, looks like Iran is off our list for a while as US, UK and Canadian citizens are only allowed to travel in Iran accompanied either by joining a regular organised tour or by having our own itinerary booked for us and remaining in the company of an official tour guide from the moment we cross the border to the moment we leave. No changes allowed to planned itinerary at all. As independent travellers that doesn't appeal to us in the slightest even though Iran is at the top of our travel list, so we'll wait and see developments over the next few years. Doesn't politics play havoc with ordinary peoples lives.

 

 

Wow! Loving the pictures (namely the owl, dragonfly, and crocodile)! Keep 'em coming!

 

Thank you cpotisch, it's a lot of luck not so much skill

 

 

 

I don't have a definitive answer as to what happened to the birds and wildlife in the Everglades Jamie, but species are vanishing all over the world due to poachers, climate change, development and failure of governments to care for our parks and wildlife areas.

 

Burmese pythons are part of the problem. They have established a breeding population in south Florida, and the mature snakes are top predators and are wreaking havoc on other species. Misguided people obtained pythons as pets and then released them when they got tired of having an animal that did little other than eat and sleep.

 

 

Thanks willem. If they are the cause of what we (didn't see) saw then the Everglades has a major problem. Lets hope we were just in the wrong places at the wrong times...

Edited by v v

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Bad News Jamie: Iran Tourism for "the Allies" sounds like what Russia and Cuba and,Albania ( at least for the US) had during the Cold War Days and North Korea still has IINM???

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Tuesday 3 April Day 42 ~ Florida Keys

Updated in the Allier, France ~ Thursday 3 May

 

 

The journey finally caught up with me, didn't feel great and not much sleep. Had a lay-in and got away by noon, I'm still tired. Very pleasant drive down through the Keys, once there is water on both sides it's beautiful. Quite a lot of traffic and fairly slow too, but we didn't have so far to drive and no big hurry. We were heading for Curry Hammock State Park on Little Crawl key, it turned out to be a very nice choice too. The Atlantic side of the Keys doesn't match the beaches of the Gulf side, but the Gulf side was mainly built up or not accessible.

 

One of the many bridges connecting the Keys

 

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This small State Park has everything you need. Good access to the ocean, shaded areas to sit or to picnic, toilets and showers, a campground if you are a bit more serious about your visit. There was also kayak rental if you want to go off and explore. Not many people in the park, it gave the whole place a relaxed feel. Rosie was excited and asked if I wanted to walk the seashore, it wasn't the right day for me so she soon disappeared. I'm happy just to sit, look and think over our 6 week journey, also very pleased Rosie had got her time by the water.

 

Here are a few photos taken on and from Curry Hammock

 

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This one's for you cpotisch, one of my favourites from the whole journey. The crab is checking Rosie out!

 

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These look like mussels? No on second thoughts they're not

 

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As it starts to get dark we head for Homestead, our second amazing southern Florida sunset

 

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We decide to eat in as we must have visited well over 50 restaurants so far, can't wait to get back to home cooking. It had been the perfect wind-down day for us and now it was nearly time to head for home we were almost looking forward to it.

 

Back at the Floridian hotel and there were small groups of people sitting outside , just a low murmur of voices to add to the pleasing scene. We do like the hotel and would return if we were ever in this part of the world again.

 

Plenty of time to pack in the morning, we have our room until noon. Then there are several sitting and relaxing areas inside and out with fruit and hot or cold drinks to be had. We knew from past experience that once a journey ends we start to feel tired and have to take it easy for a day or two, that's just about how it worked out.

Edited by v v

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Bad News Jamie: Iran Tourism for "the Allies" sounds like what Russia and Cuba and,Albania ( at least for the US) had during the Cold War Days and North Korea still has IINM???

 

Yes it is Bob as we had started to make tentative plans. It was the same for the UK too with big barriers to entering a handful of countries.

 

There is a flip side to this though, at least for the UK. 19 years ago we were trying to drive across the southern edge of the Mediterranean and couldn't get visas for Libya, we were on our way to Egypt and eventually Iran. There was a diplomatic standoff at the time and visas weren't easy to get, but we were told if we were to travel to Tunisia and ask at a Libyan Consulate close to the border we had a chance of being granted them.

This turned out to be correct but at a price, $750 each which was way too much for us. I asked why they were so expensive and hard to get and was told. "For a Libyan to get a visa for your country it is 3 times more expensive than we want from you, and harder to get too"

 

This was confirmed from another source several months later and we also found out that Libya wasn't the only country on the UK's 'expensive' list, so they all do it I guess.

 

We did get into Libya for 3 hours, we tried to pretend we were told to get our visa at the border. The police chief at the border said he'd try to get us our visas and he would contact Tripoli for us. He also said that if you are granted your visas it's my father's birthday at the weekend, please be our honoured guests. We would have died to have gotten to that party, what a story that would be to tell.

But after 3 hours a general turned up, we were summoned from our camper. He said with us touching noses "Mister, get this van turned round and get out of here! "

 

On a brighter note we are starting to look at visiting 4 of Iran's neighbouring countries, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, none of them have a visa problem for the UK or the US. There will be trains involved, care to meet up in Tbilisi?

Edited by v v

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Wednesday and Thursday, 4/5 April - Days 43 & 44 ~ Last day, end of Journey

Updated in the Allier, France ~ Friday 4 May

 

 

Leisurely morning, all bags packed including 3 cacti and 3 succulents into containers that wont give the customs people a problem if they have a rummage. The weather is close to tropical levels of rain with dark skies but mostly we've had good weather where-ever we have been, very fortunate.

 

As we don't have to leave for the airport until around 2-3pm we had thought of driving back into the Everglades Park this morning, but this level of rain would not have suited being outdoors. We do wonder where all the people here on vacation have gone too, maybe there are more undercover places to visit than we realise.

 

Leave bags at the hotel desk and use their lounge, had a whole section just to ourselves. We spend the next 3 hours very comfortable, looking at torrential rain, talking, reading and drinking lots of tea. There is also great wifi so we have it all.

 

Leave about a half an hour early to drive to the airport, traffic is understandably slow and more of it than on arrival. Located the car rental return ok, but the process has been de-humanised, maybe a max of 10 words in all between us and the agent taking the car back.

 

Miami airport lacks good information signs, had to ask at security which part of the terminal to use, or maybe we're just stupid.

Security had the opposite demeanour to our arrival in San Francisco, surly and abrupt, this airport is a little edgy. Even Rosie is given a tough time and that never happens. I follow a man from Argentina through the security channel, he gets pulled over. I get pulled over too. This time it's a few extra questions only for me, the 30 something Argentinian is in for longer questioning.

We both collect our carry-on bits and pieces at the same time, he looks anxious and I give him a smile. It's a game they play so don't worry, a man travelling alone is often pulled out I tell him. We have a short conversation while dressing and re-packing. he is a pleasant man and now smiles. He points to 2 very small tattoos under the outside of his left eye, "this one is for my brother who died, and this one is for my best friend who died too", I now see they are tiny tears. He says he's often pulled at security as the tattoos are mistaken for some form of gang recognition, but he wont have them removed as they are too personal.

 

Double decker plane which is roomy even in coach, as on the way out only two of us in the three seats, very good for Rosie as she needs to curl up when sitting for long periods now.

 

Completely uneventful flight except we have found our niche when ordering flight meals. We neither are vegetarian but now always order vegan meals on all flights. The standard appears to us to be constantly good where's meals with meat or fish have been hit and miss. Works for us anyway.

 

Back to London which feels more laid back than Miami, wouldn't have thought that. We're familiar with the route on the Tube and overground trains, find ourselves in Brentwood, Essex soon enough. Cousin Sylvia is there to collect us, she's a real sweetie and always smiling, we're home!

 

At the moment we're guessing at 18,000 miles including flights, it feels like a long journey now. Our thoughts are jumbled as the contrasts of people and places is so great we can't take it all in. The closest we can find to describe the feeling is we have stepped out of a kaleidoscope that makes up America, but oh it feels so nice to have stopped moving, well almost.

 

 

The world has gone crazy. Dark and wet on leaving Miami, dry, bright and sunny on reaching England, surely it should be the other way around.

 

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Exit gate of Brentwood, Essex rail station, the end of our travels through America

 

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Edited by v v

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A great ending to an Epic Journey! So glad y'all enjoyed your visit to the Colonies, it was great meeting you both, and as we say, Hope "..we meet again someday on the Avenue..!!!"

 

Rest up and get ready for your next adventure wherever you go! Looking forward to reading your reports and seeing your great pics!😎

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I do so appreciate the chance to travel along with you from my desktop. Thanks for sharing. I am sorry we did not get to meet along the way, but as Jim says, perhaps another time, another trip.

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Here is just a small note to finish this journey, after nearly 2 months back in Europe we are still slowly making sense of it.

 

The lasting impression of this visit to the US is a country in change, it felt quite different to our visit just a year before. More people on the move for all sorts of reasons, but definitely many more regular people criss-crossing this vast country. Some were looking for something although the 'something' wasn't always clearly defined. It felt like a country unsettled, just as Europe feels now too.

 

But as in our previous visits we met with the same outgoing, kind, hospitable and most of all optimistic nation of people, we're going to miss you all.

 

We have many many people to thank for the help, advice and consideration shown to us where ever we went, that includes the help offered by this Amtrak forum, remarkable as always. We were lucky enough to meet up with friends who often went out of their way to make our visit enjoyable, you all know who you are.

 

I want to mention by name a few AU members, Jennifer for directing us the long way round to the Isaak Walton Inn, what a place to be after an epic snow fall, just magic. Jeb and Chelsea, lets hope we can show you one of our favourite joints one day, great evening with you both.

 

All the encouragement from many who took the time to read these ramblings, Mystic River Dragon and you too Ed plus plenty of others. And last to one of the world's great characters, Mr Bob Dylan, you made life so much easier for us when it could have been difficult, you're a gent Jim!

 

We arrived back and Spring had taken hold at our small farmstead, lots of colour and a fresh feel to the place. Within two weeks we had started to lightly discuss 'where next?', plans are afoot for something but not sure if they qualify for a report in this forum as although they will include rail they wont include the US.

 

It's been fantastic, thank you

Edited by v v

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Please share them for sure. This was a most entertaining voyage to follow.

 

Thanks!!!

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Thanks guys, and Ditto to Ryan's post.

Please share your future adventures with us!

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Agreed -- I have enjoyed many a rail adventure tale from abroad on this forum. Don't stop now!

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