This morning we awoke to a thunder-storm, a tornado warning and a “small boat advisory” which means of you go out in a boat you’re completely certifiable! By lunchtime the skies had started to clear and I decided to have my afternoon stroll on Lido Key near Sarasota. It was so windy that the lifeguard was flying the forbidden swimming flags. The beach was almost deserted apart from one or two brave souls braving the elements in search of some exercise when to my amazement I came across a posse of surfing dudes. I’m not sure if “posse” is the correct collective noun for the surfing enthusiasts that I encountered but there they were, battling the waves with consummate skill. Having marvelled at their artistry in the surf it was time for me to turn homeward bound and then I came across a gaggle of lady Amish surfing spectators. I hope you enjoy the gallery below. Just click on any photograph you desire to see a full screen rendition. Enjoy!
I’ve not posted anything on this site for ages and as you know, dear reader, I normally write about business stuff but to see that sort of content, you now need to head over to theteamworksnews.com
I thought it would be good to share some photos (click on them to view full screen) that I’ve taken today while out for my afternoon walk. This is just some stuff and just for fun.
This Osprey was hunting and to watch the speed of the dive and capture was breathtaking.
Later on while on my way home I spotted this yacht that must have broken away from its mooring during one of the recent winter storms. A reminder of the power that mother nature has and should never be underestimated.
Strange to think that the winds that uprooted the yacht left these nuts attached to the tree above its new resting place!
My final pic of the day was this of the Ringling Bridge made possible by the vision of John and Mabel Ringling. This edifying structure connects Sarasota (seen in the distance) to St. Armands Circle but I will leave that story for another day!
The last day of my road trip was a six-hour journey home through pleasant scenery that I have already described in my “Day One” post. During the latter part of my journey I kept receiving a number of calls from my dearly beloved Diana (a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed) as to what my estimated time of arrival would be and towards the end of the journey I deduced that something was going on. Well to my great delight on turning into Hyacinth Place I was greeted by a finishing line “Welcome Home Banner” and sign written road created by Miss Lindsay and cheered by the Hyacinth Place Welcome Home Committee and of course, She Who Must Be Obeyed! Having been duly de-briefed by the committee it was time to unpack the car have a good dinner and then time to reflect on my trip but first for the techies out there mileage covered today was 458.8 miles at an average speed of 66.7 mph and achieved a fuel economy of 23.1 mpg. The total mileage covered for the entire trip was 5,721 miles and my overall fuel economy was just over 20 mpg which was remarkable.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the entire trip and I’m going to reflect upon my entire journey over the next couple of days and, if I may, dear reader, I will publish my last post with my conclusions in a couple of days. So, until my next post, Toodleloo!
I’m on my way on my penultimate day leaving Slidell, Louisiana at 8.45 on a lovely sunny, blue skied morning and the temperature has already climbed to 76F (24.44C) and soon I join my old friend I-10 going east. About 45 minutes later I have crossed the state line into Mississippi and it must have been raining quite hard earlier on as the highway is pretty damp and spray is being kicked up by the vehicles ahead of me. However, the sky is clear and all is well as 75 miles later I cross over the Pascagoula river basin which is a large area that from the elevated highway spreads almost as far as the eye can see. To the south I can just see an industrial area of some kind with some shipping and to the north it’s swampland and near the horizon it appears to become forested. Eighty seven miles into my journey and I have left Mississippi and crossed into Alabama. One hundred and thirty miles and I see the impressive skyline of Mobile and shortly enjoy a view of the Battleship SS Alabama which I described earlier in my blog and you can view the photographs in my photostream on Flickr, please see the panel on the right hand side of this blog. Having passed Battleship Park I get a great view of the river flowing into the Gulf of Mexico which I did not see at the beginning of my journey as it can only be seen from this side of the highway! The Gulf is at peace, it’s an absolute flat calm without a ripple troubling the boaters out there enjoying the water. One hundred and fifty-four miles on and I have crossed the state line into Florida and I now recognise that this is my penultimate day of my road trip and I suddenly feel excited at the prospect of seeing Diana (a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed) and arriving back in Lakewood Ranch tomorrow but now back on with the day. At Pensacola I leave the Interstate system and take the coastal road heading for todays destination of Panama City Beach. En route I pass through the small town of Gulf Breeze and I’m motoring on a two lane highway through the Naval Live Oak Reservation. This area was designated in 1828 by President Quincy Adams as the First Federal Tree Farm. This was an important area at that time as the Live Oak, which is a member of the beech family was used in the construction of tall ships. As many as two thousand Live Oaks were used to make one hull for a naval vessel! As I continue along US 98 the landscape becomes a strip development of hotels and shops with an occasional view of the gulf.
A little further on I leave US98 and cross over a causeway bridge to Navarre and having parked the car I pay the princely sum of $1 for the privilege of walking along the lengthy fishing pier that was constructed in 2010. As I commence my $1 walk I view from the pier on my right hand side a bunch of not very attractive high-rise condominiums and to my left a brilliant white busy beach filled with the Sunday afternoon crowd relaxing, taking some rays! This part of the Gulf of Mexico is fed by a current that brings a prolific quantity of nutrients which colours the water a lovely shade of green which gives rise to the nickname for this part of the coast as “The Emerald Coast”. The throng of anglers on the pier are having a very busy time as they haul in what almost seems to be one fish after another and as I walk towards the end of the pier I find myself dodging anglers making their casts. The flying rods seem to be landing fish with a resounding thump at my feet as I continue to tread delicately over the writhing fish before they are scooped up by the anglers, de-hooked and returned to the ocean deep. I have just encountered an angler who has just returned a 35 pound Redfish to the sea as it was too big to keep! The angler would only be permitted to keep his catch of this variety provided the fish weighed not less than 18 pounds and not more that 27 pounds so, over the side of the pier this one went. Well, that not strictly true. This huge fish was gently lowered in a net to the ocean beneath the pier and then released from its captivity and some people think this is fun! All in all I think my $1 fee was good value. However, if I had been a fisherman I would have had to have paid $2! A little further on I break for lunch at Beasley Park in Ocaloosee Island and sit in a pavilion overlooking the beach. Having enjoyed my lunch I continue my journey and arrive at my destination at Panama City Beach for the night and tomorrow I start my final day of my journey and I’m now looking forward to returning to my American home.
For the techies out there mileage covered today was 290.1 at an average of 46.4 mpg and achieved 22.2 mpg.
This morning I had a lazy lie in followed by a run and now at 9:45 I have left Slidell and on my way to New Orleans and the temperature is already 83F (28.33C).I enter New Orleans by crossing a very long bridge over Lake Portrain and stopped at The Basin Street Visitor Information Centre and as my time is limited I had a chat with a very nice lady who gave me the essential list to see and I managed to do most of it!
I have taken quite a lot of photographs today so below is just a sample and the rest can be viewed by clicking on “More Photos” in the Flickr panel on the right hand side.
My first stop is to walk across the street to the St. Louis Cemetery which was certainly unusual and I was particularly struck by a pyramid shaped tomb which was greatly admired! I returned to my car and drove through part of the French Quarter and parked down by the river.
It’s now really very hot as I start my walk through the French Quarter which has an interesting architecture and is full of bars, restaurants, tourist shops etc. However, this generally very attractive place is marred by an all pervading offensive odor of rotting waste which made me feel very queasy. The people who were eating and drinking there must have a stronger stomach than me! I made it back to the river in time to take a two hour cruise on the steam boat Natches that had a live Jazz band where I had an adequate lunch. The cruise took us down through the port of New Orleans which, according to the narrator was the largest in the world in terms of tonnage, Amsterdam in Holland being number 2 and New York number 3. It was certainly an industrial area but I’m not convinced that his figures may be entirely accurate. In any event it was a pleasant respite being able to sit in the shade with a glass of iced tea as the industrial scene slipped by. It was an interesting experience and not at all what I had expected.
Having left the ferry it was the end of my day in New Orleans and I decided to return to my hotel in Slidell rather than spend the evening in New Orleans in order to be away from the smell of the French Quarter.
For the techies out there mileage today was 67.9 miles at an average speed of 31.6 mph and achieved 21.3 mpg.
Today was my second longest drive of the trip and unfortunately, the most uneventful. I left Dallas just after 9 am with the temperature at 73F in heavy traffic. After 175 miles I’ve crossed over from Texas to Louisiana and shortly afterwards I stop at a Louisiana rest area and information centre. Louisiana takes tourism seriously and every centre I’ve visited has been well presented with helpful staff and always free, freshly brewed, excellent coffee. This state is much greener that the parts of Texas that I’ve driven through and much prettier. For a more detailed description of this part of my route please refer to my earlier post “Houston, We have a problem!” Finally I reached my destination Slidell after a very long drive. At the hotel I decided to dine at the restaurant next door but we had a power outage that affected the entire block. So, by accident I ended up dining at The Texas Roadhouse. I sat at the bar having walked across thousands of peanut shells on the floor and was greeted by Steve the barman who must have been an ex marine. He was certainly built like one and at the end of every sentence, conducted at parade ground volume he would finish off with a very loud “Yes Suh!” However, my steak was excellent and the sweet potato stuffed with cinnamon butter and then covered in melted roasted marshmallows (Steve’s recommendation) was indescribable and I left the restaurant several pounds heavier.
For the techies out there the mileage covered today was 541.8 at an average of 62.9 mph and achieved 23.7mpg.
Today has been one of my best drives of this road trip so far! Probably because very little of it was on the Interstate network and I saw some interesting stuff and met some fascinating people.
My day started late as I had a bit of a lazy lie in bed and did not leave the hotel until 09:50. My first stop was just four miles away at The Cadillac Ranch in Potter County, Texas. This is a public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, U.S. It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm, and it consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line (most notably the birth and death of the defining feature of mid twentieth century Cadillacs; the tail fin) from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. I lifted this information from the font of all knowledge “Wikipedia” and I have my doubts as to the accuracy of the angle that these cars have been buried. However, I took several photographs of this installation and you can see some of them below and others on my Flickr photo stream. Just click on the “More Photos” link in the Flickr panel on the right hand side of this blog. You would really help me dear reader if you would leave your comment on the Flickr site as to which of these Cadillac photos you like as I’m having a tough time picking just one!
Forty minutes later and I’m now on route for Dallas having thoroughly enjoyed walking around the graffiteed Cadillacs and on the slip road at 10:45 I saw a puppy dog standing over a lawn sprinkler cooling off and then nonchalantly walking off with a good shake. Thirty miles later and I have left the I-40 east and joined the US 287 South in the direction of Fort Worth. On either side of this dual split highway lies rolling green pastureland as far as the eye can see with an occasional small herd of cattle doing what comes naturally. Later the pasturelands change to newly planted very well irrigated wheat fields.
I decided to have a walk around a very small town named Claude and spotted a beautiful library building almost opposite which could only be described as a somewhat decrepit city hall. I noticed that discreetly tucked in the corner of the library was a portable barbecue, see if you can spot in the photograph and it made me wonder what the librarian was having for lunch! Leaving Claude the scenery changed as the landscape to my north became dotted with giant rolls of hay and to my south ploughed land planted and irrigated by those long metal structures that remind me of a wing from an ancient biplane.
Ninety miles into my journey I stopped at the Donley County Safety Rest Area to answer the call of nature and afterwards I walked around the information centre which was very well laid out and presented. You can see a couple of pictures of the interior of this information centre on my Flickr photostream.
My next port of call was just down the road at Memphis, Texas not too be confused with the one in Tennessee! I was walking around the red pavered road taking some pictures of this small pretty town and I noticed a bumper sticker “I STOP FOR QUAIL”. Now that’s not the sort of thing you see in England every day and I stopped to photograph it. Just at that moment the lady owner of the vehicle popped out of a shop and spoke with me. This charming lady of indeterminate years invited me in to see her art collection that was being hung in preparation for a sale at the weekend. While viewing this most attractive collection of western paintings (some were better than others) another lady entered the emporium and was introduced to me. This lady became very excited upon meeting me and it’s fair to say that it’s not that often I have that affect upon members of the opposite sex! However, when this lady invited me to come with her next door to sign her visitors book I understood that it was in her capacity as the office manager of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce. We had a pleasant conversation while I duly signed her book and Susan McQueen, for that is her name, told me that she would relay our meeting to the members of the chamber at the next meeting. I don’t think an awful lot goes on in this pretty little town but in listening to Susan’s enthusiasm I’m sure things will change. As an example there is a very pretty historical hotel which is currently being refurbished so perhaps that town in Tennessee may have to rely a little more than just Elvis to remain the one that everybody remembers!
Leaving Memphis I noticed that it was 102F (38.89C) and was soon on my journey with fields of ploughed red earth either side of the highway which soon gives way to fields of golden wheat which is very picturesque. I stopped for lunch at The Dairy Queen in Childress (population 6,109) and suffered a near edible grilled sandwich of the famous rubber chicken variety.
After 166 miles on I stopped at Hardman County Safety Rest Area for a quick break and was comforted to note that this particular rest area boasted a tornado shelter which was about the size of a large utility room in a modern home. I suppose that if one of those frightening phenomena are bearing down upon you it doesn’t matter how cosy it would get in the shelter! Thirty miles later and I drive through a small town called Vernon. This must have been a massive seed producing area as within the town there is a huge factory reminiscent of a Lancashire cotton mill that was called the Crown Seed Company. Massive towers, broken windows, rusting machinery and a general air of dilapidation.
After 238 miles I’m now approaching Wichita Falls and I have joined the I-44 west and the skyline of this sizable town is ahead of me. The Interstate system took me over and through Wichita Falls and I am now traveling along US 82 East. Just over 330 miles into my drive and I have joined TX114 which will take me into Dallas which is about 40 miles away. This last piece of my journey is conducted in rush hour traffic and I’m pleased when I arrive at my hotel and I promise myself a soak in the bath!
For the techies among you the mileage covered today was 371.2 at an average speed of 59.4 mph and achieved 23.9 mpg.