Travel: August 2005 Archives

A taste of the tropics


More about our Florida vacation:

After snorkeling in Key Largo, we spent the night in Florida City, at the southern end of Florida's Turnpike. We got around in time to go on a nature walk around the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park. The ranger who normally gives the tour couldn't make it, but his substitute did a competent job. We spotted a couple of small gators and saw a gator's nest. Joe tried his uncanny baby gator call, but it didn't bring Mama Gator running. We spent some time at the main visitor's center, then on our way back to Florida City we stopped at the famous Robert Is Here fruit stand, which sells exotic fruits both fresh and preserved in every way imaginable (chutney, jam, jelly, preserves, relish, butter, curd, marmalade, salsa). Signs tell you the name of the exotic fruit and try to describe the flavor in terms of more common fruits. (You'll find two of the fruits we saw, sugar apples and dragonfruit, on this WFMU blog entry about tropical fruit.) We bought some fresh pineapple and had them cut it up, then sat down at a picnic table to share it, along with a guanabana milk shake and a key lime tart. We bought a bunch of apple bananas, too, but we were told they weren't quite ripe. (When they were they were wonderfully sweet.)

Fresh pineapple brought back memories of my summer in Manila. One of the things I most looked forward to after the smog and swelter of the city was enjoying a wedge of pineapple that had been chilling in the refrigerator all afternoon.

After grabbing a quick lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon indulging my curiosity about urban redevelopment in Miami, before heading north to the Orlando area. More about that in another entry.

Via The Basement comes a link to a kind of McDonald's fan blog called McChronicles. The writer obviously loves Mickey D's and expresses disappointment when he sees one of their stores fail to be all it can be. His first entry, from January:

I LOVE McDonald's ... and I HATE McDonald's. This blog will chronicle this love:hate relationship. It will include thoughts, experiences, and information regarding how McDonald's created an awesome brand - and how they seem to be systematically destroying it "Billions and Billions" at a time. It also breathes life into the notion that there is hope to resurrect the once-great image of McDonald's.

I too have a love-hate relationship with McD's, tending more toward love these days.

The summer of '84 I worked at the Catoosa McDonald's when it first opened. I remember coming home every day in my crimson polyester uniform, which was impregnated with the odor of grease and onions. Sometimes I worked the cash register, but most of the time I was on the quarter pounder grill. I learned two things that summer: (1) Eat the fries first. They put them in the bag last because they cool off the quickest. (2) A Quarter Pounder is a better value than a Big Mac. A Big Mac has two 1/10th pound patties -- same patties used in regular hamburgers and cheeseburgers -- and a half-inch of lettuce. Besides the meat advantage, the Quarter Pounder's two slices of cheese help glue the thing together, making it less likely to fall apart if you're eating it while driving. (Not that I would recommend such a practice, of course!)

We ate at McDonald's quite a bit during the driving parts of our recent Florida trip. One of the advantages is that we always knew what we would order. The kids always want Happy Meals -- plain cheeseburger for one, chicken nuggets for the other -- with Apple Dippers (peeled apple slices with caramel dipping sauce) instead of fries, and chocolate milk. (The older one will take a soda if he can talk us into it. Sometimes he can.) If we're eating in, the grownups get grilled chicken salads, which are quite good. I tried to be very clear about our order, and to make sure that it was correctly repeated back to me, but every time, no matter whether we ordered at the drive-thru window or in the store, the Happy Meals came with fries, and we always had to ask again for the apples. This streak of spud luck followed us to Perkins, a sit-down family restaurant, when our four-year-old wanted broccoli with her lunch (really!), and they brought her fries instead.

I like the new look of the stores. I call it technogoogie -- a 21st century update of the coffee shop modern look (aka Googie architecture) from the '50s, but without so much orange and brown. (Or avocado or harvest gold!) Most of the remodeled stores have wide screen TVs, usually playing Fox News or CNN, and most of them also have Wayport Wi-Fi. (SBC Yahoo DSL subscribers can access McDonald's Wi-Fi through the FreedomLink service for an extra $2 a month.)

During our trip to Little Rock, while my wife and mother-in-law were at a luncheon at the Governor's Mansion, I kept the kids busy while I worked at a McDonald's on Markham in west Little Rock. I positioned myself outside the door to the play area, where I could see them, but didn't have to listen to the racket. They kept amused with the climbing equipment, the video games (free!), and the air hockey table. Everyone was happy.

I never would have guessed, back in 1984, that I'd ever be able to say this, but McDonald's is my kind of place.

One of the delightful surprises of our recent vacation was the unexpected upgrade of our rental vehicle. We'd booked a minivan, but Dollar was out of them when we arrived at FLL past midnight, so they issued us a blue Dodge Durango SUV. (Yeah, it's got a hemi.)

In exploring the controls, I noticed the magical alphanumeric sequence "MP3" on the CD player. I just happened to have, in the case with CD-Rs of data for work, a couple of CD-Rs with a compilation of '60s music, including the entirety of King Of The Surf Guitar: The Best Of Dick Dale & His Del-Tones, plus several subtropical songs by Santo and Johnny (including a nice cover of "Harbor Lights" and a long version of "Sleepwalk"), and a few Jan and Dean tunes. The kids loved the Dick Dale album, and the four-year-old asked to hear "the surfing music" again and again. She also objected loudly when the Dick Dale music gave way to the opening bars of Gene Pitney's "Town without Pity" -- the next folder in sequence on the CD. (I know, I know. The self-pitying lyrics are ludicrous, and what self-respecting girl could love someone singing such whiny lyrics with such a whiny intonation, but you have to love the saxophone solo, and the song is sufficiently over the top to have some camp value. Plus I can't hear the song without thinking of John Belushi singing it in an SNL sketch about Indira Gandhi losing an election to an Untouchable -- who turned out to be Dan Aykroyd playing Robert Stack playing Eliot Ness. But I digress.)

So the rapid-fire picking of Dick Dale and the sultry slide of Johnny Farina's steel guitar formed most of the soundtrack of our tour of the land of swaying palm trees and crashing waves.

Most of the soundtrack, but not all, as the vehicle had another nice surprise -- Sirius satellite radio, which has an excellent "standards" channel playing music from the Great American Songbook.

(While waiting in line for the Enchanted Tiki Room show at Disney World, listening to what sounded like Martin Denny's "Quiet Village" on the PA system, I realized that we should have had some '60s exotica to fill out our Florida playlist -- that, and some Jackie Gleason Orchestra.)

When we picked up the car, I assured my wife that if we'd rather have the minivan, Dollar would exchange it when one was available. After I discovered the MP3 player and the satellite radio, I told her there was no way we were turning the Durango in, 18 MPG and $2.50 gas notwithstanding.

For the record, the soundtrack for last year's family vacation through Texas was "No!" by They Might Be Giants.

Why is it that, when Dawn Summers writes about traveling somewhere, whether to LA or New Jersey, it reads like one of the lost books of Homer's Odyssey? (Or would, if the Odyssey were laugh-out-loud funny?)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Travel category from August 2005.

Travel: July 2005 is the previous archive.

Travel: October 2005 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]