discover that most of Cameron, the roads anyhow were underwater, maximum about 30 cm and we kept in the middle of the Road which was certainly less, and around about this time the GPS started switching off automatically and this makes you realise just how dependent upon the GPS you are.
We followed the Road into Lake Charles again with water either side of the Road and it almost looked like it was originally a Lake and that put the Road across the middle of it was certainly plenty of water. We pulled into a natural habitat area and went for a walk along the Boardwalk, we came across a sign warning us about alligators and we thought Oh yes in Florida perhaps but not here in Louisiana and there we just around the corner there was what looked like a Brown log laying half cross the Boardwalk and onto the grass, we had just time to take a photograph when the alligator turned around and gave us a smile, we remembered the song, never smiled at a crocodile, and we thought that may also apply to an alligator, so we decided to head back to the RV and leave the alligator looking for is lunch elsewhere.
Back on the Road we stopped at an intersection and just in time to see a small alligator about a metre long scurrying off into the grass but we didn’t stop in case it came back with his mother. There was a very large variety of birds were seeing as we drive through Louisiana particularly associated with the water and with all of the water in the fields it is not surprising that rice is their major crop but this whole area must be on notice for global warming as I’m sure of the Pacific Islands are flooded so will most of Louisiana.
Evidently that had two major hurricanes through this area, one of them I assume was Katrina but the upshot of these hurricanes were that all of the houses now had to be built standing on 3 m poles or concrete posts and I think you’d need a pretty good reason to be living down here with the house so far up off the ground you should have no illusions as to what is the reason!
We found our RV Park in Lake Charles and then I set to with the task of getting my email working and I managed to get one email to myself but after that….. Forget it! After about three hours I decided to log on via the Internet, go in and set up an email, paste and all of the names, paste in the newsletter and send it, it bombed, too many names, do the same again with half the number of names and it went, do the same again with the other half and mission complete. Very very good lesson on not leaving home without everything set up, you’d think I’d know by now!
Tuesday, May 10
Yesterday the GPS was not working very well because the battery was low, after being on charge all night that excuse was gone but again the GPS would not hold its directions but would return to the start-up location, I was ready to dump it but Luda has a lot more patients than I and persevered with it eventually changing the power cord and no more problems.
We took the scenic route to Lafayette still driving through fields of water that looked like it was level with the Road and this whole state, well where we have been travelling, looks like this, one good thing about it is we occasionally see an oil pump working so I guess that they had a return on their money for what they spent on the Louisiana purchase years ago.
When we got into Lafayette our first stop was the Acadian centre and there we found out that the British – French rivalry or I should say battles were taken to the New World, and when the French lost one of the numerous wars and in 1755 the British were fighting the French that were in Nova Scotia, which they had named Arcadia, the lucky ones were bundled up and put on a ship and sent South and the unlucky ones were buried. Eventually they ended up in the isolated bayous of Louisiana where they developed a rich French influenced culture and the distinctively Cajun version of Mardi Gras.
The film that they showed in the centre of these events was a wonderful propaganda film against the British and you’re left with no doubt in your mind exactly who the villains and heroes were.
Was then a short drive to photograph the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, that is once we discovered we gone to the wrong Baptist, the church we went to 1st was in a rundown area and just a normal church, however with a little more careful programming we ended up at the correct Baptist which was a magnificent Catholic Cathedral in the heart of the Cajun country in the old town and the width of the roads convinced you of this factor perfectly driving a motorhome.
Wednesday, May 11
Today we left Lafayette and took the scenic Road towards New Orleans, the scenic Road means the back roads which meant lots of water either side of the road, forests either side of the road with water right throughout the forest, either these are special trees or they have adapted to the climate. The main crop here, for some reason, is rice, and you see large fields of rice and what we are missing when we see this as the terraces that you see in Asia.
As we drive we see more and more hybrid cars, seemed to be basically Toyota and Ford, we haven’t noticed any electric cars yet but I guess the large eastern cities will show those. Some days ago on a large Walmart car Park we saw three charging stations, all empty, for charging electric cars but this the first we have noticed.
America is the country of large billboards, and the most common advert on these large large billboards are Lawyers, they call themselves attorneys, basically telling you almost, if somebody looks at you sideways you can sue them and they will handle your case. Add that to the payday loans where you can get a loan to next payday and title loans where you can pass over the title of your house or car and get instant cash and you start wondering about all the churches you see and how they fit into the current American culture.
Filling up with petrol is always interesting because 99 times out of 100 you have to pay cash first, this was common in Russia and is the norm in this country. I was waiting for all the gallons to go into our RV and it was a guy beside me polishing the bugs off his pickup whilst it was filling with gas and I made the comment when he was finished he could start on mine, he said he’d just been talking to his neighbour who was behind them filling with gas and made the comment that his neighbour had dropped out of school at 17 and he sought of looked after him by getting him to clean his pickup and detail it and he said he did a very good job, I guess he was implying “for somebody that left school at 17”, he then asked me what we were doing the easiest answer to this question is to point to the maps on the back of our RV and we studied those for a few minutes and said Wow what work did you do? I said I left school at 15!
Thursday, May 12
Today we have driven into New Orleans are parked on the side of the road and have paid six dollars for two hours parking was not a pleasant drive into the city and maybe I’m just getting too old for what I call Auckland type of traffic! Luda’s gone off for a walk and unless we get a better locking system on the motorhome one of us will have to stay with it because if they can break into motorhomes in New Zealand and rob them what chance does a motorhome on the side of the road in a American have, particularly when I think I could get into ours without a key in a matter of singular minutes.
After Luda had been away for about an hour it started raining, buckets of water, and right on the two hour limits that we had for the car Park Luda came walking through the rain with a Bourbon Street plastic raincoat that was designed for a large American so we got on our way and with the couple of right-hand turns were back on the motorway heading east.
About an hour’s down the road we saw a sign for a beachside Casino so we headed that direction and right on the Gulf of Mexico we parked in the casino car Park right on the ocean front with nothing between us and the water. I like to say it was a quiet evening but until about 12 o’clock there are a lot of traffic and after that it quiet end down.
Friday, May 13
We left the Casino at Bay St Louis and carried on the seafront East and for the next 80 miles we travelled along the pristine beach of the gulf with the sea on one side and mansions on the other, all the mansions were up on stilts at least 3 m high and we even passed a large church up on stilts.
Our destination was an old fort Mobile but after all of the roads being closed that led to it we just carried on out of the city carrying on again East, we stopped off and had lunch at the veterans memorial where they had battleship Alabama, a B52 bomber and numerous other fighting machines. We then followed the coast as we were we travelled over some very impressive bridges that took us over all of the inlets that poked their way in shore and it looked like the whole coastline was getting ready, hopefully, for a lot of clients over the weekend, we certainly saw no one enjoying the water or any of the attractions that were there waiting.
We started just over the border of Mississippi, crossed over into Alabama, and are spending the evening in Florida in West Pensacola.
Saturday 14 May
We carried on heading across what I guess they call the Panhandle of Florida sticking to the coast crossing over goodness knows how many bridges that crossed across the waterways of Florida, some were tremendously long and I wished I had made a note when I got on the bridge to find out how long it was but sufficient to say that I believe the total cost of the bridges we crossed today would be in excess of the domestic product of many small countries.
It was almost wall-to-wall houses and at one stage we got down to a 15 mile an hour speed limit as we wandered through a village, I think the only purpose of the village was for the holidaymakers that were thronging its shops there was certainly enough cars parked everywhere and once we got out of the built up area we came across lots of cars parked on the side of the road with their occupants sitting on the pearly white sands a few feet away from the Road. Then a few miles down the road one starts running in to the condominiums that are built up on either side of the road but in spite of all this buildup there were still a lot of empty land and they still had miles of forests that we passed through on our way to Crawfordsville.
I suspect there was an early Russian presence here in Florida with one of the cities we will be going through being called St Petersburg and a very small town about half a mile from where we are parked called Ivan, and there is even an East Ivan Road.
Sunday 15 May
Well we never got to see the district or town of Ivan, it was in the opposite direction to what we were heading and we saw enough towns and villages of that name and derivatives of that name throughout Russia that it was not going to be earthshattering.
We carried along Highway 98 along the coast of Florida and the scenery is becoming predictable with pine forests either side of the road wet areas with cypress trees, trailer parks in one area and million-dollar houses that in another we heading south towards Tampa Florida and were getting ready to stop for the night when we saw a sign on the Highway for an RV Park with full hook ups for $20 a night and that was a very good price so we stopped there for the night.
Monday 16 May
Our first stop for the day was Homosassa Springs we stopped to see the Manatees or sea cows they can grow up to 12 Feet long and weigh up to 2000 lbs.
Their bones are extremely heavy so they spend most of their life on the bottom of the Pool rising every 20 minutes for a breath of air, that is like a submarine coming up out of the depths and they always have a lot of fish around them nibbling at the wildlife that live on their skin, they require warm water to survive and if the water drops below 60°F they are in trouble.
There was a large variety of birds at the Springs and also an imported hippopotamus, I presume it was imported and of course numerous crocodiles.
From there we headed towards Port Ritchie and the electronic flash manufacturer that I used to sell in New Zealand, Lumedyne, they are still being made to the same pattern with basically the same features, they have improved the performance and added some other features but they are still a good workhorse for somebody that needs portable light for photography.
We carried on to Tampa Florida where we are parked up for the night.
Tuesday 17 May
Today we drove to Bradenton a suburb south of Tampa to visit a photography friend who lived in what they call a gated community, when they know somebody is visiting they have to telephone the gate and let them know who it is and when they will be arriving and then you are let into the commune. There are houses at all values starting off from what I understand at 160,000, they are located around a 26 hole golf course and have a book of rules that covers 600 pages, covers almost every aspect of life and what you are allowed and not allowed to do and tour the things that stick in my mind are that you cannot have wind chimes nor can you leave your garage door open.
After some lively discussions we moved on South and just north of Fort Myers we found a state Park that we stayed in for the night. Was it very interesting Park, of course it had a large Lake in the centre and on the left-hand side of the establishment it had a shooting range was about six ranges in the section and they had to stop using it at 7 p.m. so until then we heard a small army fighting with their targets.
There was a variety of wildlife about where we camped for the night and at one point Luda saw a raccoon disappear into the Bush so out she went ready for it to reappear and when it did was just totally surprised to see her that it stopped stared at her and in doing so created some great photos.
Wednesday 18 May
We carried on down Route 41 which took us across the big Cypress National Preserve, being totally uncultured I’d call it a very large swamp with a very good tar sealed Road running right through the middle. We stopped several times to travel the boardwalks that went off into the swamp and along with the hundreds of herons that we saw everywhere there were some alligators all posing for their photographs.
We also went out on an Air Boat, the sort that we see on television whenever there is something on Florida but unfortunately it was nothing as grand as the television model. They travel at a high speed and if you’re lucky enough to sit on the front row you do protect the people in the second row from receiving all the water. There is a tremendous amount of fish in this swamp some quite large and of course alligators of various sizes one we were told was over 60 years old, not sure how they could tell, perhaps they looked at their teeth.
We are totally amazed at just how much water there is lying around here in Florida and before we got south of Fort Myers there was just wall to wall communities and shopping centres there must be a very large population here they can justify all of the shops.
We are still seeing billboards that are about 6 m x 2 m up high 10 m or the ground advertising all sorts of commodities, but what stands out to me is all of the lawyers advertising how they can get money for you for any injury, unfair dismissal, almost anything has a price on it and one of the attorneys had a list of the judgements his clients had received and he listed over six that ranged from 1 million to 5 million all done at no cost to their client until a judgement is received and then they get a cut of the payout.
Evidently I’ve been told that 10 years ago doctors and lawyers could not advertise like this but now anything goes. One attorney from Tallahassee Florida must’ve had at least 24 billboards of the size I mentioned above scattered over 100 mile road that we travelled, goodness knows how many over the total state.
Thursday 19 May
Back onto route number 1 S. driving towards Key West and the marvellous bridges that take you from island to island with each island being packed with attractions and condominiums and RV parks all to cater for the snowbirds from the North and evidently large numbers from Europe. The longest bridge was 7 miles in length which means that it was very difficult to talk about the length of our Rakaia bridge at 1 mile and 1/10 in length.
We eventually got to the town of Key West an old city boasting 28,000 population with a very interesting downtown and totally set up to cater for the tourists, it was a fascinating array of seafood restaurants and cafes which we will explore we have something smaller than the motorhome for parking.
Our journey south to Key West was very wet with heavy rain and wind and consequently some of the roads that ran beside the main road were covered in water but I don’t think it was deep enough for the hundreds of boats we saw for sale or in storage often three stories high I’m not sure how they get them up or down obviously it is not a problem. We went to the most Southly point when everybody was queueing up to photograph each other beside the marker and was very well organised, stand there, snap, move away, next one please. We did not join the group that simply photographed some unknown standing forlorn looking beside the marker.
That was enough of the town for us so was back North the way we came, stopped at one RV Park and their prices started at $59 plus tax and went up to over some $200 but I guess that is Key West. So was back on the motorway, back over the 7 mile bridge and we stopped at the state Park and got the last RV Park that is available just for the one night, which is all we wanted.
Is very interesting seeing the goanna's lizards which used to be living in private captivity until they got too big for the people who turned them loose and now they are common site throughout Florida and I believe up in the midwest.
Friday, May 20
It was a very interesting experience driving down to Key West and the engineering expertise used in connecting the island’s was something to be admired, there was the remains of an old railway bridge running beside the Road bridge and this was used by scores of fishermen harvesting from the plentiful supply of fish life that there was in these waters. The experience of driving through the outskirts of Miami was not pleasant and it looks like we’ll have to do a wide circle of all the northern towns on our itinerary.
Was most interesting driving to and from the keys the most common car that I noticed were recent versions of the Ford Mustang they were extremely plentiful on the Road and will be interesting to see if they remain will as plentiful as we drove north.
Saturday, May 21
We left the casino car Park and started off on our drive towards Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy space Centre, we stuck to Highway number one and only left it when we are getting close and the GPS told us to turn left, that took us to one of the narrowest parts of the Peninsula with barely a two lane road so each time we saw a car coming as little bit like being back in England with their narrow roads. Eventually we got to a Highway and discovered that we could stuck to route number one with had a four lane highway all the way.
Run about 12 o’clock we are in a town called Stuart and we pulled into a car Park to have lunch and a red pickup pulled in beside us and obviously want to talk, they seen a New Zealand sign on the doors of our vehicle, and they were expat Kiwis he was from Gisborne and she was from Tauranga which was a city they were married in with Chris Parker doing the wedding photos, and yes Bob there were well aware of your name. They evidently won the lottery for a green card and are now living in Stuart, Florida, he is a helicopter pilot and evidently does work across the country, I had the impression that he sometimes does the work nobody else will handle. They were quite excited about and we had a chat in the car Park for probably about an hour.
As always with people that I meet in this country I ask who is going to be the next president and they both said Trump, they went on to say that when they arrived in America they thought that be voting Democrat in line with what they had done in New Zealand but living here change their thinking.
So we got to the space station and found the car Park for RVs and there were hundreds of other cars filling up the car parks which of course told us what we are were to expect once we paid our admission so was basically wall-to-wall people everywhere we went and there are a lot of exhibits there including the space shuttle which was cut open so all the tourists could see the inside, in fact there was probably enough to keep you occupied for several days and they had certainly learnt well from the Disneyland shows.
Sunday, May 22
This morning we first went out onto Merritt Island wildlife refuge as it was well written out in our guidebooks with wonderful detail on the walks possible and what you could see, well it was all hidden from us, and we stopped and asked them fishermen in a parking spot and they had only seen some signs indicating what we’re looking for but we had been there, so again there was a certain amount of hype so we just carried on our way towards Ormond Beach where we were due to meet up with Jane Connor who I brought down to New Zealand to set up the art department over 35 years ago. We parked ourselves at the Walmart car Park which was easy place for Jane to find so we spent the next hour catching up on events, had lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then it was time for us to be on our way, I’m not sure of what sort of photographer I am because I never remember to grab a photo with friends, perhaps next time.
Again I asked Jane the question about the next president and again the answer was Trump, perhaps only for one term to shake up things in Washington and get some sort of normality into the organisation but it is going to be interesting……
We then carried on West towards Silver Springs state Park which is where we are parked up once here Luda went for a 2 mile walk through the semitropical forest, then on the Boardwalk which took her to the River and then back to our parking spot for the night.
Monday, May 23
This morning we headed straight for Silver Springs Park, it was established in the 1800s and the glass bottom boats that they have been in constant use ever since. After the cruise in the boat which gave a little bit of orientation, they claim the Springs have the largest volume of water coming up out of the ground and I seem to recall a similar claim for the Springs around Rotorua. However the Springs around Rotorua certainly do not have alligators swimming around in them is rather wonderful looking at all the fish and wildlife surviving in this beautifully clear water.
Was then time to get back on the Road and as usual we are trying to stick to the back roads which went through beautiful farmland and beautiful forests which we seem to be the only car on the road, but that was not to remain like that because there were a couple of cities that we struck that seemed to go on forever so I change the GPS to do motorways and were quickly put on to a motorway which took us through to Brunswick on the coast where we are for the night.