Somehow most of November, all of December and nearly all of January have become a blur. I possibly have a post in me for our Christmas outing, but it will have to wait for calmer times. We are in the middle of a mixed bag trip that has included some birding, visiting with friends, star searching and a lot of walking to work off the great food.
The journey started with a 305 mile drive from St. Mary’s, Georgia to Jonathon Dickinson State Park just north of Jupiter, Florida. For those of you have been following our adventures know, we do not normally like to drive that far in one stretch. However, we were trying to get to the Fort Lauderdale area early on the second day. By pushing a little harder on day one, we made the second day a walk in the park. As we were finalizing our plans for this trip, we learned that George and Kathy Van Der Aue were going to be at their winter home in Jupiter. So, there was even more of a reason to drive the extra miles on that first day.
Once we were settled into the campground at Jonathon Dickinson, we went to visit the Van Der Aue’s for dinner and an evening of catching up and admiring their beautiful home. We had hoped to do a little birding around their neighborhood as they have a colony of Florida Scrub Jays in residence. However, we got there a little late in the afternoon and, besides; Kathy had wine and cheese at the ready. Birds sometimes have to wait to be seen. When there is good cheese and wine, they will indeed have to wait. Of course Kathy did not stop with cheese, she also had made artichoke dip which was more of a spread for garlic and butter toasted Italian bread slices that accompanied. This was the beginning of what would be a great evening to forget about calories, grams of fat and points and just enjoy the food, the company and the opportunity to laugh.
Eventually we made our way back to the park and our motorhome where we fell immediately into bed. The Van Der Aues came to see our motorhome and the park the next morning making them the first of our birding friends to see the coach. You will remember that it was Kathy and George who were brave enough to spend a night with us in our older and much smaller motorhome. They were impressed with our upgrade. We explored the park for a few short hours and decided that this is another of those places we need to return to with the intention of spending some time exploring the park and possibly kayaking the river. It is another of Florida’s natural treasures that has wisely been protected.
By late morning we were back on the road heading for Fort Lauderdale. In retrospect, I am really glad we did not ask for a late checkout and spend more time in the area than we did. The traffic and road conditions for the remainder of our drive were deplorable. As confident as I am in my ability to handle the motorhome under a variety of driving conditions, I was sort of off balance for most of the drive. There were people passing on the shoulder for no apparent reason other than it was there and not being used and there were truckers using their Jake Brakes to scare people into changing lanes so they could speed along in a lane that according to the signage they were not supposed to be in. Then there was the construction! We were so glad to see exit 31 appear on the sign, because we knew the nightmare was about to end. But sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for. When I made the reservations at the “resort” park we were to be at for the next three nights I was pretty sure we were getting into a pretty good place. The name certainly implied that we would be in a resort. The location per the map looked pretty good, too. Then there was the cost. Cost is not always a very good indicator of quality, but when coupled with the grades received by the park in the Trailer Lifer Directory I figured we were in for a special treat. Well, the place was special alright. Rigs were stacked in this park like cord wood. In fact I was pretty impressed with how tight a space I was able to back the coach into. Connie did her normal excellent job of directing my every move and we were able to slip the rig onto a pad that was one wheel width wider than the coach without so much as a waggle. Once we deployed the slides, we were within six feet of the folks to our left and no more than that from the folks on the right. Directly behind us with about a ten foot gap was another Damon Astoria. I would eventually get to talk to the single owner of that rig. Our services, especially sewer seemed closer to the neighbors than to us. We have twenty foot sewer hose and it was no where near long enough to make the stretch. I bought an additional twenty foot hose and then made an L run to the connection so as not to cut across the lawn of the adjacent site. By now I am sure you get the point. This place was crowded. Crowded we can live with. Our front end faced a twelve foot tall hedge that marked the property boundary. On the other side of the hedge was a road; a busy road. Across the road was some sort of truck terminal that seemed to operate 24 hours a day. So, as well as being crowded, this resort was noisy. However, we could take that as well, because we did not go there to hang out at the resort. No, we were in town to meet friends and have fun.
Connie and I spent the late afternoon and evening of that first day exploring the Fort Lauderdale area in search of the perfect restaurant to take our friends Pat and Marty Riordan to the next evening. It was a tough job, but one that we are well suited for. By the time we had dinner that first night I was worried that we had already found and eaten at the best choice for Marty. However, we found in a tour paper a listing for a place called Seasons 52. This is sort of an upscale restaurant that does a wholesale change out of their menu with the changing of the seasons. They use only fresh ingredients and use no fatty creams, butter, or oils in their preparations. They guarantee that no menu item exceeds 475 calories. The deserts are included in that boast. We knew that this was the place to take the Riordans, but without telling them how healthy it could be. Marty is sort of hard to please in the dining sense. He admittedly has a limited scope of what he perceives as being good. Therefore, trickery is sometimes in our best interest in trying to satisfy him. We were successful, as we all had absolutely wonderful dinners. I said that the deserts came with the same low calorie boast as the rest of the menu. To achieve that minimal calorie count all deserts are served in oversized shot glasses. Each serving is just over two spoonfuls. I can honestly say that I was more satisfied eating just two spoonfuls of pecan pie without crust as I would have been with an entire conventional slice. I had enough to experience the wonderful flavors, but not so much to give me that too full feeling that usually comes with more conventionally sized deserts. All in all it was a great restaurant with a wonderful atmosphere and an idea that is long overdue for in our society.
We spent the afternoon and evening with the Riordans catching up on all that has been going on at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard since we left. It was really great to learn how things have progressed in our absence. Nothing was said to make us feel one bit like returning to the workforce. Never the less, we really enjoyed being brought up-to-date. However, we did not all get together in South Florida to talk shop. No, we were there because the Super Bowl is to be played there this Sunday. Marty and Pat are pure football fans and they love to get around the big game and see what goes on. Marty has been a season ticket holder for the New England Patriots for some 25 years, so it is really no surprise that his knowledge of the sport and the characters who make it what it is goes well beyond the superficial. Pat’s devotion matches her husband’s and I have watched her take down a few guys who thought they were talking a football to “just a woman”.
So, with that as background and Connie’s desire to see South Beach, we met up with Pat and Marty at their hotel in Hollywood on Wednesday morning and then drove to Miami Beach to see the sights of the city and the madness that the Super Bowl frenzy brings. Ocean Blvd in South Miami Beach is pretty much a continuous run of hotels, condominiums and street side restaurants with the beach to look out upon. For most of the year it has a party atmosphere especially for the more affluent residents in the area. During Super Bowl week it seems to be the party headquarters as well as the sports interview Mecca. We spent the afternoon walking up and down the street taking it all in. ESPN had two tent studios set up. One was regular ESPN the other ESPNHD. Throughout the day and into the evening there were various segments being video taped and every now and then we would see what appeared to be live television in progress. The NFL Network also had a tent studio with similar activities going on. We ate lunch at a place called The Clevelander which among other things just happens to be directly across the street from the ESPN tent. In the open air bar at the Clevelander, ESPN Radio was doing a live broadcast. During the time we were there for lunch Marshall Faulk came by with his entourage so he could be interviewed on the radio. Before he left the area, Jimmy Johnson arrived for his interview. I found it interesting that Marshall had more folks around him than did Jimmy. And no, there were no hairs out of place on Jimmy Johnson’s head. Later in the afternoon we saw Cordell Stuart and Matt Hasselback at the ESPN tent studio.
As we walked north along the beach, we came to a hotel with a good bit of commotion in the pool area. On closer inspection we learned that a taping of The Best Damn Sport Show was in progress. We hung around there for awhile to see who would make an appearance. Rodney Peet and Michael Strayhan verbally sparred with one another as they made their personal predictions as to who would win the game. Later in the program Jim Kelly came by as well.
As we made our final pass by the NFL Studio tent they were getting ready to tape a segment featuring Marshall Faulk (who had changed out of the black tee shirt and black pants he had worn for the radio show to a tailored blue suit), Donovan McNabb, Ron Woodson and Fran Charles. Unfortunately, NFL was not amplifying their conversation to the crowd gathered around the perimeter of the studio. Since we could only see the heads wiggle and the occasional movement of lips, we decided we would have to catch it on TV if we were to learn what was said. We walked on to go in search of dinner.
You will remember that one of the reasons we went to South Beach was to see the buildings. I took a number of photos and can only hope they did the place justice. I hope you enjoy them.
Before I leave South Beach I have to let you in on a new phrase we picked up. For those who know me, you know that if there is a Starbucks in the neighborhood I will find a reason to be there. Well, in the mid afternoon with all of us suffering some from tired feet and maybe a little too much sun we decided to stop at Starbucks for something to drink, a restroom stop and most importantly an opportunity to just sit down and rest. I had an Iced Coffee Americano and as I was nearing the end of my drink this young male employee comes by and offers to take my cup from me. I offered to break his arm and that started a conversation. This guy told us how great it is in South Beach because he sees all these great looking women and gets all these telephone numbers. He also talked about the weirder side of the population who frequent the area. At some point he launched into this story about this woman who gave him her phone number and he called her only to have her say she had no idea who he was and why he might be calling her. He was not at all dismayed by her memory loss or attitude because as he said “I am too hot to sweat” and would therefore have no trouble replacing that phone number with that of someone far more deserving of him. As a group we nearly fell to our knees in laughter once he was gone. Speaking only for me, the only thing that is hot about this dude is the coffee he makes. I will likely never forget the new phrase, though. Too Hot To Sweat (THTS). We got a lot of mileage at that young man’s expense as the day moved on.
In the preliminary planning stages for dinner we talked about leaving South Beach and heading closer to Hollywood or Fort Lauderdale for dinner so our after dinner journey back to Marty and Pat’s hotel and our car would not be so long. In execution we decided to eat at an Italian restaurant where Marty and Pat had been taken during a previous visit to South Beach. I rarely argue with anyone wanting to eat Italian. So, off we go. With minimal U turns and with no one losing patience, we found Macaluso’s. Like many Italian restaurants, Macaluso’s is named after the owner. Also like many of the great Italian restaurants it is located in a very unlikely part of town. This place is truly hidden from view as you walk or drive along Alton Road. You have to know what you are looking for in order to find it. The food, ambiance and service are all top step. The food ranges from the simple pasta and meatballs to more exotic dishes. The menu is limited and changes are made daily. The meatballs are a staple on the menu and for good reason. Not since I left home and my mother’s cooking have I had meatballs as good as the ones Macaluso makes. Connie was the only one who showed some restraint by eating only half of her dinner. The rest of us left nothing on our plates. We left there satisfied, stuffed and ready for bed. But first there was the 20 mile drive to Hollywood followed by our 14 mile drive back to our “RV Resort”.
The next day we left for Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. That adventure will be discussed in a later post.