Friday, 28 May 2010


In the morning I approached the car with some trepidation. This is the second time that the hire company have given me a Chrysler Sebring convertible. AA2 there was no problem. AA3 until yesterday there had been no problem either.

The Americans like to change the oil in their cars a lot maybe due to the vast distances they tend to travel. There are constant ads for “Kwik Lube” type places where you drive in they change the oil and air filter and you drive out again about £20 lighter.

On American Adventure 2 the cars on board computer decided to tell me that an oil change was due.

This car is the very latest 2010 version which only had 1000 miles on the clock when I collected it in Seattle.

It too was bleating for an oil change. It also was flashing an engine management problem warning and when stationary would suddenly overheat and a red thermometer symbol would light up with an ominous “bong”.

As the engine was cold I opened the “hood” and saw that the expansion tank was nearly empty so borrowing a pair of plastic cups from the Motel reception I filled it up to the marker. Would this do the trick?

Actually yes. We had no more problems and the engine management warning light never showed after that. I also checked the oil level which was normal. Blimey I am an engineer!

So to Asbury Park with its Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny connections.

At one end of the prom there is a monument to musicians who had contributed to the


The Sound of Asbury Park.

In common with Atlantic City it has a boardwalk on the sea front. However the place has obviously seen better days. For some reason we were expecting an industrial landscape rather than a run down seaside resort. It had a sort of air of Bexhill about it. The good news is that there appears to be a lot of redevelopment going on.

The Dark Lady and l booked into the Empress Hotel which has a fabulous 50’s feel to it and has obviously just been redeveloped.

Quite a number of rather camp men wandering about. It was only when we had a look at details of the hotel and the resort we realised it is a renowned gay resort with the hotel and its nightclub being one of its focal points.

Onto the beach in the sunshine and we just had to have a swim as it would be our last chance before New York. The surf was quite high so a number of men were trying and I may add largely failing to stay upright on their boards.

Last time I had been in the sea was in Delray Beach Florida. Where despite it being the Atlantic it was pretty warm. In New Jersey it was as cold as Bexhill!

We didn’t stay in long ……

Mid evening we sauntered along the boardwalk and eventually found a bar called “Wonderbar”.

There was us and a couple of men in there and in the corner a DJ was setting up his wheels of steel. Wednesday night was 80’s night so a debate ensued between the DL and me over some track that was playing. Was it Simple Minds or Depeche Mode?

A large screen told you what was playing and the title of the album….

It was Tears for Fears!

The woman tending bar was probably only about 24 but she had travelled. Which was a rarity for the U.S.? Although she hadn’t visited the UK. We are on her list.

Earlier in the day the hotel receptionist had quizzed us about where she should go on her 7 hour stop over in Britain in a week’s time.

Something had been nagging us for the last few days. The Bartender was a friendly face so we decided to ask her.

“I gather it is Memorial Weekend this weekend. It appears to be a holiday. What is it about?”

She pondered for a moment and said:

“I don’t know. I know I should. We regard it as the first day of summer.”

Internet researches reveal it to be a day to remember and honour war dead. Bit like our Remembrance Day I suppose.

Whilst she was talking I couldn’t help noticing her cash till.

It was electronic computerised and programmable. We had a tab open which I think is an eminently sensible way of going about things. We were down as “Couple” and the two blokes were down as “guys”.

Many of the drinks and cocktails were listen on the screen.

America is a cocktail nation and there are often ads in newspapers and magazines for bartending courses. New York even has its own Cocktail school. It is quite an art.

Having seen people rustling up the most complicated concoctions in an instant and serving them with a smile even in some of the roughest back woods bars does make me think of my time as a teenage barman back in the 70’s when the closest thing that I ever got to serving a cocktail was a “Snowball” or maybe a “Mackeson and Vimto.”

However on the list of cocktails on the cash register screen was one that stood out mainly for its lack of taste.

You may remember from American Adventure 1 me being in a New York bar which had a wall devoted to the memory of IRA Hunger strikers.

Well pop down to “WonderBar” In Asbury Park New Jersey if every you fancy experiencing the heady delights of an:

“Irish Car Bomb”.

Thursday, 27 May 2010


Ever had one of those days?
This turned out to be one of those days. Although it was funny with hindsight.
The Dark Lady and I now had the scent of New York City in our nostrils although the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains was pretty impressive we were looking to journeys end.

With that in mind we looked at the map and decided to head for Harrisonburg. This would break the back of the remaining 700 miles or so. So that we would not have to rush the last couple of days journey. I typed Harrisonburg into the SatNav. Selected “Shortest time” and off we went.
It was going to be an Interstate kind of day there was still some great views and suddenly you would find yourself on a bridge crossing a large river or a lake. A whiff of the woods would waft around the car and the sun was shining. We were in a good mood. In fact all in all we were I great shape.
We journeyed for a couple of hours until we stopped at a branch of “Cracker Barrel”. This is a good old time folksy chain store with restaurant attached. It sold the stuff the old West was famous for and probably never actually possessed. There were lots of reproductions of cattle feed and tobacco adverts and shop full of Beverley Hillbilly style rocking chairs.
Hungry as usual I went for the “Country Boy breakfast”. Just ordering it and I felt I should be dressed in overalls and thinking of marrying my 13 year old cousin.
It was steak, eggs, grits. Biscuits and gravy (which we have met and not particularly enjoyed before in the US). There was also some cheesy rice and fried apple.
This time I wasn’t going to be defeated by the grits nor the biscuits and country gravy. I have a suspicion that Americans don’t actually eat everything on their plates so they may profess to like gravy and grits but they probably just have a little taste and leave it.
Having had more than a little taste I was doing well until I got to the fried apple. The only thing I can say is Why?
The DL and I moseyed on out.

On and on we journeyed. We noticed that we were now on some slightly less congested roads and had turned off the interstate. Still the Sat/nav was saying we were on track.
Several hours later the Dark Lady could contain herself no longer and asked:
“Where exactly are we going?”
“Harrisburg” I said brightly.
“Yup Harrisburg”
“Er yes why?”
“We should be heading for “HarriSONburg no Harrisburg”
“There’s a difference?”
“Pull over and check the GPS”
She was right. My sausage fingers had mistyped and we were miles away from Harrisonburg. 420 miles away to be exact. Although we weren’t all that far from Harrisburg.
I blamed the grits and the gravy in fact I blamed everything and everybody apart from the Dark Lady of course.
So we had to turn round and head in a completely different direction. If not exactly in silence neither of us said a great deal for then next hour.
Then the car which had carried me for over 6,000 miles without a problem decided to assert its authority. A selection of lights came on telling me that:
1) Oil change needed
2) Engine management problem
3) Every time we pulled up at a stop sign there would be a warning “bong” from somewhere and the engine temperature would soar into the red. This was going to require some investigation when we reached whichever place we decided to stop at or perhaps the car decided to expire at.
We rolled into a selection of shopping Malls called Midlothian where we booked into a hotel.
We decided a nice meal and a drink and a comfortable place for the night would be the perfect restorative for my incompetence. I was never a success in the Scouts and thankfully for all concerned the Forces never came a calling.
“You attacked who???? We said Iraq not Center Parc!!!”
Things however were not going to be quite so simple.
The hotel gave us a nice room on the first floor. The only problem was that when we opened the door we saw that whoever had occupied it before had only left minutes earlier so it wasn’t ready.
“So sorry” said the desk clerk and gave us another room. This time on the fourth floor. When we opened the door we realised that it had been occupied by a mate of the person on the first floor as it too needed changing.
Back downstairs we trooped
“So sorry” said the desk clerk and upgraded us to a five acre room with a whirlpool bath big enough for two. This was more like it. All we needed was a bite to eat and a couple of cold ones.
“Can you tell us where we can get a bite to eat and a couple of cold ones”? I asked.
Before the desk clerk had finished explaining where a likely place was another guest waiting at reception chipped in with her version of where there was a good place. Until they were joined by a third. All arguing the toss as to the right direction and the right place.
We left them to it amid a scene reminiscent of one of those wonderful Mack Sennett silent films where a simple disagreement deteriorates into a full on fight with everyone involved from the policeman to the dog via the mother in law with custard and furniture being hurled.
We found a nice looking Italian Restaurant which boasted a “Lounge”. Perfect. Save for one thing:
“Excuse me where is the Lounge”?
“Lounge? We don’t have a lounge”
“The sign outside says you have a lounge”
“We never had a lounge”
“Well why the sign says you have a lounge”
“Does it?”
“Well we never had one”
We stomped across another car park the sign “Sergio’s Italian restaurant and lounge” illuminating our path until we found a place called “Taylors”
It had a bar and it had food.
It had everything we needed.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


So after all the rip snorting high low and medium jinks of Nashville Tennessee. We were heading to New York.
We decided to take a sort of hybrid scenic and interstate route as we were going to travel through the Appalachians and the Smokey Mountains or maybe they are somehow similar. They certainly looked the same. Mile after mile of hills covered in dense forest. With this amount of wood there was a pleasing smell. Occasionally the woods would give way to pasture with cattle and a less than pleasing smell. Bearing in mind the huge quantities of meat there is on offer. It is surprising that there are not more ranches. Having said that when I travelled west to East on American Adventure 1 I think it was Kentucky which apart from the horses was more or less entirely made entirely of dung. With an aroma to match. If you ever have a spare few minutes the first two Blogs are up on the website.
All this talking of meat and we were getting pretty hungry and there was one American experience I had not savoured thus far. The drive in!

“Sonic” styles itself as “America’s Drive in”.
So having passed a hundred branches at least since leaving Seattle we turned in to one.
Parked in one of the marked bays
Checked out the menu and we settled on our choice.
I pressed the intercom button and ordered.
“One cheeseburger combo with a peach flavoured ice tea.”
“One “Ched ‘R’ Peppers Supersonic cheeseburger combo with an unsweetened ice tea”
There was a pause and I entered my credit card in the card reader next to the driver’s door
“Authorised” flashed the readout.
The kitchen to car intercom crackled into life and a disembodied voice repeated our order:
“One chdreeicombteaice peachcombo meals drinkoffertots tfries combocombo unsweetened”
“Er yes…I think”
Five minutes later a woman appeared and handed us the first disappointment.
A brown paper bag with stuff in it. Where was the tray they attached to the car door like they did in “Happy Days”?
We rummaged in the bag and there appeared to be two burgers, one fries on “tots” and two drinks.
The iced tea was iced tea. Good
The Peach flavoured iced tea was just so sweet just holding the cup in your hand made your teeth hurt.
The burgers…..were colder than the drinks.
As only an Englishman can. I leapt from the car with the bag and marched determinedly up to the door marked: “Employees only”. Opened it and thrusting the bag into the hand of a startled employee. Said: “Um excuse me these appear to be a little on the chilly side. Do you think they could be warmed through a tad?” With hindsight there were about six staff in there I couldn’t see their hands. They were probably all on the trigger.“

Another five minutes passed and the waitress appeared holding another bag.

“So sorry about that. Enjoy.” She said flashing a gold toothed smile.
We tucked in. Yes our two Ched ‘R’ Peppers Supersonic cheeseburgers were piping hot. If not exactly what the Dark Lady had ordered. Her ordinary cheeseburger was no where to be found.
We decided that life was too short and we would chalk that one up to experience.
She daintily removed the deep fried green peppers and ploughed on.
She also noted that they didn’t provide any paper napkins but had given us 12 sachets of tomato ketchup.
However she did have wet wipes so was able to remove much of the evidence from my new beard which I am breaking in.
Think I am stained you should see what happened later.

So off into the woods we turned and travelled some miles along the back roads which according to the Sat Nav would take us to our destination.
About 20 miles later we came upon a sign which said simply:
“Road closed”
By this time it was late afternoon and we needed to find bar and lodging. (Board and lodging?) No let’s go with the first one.
We had a choice to continue up a mountain pass with the sign
“No lodging gas or restaurants”
So we did the sensible thing and turned back until we found Maryville.
There is something about Mary…ville. Or the bit we found.
The first motel we tried a small Indian man shuffled to the counter past a bust of the Buddha and offered us a room for a very reasonable rate however he was very sorry but there was no internet. We wanted to make a Skype call as well as do a bit of blogging and Tweeting not to mention Audio booing! So we crossed the street to the other motel.
I opened the office door and lying in a “Lay Zee boy” reclining chair watching the TV was a heavily tattooed very heavy looking and very heavy man. He was also covered from head to foot in stains.
Mostly food. Some were oil. Wouldn’t swear to it but I think some were blood.
“Way’all wan?”
He barked staring up at me.
I was able to see right down his throat. I think there was a whole other world in there complete with countries, populations and its own climate.
Striking my most macho pose and barking with the full force of my new beard
He understood me immediately.
He could probably see that I had some burger stains on my shirt and my rough tough new beard could be hiding a similar population to that living down his throat so it was probably best not to mess with me/us“ .
“Broke. Theygoddit ad Hardees cross the street”
We had had one burger that day we didn’t fancy another.
I leapt on this as the excuse we needed and we headed off down the highway.
Another few miles and travellers Nirvana. A Holiday Inn Express and a bar and grill labelled “Texas Roadhouse. We had arrived in Alcoa
In we went to see a sign saying “No Alcohol without picture ID”
“The busboy couldn’t have been more than 12. Well he didn’t have a beard like mine.
“Er excuse me you don’t expect me to show you a picture ID. I am 54 years of age for goodness sake. Do I look under 21?”
“No ID no drinks”
The beard was losing its macho magic.
We trudged back to the hotel grabbed our passports and legged it to the bar.
The barman wandered over and beamed “Hi I’m Rick what do you youngsters want to drink. I need to see your ID”.
A bucket of beer for me and a glass of white wine for the Dark Lady.
“I’ve not been asked for my ID since I was 18” tinkled the DL.
“County law ma’am. Everyone has to show picture ID before we can serve them alcohol.
We looked at our bar stool neighbours. We were probably the youngest there.
No word of a lie. At one point a man tottered in who had a long grey beard and looked 80 if he was a day. If he was younger than me. Then maybe my beard may be attached to my face for slightly less time that we both think.
We were still full of “Ched ‘R Peppers Supersonic cheeseburger combo’s”. So didn’t fancy eating anything much. However sensing this Rick pushed two small buckets in our direction.
One contained monkey nuts. The other monkey nut detritus. As the evening wore on I think on several occasions I shelled the nuts and threw them and the shells into the detritus bucket without actually eating them.
We had a great evening and declined Ricks offer to move on to another bar and grill after his closed. Strikes me this is not a good business decision.
“I will shut my bar/restaurant and ten so I can go to a rival bar/restaurant up the street.”
Still would you split hairs with a big friendly funny man who had made you very welcome and given your free nuts? I thought not.
All that excitement and I was asleep by the time my beard hit the pillow.

By the way, you can add me on Twitter by clicking here and Audioboo by clicking here. It is the same login for both so if you do one you might aswell the other!

Monday, 24 May 2010


Out of Macon and up to Nashville. I had a surprise for the Dark Lady.
Something I had been working on for a week or so. I like nice surprises.
Gentle drive up to “Music City” which I had last visited in 2007 as part of American Adventure 1.
Earlier in the week I had stopped off at a branch of Wal Mart to start buying CD’s for the show. Ones that I had heard on the radio over here that I thought you might like to hear as part of “Lester’s Library.
Record stores and the poor exchange rate mean that things are pretty expensive over here this time.
So much so that I may have to draw my horns in a tad as I had jotted down about 50 tracks I wanted to buy.
Several of them I discovered I had on various CD’s at home when I checked them out and a number of others have not been released yet. I will keep my eye and ear out for the release date and maybe get them on import when I return.

After the previous night in a none too fabulous motel with our “intruder”. Obviously I was keen to make amends.
“We’ll find a Holiday Inn or something “
I said airily as we drove through the peach growing areas of Georgia. We tuned into country radio and wept along to the tunes until I we decided to play some of the CD’s that I had bought.
“This is nice” said the DL as on album came on.
“I’ve played him for you at home. This is his new album. He is the guy that did “That’s my Name”
“Dierks Bentley?”
“That’s the guy”.
We made Nashville about 5pm discovering that as we had headed North West from Macon we had gone back an hour so we were 6 instead of 5 hours behind the UK.
We came off the interstate and drove up Broadway which eventually turns into the main drag where all the bars are.
“There’s a Holiday Inn Express” I said . “We could stay there.”
“That’s an odd building the other side of the road” She said.
“Lets check it out” quoth I turning into the car park.
Valet parking swooped the moment we arrived.
“Do y’all have reservations?”
I had booked it the previous week as a welcome to the USA gift. The hotel was the old Nashville Railway station and was expensive but fantastic.
Glowing in her delight I then led the way to our room which couldn’t find.
“Excuse me “I said as we ended back on reception.
“We can’t seem to find room 291”
“That sir is because there isn’t a room 291. You are in 204!”
It is now three days later and I have not lived this down. I have a nasty suspicion wherever we go from now on every hotel room will be referred to as “291”. Not that I like to deal in stereotypes but it has been said women never forget anything.
I am currently typing this in room “291” of the Holiday Inn Express in Alcoa Tennessee!
It was only a few hundred yards from the hotel to the main drag of Broadway where all the bars with the music are.
“Fancy hitting a few music bars?”
We went and had a drink in “The Second Fiddle” and watched the band. I have recorded the sound of Broadway which I hope to post on “Audio boo” shortly. There are seeming dozens of bars all with excellent bands playing mainly covers and doing it brilliantly.
People shout out requests for all sorts of country songs and the bands seem to know them all. Admittedly I think we heard “Ring of Fire” at least 34 times whilst we were there. Twice in one bar.
“You know I told you about the time I was here last and I saw Earl Scruggs the banjo player at the Ryman Auditorium? Fancy taking a walk up there to see the place?”
“That would be fun” Said the Dark Lady.
We walked down the street to the main entrance.
“Ooh look Dierks Bentley” she said spying the poster.
By this time we were at the entrance.
Security guard stepped forward to bar our way and asked.
“Can I see your tickets please”
If I live to be a hundred I will never forget the look on her face when I said:
“I’m here to collect tickets for the show”

At the same time as booking the hotel I had managed to buy a couple of tickets for his sold out show.
It was the last date of his tour and was going to be filmed for a TV special.
Unlike his normal work he had been going out as a bluegrass act.
He was amazing. So were his backing band The Travelling McCoureys. He was also joined by the Punch Brothers and Del McCourey.
If these names mean nothing to you and frankly they meant little to us. Check them out. You will not believe instruments could be played so fast.
By the time the concert finished both our jaws were aching from smiling. It was a magical evening.
We stayed two days in Nashville and headed for the Country Music Hall of Fame which had been affected by the recent terrible floods. It had been billed as having reopened.
However on the day we turned up it has closed again ready to induct the 2010 members. Ferlin Husky. Jimmy Dean. Billy Sherrill and Don Williams. We had to wait until the following day to get a look around. It is not completely back to normal after the floods but is still well worth a visit. There were plenty of Brits there with the same mind as us.

Back to the bars of Broadway and some great bands.
On the way back to the hotel a man stepped from the shadows and said:
“Money for food for the homeless”
There are signs in town warning people against giving money to beggers.
This is always a difficult one. Do you give people money hoping they will spend it on food rather than on drink or drugs?
Should it matter if they spend it on drink and drugs rather than food?
Is this fuelling a cycle of dependence?
Generally I tend to give to charities rather than individuals. So I shook my head and said:
“No it’s alright thanks”
Quick as a flash he replied -and I can see his point:
“No it ain’t alright bitch!”

By the way, you can add me on Twitter by clicking here and Audioboo by clicking here. It is the same login for both so if you do one you might aswell the other!


The idea was to make Nashville for a Saturday night whooping it up in the bars of the main drag. Broadway. So we hit the interstate and headed north to Georgia. Scenery changing slightly and bright sunshine. Judging by the bill boards by the roadside North Florida and southern Georgia seem to have a bit of an identity crisis going on. We like the directness that you get in the US whereby if you have a service to sell you tell people about it. You don’t wrap it up in a clever advertising message which may win you an award. but garner no sales. You tell people: 1) I am selling this stuff. 2) Its cheaper and better than everyone else’s. 3) Call me and we’ll do a deal. It doesn’t seem to matter what it is. Be it trucks to health care. To British eyes the idea of haggling over a heart transplant seems a little… well Un- English! “Sacred Heart Memorial hospital across town said they throw in a Lexus if I got my new ticker there” “We’ll give you a free kidney too” “Hmmmm” “How about a vasectomy as well?” “Done!” Open me up here’s my credit card. There was a radio commercial the other day I heard that utilised a recently returned Iraq war trooper to tell us that he wanted a new truck and “Bobs trucks” (Or similar) did him the best deal. By the time we reached the Georgia border we were under no illusion as to what lay ahead. With a wonderful juxtaposition of huge road side signs which are on poles twenty feet high and the placards themselves which are about ten to fifteen feet across. The first sign had a stars and stripes with the American Eagles glaring imperiously at us mere mortals rattling past at 65 miles per hour. The caption read “America Come back to God” Immediately next to it was one of equal size which boomed “Strippers. That’s all you need to know” With stylised pictures of pole dancing women and in smaller letters: “Truckers welcome”. I think this establishment knew its target market pretty well.

About 20 miles from Macon (Allman Brothers territory). The radio suddenly cut in with a severe weather warning. Apparently there had been 60 mile per hour winds and golf ball sized hailstones. Trouble is it mentioned counties that meant nothing to us. However we did notice the sky was darkening. Without too much warning over perhaps 5 miles the temperature dropped 20 degrees Fahrenheit and we got to see the most spectacular thunderstorm with blinding forked lightning on both sides of the road and deafening cracks of thunder that made the car vibrate. I had taken the precaution of shutting the roof just in case although there was no sign of ra… Then it looked like someone had just poured several buckets of water over us. Imagine driving in a car wash with added hail. We decided (it is a mutual thing we have going here.) It would be a good idea to pull over until the rain slowed. Turned off the interstate and into a motel car park opposite the aptly named “Flash Flood” gas station. For the next half an hour we just sat there as it poured and poured and poured. As it began to let up we eased back onto the Interstate to find the storms legacy: For the next fifteen miles we passed pile up after pile up. Luckily most just appeared to be fairly minor collisions. However in one a bright red pick up truck was at right angles to the concrete crash barrier its tail lights pointing accusingly at passers by. From time to time we saw slightly more severe accidents with ambulances in attendance. “Had a fender bender? Bleeding and injured? You need Al’s Ambulances. We get you to ER quicker as we only employ ex racing drivers”. Some of the hospital billboards we saw did in fact have illuminated readouts telling us how long the current waiting time was for treatment. Arriving in Macon we started looking for a motel for the night. There was one next to a branch of “Applebee’s Bar and Grill”. Perfect. Booked in and then went next door. I visited a branch of “Applebee’s” up near Niagara Falls on American Adventure 2 when a huge Canadian Couple ate their way through the card. With a lot of loud smacking of lips. That is when the difference in scale made me decide that it was ok to have a dessert despite pigging out on a 14 oz Steak covered in shrimp and Parmesan. This time as I was with the Dark Lady and still hoping and trying to create the right impression. I had the more sedate Fajita combo while she pecked delicately at a shrimp salad. We also ate sitting at the bar. Closer to the drinks.

After an hour or so we went back to the motel and turned in. Round about one AM the DL shook me awake and whispered. “Someone’s trying to get into the room”. Quick as a flash I was out of bed and heading to the door. “Don’t go outside” she pleaded. I may have been dumb and er naked but I was not mad. Most hotels give you security advice and one of the things they tell you is never to open the door to strangers. So I peered through the spy hole. There was a middle aged guy with black hair and a carrier bag. He seemed to be trying his cardkey. I banged on the door from the inside. Not sure what this was going to achieve but it did the trick. The message sent was probably: “You are standing at a door. Someone is knocking on it. This must mean you are inside already. So go and sit down.” To our relief he slunk off down the corridor. We drifted back to sleep and then 20 minutes later there was a knocking on the door and a voice said. “I need to know your last name.” This is ridiculous. This time as I peered through the spy hole there were two of them. I pondered what to do. Should we call the cops? “Why do you need to know that?” “I just need to.” “Lester now go away or I will call the police” I phoned reception and after seemingly an age a mans voice answered. “This is room 114 someone is trying to get in.” “Yes that was me Mr Lester. According to our computer that room is vacant. The evening manager had forgotten to enter your details”. I could feel that good old fashioned British “dudgeon” begin to rise. “DO YOU REALISE” I barked “YOU SCARED THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF MY GIRLFRIEND?!” (And me to be frank). You can always rely on a Brit when the chips are down to sound effortlessly pompous. We slept like babies until the babies in the room above started running around about 6. We were on the road by 8. We were on our way to Music City USA…Nashville!

By the way, you can add me on Twitter by clicking here and Audioboo by clicking here. It is the same login for both so if you do one you might aswell the other!


Annie said...
At last we see the beard and the striking new look! I must say, it's much better than I was anticipating - you look cool.Of course there will need to be a new photograph for the Radio 2 website.Thank you for continuing to tweet and blog - especially now that you have K for company - who I think has the patience of a saint.Take care of you both and enjoy the drive!
23 May 2010 23:57

marianne said...
Wow the beard looks great glad the dark lady likes it I agree with annie above thanks for continuing with our insite to your holiday now you have the Dark Lady for company enjoy your week maybe a picture of you together on the next blog
24 May 2010 00:59

Grant said...
Glad there are already two comments here, Alex. I was going to ask who the bloke in the picture is, who looks like a bloke from a rock band. The 'look' suits you - I hope the DL agrees!I hope both of you enjoy the rest of your 'holiday' - although, for the amount of work you put into your blog etc, I think the term 'holiday' is a little exaggerated.
24 May 2010 03:37

DamoIRL said...
LOL! Sorry, Dark One, I had to laugh at the photo. More the hat than the beard! (at least its not a baseball one. Note to William Hague) I'm gonna break the cozy consensus here and say, its doesn't look great. As a fellow struggler in the battle with the scales, I feel beards don't do a great job concealing one's other chin. Maybe thats just me, don't take my word on it! All the same, top blogging as per usual! :)
24 May 2010 07:50

mwhite229 said...
Fab blogs once again Dark Lord - over and above the call of duty to write all of this for us while supposed to be on holiday - but we do appreciate it. Like the beard too -- sexy -- might tip Jancie Long over the edge next week tho - but nice to see something other than fotos of your feet - just need the middle bit now!! Enjoy your remaining days.
24 May 2010 09:10

Chris said...
Looks like a young Charlie Daniels to me LOL!
24 May 2010 11:43

Mary said...
The beard looks great on you! It's added a whole new level of cool to the character we all know as The Darklord...Or, could this be the reincarnation? Could this be the world-famous Johnny Havoc, live and in-person?Glad the intruder situation ended a lot better than I had anticipated. Glad you and the Dark Lady were able to weather both storms, the intruder and the hail, with no injuries!
24 May 2010 18:22

Sunday, 23 May 2010

ON THE BEACH (296 Miles)

Feeling slightly like Douglas Fairbanks I left the Colony Hotel and went to their beach club. Delray Beach along with Boca Raton and seemingly quite a number of the towns on the east coast of Florida like to have their “exclusive” bits. Money talks. Being a guest in the hotel meant you had free access to their club a couple of miles away.
Found it. Signed in and was walking towards the beach when a suspicious staff member spotting a rather grimy unshaven looking bloke with food over his shirt asked.
“Can I help you?” With all the terrible subtext that that involved:
“What are you doing here? We don’t like your sort here. Looks to me like you area trouble maker or worse have no money and you re making the place look scruffy”.

“No I’m fine thanks”
“You signed in?”
“Yes I have actually giving him just a slight whiff of what my 1000 yards stare can do.
When I left the club an hour later I noticed that he had printed my name next to my signature. He obviously didn’t trust me and had phoned his bosses for orders.

I went and sat in a beach chair and watched the boats go by. I also decided to go for a swim. Alas I had forgotten to change before I left the hotel but thought never mind it is hot I will dry out. So went in with my shorts on anyway. The sea was dead calm and like a bath.
Lay on the beach for a while and then decided to head on up the coast.
On the way to Orlando I stopped off for something to eat at an independent chain and decided to plump for the “Coney Island Style Foot long” It was a hot dog and came with “slaw” which was terrific.
The waitress was chatty friendly and terrifyingly unaware.
“Where you from?
“I got Uncles and Aunts who live there”
“Oh really where abouts?”
“Uh no idea”
“I visited England once”
“Oh really. Where did you go?”
“Can’t remember”
“What’s your job?”
“I work for the BBC”
“Who are they?”
“You never heard of the British Broadcasting Corporation. You never watched BBC America?”
“You intending to stay in this town forever? “ I asked.
“No I just graduated from college and with the job I intend to do I can do it anywhere…I want to be a marine biologist”

Was making rather good time so didn’t want to arrive at Orlando airport with hours to kill before the Dark Lady Arrived at around midnight so I carried on along the coast until I reached Cocoa Beach.
This is a stones throw from the Kennedy Space Centre. So all the shops and the roads had a theme:
“Grissom Boulevard”. “Apollo Realty” “Minutemen Road”. You get the general idea.
I had dried out by now so it seemed a good idea to have another swim. Pulled of the highway at the 8th St entrance to the beach and noted a row of parking meters. No such thing as a free swim here.
Sea rougher and not quite as warm but still tepid. It was terrific with very few people about. Here I made a slight mistake.
I have been crowing about the “Acme box that hangs around your neck to keeps stuff in.
It did its job admirably once again. This time I left my sandals and my shirt etc in the car and just had the box with the car key in and my shorts on.

I had been regularly slathering on the factor 30 on my face and arms however had omitted to do my torso. Ten minutes in the sun and when I got undressed that evening I had the pattern of a box on a lanyard on my body where the skin had been protected. The rest of my body was red. Not burned but red. Just goes to show the power of the sun.
As I left after me swim and contributed once more to the “dune” of sand now growing in the foot well of the car I noticed a message from someone who obviously didn’t have the benefit of the “Acme box around you neck to hold stuff in”

I was about 40 or so miles from Orlando and the GPS managed to not only negotiate all the toll roads but even took me past Valet parking for the airport hotel and into the DIY cheap seats parking for guests which was only a few feet from the hotel entrance. As I mentioned in a previous blog. Due to the poor exchange rate. I am not living as high on the hog as I have done when £=$2.
A slight hiccup with the toll booth as I found myself without change in the “exact money” lane. Nothing for I with the traffic building behind me and that was to drive through. It was barrier less so I didn’t do the “Nazi Blitzkrieg sweeps into Poland” newsreel footage job. However. A fair few alarms went off as I gingerly drove past the stop sign and pulled up on the hard shoulder to let the traffic go.
Dodging the traffic I went to the only manned booth and asked the operator what to do. He gave me change. Walked back threw it into the hopper and drove off.
I am sure all this is on CCTV when the Florida Interstate authority tries to fine me for running a red light at the toll booth.

Mounting excitement and a bath and a shower later and I am checking the arrivals board every five minutes.
11.12pm half an hour early. The Dark Lady appeared. It was great to see her.
Judging by some of your comments on Twitter.
You can guess the rest.
By the way, you can add me on Twitter by clicking here and Audioboo by clicking here. It is the same login for both so if you do one you might aswell the other!

Thursday, 20 May 2010


“What you havin’ hun?”
Said Rose.
I had left Key West an hour or so before and the mid-morning gripes were affecting my vitals.
The Blue Lagoon Motel Resort didn’t provide free breakfast so I decided to head out and stop en route somewhere.
The day was grey and a little overcast with the odd spot of rain.
Going back up the Keys I think the view was slightly better, even if the weather wasn’t. (see a map of my travels so far here)

Stopped at the Cracked Conch Café in Marathon about half way up. Three egg omelette with sea food. Not sure what was in it, though it did promise conch and shrimp and other seafood bits.
I enjoyed it with toast and home fries rather than fruit. Not keen on that whole sweet and savoury thing they do. That is why I have resisted pancakes with maple syrup so far on this trip.
Looking at the reviews of the place just before I sat down to write this, they are “mixed” to say the least.
The place has no air conditioning so all the doors and windows were wide open. This is a small source of irritation to me. Ever the anal retentive, if I am alone I love to read the paper as I eat.
The Miami Herald like many of the newspapers here is printed on very thin paper and it is in a broadsheet format. End result it is like a sail.
Also, for some reason American newspapers seem to spread the stories over different pages and different sections.
Probably harks back to the old cliff hanger days of the West or the western.
It has been a running gag for years in the show and on the blog about the dying cowboy expiring before he can tell where the gold is hidden. Still makes me chuckle.

In newspaper terms it would be:
“The gold is…is….. “(Cont’d Section B page 6)
So every time you try and read a story you have to do a lot of searching and a massive amount of folding in order to get the details.

“Gulf oil latest. BP today…” (State D5)
“Evangelicals frown on yoga…” (Lifestyle C6)
“Billionaire facing 30 years in jail over DUI death…” (National. B3)
Try doing this with a howling gale and a fork in one hand!
Rose was attentive and kindly.
“I’ll get to you before my big party arrives” she promised.
When I left half-an-hour later there was still no sign of any big party.
She was wearing a T-shirt exhorting you to vote for a political candidate. The back of the shirt said “VOTE”; the front told you for whom.
I am an old fashioned Englishman at large in a foreign country.
Rose was probably in her late 50’s.
No, this was not a branch of “Hooters” and no, I wasn’t going to stare at her front in an attempt to get all the details for this blog. Back to one of the T-shirts from yesterday:
“Please stop your breasts pointing at my eyes”
Full of conch, egg and other seafood-related stuff, I carried on north.

Today was going to be a dawdling day. I reckoned an easy drive would be to Boca Raton.
Fairly hellish on the interstate with traffic jams and about $6 worth of tolls to pay until I arrived.
I settled on this place as it resonated with me. I had heard of it but was not entirely sure why.
When I arrived, I knew immediately.
You need money to be here. A look at the Wikipedia (so not necessarily 100% accurate) list of its residents and you know why the seafront road seemed to be a mass of gated properties and “Clubs/Resorts”. Valet parking and uniformed flunkies and barriers and security were in evidence everywhere.
Jon Bon Jovi. Jason Bonham. Jennifer Capriati. Andy Roddick . Bernhard Langher and Chris Evert apparently live here. Ernie Wise had a place here too.
No point in stopping here, I thought, so a further eight or nine miles brought me to the comparatively downmarket town of Delray Beach.

Booked into the Colony Hotel built in 1926. It has an old fashioned feel to it and is not that expensive…on the surface
“Loretta will show you to your room” said Bill the rather camp receptionist.
I was on the first floor.
Loretta had already opened the gate to the rather rustic elevator.
I got in and said:
“My, this has a few years on it”
She said nothing.
One floor up. She pulled the gate back and said:
“Room 103 round the corner”.
I gave her a dollar. It seemed a lot for so little effort.
Tipping is endemic and I can understand the need for it, bearing in mind the paltry wages that are paid: $7.25 per hour around £5?
However, apparently if you are in a job where you get tips, the hourly rate falls to $4.19 per hour. Less than £3 per hour. With that in mind I hoped that Loretta had a busy day travelling between floors.
However, a walk up East Atlantic Avenue and it is obvious that everything is about money.
Nearly every restaurant boasts a greeter and valet parking. I felt very out of place.
My luck was in as there was “Big Al’s” which was a walk up sort of place with a few tables outside.

Philly Cheese Steak. Fab. When I had finished and was clearing the detritus away, I realised I had so much melted cheese down my front I was not really going to go anywhere after this without people pointing and laughing.

I paraded (in a rebellious student sort of fashion) up and down the street for a while allowing the “Preppies” and the “Princesses” to get a good look at this wild-haired unshaven food-stained man. Greeters didn’t greet and the valet parking guys ignored.
Back to the room with its “Key Largo” rotating ceiling fan and noticed a laminated sheet headed:
“Restore, Rejuvenate & Renew”. It was a flyer for Yoga classes. On the reverse was guide with photographs for a 5 to 10 minute workout described as “In Room Yoga”.
I just hope for their sakes no Evangelical Christians turn up.

By the way, you can add me on Twitter by clicking here and Audioboo by clicking here. It is the same login for both so if you do one you might aswell the other!


Realised I have booked into another slightly sweaty-pillow Motel.
It is actually fine, although there is a slight odour. Since I started doing these trips, I have noticed the pong only on this one. (by the way, to see where a map of whre I have travelled so far on this trip, click here)
Is this due to the fact I am in hotter parts of the USA?
Is this due to that fact I am staying in cheaper places?
Is this due to the economic downturn and accommodation cutting costs?
At my age, my sense of smell has improved?
Well, in American adventure 1 I travelled across Death Valley where it was over 100F.
In Adventure 2, I was in the desert where it was over 100F
On this trip, I have not stayed in so many chain hotel/motels. This may indicate the “Mom and Pop”-run establishments have lower standards.
I stayed in a few before and they seemed fine, including the “Crossroads Motel” in Iola Kansas which was fine on both occasions.
So, as it was fine on both occasions, does that rule out a worsening of standards due to the economic downturn?
With this level of research I should be a politician. I can now make some sweeping judgements and the newspapers will lap it up:
OK, in truth, I think I have just been slightly unluckier in my choices this time. I have tried to stay in the low-budget end as - like most people - I don’t have an unlimited amount of cash.
I didn’t go last year due to the economy and so I have been saving for this year. Budget is tight, hence some slightly less salubrious places. Far more importantly the Dark Lady is due in two days in Orlando and I am sure I am not going to skimp on the accommodation with her.
“Hi baby. Yeah the “Reeking Inn” sounds just the place for us! Pillows a bit pongy but you look great with this peg on your nose. Er, it was made by the Sioux. They do dream catchers as well.”
This morning it was up for breakfast steak (It is my one luxury, I have decided) and then out into the old part of town. This is also where the tourists are.
At first glance it was bad taste T-shirt central. The main drag had all those places you would expect from a tourist town.

There were bars and T-shirt shops. There were restaurants and T-shirt shops. There were art galleries and T-shirt shops. Being Key West, there were boating opportunities such as Jet Ski, glass-bottomed boat and Para-sailing and T-shirt shops.
It even had a couple of “Adult/Gentleman’s” clubs and T-shirt shops.
Of the 5 billion T-shirts (at a conservative estimate) that I saw today, only two made me laugh. The rest you will have seen already, most likely, perhaps with a different resort added to the slogan.
They were as follows:
“Too many right wing Christians…Not enough Lions”
“People say I have AAD...ooh a chicken!”
The last one I loved particularly as somewhat bizarrely, there are chickens roaming the streets down here, the legacy of its proximity to Cuba, which is only 90 miles away. Cubans - who arrived years ago to manufacture cigars - brought chickens. They may have gone, but the chickens haven’t.
The proximity to the Cubans and the distance from the rest of the US provides the kicker for the tourist industry. There are many cigar bars and shops where (I think this must be a legal loophole) cigars are locally made from Cuban tobacco. As a non-smoker, I must admit I was tempted.
The other is the fixation with Key West being the most southerly part of the US. I watched the tourists doing the equivalent of the “Lands End” thing that we do: a queue to have yourself photographed by the marker.

After a wander around and robustly rejecting any attempts to sell me a poor taste T-shirt, I fancied the beach. Key West is fabulous for water sports although its beaches are not exactly brilliant.
With that in mind, I decided to drive back up Highway 1 to find a beach. 20 miles in I realised this was ridiculous so turned round and came back.
Higgs Beach seemed ideal. Parking was free. Quick look at their AIDS memorial and then into the water. In I plunged. Then swam out. The water was practically bath water it was so warm. Out I swam towards the reef and the Pelicans sunning themselves on the poles by the breakwater and the reef. I then stood up. The water was still three foot deep.
NB: Mums, if you fancy somewhere safe and warm to teach your brood to swim. This the place.
No waves to speak of and no current.

I was also able to make use of a gizmo I bought in 2007 and have never had to use; the “Acme round the neck waterproof box for carrying stuff in”.
As I had no one to guard my belongings and, being paranoid about exiting the water to find my clothes, money and car gone - I bought this item. I put all my valuables in the boot of the car and put the car key in the box. I also put the spare car key in the boot. This may sound stupid but, as you know, car keys are not car keys any longer. They are multi-purpose and multi-function.
This one opens the driver’s door with one button. Press again and it unlocks the passenger side. It also has another button for opening the boot. A door lock button and a final button impressively in red which is marked “panic”. Not tried that one yet.
The downside is when you lock the door it sounds the horn.
This is common to many vehicles over here. One night earlier in the trip, there was a nightclub attached to the motel and it didn’t shut ‘til 2am. Alot of the patrons were staying. So as I drifted in and out of sleep I kept being woken by stray car horns.
”Guess I’ll turn in see y’all later. Jes’ get mah bag”
“You stayin too?”
“Shoot. Forgot something”
“Well, time I was goin’….hell no, I’m good for another round”
“Shoot. Forgot mah cigarettes”
“And mah money”
“Where’s mah lighter?”
“Better let the dawg out for five minutes first”

“Where did I put the leash?”
And so it went on….

However, back to the story:

My rationale was that if the “Acme round the neck waterproof box for keeping your stuff in” was not as waterproof as it was supposed to be, I could use it as a key to open the boot and get the still functioning multi-function key out!
It worked like a dream, although I had to leave my sandals on the beach along with my shirt, so was concerned someone may half-inch the footwear and I would be condemned to another week and a half barefoot.
In Key West, I would not have looked massively out of place. It reminded me of Majorca in some ways when I went there as a kid. Hot seaside resorts attract people with no visible means of support. They make stuff out of bits and bobs and sell them to slightly drunk tourists in a good mood.
I saw guys making hats woven from the leaves of coconut palms. There were some terrible buskers often with dogs dressed up in hats and sunglasses. One guy was playing the sitar dressed as Spiderman. Not sure about him as it was difficult to see but all the others - because they spend possibly their whole lives outside - have been burned by the sun and are a very deep dark “vagrant brown”.
Two people I was not sure about though were a guy spinning two Frisbees and listening to music on headphones and another chap talking to himself as he examined his abs in the reflection from a glass door.
The town looks to the water and it is expensive; $30 buys you fifteen minutes on a jet ski. Half a day of fishing is $300.
I reckon you would probably be repeating yourself if you spent more than a week there.
With that in mind I resolved to head north again in the morning.
Orlando and the Dark Lady beckoned.

You can add me on Twitter by clicking here for updates as they happen, and to hear me you can listen via Audioboo by clicking here. Don't forget, one login for both facilities.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


Woke early mainly due to the promise of a decent free breakfast. Back at the same table as the evening before, looking out at the lake.

Most hotels provide a continental breakfast. This one did cooked food!

In an adjacent booth a number of soldiers in fatigues were choffing on their links.

Americans are very caring about their Veterans. There are memorials everywhere. They have a lot of discounts given to them in shops and restaurants. You can hear it and read it in the advertising.

Why not? We could take a leaf from their book; rather than organising a few parades, maybe some tax breaks and some discounts would not go amiss.

Perhaps there are some in place and I don’t know about them. However, I have never read or heard, for instance, an ad for a vehicle discount for servicemen. Correct me, if I am wrong.

Just before I came away I took my car to be serviced and, as I was waiting, I noticed a soldier also waiting. He was in a wheelchair and only had the one arm left. He had lost three limbs. I felt very small and humble.

It was about 7am. I was feeling mellow as I was just waking up and had ordered sausage hash browns and scrambled eggs, with coffee and Florida Orange juice, of course.

My reverie was broken when the plate arrived and the waitress said:


Wow! She was loud for first thing. Perhaps she was getting into Full Metal Jacket mode for the troops.

Chant: “Its breakfast time and what we want?

Sausages and coffee hot”

A-one, a-two, a-three, a-four!

When my heart rate had slowed and my ears had stopped ringing, I casually glanced out of the window. In the shallows of the lake shore, about twenty feet away, I noticed an alligator.

I looked at him and he looked at me. I am five foot 6 and half. He was probably two feet judging by the size of his head.

“If push comes to shove you can have one slice of wheat toast. Sausages you are going to have to fight me for.”

Finished up, showered, got into the car and headed south. (to see the map of my journey so far, click here)

The Everglades. I have read and heard so much about them.

There is an awful lot of stuff creeping and slithering around in there. You don’t want to mess with them. There are signs everywhere telling you what to watch out for. Just as signs and literature in Yellowstone and Yosemite tell you not to approach the animals. The same is true of the Everglades.

The visitor’s centres I visited. (Hell, that is why they call them that. Although, there were some signage problems later in the day so stay tuned). There, they show you pictures of the several types of brightly coloured venomous snakes and the one that isn’t. I bet the lone softy has esteem problems.

The difficulty with the chart in the window was that, either due to fading or the fact it was supposed to be like that, the pictures of the deadly serpents were in black and white!

Incidentally, stay at least five feet away from Alligators as they are “opportunistic feeders”.

FIVE FEET!!! Fifty yards more like.

In the local vernacular: “I ain’t lettin’ no ‘gator get all opportunistic on my ass!”

Some friends of mine told me of one man who was flying a light aircraft at night over the Everglades whilst on holiday from the UK. It developed engine trouble. So terrified was he that he was physically sick.

He knew what was down there and it was waiting for him.

The smells are interesting and, from time to time, the swamp opens out into rather ordinary country with the cattle . Plus, there are still plenty of orange groves.

People are out there kayaking . Hiking and going on airboat trips. I wonder what if must be like as a parent in this area when your kids want to go out to play.

We worry about traffic. They must worry about their kids being carried off by opportunistic Alligators!

A couple of hours of this and then it was time to brave the Keys; a load of small islands linked to each other via causeways. The sea is shallow and a wonderful blue. I will take some pictures so I can show you on the way back. I am now, as I write this, as far south in the US as it is possible to get, having travelled 5181 miles from Seattle albeit via a none-too-direct route.

Everywhere you looked there were boats and houses. If you are looking for peace and tranquillity this is not the place to be. Every Key/Cay was jammed with motels and boatyards. I was very envious of the boats, though, as I love being on the water.

Also the thought of being out all day fishing (even though I have never fished in my life) is very enticing.

I have been noticing, over the miles, the roadside memorials to accident victims. As I drove the 100 miles to Key West they seemed to be ever more abundant.

Either neat wooden crosses with names, or a small stake with a roundel with names and dates. I think the relatives maintain them as very often they are bedecked with fresh flowers.

This seems so much better than our practice of lashing some dying flowers in polythene to a lamppost along with a note that invariably reads: “Why?”.

Whilst musing on those I began to notice a few signs which, being a pedant and also showing how we are two nations divided by a common language, looked strange to my British eyes...

I enjoyed variously: “Camping site. No camping. Day only”.

A cab company called “Mom's Taxi”.

Also a shop which boasted: “Anthony’s Women’s Clothing”.

“See it all at Woody’s Gentleman’s Club”

I would have thought that you would not be a real gentleman if you were demanding to see “It all.”

Though you probably would be able to have a more thrilling time if you had visited “Doc Syn Laser Surgery” first.

Booked in to a Motel by the beach.

After I checked in I realised that everywhere is by the beach, it is just that some beaches are closer to the main drag than others.

This place isn’t. However, I don’t mind. I am going to sit here for a day or so.

Looking forward to meeting the Dark Lady in Orlando in three days time.

So in the words of the song that I will doubtless play for you as part of “Lester’s Library” when I return:

“No shirt. No shoes. No problem”

By the way, I tweet quite alot about events as they happen, so why not add me by clicking here. With the same login details you can hear my reports "on location" through Audioboo, click here.

And while you are busy clicking here, there and everywhere, don't forget there is a still an Oddcast for you to download. It is a sort of "best bits of the year so far" type thing to keep you entertained until I get back, there is a new compilation every week in my absence. One more time: click here.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


My huff had abated slightly - but only slightly - when I stomped out of the motel the following morning.
Of the receptionist there was no sign. She may have been trying to work out what time to show up for work: “If the big hand is on the….” As we know, her grasp of time is not the best.
I had been looking at the map and decided against another day of coastal roads and headed inland down the spine of Florida. Here the traffic was lighter, although, compared to Wyoming and Montana it was like the M25.
I suppose after driving for half-an-hour and not seeing another vehicle, anything busier than that feels like the rush hour. At times on this trip I have encountered heavy traffic but have never been stationary for more than a few minutes.
As it was a Sunday, the radio was full of sermons and gospel music as well as “Christian Rock” which slightly defeats the object to me.
“Are you ready to rock? No? Let’s pray instead!” “For our next number “Highway to church”.
I thought the Bible belt was more towards Kansas and Kentucky. However, there were churches at every turn and yet more of the “Pro-Life” billboards I have mentioned many times in the past.
The roads were pretty much dead straight and tree-lined. At one point, a tortoise was trying to decide whether to cross or not. I hope discretion decided against.
I had missed breakfast so was beginning to feel rather peckish and - tapping “restaurants” into my GPS - it rewarded me by telling me everything was ten miles behind. I soldiered on and vowed that the first place I saw would be the place I stopped. It was lunchtime by the time a branch of “Hardees” came into view. One of you tweeted the other day to say that this chain is unequalled for biscuits and gravy. (By the way, to follow me on Twitter click here and to follow me on Audioboo, using the same login details, click here).
Frankly, after the disappointments of the last twenty-four hours I was not going to chance it. So yet another burger it was. It was terrific. Lot of beef. Little garnish and some very healthy looking and tasting fries. It was also wrapped in grease proof paper in a way that held it together when you ate, so it didn’t all collapse down your front much to the mirth of other customers. Particularly small children. There are certain things that reduce me to Mr Bean levels of incompetence. Eating is one of them. I could always do vegetables later.
I reckoned I should head for Sebring on Lake Sebring in my Chrysler Sebring. There was certain symmetry of thought and movement here. (And to see the map of my travels so far, click here).

As I had experienced in a number of places on this trip where the main drag was that was the place they put the toll roads. So did travel along part of the Florida Turnpike which cost me about $5 in total. At one toll booth the lady was so surprised when I thanked her that I thought she was about to faint.
The forest gave way to open pasture and cattle and then to orange groves. A truck laden with them answered my question. Yes, seems it’s about time to pick them.
The beard is coming on a treat. Decided to surprise the Dark Lady by showing her my rough tough manly hirsute side. So by the time we meet in Orlando. I may have a bit of Yosemite Sam going. I could tell it was coming on as I found some stray food in it. This is something I vaguely remember from the last time I decided to “beard up” some fifteen years ago. This one seems to a little greyer for some reason. By the time I have added the Factor 30 sun block I look like a ghost, albeit a rather greasy one.
About five o’clock I started looking for somewhere to stay. Clean, comfortable with a bar maybe, K?
Surely, not too much to ask for after a hot day at the wheel.

The previous night I had had to drive off into the woods to find somewhere to eat and because I was driving had one drink in a bar way off the main drag.
It was a low metal building with a drive-thru liquor store at the front. As I reached for the handle on the heavy metal door I read the sign which declared:
I think this is such a good rule, I really do.
Inside it was just as you see in a million TV shows and Clint Eastwood movies.
Woman behind the bar with a big butterfly tattoo on her back and a smaller one on her left breast. I didn’t stare too closely so could not tell you what it was. Couple of good ol' boys shooting pool and a sign “Dollar Drafts wensdeys”; I half expected to find a gang of white supremacists huddled together in the corner.
As I left, a woman getting into her car said
“Love your jacket, it so goes”
“Thank you”
“Oh, you have an accent too”
“So do you” (I think I have done this routine several times before, but it never ceases to wow ‘em)
“Yeah, that’s very good I do”
She shook my hand got into her station wagon and drove off.
She may have been visiting to replenish because stocks were getting low so may have had a head start.
Meanwhile back at today:
“Have mercy” I cried (It was Sunday, don’t forget)
Sebring is teeming with hotels and I drew up beside a very nice one which overlooked the lake and booked in.
“What time does your bar close?”

Now this is more like it. I noticed that the place was covered in photographs of racing cars and also the restaurant was called, “Chicanes”.
This should have given me a clue.
Into the bar sat down and ordered a beer for $1; it was happy hour.
However, typically American $1 works out (in Florida anyway) at $1.07c due to local sales taxes.
It is impossible to give anyone the right change here, so I have given up. They could really do money so much better here if they put their minds to it. American bills are a disgrace. You feel you need to wash your hands after holding one. Also keep a sharp lookout in case you give someone more than you intended as they all look pretty much the same to me. No wonder Ray Charles insisted apparently in being paid in dollar bills. Which must have been a bit of a bind later in his career when he was earning thousands per performance.

It was happy hour and the bar had a Blues station on.
Fantastic. B.B King. Stevie Ray Vaughan. Buddy Guy. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, until the barmaid said…
“It’s a bit blue for happy hour “
Then changed the station.
Time for food and into “Chicanes" where a very attentive waiter told me why there was all this car memorabilia lying around and the pictures.
“The Sebring 12 every fall”
It’s like the Le Mans 24 but shorter!
He also recommended I visited a local park early in the morning as he did when the animals were still rummaging about, as it would make me
“More centred and at one with it all”
Uh-Oh, still Sunday. Hope he wasn’t gearing up for a sermon.
I had chicken with lobster sauce and green beans. Very nice indeed.
The bread roll was in fact a “2 grain loaf” when it arrived so didn’t manage to finish it all.
“Dessert, sir?.....although by the look I would say no” He said.
Am still puzzling as to what he meant, although he was correct in his assumption. Raining hard outside as I ate and looked across the lake.

Came up here to write this blog, had typed the first sentence and all the lights went out!

Power outage.

It is now an hour-and-a-half later. I have been sitting perspiring in the dark as everything - air conditioning included - stops and despite it having rained it is still pretty warm.
No TV nothing. Only the darkness. As my room is at the bottom of a flight of two steps. The only entertainment is the sound of people missing their footing:
“Abner as I was saying only the other….thud”
“You OK Darle…eee.eeeeee nnnn whump a whump a crash?”

Hallelujah! (It is not 11.05pm so still technically Sunday)
Lights have been restored. Been peering out the window and being envious of people the other side of the lake. They have had electricity all the time. Typical. Some people just try and be flash!


Not a good night’s sleep. Mainly due to the scuzzy nature of the Motel. The linen was clean just that the pillows themselves stank of stale sweat. There were cigarette burns everywhere including on the washbasin and the shower tray. Whoever occupied that room had a bad habit.

Not good. So I lay there tossing and turning, trying to blame it on the turnip greens I had had, along with an excellent steak in Fat Boys BBQ “Pig out” next door.

Americans are endlessly resourceful and will do anything they can in order to make a buck. I have often wondered why we don’t seem to be as good at it. It may be due to the fact there are a lot more of them so there are more people to sell to. So if you have a niche, it may be quite a lucrative niche. More people also makes for more competition so people have to try harder.

I pondered this as I waited for my rare steak and turnip greens, as I sat reading the table.

Yes the table. The furniture was covered in advertising. The trade off was that the company who did the advertising would give the furniture to the restaurant.

I have no idea if it meant that the tables were removed every month to be updated or what.

“Hey come on, I haven’t finished reading mine yet!”

“We can sell him dessert too, he is a slow reader.”

Decided to take the scenic route and was rewarded with a nice causeway over the water and some pretty impressive bridges. Florida is good for ribbons of concrete. As I drove, Pelicans wheeled around in the fairly stiff breeze. They are pretty graceful in the air. It is just on the ground that they look a little ungainly. Also saw Cormorants diving and Gannets too. In case you think I am bucking for a job on one of those TV naturalist type shows, I had to go on the internet to identify what I had seen. Tony Soper can rest easy.

Gradually the road moved closer to the sea shore and also dunes started to appear with remarkably white sand. However, as with many parts of the world with a large population and an eye to the main chance, I felt like I was driving through a combination of Benidorm and Blackpool. I lost count of the number of water parks and pirate-themed commercial outlets. Lot of places selling shells and driftwood. I wonder if perhaps there is a trick being missed here. Why not be a shell and driftwood wholesaler? Who is going to know where you got your dried-out bits of stick from? “All our wood is sourced from sustainable wrecks”. By the way, you can see a map of my travels so far by clicking here.

To most tourists (i.e. me) a shell is pretty much a shell. Can you tell a limpet from a whelk from a conch? OK, so the conch makes a noise when you blow in it. I seen Lord of the Flies (Piggy got the conch, remember, hefore he got his).

Sandwiched in between were hotels and condominiums. Stopped off at Santa Rosa Beach in order to have a paddle.

Decided to follow a “Scenic loop”; this just took me past more condominiums, driftwood shops and the odd housing estate which sported golf carts that the residents were using to get about. Not sure if it was a “Seniors” community, a phrase I loathe mainly because, looking at the menu in a fast food restaurant on my birthday, they gave “Seniors discounts”. A “Senior” was deemed to be 55 or over.

Well I am really going to be rushing back to take up the offer next year now, aren’t I? Its growing dark… that you Mother?

The journey was becoming a little frustrating as, due to the density of the buildings, there were traffic lights every few hundred yards so it became a stop go nightmare.

Condo condo lights. Condo condo driftwood shop lights. Driftwood shop driftwood shop lights. Pirates Water park lights shrimp restaurant boat chandlers lights.

At this rate I was going nowhere pretty fast.

However, past Panama City things began to ease slightly and I also began to enjoy the journey a lot more. Speed limits were mainly around 30 to 45 but I was driving along the shore or in and out of pine forests which reminded me a little of the South West of France.

Somehow Country radio seemed inappropriate so I retuned to “99 Rock” Fort Walton Beach. Aerosmith and Tom Petty provided a better soundtrack.

I was getting pretty hot so when a gap in the Condo’s opened up, I pulled over and went down to the beach.

More paddling ensued and was even tempted to have a swim but could not think of anywhere to safely store my car keys. I am such a "devil may care" character, aren’t I? Still, I had to be careful as there were signs warning of bears. These, however, are rather less dangerous black ones that tend to rummage around in dustbins rather than carrying off over curious tourists.

Following the coast: Mexico Beach, Port St Joe, Apalachicola, Carabelle, then I turned inland via Sopchoppy (honest) to Crawfordville looking for a berth for the night.

I make no secret of the fact that after a hot day in the car I like to settle down in a bar with a copy of the local paper, watch the sports on TV (even though it means nothing go myself), maybe chat with some of the good ol' boys, have a bite to eat and go to bed.

I should have noticed something was up by the huge number of churches there are in this part of the country. I tried to find a likely bar co-sited with a Motel but to no avail. Then I struck gold.

“The Inn at Wildwood. A Nature-based lodge”. This is apparently an eco friendly golf resort.

It is clean and comfortable and has working internet. It has solar panels and low energy bulbs and those notices in the bathroom asking you to use the towels more than once. To help save the planet we are told, although they don’t mention the other spin off: “So we don’t have to spend so much on laundry costs. “Save the planet and the bottom line”.

Parked up at about 5.30pm and noticed a large number of blokes in shorts who had been playing golf. I stayed at a similar place last time I think were the golfers spent much of the evening making sexist remarks to the waitress as Viagra ads played on the Golf channel.

The friendly helpful woman receptionist told me there were in fact two bars and a bistro which she heartily recommended. I joshed with her that as the bar and the bistro were in a different building, wasn’t she sending me to the competition?

“No, we are all part of the same complex" she laughed.

Went and found my room and freshened up and made a Skype call to the Dark Lady.

Back down into the lobby, beamed at the receptionist as I sauntered across the car park to the bar and bistro. They were closed. Oh well, just have to use the hotel bar. Wandered back into reception and said,

“It’s shut”

“Yes, both our bars and the bistro close at 6,” she said brightly.

ICILY POLITE: “I booked in at about 5.40. You recommended the bar and bistro. Why did you not mention they were about to close? Had I known this I would have gone somewhere else.”

Blank stare.

I think there was some energy saving under think going on there.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

If you miss hearing my oh-so English voice, fear not, I have recorded some Audioboos (basically, me talking "on location") and you can listen to them by clicking here. If you are glad of the break from my oh-so English voice but would still like to know what I am upto as and when it happens you can follow me on Twitter by clicking here. Both require the same login details, it's a sort of e-BOGOF.