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…zigzag along the east coast to the south.
We had to wait a long time for this moment; we had frozen a lot and experienced rain in considerable quantities. Now we are there, in the sun state of the USA and the reception was, after the high cloud cover in southern Georgia, very friendly and the sun gazed mischievously behind the clouds at times.
Jacksonville was rather quiet on this Sunday and just right for foreign tourists to find the way out to the coast and the many offshore places where everyone who has “rank and file” owns a corresponding second house. There is also a lot of blockwork, and mutual trumps are probably almost as normal as the Amen in the church.
From Atlantic Beach to Palm Valley there is really one house, villa or holiday resort after another. One meanders through between the first and second row of houses, sometimes the street even lies on the front line and the endless view over the ocean belongs at this moment to the normal pedestrians.
Sometime the luxury buildings were finished and the road meandered through the dunes of St.-Augustine. St.-Augustine is the oldest city in America inhabited by Europeans. This tourist magnet was completely restored on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America and is – despite the complete marketing – worth more than one visit.
The Spanish influence can hardly be denied and even today the atmosphere is probably like in those days when pirates and other weird merchants ruled the coast. In any case, we liked it very much in this melting pot of cultures and languages.
Until Daytona Beach it was only a stone’s throw to many well-known holiday resorts that are preparing for the coming holiday season and dump thousands of tons of white sand on the coast.
In Daytona – a few kilometres behind the coastline – we made a stop and let the unique atmosphere of the international “Speedway” pass over us, which I as a former motorcycle fan knew from the races at that time. A gigantic facility that – how could it be otherwise – once again blew up our European imagination. Only the best is good enough here and the atmosphere in this witch’s cauldron with over 100,000 spectators on the grandstand must be unique when the heroes thunder across the finish line.
Once again we had enough of so much concrete, sheet metal and people. Time to slow down southwards and turn west inland; in the centre lies the Ocala-Nat. forest, but also inexhaustible water sources promise some variety.
At Lake George we experienced the first extreme, tropical conditions and were bathed in sweat in our “Gazell”. How will this end; “already so hot and we are only in the north of Florida”?
At Ginnie-Springs, a bit more western than High-Springs, exactly the opposite followed and we shivered towards the next morning. We generously missed the morning bath in one of the many springs and enjoyed the warming coffee.
The campsite at the Ginnie Springs prepared itself for the coming weekend as if some open air event was taking place. But this seems to be an absolute weekend reality and with good weather forecasts it starts on Friday. Slowly we also noticed that here in Florida people tick a bit differently than their national comrades further north and fun is just a part of their life culture.
In the middle of the headland lies a large national forest area (Nat.-Forest) with all its play possibilities and you let the forest visitors do a lot. At the northern edge we settled at the foot of a larger lake on a “primitive camp site” and were already looking forward to the coming quiet night. But far from it; sometime the hunters came back from the stalk and already the motors of the small generators roared through the night and cooled down their caravans to ice box temperature.
Probably our Offroadtour by the forest was not in the sense of the hunters. We had the permit in our pockets, but the gloomy looks soon made us understand that we are not wanted here; as pleasure tourists we probably stood in their way during the motorized chase.
After several odysseys and sawing wood I soon had enough of this forest and we were glad to be out of the way again.
We just crossed Orlando and left the theme world of Walt Disney to our left; the entrance fees were far above our budget at dizzying heights. After Los Angeles and Paris we renounced the pleasure of Micky Mouse and his friends, but donated a new alternator to our jeep – so we were rid of the dollars as well.
As a “prick,” many years ago I listened to Bruno Stanek, who presented the Apollo 11 mission on television, and was absolutely fascinated by what we heard and saw. Well, many years later I was standing at Cape Canaveral, where once great history began, trying to follow what was shown. Since the Space Shuttle program was discontinued, the NASA base has been more of a museum than an active space station; but the ideas for the future are everywhere and perhaps soon the dream of the first man on Mars will become reality.
Sometime we crossed the border of southern Florida and roamed the vast areas inland. And, everything is really flat, it can hardly get any flatter. Our eyes were lost in the vastness of the horizon without encountering anything.
One ranch followed the next, in between pastures as far as our eyes could see. South of Lake Okeechoobee we crossed sugar cane plantations that were almost as endless as the ranch areas. Few plantations of oranges and other citrus fruits loosened up what we saw.
Someday we stood in the middle of the Seminoles Indian Reserve, who are still proud to have never signed the peace treaty with the government and to be able to stay in southern Florida in the Everglades swamps. All the others who signed the treaty were resettled in the area west of the Mississippi.
The eight remaining tribes made the most of their situation, were able to offer gambling as an independent Indian territory before any other and had to earn a lot of money. Today, they are not only the owners of the former British hard rock café chain, but also have a strong local presence in the tourism sector. We especially liked their safari land, where we were brought very close to the local wildlife in different ways.
In a big curve we drove through all famous “Beach” places, from Hollywood Beach to Miami Beach towards the Everglades National Park. It may sound almost unbelievable as we pass through the gorges of the houses, but a hundred years ago there were only sandbanks and no bathing mermaids here who wriggled in the sun during the pre-Christmas period. Apart from an infinite number of villas, all of which are densely crowded along the inlet canals, the skyscrapers on the beach side seem to grow incessantly. In the canals and on the Inlet lay yachts that soon had the dimensions of ocean-going ships, and all of them shone wonderfully in the afternoon sun.
Before Miami we drove along the harbour pier, where no less than 5 cruise ships lay at anchor and gave a wonderful foreground to the centre behind.
At the arterial road southwards we roamed, without exaggerating, 30 kilometres shopping street, where one sales shop followed the next. Simply everything gigantic! But who wants to buy so much, that all shops have to be present in multiple locations?
In Florida-City the whole spook was over and in one fell swoop we stood again outside in intensively used agricultural areas, where a lot of vegetables and other plants are cultivated on huge fields. In addition to the large water resources, the climatic conditions have to make every vegetable farmer rave, and in the workers’ settlements, which are laid out like estates, the workers stand right next to the fields.
The following Everglades National Park is still today what was saved from the drainage: A unique natural paradise as it was here in South Florida a long time ago almost everywhere. The mosquito barometer was moderate on our arrival, which gave us great hope to spend a nice time there. The official information in the ranger stations was rather poor and not what we experienced so far in the parks.
But the night in Flamingo, at the other end of the park and beautifully situated by the sea, was almost a horror even for me. Not the mosquitoes, no, the ultra small “fleeces”, which even wandered through our mosquito net, made the night to hell for us! Instead of starting a hiking or kayaking tour, we packed our things the next morning and left the coastal prairie to the little plague spirits; 1:0 for the stinging guild.
In the hope that we could experience the Keys more humane after the mosquito plague, we became “island hoppers”. Sometime the Americans connected the offshore islands with a highway, turned the lonely islands into easily accessible paradises, where today there are holiday houses and many island groups left to nature. So we jumped out to Key West, the southernmost point of the continental USA; further south we would only go by boat.
Down here, at the end of the USA, we experienced everything a bit differently and the people are a bit “cooler” than anywhere else. Fun is very popular and for a few dollars you can of course be part of the freaked out stuff; from a fishing tour to the weirdest underwater tour everything is there.
We enjoyed the old town of Key-West in our own way and were surprised by the pre-Christmas atmosphere; but also otherwise: here you can, or it would be good to live.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator