A coast to coast trip across the USA.
  • Day34

    Home Sweet Home

    June 24, 2019 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌧 13 °C

    Well, what a trip - like three holidays rolled into one - crossing the mighty USA (and back) by train; touring Florida with Campbell, and visiting Sadie and family in Georgia.

    Arrived home just in time for the Royal Garden Party at Holyrood, and a visit to Rhyl to see my Fairy Godmother at her caravan.

    An epic adventure - I wonder where next year will take me...
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  • Day33

    Charming Charleston

    June 23, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Took the chance when Bill was going to Charleston, South Carolina for a Navy Veteran’s Medical to take a ride with him and Sadie. Although it was s long drive, we had a good laugh and catch up on the way, and Sadie and I even won on our lottery scratch cards.

    Charleston really is a lovely city, steeped in history. Although it was very hot, we enjoyed a two hour walking tour, taking in most of the historic old town including the Market, Rainbow Row and the Old Slave Market. We bumped into some sailors from a French ship docked in port, and Bill impressed them with his school French. We admired some of the beautiful antibellum mansions along the Battery at the end of our all too brief visit.
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  • Day33

    Georgia on my mind

    June 23, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    After our busy tour around Florida, Campbell and I were relieved to arrive in Kingsland, Georgia to spend 3 days with my sister Sadie and her husband Bill. They made us feel really welcome, although we seemed to go from one meal to another. They have a beautiful home looking on to a small lake with a variety of wildlife. My niece Lorna and her partner Jeff came round with my great niece Teagan - it was great to see them all. Teagan is a lovely girl who seems content to entertain herself with her toys, although she didn’t seem too pleased that Teagan’s room had been taken over by two strange men..

    Had a trip to picturesque Fernandina, but it was too hot to stay on the beach. After our day to Charleston we spent our last morning visiting nearby historic St Mary’s. Again it was boiling hot - 100 degrees at one point - so it was always nice to get into an air conditioned store.

    Just before we left for Orlando airport we got a message that our scheduled flight to Glasgow was cancelled until tomorrow! However Thomas Cook came up trumps and booked us into a beautiful 4 star resort hotel - Rosen Shingle Creek - where we had a lovely room with a terrific view with dinner and breakfast included. The hotel was full of Glasgow families from the same cancelled flight. Dinner was a sumptuous buffet with everything you could wish for from seafood to roast beef. ‘There’s nae chips’ however complained a spotty Glaswegian ned.

    ‘I’ll have some o’ that soup’ declared a heavy female tourist from Ayrshire. ‘Well just come right over and help yourself, ma’am’ said the waiter cheerily. ‘Ye mean ah‘ve tae serve masel? Ah thought this wiz a 4 star!’ ‘Yes, ma’am and this is our self service restaurant.’ ‘And where’s the breed?’ she continued. ‘Can I offer you some oyster croutons or saltine crackers, ma’am?’ ‘Naw, ye cannae- I need some breed tae dip in my soup.’ With the ‘breed’ duly provided, the lady commented on the size of the soup bowls. ‘We’ll jist need tae come back twice, Mary’ she announced to her friend. You can take the girl out of Glasgow...
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  • Day29

    Naples - Clearwater - St Augustine

    June 19, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Managed to get to the 7 Mile Bridge over the Keys before another heavy thunderstorm hit us and followed us most of the way. Still, we enjoyed the country music on the way. As we arrived at Naples on the Gulf of Mexico coast, the weather cleared and we had a lovely walk around this beautiful city. It is very clean and upmarket with classy designer shops and fine restaurants. The homes lining the palm tree 🌴 avenues were gorgeous, and the area has been referred to as the Palm Springs of Florida. I remembered being here with Mags - can it really have been 34 years ago? - and we loved it then too. It really has to be one of the most attractive cities in Florida. Had a lovely walk along the old pier and saw a young fisherman catch a hammerhead shark, to the great excitement of onlookers, which he released back into the ocean.

    Next day we headed north up the Gulf Coast and arrived at our next destination - Clearwater Beach. Another beautiful place. Today was hot and sunny and so we headed to the lovely white sandy beach. Although it was busy, there was plenty of space for everyone. I have to say though, with all the tanned, svelte bodies around, we looked a bit like Bette and Joan in the final beach scene of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Another lovely evening walk and another busy pier, this time lined with stalls selling arts and crafts.

    Regrettably the sunshine didn’t last, as we left the Gulf Coast. We stopped for breakfast at a traditional American diner, complete with wisecracking waitress. The diner was located adjacent to a Dinner Theatre, a Lutheran Church and the County Courthouse. A middle aged couple in the booth next to us were having a heated discussion, presumably prior to their divorce hearing in the Court next door. ‘The bed may be yours, but I goddam paid for that sofa and you ain’t having that!’ declared the lady, as they exited the diner into their separate cars.

    Next stop was an overnight at America’s oldest city - St Augustine. Although very touristy, it was an attractive town to walk around in, and the main historic area was pedestrianised and easy to get about. We particularly liked the beautiful former Ponce de Leon Hotel, now Flagler College, built by industrialist Henry Flagler, a key figure in the development of the Atlantic Coast of Florida.

    Looking forward to catching up with Sadie and family tomorrow!
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  • Day27

    Key West

    June 17, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Headed south on US 1 to the Florida Keys. Unfortunately the bad weather followed us and we faced torrential rain most of the way down to Key West. Checked in at the lovely Hilton Garden Inn and took their free shuttle to the main downtown area. The weather cleared and we had a lovely walk around, passing Hemingway’s house, and the Southernmost marker of Continental USA. At the Zero mile marker at the start of highway US 1 a hen party asked us to take their photo with them all jumping. They then insisted we did the same!

    Had good fun at Club Aqua, one of the many drag shows in town. Some good ideas for panto costumes.
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  • Day26

    The Wetlands - Literally

    June 16, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    After another lovely breakfast by the pool, we departed Miami and headed to Florida’s 1.5 million acre wetlands preserve - the Everglades. En route along the long state highway I had to brake to avoid a fat alligator 🐊 trying to cross the road. After that, Campbell was reluctant to get out of the car.

    On arrival at the metropolis of Everglades City (population 416), we decided to take one the many Air Boat tours across the mangroves and marshes. ‘I wouldn’t sit in front of the boat unless you want to get a little wet’ warned the lady behind us knowingly. ‘We’re from Scotland’ we reassured her. We took off at a hair raising speed, and 5 minutes later the heavens opened and we were caught in a torrential downpour for the rest of the trip. Still we had fun and saw a few alligators on the way. By the time we got off we were absolutely soaked to the skin, including the lady behind us, and had to use the hair dryer in our motel to dry out our soggy dollar bills.

    Had a nice dinner at the Island Cafe next door with a friendly atmosphere and real country cooking - hard to believe we were only 2 hours from Miami but in a completely different world.
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  • Day24

    Moon Over Miami

    June 14, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    Campbell just about recovered from the emotional impact of Walt Disney World - not any of the usual roller coaster rides mind you, but Frozen, the Little Mermaid and the Three Caballeros. At Epcot’s American Adventure (named after my blog!) I fell asleep and woke up to Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin atop the Statue of Liberty imploring America to ‘spread her golden wings’, while Campbell sobbed uncontrollably beside me!

    Used Campbell’s new toy - his Uber app - to get back to the airport where I hired a car for the next part of the American Adventure - a drive around Florida. The car was a nice Nissan Subaru which sped us down to Miami Beach. Spent two nights at the 1940s San Juan Hotel in fashionable South Beach. We felt just like Betty Grable and Don Ameche in ‘Moon Over Miami’ (not sure who was who).

    We did a bus tour of Miami over the causeway, admiring the gleaming skyscrapers, visiting Little Havana with its cigar shops and old men playing dominoes. What a lovely city it is - much nicer than I expected - seen too much Miami Vice!

    By this time I wanted to ‘feel some sun on my face’ like Sugar Kane (happy memories of ‘Sugar’). The hotel provided a beach bag and towels and we headed to the beautiful white sands of Miami Beach where we were provided with complimentary beds and umbrella. I enjoyed a swim in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, undeterred by the suspected shark attack we witnessed the night before, but 5 minutes later an almighty thunderstorm and torrential rain cleared the beach - I mean we can get this at home!

    We took the complimentary trolley to the famous Art Deco District of South Beach, stopping for a photo opportunity outside Gianni Versace’s villa on Ocean Drive where he was assassinated on the front steps. The pastel colours of the Art Deco hotels did not look quite as glamorous in the pouring rain.

    After dinner we took the free trolley back, during which an over-excited African-American woman went round asking where everyone was from: ‘We got Scatland in da house!’ she shrieked. ‘Am gonna do a little twerking jus fo yo’. And twerking she did - see photo!

    At night we took a drive to the huge Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale to see the professional tour of the musical A Bronx Tale. Thoroughly enjoyed the show which neither of us had seen before. Another full day...
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  • Day23

    The Sunshine State

    June 13, 2019 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 29 °C

    Had a lovely trip on The Silver Meteor - my last long train trip - from Washington DC to Orlando, Florida. Met a lovely couple in the next sleeping compartment. I heard the female’s accent and asked where she was from - ‘Cambuslang’ replied Pauline, a scientist who had lived in the States for 15 years but not lost her accent. Her boyfriend, Hector was a heating engineer from Mexico. We hit it off and had dinner together on board the train, and later Hector appeared with a bottle of red wine - a great nightcap!

    Passed through Georgia, and in the morning we arrived in Florida. Had breakfast with Pauline and Hector, and before I ‘detrained’ as they call it, in Orlando, I had lunch with a lovely older lady who gave me her card. She was a ‘Daughter of the American Revolution’ and gave lectures about the revolution, especially the Battle of Yorktown. She was amazed I had heard of it from the musical Hamilton, and was thrilled to listen to it on my phone.

    From Orlando Station I took the bus to the International Airport (a bargain 40 minute trip for $2). If was good to meet Campbell off his flight from Glasgow - so glad that this part worked out. Campbell tried out his new Uber app, and before long we arrived at our hotel for the next 3 nights.

    Had a great couple of days at Walt Disney World, visiting the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot. ‘What’s your favourite ride?’ I asked Campbell. ‘Its A Small World’ came the reply!
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  • Day19

    The Nation's Capital - Almost

    June 9, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 21 °C

    The 7am Crescent Train Service departed New Orleans promptly, and I noted that this was a different type of train - a single decker, and a bit more modern in appearance than the other Superliners I have been on. There was no observation car, but it had a lounge and a dining car, and once more all meals were included.

    Again I was glad I had booked a roomette which allowed me to lie down and catch up on my sleep. Although fairly small, these are ideal for 1 or 2 passengers, although my neighbours did say that lying in the pull-down top bunk was like having an MRI scan. The addition here was that this tiny cabin had its own WC and wash hand basin, handy for those nocturnal visits when you reach a certain age, although you had to be a bit of a contortionist for anything other than ‘pouring the potatoes’ as Aunty Lesley would say!

    We left Ol’ Man River, and crossed Lake Pontchartrain, the train appearing to float across the expanse of water. How they ever managed to build some of these railroads beats me. This train was much quieter, and the most relaxing to date, as we left Louisiana and travelled through the southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. I was excited to be passing close to the summer camp I worked at for 2 summers on the Camp America programme 45 years ago at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia.

    My neighbours across the way were sisters on the wrong side of sixty, who were returning to their home in New York (‘well, it’s actually the Hamptons’ the older of the two clarified). I joined them for breakfast and they were good fun, reminding me of my friends Rea and Maggie. ‘Why don’t you keep Trump over there’ declared Rea loudly, at which point they both dissolved into uncontrollable laughter, ‘we’re fed up spending our weekends protesting outside the White House’. They were later reprimanded by the Conductor for being too loud and laughing like hyenas.

    By the time Ashley, my short and stout cabin attendant, had converted my roomette into a bedroom, the train had been idling behind a freight train in Georgia for 3 hours. ‘Relax, just chill out’ Ashley assured, ‘we’ll make up that time by breakfast, no problem’. Sadly, Ashley’s optimistic predictions proved to be inaccurate, as I awoke at 7.30am to the Conductor’s announcement that this express service was now running 8 hours late! ‘If this causes any problems, just let us know, folks’, he added cheerily.

    So much for my leisurely day exploring the nation’s capital. The novelty of admiring the lush green scenery waned, and the train eventually limped into the nation’s capital city at 6pm (instead of 10am) after a journey of 35 hours. I only had time for a quick walk outside (in the rain) before heading for the Lounge ready to board my final marathon train journey to Orlando, Florida on The Silver Meteor.
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  • Day17

    The Big Easy - Nearly

    June 7, 2019 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 26 °C

    Not a great start to the day. A massive thunderstorm and torrential rain last night caused the power to go off in my hotel, and the air con refused to come back on, resulting in a hot sweaty night. Got up early to catch the 6.25am train which showed no sign of moving until well over an hour later. Amtrak’s customer service rivalled ScotRail with the lack of information, and keeping passengers, including pensioners like me, standing on the platform.

    The Eastbound Sunset Limited to New Orleans was packed and we were allocated seats as we boarded by a very camp, self important young man, relishing his moment of power: ‘No we DON’T have any window seats available, Ma’am’. I was assigned a seat next to an odd looking middle aged man with some kind of mental health issues. His small table contained 4 large McDonald’s drink cups filled to the brim with iced water. ‘I need to get up all the time and move about’ he said in a Forest Gump kind of voice. ‘Does that bother you?’ ‘Of course not’ I said. ‘I mean I have to get up all the time and move about. Does that bother you?’ He repeated this a number of times before saying ‘I have to get up now!’. He did so, and stretched up to reach his bag in the overhead locker, extracting another four 2 litre bottles of water. As he did so, he leaned over me with his flies open, and I could somehow tell he hadn’t availed himself of the shower facilities on board.

    I asked the Conductor to find me another seat, which he did, in the middle of a large black family enjoying a huge breakfast of indescribable foodstuffs while laughing uproariously. I decided to remove myself to the relative calm of the Observation Lounge Car.

    It’s a 16 train journey from San Antonio to New Orleans, and we encountered the by now usual issues of giving priority to freight trains - 2 miles long and often 2 containers high. Again no WiFi on this route (come back ScotRail), so I welcomed the meal breaks in the dining car.

    My lunch companions were Rod, a retired casino worker from Atlantic City who mourned the decline of his employment there, and who now spent his time riding the rails all over the country (a bit like me); and Jeff and Alice, self styled food critics who described In detail every meal they had eaten over the past five years. ‘I mean we love the food in Italy - have you ever been to Rome?’ he enquired ‘I mean Rome, Italy’ he clarified, lest I thought he was talking about Rome, Georgia. Jeff spoke with the assured confidence of a military guy (Yessir, I am in the American Air Force), and his younger wife giggled a lot and took strange photos (oh, look - there’s the highway - click!).

    I have to say that the clientele on this southern crossing of the States was not as sophisticated as it was coming across from Chicago on the California Zephyr. Without wishing to offend, trailer trash springs to mind. Regular announcements had to be made by the Conductor about not putting anything but paper down the toilet as blockages were occurring - boak! Feet on the seats, leaving trash around and speaking loudly while other folk are trying to read - I really must learn to behave properly on the train!

    This Eastern side of Texas greener and and lusher than the earlier arid desert landscapes, and what a huge state Texas is. We passed through Houston and eventually crossed the State line into Louisiana (shades of Whistle Down the Wind).

    Due to the timing of the long distance trains, which don’t run every day, I always knew this connection would be tight. However the very late arrival of the train - 18.5 hours after we left San Antonio- left little opportunity to see much of New Orleans before it was time for bed and another early start. This was disappointing as I hadn’t been here for many years and I believe there have been a lot of changes. Ah well, I’ll just have to come back for that ‘Jambalaya, a- crawfish pie and-a file gumbo...’
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