Memories Of Youthful Travels Part 10
We predicted a total shutdown of Federal parks and campsites, so we pressed on, speeding from the edges of the Rio Grande to the Gulf Coast in two days. Corpus Christi sounded nice, but the Body of Christ offered no salvation. After three dozen illegal U - turns, we found Port Aransas State Park, a strip of pristine beach complete with campsites, showers, and mosquitos the size of small housepets. These bloodthirsty buggers couldn't be stopped with Industrial Strength Off, diverted by citrenella, or eradicated with DDT. Camping was next to impossible, so we ended up staying in the Port Aransas Inn, a former youth hostel turned hotel. Complete with A/C, cable TV, a pool, and kitchenettes, this place wasn't so bad. Okay, so the hot water heater burst in the room next to ours, forcing the elderly tenents into the "jungle room," one of the theme rooms complete with mosquito netting and hammocks; but the off - season rates were right, we were dry, and had no reason to complain. Then the rain came.
The relentless storm followed us all the way to New Orleans, making our stay in the murder capital of the USA short, sweet, and soggy. Prior to leaving, we had Sunday brunch with old college friends along Saint Charles. There's nothing like a toasted "everything" bagel accompanied by the rambling banter of a local wingnut begging us for "a cigarette, a light, and a bite to eat." After giving the loon some spare thorazine, we exchanged parting words with our friends and headed out through the bayou toward Florida, the magically expensive kingdom of the South.
We stayed in the heart of Orlando courtesy of Julie's cousin Karen and her husband Joe. For two weeks we were in the lap of luxury, relaxing with cable TV, a Mac Powerbook, and freebies by the pound. Joe arranged for complimentary tickets to Sea World (Shamu says "Hey you, gimme some herring!"), two tickets to Terror on Church Street (a year round professional haunted house), and a crazy Thanksgiving dinner with third and fourth cousins twice removed. All this in just one week.
The remaining seven days were filled with job searching, a four hour canoe run in the country side, Flea World and Fun World (America's largest flea market complete with a mini amusement park. They even had a peformance by live tigers and other big kitties), and a Meat Puppets Primus show. The bands rocked but the venue sucked. For some reason the promoter switched the show from The Orlando Arena to a nightclub called The Embassay - a two story bar with a main stage, two dancing stages - one downstairs and one upstairs, and two bars. While about 800 sweaty underage fans crammed themselves downstairs near the throngs of moshers and stage divers, we sat upstairs, in the air conditioned 21 and up area, watching the show through a tacky glass wall. However, as the downstairs heat combined with the cold air upstairs, the glass wall quickly fogged over. For a free concert experience, it was good, howeved, the Embassay experience is just not worth $20 a pop.
With about two and a half weeks left in our trip, we started to crave some stability, and longed for a home of our own. Traveling around America was hard work; we needed a break. To help us relax, we drove to the coast and camped on the beach for three nights. In December Daytona is desolate; we shared the sand and warm Florida sun with a handful of beachcombers. Our last night of camping was filled with prepubescent boy scouts running amuck through Anastasia State Park. Appearently "Scout's Honor" does not include observing quiet hours. The Boy Scouts of America subsequently received our Rude Homophobes of the Year Award along with two weeks of sensitivity training.
Our journey ended with a two week visit with the folks - - a very mellow Christmas in Charleston, South Carolina. On December 26, 1995, after three and a half months of traveling, we made a final 12 hour push north, driving quickly North to the cold Winter awaiting us. Our giant 12,500 mile circle was complete; Julie and I arrived safely in Pennsylvania, jobless and $4,000 poorer, but with a wealth in our hearts that was both eternal and immeasureable.