Daytona Beach, Florida – December 28, 2013
Today was Daytona day. We had an absolute blast in spite of the weather conditions. We arrived at the boardwalk area at about 09:40. It was somewhat overcast with a little bit of mist from time to time.
The first order of business was a restroom break followed by hot cocoa and coffee. While we were still drinking our hot drinks, we walked into the t-shirt shop that was next door. That gave us all an opportunity to stock up on tourist junk.
With our purchases in tow, we left the t-shirt shop and headed out onto the beach. The sand was amazingly compact. It is no wonder they used to race cars on the beach. We walked north along the beach for maybe 3/4 of a mile. Now and then, the ocean water would reach our feet. It was some frigid water. We were collecting shells as we walked; however, there did not seem to be as many shells on the Atlantic side as there were on the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida.
It was at this point we all discussed the unique opportunities we had been afforded; dipping our toes in the Atlantic at Florida and dipping our toes on the other side of the Atlantic while we were in Spain.
We turned back to the south, continuing to look for shells as we walked. Hillary is planning to do something with them when she gets home. We continued under the pier that leads to Joe’s Crab Shack. It was in that vicinity we came across a man fishing. He was about mid-thigh deep in the ocean, casting out periodically. There was also an egret in that area looking for its next meal.
Another couple of hundred yards beyond the pier was the Ocean Deck Restaurant and Beach Club. We decided to stop in for lunch. The people at the t-shirt store we initially visited had recommended this restaurant. It turned out to be an enjoyable recommendation.
Leslie, Hillary and I all started with a Landshark beer. I had never heard of nor had one before. Served with a slice of lime, it reminded me of a Corona.
We began our lunch with a half-pound of Gulf shrimp. It had some Caribbean sauce in which it had been marinated and cooked, served with melted butter and regular cocktail sauce. It was the best tasting shrimp I have ever had.
Leslie ordered fish and chips, savoring every bite. Hillary ordered a mahi-mahi sandwich. She liked it so much she devoured it and was done eating well before any of us. Tyler ordered a Monte Cristo, his first-ever. He thought he had died and gone to heaven. He ate every single bite. I ordered a chicken breast sandwich marinated in a spicy Caribbean sauce. It had a little heat, but it was good. I am sure everything tasted better because we were sitting right at the beach. While we were there, the sun came out for a whopping 18 minutes.
When we left the beach, we headed to the Daytona International Speedway. I had always wanted to take a tour there. We opted for the well done and enjoyable 30-minute tour. We boarded a tram and visited several sites on the property, including the victory lane. For a family that has been watching NASCAR for decades, this was quite a treat. One of the speedway personnel there took our photo in victory lane. It was hard to believe my grandfather, Millard Clothier, had been racing in the Daytona area in the early 1950s.
Years ago I had taken a tour of Talladega Motor Speedway. During that tour, we got to ride one lap around the track. I remember the banking in the corners was amazingly steep. I was hoping for a similar experience at Daytona. Unfortunately the day we were there, some go-kart race was in progress. Regardless, the tour was fascinating.
At the end of the tour, we got to see Jimmy Johnson’s winning car from February 2013. Every driver that races at Daytona must sign an agreement that if they win, they must leave the winning car on display at the speedway for the next year. That can be particularly bittersweet for the drivers. They have a vehicle with which they have won on a superspeedway. The race the following weekend is at Talladega, another superspeedway. The drivers would like to take the winning vehicle to the next speedway in hopes of winning there too. Unfortunately, their agreement negates that possibility.
The body of Jimmy Johnson’s car was not in perfect condition! However, in the world of racing, that does not matter. The cosmetics of the vehicle could be easily reshaped, but the motor, chassis, etc. could be an up-and-coming competitor at the Talladega race.
After leaving that area of the tour, we were allowed to watch some of the race at the fence. It was near the end of one of the seating areas. We stood at the wall and watched the go-karts zipping by us. The tram driver had told us during the drive that the go-karts could reach speeds of up to 170 miles per hour. That is very fast for laying on one’s back and speeding around the track.
The drive back home on I-4 was a bit of a nightmare. When we got into the “amusement park area” of Orlando, the four westbound lanes became a parking lot. As the traffic was choking down, I asked Leslie for the rental car company map. I took a quick look and determined we could bypass most of the traffic by taking the next exit, the Florida Turnpike. We had already had quite a bit of experience with the toll booths on some of our other trips. The first exit off the turnpike, the one we needed to take to get back to the condo, had a sign that indicated it did not accept cash. I assumed that meant we could use a credit card. Unfortunately, there was no way to make a payment. The ramp was only for some pre-paid card. I can only hope we do not end up with some $200 love-note from Florida, thanking me for using their turnpike…
Even after all of the traveling tribulations, we made it home safely.
For our last day in Florida, December 30, we decided to hang out at the condo. We packed and lounged. Nothing inspiring happened.
Dinner found us at a nearby restaurant, Chuy’s Mexican Food. I started with a Pacifico beer. Our waitress served us some warm, paper-thin chips and salsa to go with our drinks. They reminded me of the chips we used to get at Papasitas in Dallas, Texas. I am sure part of the reason I was so enamored is because this is the first Mexican food restaurant I have eaten at in forever.
I ordered a combination platter. There was a taco, two chicken enchiladas, two cheese enchiladas, some rice, and beans. It was way off my diet, but it was sooo good! I did not leave a single scrap on my plate. The server told us all of their food is made fresh daily. That includes their salsa and their tortillas. I would go back!
On the morning of December 31, we all made our way to the airport to get our separate flights. Once Leslie and I got to Miami, we ended up at a restaurant in the food court overlooking the tarmac. We enjoyed our last U. S. meal before going home.
When we initially checked in at the Caribbean Airlines counter, they made a specific point that the plane would begin boarding at 14:00. We were at the gate 20 or 30-minutes prior. At 14:00 we could tell we were back on Caribbean time. The gate agents did not even appear until 14:30.
Our flight to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago was uneventful.
On our flight from Port of Spain to Georgetown, we once again lucked out. We did not have to get off of the plan in Port of Spain. We waited while the crew did some restocking and then boarded the new passengers.
We arrived in Guyana at about 21:30, some 15 minutes early. Unfortunately, our luggage did not come. We hope to be reunited with our bags tomorrow. That was quite frustrating, in part because of all of the souvenirs we had purchased.
At 23:00, we were home. We tried to get on the internet but discovered it was not working for some reason. That was just one more disappointment. Oh well.
At midnight it sounded like a war zone. Many of the people in our neighborhood lit and launched fireworks. Many of them were the types that shoot up into the sky, explode, and then shower colorful sparks. That activity continued for nearly one hour. Oh well.