Daytona Beach, FL
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 fairly 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. Every now and then the ocean water would reach our feet. It was very cold water. We were collecting shells as we walked. However, there were no where near 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. Actually, the people at the t-shirt store we initially visited had recommended this restaurant. It turned out to be a wonderful recommendation.
Leslie, Hillary and I all started with a Landshark beer. I had never had one before. In fact, I had never heard of Landshark before. It was served with a slice of lime. It really reminded me of a Corona.
We began our lunch with a half-pound of Gulf shrimp. It had some sort of Caribbean sauce in which it had been marinated and cooked. It was served with melted butter and regular cocktail sauce. It was the best tasting shrimp I have ever had.
Leslie ordered fish and chips. She enjoyed every bite. Hillary ordered a mahi mahi sandwich. She liked it so much and ate it so quickly that she 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 bit. I ordered a chicken breast sandwich. It had 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 30 minute tour. It was very well done. We boarded a tram and visited several sites on the property. One of the highlights of the tour was victory lane. For a family that has been watching NASCAR for years, this was quite a treat. One of the speedway personnel there took our photo in victory lane. It was hard to believe my grandfather had been racing in the Daytona area in the early 1950’s.
Years ago I had taken a tour of Talladega Motor Speedway. During that tour, we actually 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 sort of go-kart race was in progress. Regardless, the tour was very interesting.
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 car with which they have won on a super speedway. The race the following weekend is at Talladega, another super speedway. 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.
After leaving that area of the tour, we were allowed to walk to the fence at the edge of the track. It was near the end of one of the seating areas. We stood at the fence 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 essentially laying on one’s back and speeding around the track.
Believe me, the body of the car was not in very good condition! However, in the world of racing, that does not really matter. The cosmetics of the car could be easily reshaped, but the motor, chassis, etc. could be a very promising competitor at the Talladega race.
The drive back home on I-4 was a bit of a nightmare. When we got into the “amusement park area” the four westbound lanes became a parking lot. As the traffic was really 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 take cash. I assumed that meant we could use a credit card. Unfortunately, there was no way to make payment. The ramp was apparently only intended for some sort of pre-paid card. I can only hope we do not end up with some $100 love-note from Florida.
Even after all of the traveling tribulations we made it home safely.