Route Map


Day 44: Back to the Beach

Start: S. Miami Beach, FL
End: S. Miami Beach, FL
Miles Driven: 39.3 (8986.8 total)

After seeing Catherine off for her jaunt to Key West, we headed out to check out Coconut Grove, a popular eating/drinking/shopping neighborhood. We grabbed a bite to eat and some fresh-squeezed orange-mango juice, and then discovered that tomorrow is a big street festival. So we cut our visit short and headed to the beach with plans to return the next day.
Key Biscayne is an island further off the Florida coast that is known for its stunning beaches. The weather was 80 degrees and sunny and the water was a brilliant green. We spent the afternoon lounging in the sun knowing this would be the warmest weather we would see for awhile.


Day 43: Why Doesn't E-ZPass Work in Florida?

Start: Melbourne, FL
End: S. Miami Beach, FL
Miles Driven: 221.3 (8957.5 total)

What happens when you combine Miami rush hour traffic, a car accident that shuts down three lanes of I-95, toll plaza after toll plaza and railroad crossings that actually have trains? of the worst driving days yet. The 200 miles between Melbourne and Miami Beach took us nearly six hours to complete.

We finally arrived at Katrina's friend Catherine's apartment, who lives in famous South Beach. A few of Catherine's friends met up with us for dinner at a German Restaurant on Lincoln Rd where we enjoyed big beer and big flavor. The night ended at an Irish pub with dancing to the stylings of DJ Big Foot (although for the record, we do take issue with the "Irish Pub" label as they offered neither Guinness nor Smithwick's).


Day 42: Back on the East Coast

Start: Panama City Beach, FL
End: Melbourne, FL
Miles Driven: 458.6 (8736.2 total)

This morning we awoke to the sun shining over the Gulf Coast. We spent an hour enjoying the beach before hitting the road south and east to Melbourne. Along the way we saw roadside stands advertising such Florida delicacies as tangerines, oranges, and boiled peanuts.

In Orlando we stop
ped for dinner at Katrina's childhood favorite: Sizzler. After satiating ourselves at the never-ending salad bar, we drove the last leg of our trip to Patrick's grandparents house in Melbourne and relaxed after a long day of driving in the hot tub.


Day 41: A Day on the Gulf Coast

Start: New Orleans, LA
End: Panama City Beach, FL
Miles Driven: 330.0 (8277.6 total)

The French Quarter was a lot different by daylight. The frozen daquiri machines had stopped swirling, bars were closed, and the street revelers were nowhere to be found. We picked up a chicory coffee and "beignet" (donut-like local specialty) as we checked out Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral. We also stopped at St. Louis Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, to see the impressive above-ground tombs and mausoleums.

On our way out of New Orleans we drove through the lower 9th Ward. It was astounding how devastated the area still is a year and a half later and how little rebuilding has taken place. Home after home is marked with FEMA spray paint and still abandoned. There was a church with nothing left intact except for its front wall with two columns with the pews that used to occupy it piled alongside.

We saw the same in Biloxi, Mississippi where beachfront property stretches out for miles with vacant lots. The restaurants and tourist shops that formerly lined the road were evidenced only by the battered signs that remain.

After driving through southern Alabama, we reached Florida and had to choose a spot for the evening. As Patrick has many fond memories of his Spring Break days in Panama City Beach, and finding that the hotel rates are drastically lower in early January, we checked in to the Sandpiper Beacon for a night on the Gulf of Mexico.


Day 40: Cajun Flavor

Start: Houston, TX
End: New Orleans, LA

Miles Driven: 361.9 (7947.6)

This morning it finally happened...cruising through the swamps of Louisiana...we got our first speeding ticket. Or as Patrick would like to point out, Katrina got our first speeding ticket. Lt. Jewelle of the Louisiana State Police kindly informed us that we were driving too fast and as Katrina apologized, he replied, "Don't worry, it's not a felony."

On the road again, and driving a little slower, we made it to New Orleans before dark. But the time of day didn't matter: people were already drinking on Bourbon Street. We picked up a daquiri-to-go as we walked around and decided upon a dinner spot. Acme Oyster House offered fresh oysters and regional Cajun/Creole dishes, which is exactly what Katrina was looking for.

After dinner we spent some more quality time on Bourbon Street. The Bourbon Blues Company attracted us with the promise of a live band, but after waiting an hour to find the band open with a cover of "3 AM" that was anything but blues-y, we continued on our way. Unfortunately Preservation Hall, which is famous for its jazz performances, was closed, so we went to its affiliated bar across the street. The jazz was fantastic at Maison Bourbon and we settled in there for the remainder of the evening.


Day 39: Down By The River

Start: San Antonio, TX
End: Houston, TX
Miles Driven: 214.4 (7585.7 total)

After getting another late start, we headed for downtown San Antonio. First we visited Market Square expecting an outdoor ethnic marketplace. Instead we found a series of airport terminal-like gift shops bunched together in one large indoor building. If you are in the market for a cowboy hat, cheap plastic jewelry, or a 64-oz margarita, this is a good place to go.

Our next stop was the Spanish Governor's Palace where we finally found the local flavor for which we were looking. The building served as the home of the highest-ranking Spanish official when Texas was a part of the Spanish Empire and much of the original furnishings are still intact in this surprisingly small and unadorned structure.

For lunch we found a traditional BBQ restaurant along San Antonio's "Paseo Del Rio" (or Riverwalk for the gringos in our reading audience). Our lunch was tasty but the Riverwalk was even tastier. The San Antonio River flows right through downtown and is flanked by sidewalks, shops and restaurants as well as gardens, waterfalls and trees that arch over the water.

No visit to San Antonio would be complete without a stop by The Alamo. The history of the spot was overwhelming and we learned much about the historic stand as well as the birth of Texas.We capped off the day with an evening in Houston where we stayed with Katrina's friend Cait and caught the Ohio State-Florida game at a local Mexican restaurant.


Day 38: Southwestern Spelunking

Start: Carlsbad, NM
End: San Antonio, TX

Miles Driven: 510.2 (7371.3 total)

Last night we made sure to set the alarm and woke up this morning in time to make it to Carlsbad Caverns as it opened. We descended 750 feet from the surface via the natural entrance to see the largest cave in the Western Hemisphere. The highlight of the tour was the "Big Room", a subterranean chamber which covers 14 acres and is filled with stalagmites, stalactites, cavern pools, and other cave decorations. Amazingly, there are still connected passageways and cave rooms in the cavern system that are yet to be fully explored.
After ascending back into the sunlight, the rest of the day was spent on the road. The drive was long, flat, and uneventful: just as we expected of rural Texas. The lone highlight was tracking down each local AM station broadcasting the Patriots' game so we could stay up to date on the action. Upon arrival in San Antonio, we checked in to our free hotel room and had dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse. Patrick was excited to find that even the spaghetti is bigger in Texas.