After waking up from our luxurious (yacht) sleeping quarters, we made our way up to Caitlyn and Ryan’s beautiful house. We were immediately greeted by parents and parents’ college friends who were waking up and just starting to prepare breakfast. We excused ourselves to shower and, once we returned, were greeted by the scent of leftover (but still fresh tasting) steak and mushrooms, as well as fresh fruit and a variety of toasts and bagels with whatever toppings we wanted. Thanks for everything, guys.
After departing, we drove for about three hours to Jacksonville. On the way we stopped at a gas station to buy some fresh Georgia peaches. These were outstanding: so fresh and delicate that almost no pressure had to be applied to bite one. If you are lucky, you can find peaches like this maybe once a year in PA; it was amazing to be able to pull up to a roadside stand and buy a few on demand.
We met a family of well-equipped travelers who were also stopping to sample the perfect peach. Their van had an “I’ve been everywhere” look to it with bumper stickers from top to bottom. After a quick discussion and exchange of stories, we presented them with an “America in 100 Days” bumper sticker, which they gladly placed in the coveted spot to the left of the “I ♥ Jet Noise” sticker. It was nice meeting you guys.
We continued the drive to the Jacksonville Landing. We didn’t plan our drive around Jacksonville; we planned Jacksonville around our drive. I am sure if we had shown up at a different time or to a different area, it might have been fun or interesting, but on a Tuesday at 3:00 pm Jacksonville landing was completely empty. To paraphrase a famous hobbit, “[we] don't know half of [Jacksonville] half as well as [we] should like; and [we] like less than half of [Jacksonville] half as well as [it] deserve[s].”
We were excited for Daytona anyway, so back in the car and off we went. The drive was nice and, once we arrived, we realized that it didn’t have to end just because we were at the beach. We could only go ten miles per hour and it was rainy, but we were still having a great time.
Halfway down our beach drive, we noticed the reoccurring theme of boarded up and neglected hotels, which we later learned was a result of hurricane insurance disputes. I thought it likely that it was just as much a symptom of declining tourism. Either way, they were a huge eyesore and waste of resources and the human productivity used to create the hotels in the first place.
We decided to stop for a drink and some advice as to where to get some food and go out that evening. As soon as we walked into the bar, we recognized that it was one of those tough looking places. The bartender, a tall guy who was friendly enough but looked like he could hold his own in a biker crowd, informed us that he worked at a beer bar because he didn’t like liquor-drunk bikers. When we asked, he gave us directions to some bar or nightclub venues but strongly suggested staying away from the biker-bars in the alleys. Tom asked if they would give us any trouble. The man pointed to Tom and I and said that they would probably give us no trouble. Then he looked at Sarah, nodded and said “You might get some.”
We decided on a less clubby beach bar, called the Ocean Deck, for dinner and a few drinks. Tom and I split a fried seafood platter with Mahi-Mahi, clams, shrimp, scallops over a bed of French fries. Sarah had a salad. We hung around for awhile and talked to the bartender. When I wondered downstairs to use the little bikers’ room, I noticed a couple parents with young children, who were just slightly too drunk among the meager crowd. I don’t know if they were locals or tourists but I quietly hoped that they were calling it a night soon and not sticking around for the band.
In either case, we were not sticking around for the band. For the third time in this breakneck-speed day, we were getting back on the road to stay at family (and personal) friends Dave and Amy’s beach house in Jupiter, Florida, for our second night in a row of excellent accommodations.