'Miami to Del Rio'




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Miami Beach

.Miami Beach - looking north

............A couple of detail shots of Miami Beach beach (taken from larger originals)




Landing at Miami was spectacular in itself: aerial views of the art-deco shoreline and wide beach area - with a red sun sinking low in the west over a vast estate of 'low-rise' bungalows that stretched to the horizon... When I wandered out through the doors of the airport into the warm draft of a virtually deserted windblown concourse - with my bike all ready and loaded - I was immediately confronted by a young English guy touting for his illicit taxi service: $5 to Miami Beach hostel.

I'd intended biking to a campsite on the edge of the Everglades, and then continuing down to the Florida Keys. Ever persuadable when the cost is small, I allowed myself to be swayed - and later was glad I did.

The hostel was a magnificent old colonial building not far from the beach. Alex (the taxi guy) intended ending his 'business' the next day and driving up to Cape Canaveral on the Monday for a shuttle launch. I was the only person interested in sharing the trip. So after a couple of days idling, swimming and wandering, we set off for the Cape



To Cape Canaveral... and onward...

Alex's car was a massive estate with a double mattress in back (and my bike beside it). First night we stopped at a place called Cocoa Beach not far from the Cape. But what a sensational journey that was for me that first day: through the protracted affluent suberbs of Miami and onto interstate 95, then flanked by 'exotic' dense forest we sailed hour after hour, past Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and on - which should have been monotonous, but of all the amazing things that were to come for me, this first trip was probably the most magical experience I can remember.

I was in completely new territory, and for what seemed like an indefinite duration ahead (I had no return ticket), and everything felt as fresh and remarkable as I guess it does to a four-year-old upon entering for the first time a fabulous burgeoning world, solid with new weird intriguing things. Apart from the road (and the occasional enormous advertising signboard) everything looked almost primordial - as though a prehistoric raptor might suddenly charge out from the bushes and trees which spread away interminably on both sides of the freeway.

WHY DON'T I HAVE ANY PHOTOs OF THIS??? - Answer: I'm really not a photographer. Taking a photo is not something I naturally think of doing. At the end of this 6-month trip I had 750 shots - an average of less than 5 a day. And it's from these that I now select the minimum and best to show what I reckon are the most revealing images of America as it appeared for me.

At the same time I could go into immense detail here on the events and experiences of each day, enough perhaps to make a substantial book. But instead, in an effort not to bore anyone's pants off, I'll just mention the salient bits.

OK. So after the shuttle launch we headed North again. You can probably make out the cracks in Alex's car windscreen on the shot I took as we approached Jacksonville via a huge bridge. After wandering around we eneded up at dusk in a balcony restaurant overlooking the river - to the left of the buildings in the picture.

After another surprisingly comfortable night in the back of Alex's car - in some remote rural spot north of Jacksonville - we aimed for Jekyll Island, which Alex had heard about and was keen to see. A beautiful place too, and obviously frequented mostly by the well heeled, with tacky idylic colonial-style mansions, everything white with their quaint picket fences an' all, like one imagines in Gatsby terrain.
Then to Brunswick, and just inland on the Waycross Rd a track led to an amazing hostel comprised of several geodesic domes and a tree house where great yellow butterflies fluttered in dapled sunlight and a 'gypsy' girl sat stroking a pet bantam on her knee. I quickly got used to the smell of sulphur from the water, and the taste, and actually got to like it. It resembles freshly peeled boiled eggs (definitely not bad eggs).

This 'egg-sulphur' smell was quite common in the States, and completely covers the geyser areas in Jellystone Park - which at this point was so far off in time and space that it never even crossed my mind.The predominant smell on the Waycross Road, though, and over wide stretches of Georgia, was of wood-pulp from the paper-bag factories. A pleasant rural waft too, far preferable to livestock of which I saw very few anywhere (apart from horses at a rodeo in Wyoming).

Next stop: Okefenokee Swamps - one of the many great National Parks. For $25 I bought a pass that allowed entry to all NP territory for a year - which turned out to be good forward thinking. A cheerful outgoing guy called Warrick from New Zealand who was on his way to upper New York State to visit his sister there and flog the massive Plymouth car he was driving before returning home, made a detour and gave me and my bike a lift there. He'd been looking forward to visiting those aligator-infested swamps ever since he'd heard about them.

Alex, in the meantime - during the several days I lazed and biked around the Brunswick district - made tracks for Atlanta where he hoped to (illicitly) get a job in air-conditioning - his up-coming trade in the UK, apparently. At the end of the day Warrick left me at a virtually-deserted campsite. On coarse grass, among well- spaced massive trees, I quickly pitched the tent before nightfall. After a slow snack I lay on my sleeping mat listening to the incessant circadas and gazing up at the tent roof in the low gloom of twilight. And instead of reflecting on a glorious day - or rather, the sensational couple of weeks since arriving at Miami - I remember wondering bleakly what mad scheming of mine had brought me to this remote desolate place, miles from anywhere and thousands of miles from home, with nothing but what could be carried on a bike? Here I was, alone, in this vast unfamiliar wilderness of forest and swamp - which was nevertheless very sparcely inhabited - laying on a hard mat in a confined space when I could have been home with everything easy and convenient and comfortable... and then I guess I must have fallen asleep.

Because the next thing I became aware of was an intense light. And I opened my eyes to high-contrast bright-&-dark-green shadows on the tent cast by huge leaves and morning sunshine. I put my head out and while my eyes adjusted I could only see sparkling reflections of a heavy dew. Then big coloured birds and insects came into focus, with the associated cacophony. I crawled out and began to pack-up my stuff, realising I'd never felt more contented in my life. It was as if I'd not only accepted my new unfamiliar situation but actually relished it - and what was more, as was to transpire, that morning set the mood for the rest of this amazing 6-month journey... a journey I suppose in search of something in myself (what journey isn't?)... but also a journey of outer discovery, of novelty and adventure, of visiting strange and beautiful places that one reads of or sees on TV, but rarely experiences first hand, a journey to the reality that springs from living close to, being linked and in direct relationship with a world that can always be perceived afresh, ever renewed... for each day was a story in itself.

That morning, and for several days while I biked across these sprawling swamps on immaculate deserted (about one vehicle an hour) roads that appeared to have just been resurfaced, over creeks and through hamlets, passing ominous-looking snakes and spiders that occasionally ventured onto the road or which I saw in the creeks, wafted by a soft hot wind like the draft from a furnace, then after sundown racing an exhilarating 20 or 30 miles true-biker style, and at nightfall hurriedly camping in whatever isolated oasis of grass I found nearby, waking now and then to the distant mournful cries of wolves somewhere deep in the forest... I continued on until finally camping in a wild overgrown field within 10 miles of Tallahassee. Those indispensible mosquito-net tent-doors functioned magnificently, since not a single insect got in, yet fresh air could flow through unimpeded.

Next morning in a Tallehassee cafe I scanned a local paper to buy a car, and late afternoon the following day I was headed down towards the gulf coast in a fine Ford estate, sleeping mats and bike in back, and approaching what appeared to be a massive cyclone moving up from the south. It turned out to be just a bloody big thunder storm - depicted somwhat fictitiously in 'Travelling'. And so, for several days I skirted the Gulf Coast, moving towards New Orleans via Panama City, Pensacola and Mobile. After a week of Jazz, Easter celebrations (Mardi Gras), and general lounging about, I continued west to Houtson, then Austin and on to Del Rio at the Mexican border.



Cape Canaveral

...Shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida



Entering Jacksonville, Florida


.jekyl Is

Jekyll Island, Georgia


Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island, Georgia


The Waycross Rd

The Waycross Road..


.Okefenokee Swamps

Okefenokee Swamps





Suwannee River

Suwannee River (still biking)

Gulf beach -

Gulf Coast beach - approaching Galveston (but looking east)

Island Restaurant near Galveston

Island Restaurant (from free ferry to Galveston)


Mission Control

Mission Control (south of Houston, Texas)






Saturn-5 rocket (obsolete) >>