Page Six of our daily Tour Journal   

17th May 2004
We've got about a 350 mile drive ahead of us today, plus a major stop along the way, so we set ourselves the goal of getting away by 7.30am. We then surprised ourselves by actually getting away by 8.30 am, a far better result than usually achieved. It's not that we don't get up early enough. It's just that Brian always has to attend to client emails each day.

The nature of Brian's website business is great inasmuch that we can travel pretty much whenever we wish. However, the downside is that he must always be on call to deal with any issues which may develop so we are never totally on vacation.

We drove out of Mississippi into Alabama then on to Mobile (pron. Mobeel). The bridge across Mobile Bay was a little over 5 miles long and thus dwarfed the one which impressed us yesterday. We then  continued on across Alabama and into Florida. In due course we find our way to Pensacola Florida and locate the US Navy Air Museum. This place was recommended to us by the US Marine Reservist cum FedEx pilot who sat beside Brian on the flight from Los Angeles to New Orleans.

A full flight of 5 Blue Angels stunt planes

The US Navy Air Museum turns out to be very big and very impressive. There looks to be close to 100 planes of every vintage right up to the present day in this massive museum. And every one of them is in impeccable condition regardless of vintage.

There's even a full sized Imax Theatre physically within the museum and we enjoyed one of the films very much. Incredible air footage of all descriptions.

French-British Sopworth Camel from World War 1

 

Lots of exhibits are best viewed from the mezannine

 

The Tour Guide was very interesting but as we didn't
have enough time to see it through we had to depart

 

Highly advanced World War 1 German Fokker
came on line too late to prevent ultimate defeat

After at least two hours in the museum we went back to the carpark to find our car only made a ticking noise but wouldn't start. Most of you know that Brian aint no mechanic but he thought he knew the problem. "It's either the starter motor solenoid or the bendix spring thingie", he opined. "Just call Hertz", said Lynn.

Then Brian made a discovery we won't elaborate on here. "Hmmm, maybe we have a flat battery!"

Brian collared one guy after another as cars arrived or departed the carpark in an attempt to find someone with battery jumper leads. Around about try number eight a guy said "sure do". Shortly after that we got the car started and drove on our way with Brian wiping the egg off his face.

By now it was clear that it would be late LATE before we would arrive at our Bed and breakfast in Monticello, Florida. It meant some serious concentrated driving to reach John Denham House by 9.30 pm. Arriving in a totally exhausted condition we received the following greeting, "Hello, I'm Patricia and welcome to John Denham House. You're our only guests at the moment so I've put you into our honeymoon suite".

18th May 2004
We had a late and leisurely breakfast (we're going to have to put an end to these massive breakfasts), then we went out to mooch around this very small town and nearby environs.

John Denham House B&B in Monticello, Florida 

The townspeople all seem to know each other and were very friendly to each other and to us. Literally everyone who passed us offered a greeting and we're old fashioned enough to believe that this is the way it OUGHT to be....right?

We popped our head into the recently restored "Opera House" and the lone guardian dropped her work and insisted on giving us a full guided tour complete with all the history.

When we we walked into the local Barber Shoppe, Ronnie Cox offered Brian a shave or a haircut. "Do you mind if we just take a photo?" "Sure, just go right ahead" said the very obliging Ronnie.

Driving out into the nearby green countryside we spied a couple of majestic oak trees in an exposed position. These were far from the best we've seen but being well exposed they were easy to photograph. We don't know why oak trees are rarely planted in Australia. They're a really lovely tree and of course, here in the South they are always replete with skeins of spanish moss.

We're so sick of eating road food, most of which is so over seasoned, over embellished and over the top. Our B&B hostess recommended we drive over the State line into Georgia and try a place called the Farmers Market Cafe in Thomasville GA. We took her advice and from here on we are definitely going to seek out similar places and avoid chain restaurants.

Although we have encountered so called "southern food" at a number of different places in the last 10 days, our gut feeling was that the Farmers Market Cafe was far closer to the genuine article. It was nothing to look at and we probably would never have selected it but for the recommendation. However the food was simply, appetising just what the doctor ordered (sorry that's wrong because Brian's doctor would be appalled given the fat content of this southern food).

A very refined, mature and extremely hospitable black guy recognised our puzzled looks when examining the array of vegetables. He took us on a guided tour of the buffet, throwing in an extremely erudite commentary as he guided us along the Bain maries.

Here's what the $8 per head Southern stye buffet included:-

  • Grilled Pork Chops
  • Deep Fried Shrimp
  • Southern Fried Chicken
  • Deep Fried Bacon Fat Strips
  • Fried Catfish
  • Smoked Sausages & Onions
  • Fried Chicken Livers
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Johnnie Cakes
  • Creamed Potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Turnip Greens
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Rudebaker
  • Butter Beans
  • Sweet Potato Souffle
  • Mustard Greens
  • Green Beans
  • Collards
  • Grits
  • Salad Bar
  • At least 10 other things whose name we forgot.

The $8 buffet price also included a large homemade lemonade, a soft drink or iced tea plus dessert.

Brian passed on the dessert offerings but Lynn still had space to try the Peach Cobbler and the Banana Pudding. Phew!!

Chatting with our buffet guide at the end of the meal we asked for a little guidance on tipping conventions in the US. He mentioned that he only gets paid $2.50 per hour so without tips he would be unable to live. We later discovered that this is pretty much the norm in the USA. We Australians always talk about the never ending necessity to tip everyone in sight when visiting America. However, when you consider what we got for $8 and you consider our waiter's $2.50 per hour, we should just adapt to the American system and take a "when in Rome....etc" approach because the bottom line still represents fantastic value.

We've noted that the expected gratuity has increased since earlier visits. Nowadays 15% is minimum and 20% is becoming normal for reasonable service. Hey, just go with the flow is our motto now.

 

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