The Best and the Still-Potentially Good


April 10, 2022- It helps me to consolidate my learnings from any observational journey, by looking at what was best and what could have been better. It never helps, really, to disparage a given place or person. We are all works in progress.

So, looking at the places of accommodation in which I stayed, over the three weeks just past, here are some impressions:

America’s Best Value Inn, Brunswick, GA- Clean and well-furnished. It was quiet, a bit out of town, but not too far out of the way. Good WiFi.

America’s Best Value Inn, West Melbourne, FL- Clean, but not well-furnished, aside from the comfortable bed, which was also the seat. It was fairly lively, being Spring Break and all, but no one carried on much, after 11 p.m. Good WiFi.

Vero Inn, Vero Beach, FL- Very clean and well-furnished. It is a small motel, yet the owners are very proud of their enterprise and treat guests like family. Great Wi Fi.

Bikini Hostel and Cafe, Miami Beach- Well-tended rooms, excessive surcharges on parking, minimal breakfasts and suppers, reasonable locker fee. The evening manager is engaging and attentive, especially to the needs of young people traveling alone. The rest of the male staff are rather aloof. The ladies, mostly housekeepers, are kind and relaxed, while doing their jobs well. This place could use an attitude adjustment, on the part of upper management and security. WiFi is great, though.

Conty’s Motel, Naples, FL- Large room, good furnishings and clean, though pricey for a place with stand-up shower. Owner is stoic, but attentive. WiFi is fairly good.

Plaza Travel Inn, Clewiston, FL- Very attentive owner-manager greeted me and apologized for having to change out his door bell. Good-sized room, good furnishings and clean. The co-owner even hoses down the parking lot, each evening. WiFi was good.

Gram’s Place Hostel, Tampa- One of the three best places I stayed this time around. Owner-manager is very grateful for visitors, and the place is usually packed. Lots of quirky memorabilia-even a tree Some areas needed work-one sink had no running water, but there was a working sink nearby. Kitchen could use some cereal bowls. (I’ll have to remember to donate some, if that is still the case next time.) Rooms were clean. Patio is spacious and welcoming. Great WiFi.

Motel 6, Spring Hill, FL- I stayed here two nights. Clean, with fairly good furniture. Quite a rambunctious group of guests, but no one bothered me. Desk clerk was engaging and very attentive. Good WiFi.

Motel 6, Americus, GA- I stayed here two nights, as well. Single woman runs the place, and was gentle, but firm, with panhandling drifter who hung around and bothered single female guests. There is a nice laundry room for guests to use. Room was clean and had good furnishings. Wi Fi was good.

Heart of Dixie Motel, Dadeville, AL- This place needs work. The owner did not realize that towels and washcloths were not available. Furnishings are passable. The bathroom was fairly clean. The sleeping room was a bit more so. WiFi was fair.

Sonesta Select, Atlanta- Marvelous, four-star resort hotel, and one of the three best places on this trip-as much because of the regal, but attentive, front desk staff, as because of the accoutrements. Furnishings were excellent and room was spotless. WiFi was gr

The Quisby, New Orleans- The third great place on this journey, and a truly Big Easy hostel, I felt that the management had their act together, keeping a potentially unruly bunch in good order. Clean and well-kept rooms, with comfortable bunks and very nice bathrooms. WiFi is excellent and the food is simple but excellent.

Alamo Inn, San Antonio- I got the last available room here, at nearly the last minute. Alamo would be #4 on my list of “bests”. Rick, the owner, is very accommodating and will even call an Uber for guests needing transport to downtown. The rooms are large, clean and have great furnishings. WiFi is great.

Accommodations being most important, eateries are a close second. The best were: Sunrise Diner, Brunswick; Fourth Street Deli, Fernandina Beach, FL; Tanuki, Miami Beach; Brian’s Place, Hernando Beach, FL; Cowboys Fire Pit BBQ, Lake Park, GA; Farm Burger, Atlanta; Cooks and Soldiers, Atlanta, Thousand Hills Coffee House, Atlanta and Oskar’s Cafe, Dadeville. For sentimental reasons, I add Zaxby’s, Dublin, GA and Osceola Tiger, Miccosuki Reservation, because the kids are caring and attentive.

The most memorable places visited were Andersonville National Historic Site; American Beach, Amelia Island, FL; Kennedy Space Complex Visitors Center, Merritt Island, FL; Downtown Key West; Smathers Beach and Bahia Honda, Lower Keys; South Beach, Miami Beach; Big Cypress National Preserve; Naples Botanical Garden, Naples, FL; Downtown Tampa; St. Petersburg Waterfront; Koinonia Farm, Americus; Tuskegee Airmen National Monument, Tuskegee, AL.

So those are my takes on things Southeast, at least for now.

The Chain and the Dominoes


April 6, 2022, Houston- The message came over the loudspeaker: “Folks, we are waiting here (6 miles west of Lake Charles, LA), until a freight train heading west (it was actually heading east), is able to pass.” The message came from the spirit world: “The train in question is loaded with flammable materials. It is being held up by a safety check of the cars.” As it happened, the process took one hour. An eastbound freight train passed us, we passed a sidelined westbound train, that was loaded with about thirty-five flammable tanks and cars. This gargantuan city would take another two hours and thirty minutes to reach, from our perch between Lake Charles and Vinton.

Then came the real game changer: On Sunday, April 2, a rail bridge near Dryden, in the Trans=Pecos region of West Texas, caught fire, for the second time this year. All Amtrak passengers would have to disembark in San Antonio. Two of my car mates opted to fly from Houston. I have a commitment, call it what you will, to staying on the ground, this trip. So, a quick phone call secured a room for yours truly at Alamo Inn, San Antonio. I will be in one of my favourite Texas cities, for however many hours are left before check-out. Thus shall a day that has revealed both the interconnectedness of us all, and the fragility of that connection, have played out.

The day started nicely enough, with a shower, good coffee and a quiet hour or so of reflection, at The Quisby Hotel, another welcoming hostel-in a chain of safe havens that I have been fortunate to locate, over the past four years. The Quisby is in New Orleans’ Garden District, across a busy freeway from the Big Easy’s AMTRAK station. I will most certainly seek a place there, whenever my route takes me through NOLA.

A kind and honest driver came to get me at the appointed time. I was assigned a seat on Car # 2, we got underway on time and were efficiently headed west-until the debate at AMTRAK headquarters, as to how to handle our train, in light of the bridge fire, was resolved. A plan was announced to offer each of us a ride back to our place of embarkation (for me, that was New Orleans, and I already knew that the Quisby was going to be full, this evening. Besides, I have commitments in Prescott, this weekend. I will take a bus, if necessary.

The other chain of dominoes that is ever more tightly-connected is with my Baha’i study groups. As I remarked to members of one such group, we will be ever more engaged in threading the needles of various individual and collective needs, in the days and months ahead.

It will be late, very late, when we get to San Antonio, but I know it will be alright.