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.

Heroes and Legends


March 22, 2022, Vero Beach- The above title is also the first building one enters, at Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex, in Merritt Island, FL. Heroic figures aplenty are presented, visually and audibly, at this intensely captivating and informative science center. To be sure, having grown up in the classic period of the Space Age’s inception, I have my share of those who I hold in very high regard: Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Walter Schirra, Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, Krista McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Eugene Cernan, even Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov. My heroes, in general, are both male and female, of all ethnicities and skin tones-and it does not matter that I, a heterosexual cisgender white male, hold this view. Heroism is about character and achievement.

My first hero, my father, would have turned 95 today. He worked in aeronautics his entire adult life, so to visit Kennedy Space Center on this particular day was a sublime blessing. He held the astronauts in high regard, as well, admitting to being a bit overwhelmed by all the science that the increasingly complex business of space was encapsulating. I do think he would have thoroughly enjoyed this place, though.

Several whooshes of cold air and descriptions of rocket launches later, I walked out to Rocket Garden, where those vessels that launched so many legends into space are exhibited, at least by type.

Suitable mention was made of the works of fiction that stimulated so many minds with thoughts of space travel, from the 1920s to the actual inception of successful space flight. These stimulated many young people to seek training and careers in the inchoate field of astronautics. Among them were all those we know today as astronauts-both men and women, and so many astronomers who foster and guide the space travelers.

There has been so much heartbreak and tragedy coming out of the Space program, as there is in any novel and complicated operation. Three jarring events stand out: The 1967 explosion which killed Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee; the deaths of the seven crew members in the Challenger explosion of 1986; the launch time deaths of seven crew members in the atmospheric re-entry explosion of 2003. They underscore the fact that many failures take place, in all phases of research and implementation of aerospace work.

Project Apollo was the stuff of the greatest sagas, even of conspiracy theories that say the moon landing never happened. It was Gemini, the intermediate step between earth orbit and the moon missions, that deserves equal billing. Eugene Cernan, the first person to walk in space, described his experience: His blood pressure hit as high as 170; He lost 13 pounds in 2 hours; the heat shield on the module reached 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit, making egress and return to the capsule a tortuous affair. The work of the Gemini pioneers has made all the difference going forward, from Apollo through the shuttles and Space Station era.

My last stop at the Space center was the Shuttle Hall, at which a hundred people at a time were treated to seeing the Shuttle Atlantis, retired in July, 2011, after logging in over a million miles.

There are many things that can unite people of all backgrounds and viewpoints. The exploration of space is a field with which anyone can identify. Space, like the Earth itself, belongs to all of us.

“Another Day In Paradise”


March 21, 2022, West Melbourne, FL- The day began and ended with the above comment-from two different motel employees: A handyman in Brunswick and a desk clerk here in West Melbourne. Part of my whole reason for being here in the Southeast is to discern how ordinary people are faring, under the blend of libertarianism and laissez-faire economics that is taking deeper root in this part of the country.

I have no issue with any given practice of government when the average person, across ethnicities and genders, is not made to suffer or be left out of a climate of prosperity. So far, I have seen people in places like Brunswick, Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach and Daytona Beach doing fairly well. I have seen a few people in Cape Canaveral and here in the Melbourne area who are not. Much depends on the local economy, but state and Federal policies also impact us.

My first stop in Florida, this morning, was American Beach, on Amelia Island, Florida, once a vacation place for African-Americans, during the days before desegregation. The country’s first African-American millionaire, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, established the beach for just this purpose, in 1935. His work was carried on by his granddaughter, MaVynee Betsch, carried on his work of preserving the beach and its Historic District, until her death in 2005. American Beach remains a National Historic Site.

In between visits with family, my focus is on the broader society. Fernandina Beach, the main community on Amelia Island, is Florida’s northeasternmost town. It was the site of a brief battle between American revolutionaries and British troops, in 1777. The area was then controlled by Britain, as the Territory of East Florida. Although the British retained control of the town, there was significant damage done by the Revolutionaries.

Today, Fernandina is a comfortable, bustling holiday place. It was helped, early, by the establishment of Florida’s first Atlantic to Gulf Railroad, from Fernandina to Cedar Key.

After a gyro (pronounced JY-ro, in these parts) on pita, at 4th Street Deli, it was time to see what was up at Daytona Beach International Raceway- as NASCAR is a good barometer of how mainstream America is faring. The Raceway was closed. It’s not racing season, and it is Monday, to boot. Mainstream America was at Buc-ee’s, though, buying scrumptious brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, and a mix of travel essentials/trinkets. I picked up a brisket sandwich-and some rub-on sunscreen, to compensate for the sunblock I left behind in Arizona.

My last stop of the day, before arriving at my lodging, was the city of Cape Canaveral-now primarily a shipping port. The slowness of the recent supply chain difficulties, themselves partly arising from the Coronavirus Pandemic, seems to have affected the town, though I saw commercial traffic somewhat steady this afternoon. The Kennedy Space Center, west of Cape Canaveral, may be an early morning stop, tomorrow, and may offer a better sense of how the community is faring, given that Canaveral has been intertwined with America’s efforts in the Cosmos.

It’ll certainly be another day in paradise.