Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring Break 2008

Two beaches and a long drive home

Cindy and I flew down to Ft. Lauderdale, picked up a rental car and drove up to visit her sister in Tequesta. We took the rental car all the way back to Atlanta at weeks end. One the way back we had a chance to spend a night in Cocoa Beach.
Our visit showed us the great contrast between south Florida and points further north. The Tequesta Jupiter area is immaculately clean, the in habitants well groomed and seemingly healthy in all it almost too tasteful. Yet with all this Jupiter did have some of the best thrift stores I’ have visited in some time. It appears the well-heeled visitors of the high season in Florida just abandon their fine beach and lounge wears upon heading north. We filled out trunk with large bags of used clothing. But we were also to see the contrast on our visit to Cocoa beach only a little over 100 miles to the north.

The beach at Jupiter.

Tequesta Sunset.

Cocoa Beach just out side The Kennedy Space flight center is the epicenter of what is referred to as Florida’s space coast. It appears that the space exploration angle is no longer the magnet for tourism at it once was (a friend suggested that last year’s astro-nut stalker episode may have been the tipping point for America’s love affair with the space program.) On our visit we found that the major attraction in Cocoa Beach was not it’s closeness to the final frontier but the presence of the nations largest beachwear store. Ron Jon’s surf shop is heralded on Florida highways in the same manner South Carolina’s famous South of the Border tourist Mecca is promoted. A constant array of billboards on I 95 and 75 remind you to visit the massive emporium of flip-flops and other lounge apparel. We had visited Ron Jon over a decade a go and found the mega store to be bigger, brighter and open 24 hours. In front of its monumental fa├žade were large sculptures saluting beach recreation, surfing, roller-skating, volleyball and jet skiing. I was disappointed there were not tributes to sand castle construction and tanning. Inside the store has taken the higher road to tasteful ness and carried not one coconut carved to resemble a monkey head. Instead they carried an endless array of high-priced bathing suits, tasteful beach footwear and surfing supplies. The apparent success of Ron Jon has spurred the Sheraton next door to open up a competing store that carries even more expensive beachwear and supplies. This stores comes across as a Neiman Marcus to Ron Jon’s Bloomingdales.

But all is not tasteful in the least in Cocoa Beach. Around the corner are three overgrown t-shirt and souvenir shops that pull no punches on poor tastes. But these stores do give heed to the vicinity of the spaceport. One store featured garish murals of spacecraft and inside sold underwear that lauded the wearer’s ability to pass gas as well as small figurines of moon walking astronauts. Another nearby store was a covered in hand painted signs that proclaimed the presence of temporary tattoos, cheap t-shirts and live hermit crabs. Cocoa Beach over all appeared to attract families and couples that became delirious in Orlando and headed to the nearest beach. Compared to the beaches we visited in Jupiter Cocoa was crowed, congested and a little on the unclean side. Perhaps its best to visit Cocoa Before you go to the pristine beaches of southern Florida.

Remnants of the Space Age.

Cheap T-shirts and a salute to America's space program.

A Few Yard Sales

We ran across two small yard sales on Friday as we neared Cocoa Beach. The sales were in the yard of two adjacent houses on a street that ran off of A1A. The first house was the larger sale with a moderate amount of clutter piled along the driveway and stuff on tables in the garage. Near the entry to the garage was a large figure that looked like a snowman transforming into a scarecrow. In the driveway I found a plush elephant, an empty binoculars case, two life vests, a dog cage, and some towels and draperies. In the garage were old house-wares, a few items of clothing and a working Coke machine from the ‘70’s. The house next door had less stuff but was a prettier setting as lush tropical plants in a dense garden surrounded piles of shoes and clothing.

Clutter among tropical splendor.

On the way out of town the following morning we were able to find one sale before getting on the turnpike and heading home. This was another disappointing affair as the sale was in a small non-descript apartment. Here an older lady was watching over three rooms of cloth goods, a hand painted table with a woodland scene on it, a box of old Polka 8 Tracks and a Magnus chord organ.
We bought nothing. But we did get to pass by the mural of the Beer Cave on our way out of town.

Cocoa Beach Mural.

The Long Ride Home

Our trip back was as always long and monotonous, plus the crowds from Cocoa appeared to have followed us north on the expressway. We made a brief stop at the Magnolia Plantation a roadside attraction often confused with the Plantation House. Both are in South Georgia and both sell copious bags of pecans and pralines. Cindy noted that the main difference between the two is that the Magnolia Plantation does not sell cigarettes. Both also have a countless number of billboards along the highway.
We bought no Pecans.

Plentiful pecans at Magnolia Plantation.