A red-eye flight from Buenos Aires to Miami brought us back into North American life literally overnight. As we sat at the airport in Buenos Aires, we talked about how strange that moment was — in a mere 9 hours everything was going to change. The culture, the food, the climate, the people, the language. Our trip was about to change fundamentally. We wondered how it would affect us and how we would adapt, looking into the unknown future with a mixture of confusion, excitement and apprehension.
It was more economical to fly to Miami, rent a car and drive to Jacksonville than it was to fly direct, so we made our way through the airport maze (incredibly well-marked and organized) to the car rental agency. It only took us 45 minutes to go through customs (thanks for the welcome video, President Obama!) and arrive at the rental agency. We fought every urge to trash our toilet paper and speak Spanish on the way out.
After a year in South America we had our priorities in order. First stop: WHOLE FOODS. Pretty sure we bought four beverages (if you must know, green smoothie from the bar, kombucha, organinc americano, and coconut water). I felt like a crazy woman walking through the aisles, my eyes wide as an owl’s, trying to take it all in. I filled my basket with eco-friendly cleaning products, shampoo and conditioner, and essential oils with a sense of urgency, as if they were going to disappear forever. I want to say that after so much time on the road living simply that we turned away from consumerism but it almost felt the opposite. There were so many things we hadn’t seen in so long and we wanted them all.
Our drive through Miami took us past a ton of hotels, palm trees, speed boats on lifts, golf courses, white-faced buildings, and new BMWs. We listened to the Spanish radio stations and cranked the air conditioning (a luxury missing from our Toyota) to beat the crushing humidity outside. Billboards for personal injury lawyers became commonplace on the side of the highway (double-teamed with ads on the radio for the same lawyers), where palm and native pine trees cohabited peacefully.
We made a stop in Lakeland, Florida to meet our friend Mark from Overland Empire – someone we had only communicated with by e-mail up to that point. It was great to put a face to a name, and we had a blast swapping stories and opinions about overland travel over a couple of beers at the Brew Hub.
Somewhere between Miami and Orlando the radio stations changed from Latino to country. Luke Bryan was playing at the Daytona Beach Speedway that weekend, which we caught a slight glance of as we drove by. 24 Hour Waffle Houses popped up on every block and gators became quite popular: Gator World, Gator Jerky, Gator Heads (available for purchase at your local Florida gas station) – you name it. The faces changed from hispanic to African American, and the southern drawl became ubiquitous.
We spent what felt like a very long two weeks in Jacksonville, waiting for the truck to be released from customs. This was a bit frustrating because the truck had arrived on time, but it was just sitting around waiting for a wash and a box to be checked off. We naively thought that the process would be quick and efficient since we could speak the language fluently this time, but much of our time was spent e-mailing and phoning various individuals at K-Line and at the port hoping to obtain a status update. Most of the calls and e-mails just involved us harassing people while everything moved at the speed of sludge. We were a bit surprised that of all of our shipping experiences, this one was the longest.
In the meantime we kept relatively busy. The Jacksonville Jazz Fest was on so we made the trip from our Super 8 to the downtown core to check out the event.
There is nothing more fascinating than being in the middle one particular culture for a lengthy period of time, and then being transplanted into something completely different. Lawn chairs lined the streets and crowded around stages, while the atmosphere was surprisingly mellow despite how many people were out. An Afro Cuban Band played in one square, where listeners held Big Gulps in their hands and the smell of po boys, fried chicken and sliders filled the air. Gorgeous and vivacious Southern women accessorized with bold gold jewellery and big sunglasses. Pedestrians snacked on funnel cakes with sweet icing sugar dusted on top while meandering from stage to stage. We noticed wallets in camp chair pockets, cameras out in the open and iPhones in shirt pockets and hooked on belts. It was wonderful to listen to live music and soak up the sights for a few hours, feeling the heat and humidity on our faces and sweaty palms.
We were informed by the Jacksonville Tourism Centre that our cheap Super 8 motel was sketchy (we couldn’t really gain any other particulars regarding why other than it was bordering the red light district and we shouldn’t go out at night), and that we should probably book something else in a different location. Geniuses that we are, we moved to a Value Place on the highway that wasn’t much better. In addition to working on the blog and editing photos, we spent our time walking 45 minutes in 90 degree plus heat and full humidity to the nearby fancy mall to hit the sushi restaurant, where we had the cheap lunch special and filled up our water bottles with ice water. Then we would peruse/enjoy the magazine selection at Barnes and Noble (and air con), walk through Target, and finally enjoy the air conditioning at the nearby Publix grocery store before embarking on the gruelling and sweaty march back to our room at the Value Place.
The people in Jacksonville were very friendly. Everyone asked how our day was going or how we were. One day we were walking home from the mall when it started pouring rain and a guy honked at us from across the highway, using hand signals to ask if we wanted a ride.
In terms of adjusting back to ‘normalcy,’ I can only describe it as feeling like we had been living in a cave for about a year or so. Visiting shopping centres and stores was a fascinating experience: 1,000 different types of toothpaste or deodorant to choose from, healthy options filled the shelves, and it was amazing what you could find in a gas station market. There were certain things we said that I was hoping nobody heard like, “WOW they have coconut water here!?” I could just picture people looking at us strangely. Richard was like a kid in a candy store at the auto parts store. We really felt like we could find anything we wanted. We also noticed that almost everyone had brand new vehicles. By the time ours was released from customs, we definitely had one of the oldest vehicles on the road.
We took the bus to JAX Beach a couple of times. It was a great place to go for long walks! That is, until the heat shrivelled our kidneys into raisins and we motored for some shade and cold drinks.
We had some great food in Jacksonville. V Pizza had some tasty salads and pizzas close to JAX Beach.
We popped by the Riverside Arts Market under the Fuller Warren Bridge to check out the Farmer’s Market, tasty snacks and handcrafted goods.
Hawkers is located in the 5-Points district, and had fantastic food. We had the pad thai and wish we had gone back again.
Finally, we received the word that Little Red was ready to be picked up. Poor guy looked beat on and dishevelled when we arrived, and we wondered when exactly he received this “wash” that cost us $90 and delayed the whole process for about a week. Ah, well. C’est la vie, we were just ecstatic and overjoyed to have him back safe and sound.
Once our truck made it out of customs it was definitely time to celebrate, so we headed to TacoLu. There was quite a lengthy wait but it was worth it. The tart and salty/sweet lime margaritas kept us busy while we waited for our table. The salsas and fish tacos were delightful.
Richard spent a day cleaning the truck in the Value Place parking lot before we were finally able to advance north to Georgia, South Carolina, and onto Virginia Beach.
Charleston, South Carolina
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Honestly, this is where we spent most of our time in Virginia Beach. Yes this exact spot. We took over the driveway at the Jamison household to gut the truck, clean it out, complete some much needed maintenance, and to add some upgrades. All of this fun is written out in detail in the previous blog post.
We can’t thank the Jamisons enough for having us spend the week with their family!!
After a seven days in Virginia Beach, Mallary and Chris offered to show us one of their favourite spots down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. A quick stop at the Morris Farm Market stocked up the fridge and then we hit the beach for some fun in the sun, avoided being trampled by the wild horses, and then set up camp for the weekend.
New York, New York
Six years ago we spent a rushed three days in New York for our honeymoon. Relaxing and romantic? Not so much. This time around our only goal was to wander the streets, drink some coffee, eat some bagels, and just BE in New York.
We made our way to the New York Public Library, Central Park, and Times Square.
We drove through New Hampshire in one day, but the one stop we made was to see Rian from Papa Wolf Supply Company. It was through the power of the Instagram that we had met Rian so it was great to finally meet in person, check out the shop, and pick up our new “Live Free or Die” shirts.
Look who it is! Yet another pair of internet friends that have now turned into real friends. We had been following Nate and Sarah from The Long Way South since they started their Maine to Ushuaia road trip in their Cummins powered Dodge a couple of years ago. They still have their truck, but have upgraded their camp life with the newly purchased Westy seen below. It’s always fun to meet up with like-minded people who you hit it off with immediately. We would have liked to spend some more time with these kids, but Canada Day was just a few hours away and we thought that was the perfect time to cross the border back into our home country. See you on the other side!