10 Things I’ve Learned – March 2012
1. South Florida should really be underwater.
This sounds like it’s my own personal opinion, but it’s actually a matter of science. Before people starting moving into the area, damning up and creating waterways, pretty much everything south of Lake Okeechobee was under water. It might have been a shallow “river of grass”, but underwater nonetheless. The original Everglades was epic in size, and still takes up a large portion of South Florida. So yes, cities like Naples, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami are technically part of the original Everglades. Unfortunately for residents, it looks like nature will take over in that area sooner rather than later.
2. Apparently Texas thinks that Tigers are aquatic animals.
During our visit to Houston, we went to the aquarium, conveniently located downtown, right in the middle of everything. We saw some fish, some eels, and Jackie even pet some sting rays. Then we made our way to the end, for the piece de resistance: the white tiger. Yes, you read that correctly. White tigers are pretty awesome of course, but we can all agree that they have no place at an aquarium. I don’t really need to go into too much depth here, but you can imagine our surprise when we came to the end of our aquarium visit. Texas has some pretty lax tiger laws (shocking, I KNOW), which is why tigers at aquariums happen more than once in this state.
3. Wild roosters are not as cool as you think.
Yes, Jackie eloquently and artfully detailed the abundance of roosters in Key West (as well as their apparent rise to power) yesterday with her photography post. But what she failed to mention was how annoying these little buggers can be. Mainly because they are in fact EVERYWHERE in Key West, allowed to breed at their leisure. They walk in the middle of the street causing traffic issues, they crow at all times, and even swoop down from unknown height advantages while you’re eating dinner or some key lime pie. These gypsy roosters (with the aid of pro-chicken enthusiasts) have evaded various downsizing efforts. Not that I’m hating on these creatures, but I’m not the biggest fan of animals being around me when I’m eating. That goes for at home, and especially at a restaurant. Going along with that personal preference would be to not have birds swooping at or near my dome from a previously unseen location. Combine those two things, and I’m not going to be too happy.
4. Space food is not as flavorful as it looks.
Another Houston attraction is the NASA Space Center a short drive south of downtown Houston. After a legitimately awesome experience touring Mission Control, spacecraft building areas, and former vessels that had been beyond the stratosphere, we decided to splurge on some space food. They had strawberries and ice cream sandwiches, so we of course went for the ice cream sandwich. It looked and even felt a little like an icecream sandwich, only super lightweight and not at all cold. It also had the consistency of styrofoam, because all of the liquid had been sucked out of it (water doesn’t work so well in zero gravity, even in food). The problem was that it kind of tasted like styrofoam as well. Only harder. It’s a little weird to being eating what looks like an ice cream sandwich, and what tastes like a mixture of flavorless, crunchy nothingness.
But what gets me even more than the fact that it doesn’t really taste like anything at all, is that this particular space food item is so beloved that it became one of the two only foods sold in the gift shop. I get that astronauts want something to eat that reminds them of home while they’re floating around in a tin can, but at no point while eating this ice cream sandwich did I think, “Not only does this remind me of eating an ice cream bar, but it tastes amazing!” The good thing is that this is probably the worst aspect of what is one of the greatest jobs of all time.
5. Jackie thinks that I have a water tower obsession.
How many times do you think that I had to mention water towers before Jackie finally yelled out: “Dude, you are OBSESSED with water towers! ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!” OK, that last bit was a little embellished, but I definitely had mentioned the subject a few times. Now, I’m not really obsessed, but when a large portion of your days is spent behind the wheel going from city to city, passing various water towers here and there, you tend to notice different things. My biggest complaint with many city’s water towers, is that they’re just plain ugly. Remember how water towers are supposed to look? A large painted bulbous thing on top of stilts. It’s pretty easy and straight forward. Some cities get creative with their colors, fonts, and circumfrance, but overall they’re similar.
But some cities have opted for newer models, that look like something out of communist Russia. All the same drab skin tone color, just one big cylander leading to a large disk shaped top. No city name. No writing at all. It actually took me a while to figure out what they hell they were, because they look nothing like a traditional water tower. It looks like something that Ray Bradbury would put in a Martian town. OK, maybe I’m a little obsessed, but it’s really not that hard to make your city look a little less terrible.
6. Ft. Worth really is a “cowtown”.
In addition to having one of the eastern-most In N’ Out burgers, and being host to a bar used in Walker, Texas Ranger, Ft. Worth still holds daily cattledrives. In an area that used to be downtown Ft. Worth – but is now about a minute away from the actual downtown – you can still see Texas longhorns driven by genuine Texas cowhands at 11:30 AM and 4:00 PM daily. Today this area of town is known as the “Stockyards”, and in addition to cattle it’s filled with bars, attractions, and honky tonks (still not quite sure what makes something a “honky tonk”). We went to previously mentioned bar that once served the legendary Chuck Norris, and we were even told that some cowboys even ride their horses to the bars and tie them up outside like it’s 1860.
7. The state of Oklahoma invented its own road signals.
Whilst driving across this great and vast country, we’ve noticed a few things (water towers included). We’ve seen an 80 mph sign in Utah, varied pictures of animals that apparently cross the road in whatever area we’re traveling through, and every other manner of road signs that you can imagine. But in Oklahoma City, we were caught off guard but something new. All over the city, there are squiggly lines in the road. Kind of like how the UK has zig zag lines, but these were just long winding lines in the middle of the road. After extensive Internet research (no seriously, it took my around an hour of googling to find out what these lines actually mean), I found out that these lines are in the road to prepare drivers for an upcoming school zone. Luckily the Highland Flinger is always at school zone speed when off of a freeway, so the fact that we had no idea what these squiggly lines were was not an issue.
8. Wichita LOVES airports.
Take a look at this map:
That’s 10 airports for a city with a population of 382,368. Why so many? Unbeknownst to me (and what I’m assuming is most Americans), Wichita is actually the self-proclaimed “Air Capitol of the World”. In the 20th century, aircraft pioneers such as Clyde Cessna and Walter Beech began projects that led to Wichita’s establishment as the “Air Capital of the World”. The aircraft corporations Stearman,Cessna, Mooney and Beech were all founded in Wichita in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and the city was an important aircraft manufacturing center during World War II. The aircraft business in Wichita has declined steadily over the years, and only two of those airports are for public use. With so many airports, it was a little ironic that we were there for 3 days, and I didn’t see a single airplane in the sky.
9. Walmarts are to Arkansas like beaches are to California.
They’re everywhere. Not only that, but people actually go there to hang out. I’d heard of this tall tale before, people going to Walmarts in small towns to hang out because it’s the only thing in town. But trust me, we’ve been to approximately 1 billion Walmarts, and no one hangs out at them except for truckers, RVers, and night shift workers. In Arkansas, Walmarts come in all shapes and sizes. The first Walmart was actually a Walton’s Five and Dime in Bentonville, AR opened in 1950. The people of Arkansas clearly loved discounted sale items, so Walmarts spread first throughout the state, then the country, and now the world. But those original Walmarts still exist in Arkansas. Most of them aren’t the mega Walmart Superstores where we’ve spent many nights in various cities on this trip. Instead, they look like regular grocery stores, with smaller stores. Just outside of Fayetville, we stayed in the smallest Walmart parking lot I’ve ever seen, complete with a group of people sitting on their truck tailgates and talking well into the night. Not my idea of a fun Saturday night, but hey, they were having fun.
10. New Orleans hates us.
We love New Orleans, we really do. But man, it has not treated us the best. Or to be more specific, maybe the city just hates the Highland Flinger. It’s tight streets, uneven roads, heavy rain, and low hanging branches serve as a minefield for the RV. During our two visits, it rain heavily twice, causing the RV to flood from the side (yes, from the side). During our first visit, our bike chains broke, meaning that we had to walk 2+ miles in and back out of the city each day from where the RV was parked. Additionally, driving through the narrow streets of the Garden District at night, a tree branch attacked the top of our air conditioning unit, puncturing it and eliciting such a loud popping noise that Jackie thought that we had just been rear-ended. I can assure you that the next time that we visit the Crescent City, it will be with a normal size vehicle.