30th May  2004 (section on Manhattan moved to next diary entry)


From New Orleans we (daughter & I) drove to Miami Beach via I10.  I10 runs through Mississippi, Alabama, Tampa.  Tallahassee is the capital of Florida, and presumably the residence of Jeb Bush.  Tampa is a largish city on the Mexican Gulf.  From Tampa highway I10 crosses the Everglades, where I came across the only toll road that is an interstate highway.

We arrived at a hostel called "Clays" on Miami Beach S.  The tariff is reasonable ($19 shared, and car parking can be had for $10, although street parking is available a few blocks to the South.)  There are Starbux hotspots nearby, and the main drag (Lincoln, between Alton & Collins) has a good selection of restaurants.

From Miami we drove to Key West.  There are no Wifi hotspots south of Florida City, which is about 30 miles north of the Florida Keys.  The Florida Keys (Alternative spellings are "Cays" or Quays") is a string of sand islands (keys) that runs for about 150 miles in a roughly W-SW direction from the southern tip of Florida.  A road with bridges had been built connecting the westernmost key to the intervening keys & the mainland, a distance of around 140 miles.  The longest single bridge is about 7 miles (10 Km).  Key West has military bases on it, and is a tourist resort.  It has a population of  about 25,000, and the main drag for entertainment  is Duval Street.  We had a tent and pitched it along S Rooseveldt Blvd.  About forty campers are camped along the beach.  Australian police are much less lenient, since we have a state police force that has little responsibility to local community sentiments.

I would like to note that our Australian federal system has lost much variety by having all powerful state governments.  In San Francisco, the police are extremely lenient with the homeless (that is why there are so many on the streets) while in Berkeley, just across the bay, there are no homeless on the streets.  I can only assume that the local government in Key West has determined that a few beachcombers living in tents are an acceptable adjunct to the community.  Moving those homeless on does not actually solve the problem.  Permitting them to camp on public space actually does help mitigate the difficulty for these unfortunate people.  Of course in Australia we give the unemployed a pension.  However that does not seem to have eradicated the problem, there are still many homeless in Sydney, they have just hidden better.

From Key West we drove north to Palm Beach.  The daughter looked at the mansions, and asked were we still on planet earth?  I had to agree.  Two frontages to the block, mansions that looked as though they could have doubled as 40 guest luxury hotels, it boggles the mind that people have so much wealth.


We found a guesthouse near the centre of the seaport of Savannah (population about 300,000).  Having read "Gone With The Wind" I was not surprised by the architecture.  Savannah has a charm that is unique.

The drive to the inland city of Atlanta took about 5 hours from Savannah.  Atlanta is about the same size as Sydeny (4.3 Million).  Pollution is low, it rarely snows, a congenial place to live.  The 1996 Olympic Games were held in Atlanta.  Maybe I am becoming desensitised, but Atlanta has a "feel" more like Sydney than the West Coast or the central-south.  (Which is to say, life in Atlanta does not seem to be quite so focussed on automobiles).


From Atlanta we followed the I-75 up to Memphis, which is probably the C&W music capital of the USA.  In the town of Memphis (in the park opposite Borders bookshop, which is the only T-Mobile WI-FI site with coffee in Memphis) is a reproduction of the Parthenon.  Inside is a statue of Athena (Diana) with Nike standing on her hand.  (Nike is the female god of Victory, and also, like Hermes/Mercury, is a messenger for the gods).

We continued on, and camped ($16/site+$2ea shower) at Mammoth Park, Kentucky, which boasts the longest known cave system (300 miles) in the world.

Fort Knox was  our next stop.  Being "aliens" we were asked for ID, searched, given the third degree, etc.  We looked around to make a withdrawal, but there was nobody prepared to accept our checks.

I include the following comments by No2 daughter, who travelled with me and read sections over my shoulder.

Dicoverey USA

Looking over the shoulder of an apathetic webmaster.

Tennesse can't be explained from the cosy confines of a starbucks down the road (albeit it only 3 miles from the center of town), The spirit of Tenessee can't be captured within a *greek* statue within the recreation of the Panthenon (though it does say something for the extravagance of Americans).  Does Tennesse have any entertainment... say country music, perhaps?

Savannah wasn't actually featured in gone with the wind....Was it?

Maybe the search at Fort Knox had something to do with your reference to the: "rifle you had hidden in the boot.. haha. I mean.. what rifle?"

The LONGEST cave in the world (disclaimer: so far as we know), how'd you find that tidbit out? Did someone who actually walked down to the mouth of the cave tell you.  *cough* me *cough*


Chicago is a great city.  We stayed there for a couple of days, but had to leave as time is running out.  Found a 24 hour Starbucks on North side.  (It's not that Starbucks makes the best coffee, but they have an arrangement with T-Mobile, so I can get a wifi connection at most Starbux (or Borders) shops.

From there we followed the I-90 across to just south of Detroit, then up through Canada to Niagara.  The I-90 is a toll road for most of the distance between Chicago & Boston.  The cost (toll) works out at around 5c/mile, which is about the same as the cost of petrol.  Trying to avoid the toll roads is a time consuming and frustrating business.  The owners (the various state governments) of the toll roads (called turnpikes, I think the distinction is on the entry/exit charges) have no interest in undercutting this lucrative revenue source.   Some road users I met complained that the governments have long since paid for the roads, but (a bit like Sydney's harbour bridge toll), nobody can force a government on the issue of revenue.

The Canadians "Own" Niagara, in the sense that because the river makes a right hand turn immediately after the falls, the only place to get a full frontal is Canada.

From Niagara we drove along the I-90 to Boston, with a brief stopover in the NY state capital, Albany.

Boston is crowded and expensive.  The parking situation is cruel.  The American accent is unnoticeable.  What I heard ranged from Irish brogue to something that sounds almost like Australian or UK English.  The feel (atmosphere) of the inner city (downtown) is from the 19th century, like parts of Paddington, Sydney.  Narrow winding streets, double doors on shops and hostels (the winter temperature is formidably low).


Back in Australia I was able to download the PDA version of the WSJ, and I found the editorials challenging, if a bit unbelievably right wing extremist.  Now that I am in the USA and can obtain the hardcopy, I must say that I am impressed.  Sure, there are a lot of conservative writers on the staff, sure, WSJ don't bother to print the "liberal" views very often (not, I suspect, because of the  politics, mostly because there aren't all that many perceptive liberal journalists).  Today I read an article "Stop the Moral Equivalence" (19th May 2004) which was critical of the muslim position.  It turned out to have been written by Gary Kasparov, world champion chess player, in his position as chairman of "the free choice 2008 committee" in Russia.  I note in passing that the Liberal papers in the USA and Australia rarely publish articles by non-staff notables.


In my travels I have met a few Chinese and Japanese travellers.  The most recent traveller drew my attention to the energy crisis in China.  I had always believed that the Chinese had adequate energy resources in Manchuria province, to the north.  According to my informant, those mines are near extinction.  His question was," where will new energy sources for the 1.2 billion Chinese come from?"  This problem is of course exacerbated by the booming economy.  I pointed out to him that export costs would be relatively unaffected, because their competitors(Japanese, Koreans etc) had the same costs for imported energy.

I further discussed with him the problems generated by a command economy.  Because although China has attempted to reform, it is still producing goods "on command".  The signs are clear: controlled information (i.e. censored internet); controlled banking; primitive legal system; autocratic rather than democratic rule (Hong Kong).  What I didn't suggest, but should have, was the concept of a "reverse takeover".  If the Chinese rulers in Beijing could be persuaded to yield power to Hong Kong (or even Taipei) they would achieve their stated objective of a unified China, and simultaneously repair the damage that 56 years of Communist dictatorship has wrought.

The Japanese travelers are interesting.  Few people in Australia or the USA are aware that Japan is the second economic power in the world.  This lack of awareness has come about perhaps because of the Japanese virtues of caution and self effacement.  Japan suffered a severe economic setback about a decade ago, and apparently has not yet fully recovered.  That setback was probably the result of inflated land prices, which resulted in bank insolvency.  (That sounds familiar somehow.  I am still amazed that a house less than 5 miles from Fort Worth city can be purchased for around AU$100,000.   I would like to point out that the Fort Worth-Dallas MetroPlex has a population  of 5,600,000.  When I left the Sydney-Parramatta metroplex, which is smaller than the DFW Metroplex, there were no houses obtainable within 5 or 10 Km of Parramatta for less than $300,000).