Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Friday, June 01, 2007

S. Florida, Sun., May 20th

I got as far as Saturday, didn't I? I am pretty sure I did. I'm sorry I stopped writing, but I was just so worn out. I'm worn out now!

OK, so Sunday morning we woke up late -- a theme for most of the vacation, as it turned out -- and the Tobins were at church. We had made plans to meet after church and go to El Tropico, a Cuban restaurant somewhere in the area. Everyone told me it was *real* Cuban food.

Oh, I had no idea.

I happened to wear one of my trampy camisoles that day -- a matter of running out of clean clothing, of course -- so I actually put on make-up. That was a good day to wear make-up.

We gathered together at about 11:45 that morning, and Wesley followed Jim to El Tropico. I should have driven; Jim drives like most Miamians. In other words, he drives like a freakin' maniac. (Did you read the report that came out right before we left for Florida? Miami is the #1 city in the US for road rage. Seriously! And I understand why. Those people drive CRAZY, and they *love* to use their horns. Beep beep beep HONK beep beep.... that's all you hear, all around the area. Those people are very impatient.)

So we had a hard time keeping up with Jim, but we did in fact find El Tropico... and we were the only English-speaking people in the whole restaurant. Seriously! We had to point to the menu and use hand gestures, and that was with Jim and Perry trying to speak Spanish to the waiter. Most of us got the buffet, but Wesley and Woodrow got the "stewed lamb," and Jim got something I didn't recognize.

The buffet was a late brunch buffet, so there were some breakfast foods and some lunch foods. I had: Croissant with honey butter glaze, sausage, an egg dish (scrambled egg fried very thin and flat and wrapped like a burrito around some kind of fresh peppers and fruit combination with strange, delicious spices all over it), black beans and rice, little meat sandwiches shaped like half of a tiny pie, home fried potatoes (the best!), and I forget what else. Oh, stew! I had some kind of beef stew over rice, much like the black beans, but meatier. I know there were olives in that stew. It was *fabulous*. There was freshly squeezed orange juice as part of the buffet, and it was FRESH. It was so fresh, it wasn't even cold! I also got Cuban coffee, which came to me in two parts -- hot milk in a cup, and espresso in a tiny tin pot. YUM YUM YUM YUM YUM!!!! And Cuban toast. That bread is the *best*; the crust is *so* light and crispy, and the inside is so light and fluffy yet chewy. Smothered in butter. Outrageously delicious.

I was ecstatic with the buffet. Then Wesley shared some of his stewed lamb with me. OMG! Heaven!!!!!!

I didn't talk. I ate. That food was divine!!!!!

When lunch was over, Wesley showed Jim the directions to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum that we had printed off at home. Jim figured out that it was near the Miami Zoo, and he said he would lead the way. Emily decided to ride with the Tobins -- she and Perry were turning into such good friends, even with the age difference -- and I drove the car to follow.

I had a much easier time keeping up with Jim. I drive like a freakin' maniac. Miami traffic is a lot like Las Vegas traffic, but with more horn-honking, that's all.

We arrived at this ... place ... and there was hardly anyone there. A Boy Scout troop was just leaving.

As we paid for our admission, the woman explained that it's $5 to just walk through the trains, but for more money, you could take a train ride. There are three train rides, and two sounded lame. But for $11 per person, you can ride in the engine car for one loop, and you get more info from the engineer. The Tobins -- who had never heard of this museum until I told them about it -- popped for the $11 ride. We decided not to. And that's OK.

The Gold Coast Railroad Museum is in a massive ... hangar. Well, it's like a hangar. It's more like a hangar than a depot shed. And that makes sense, because the Gold Coast Railroad Museum is built on the site of the United States' largest Naval airship base from WWII. They originally had three massive 17-story hangars for "blimps" on that site, and I don't remember how many airships they actually had during the war. They were apparently very useful for patrolling the US coastline for enemy submarines -- and bombing those subs to smithereens. Unfortunately, the base caught fire during a hurricane toward the end of the war, and all that's left are the massive concrete support beams.

I guess it seemed like a good place to put choo choo trains?

I could go on for hours about the Gold Coast Museum -- it was one of our favorite tours of the whole trip. It was hot out in the sun, but in the hangar where the main train exhibits were, it was lovely, shaded and breezy. I did have to take off my churchlady shrug and walked around in my trampy camisole after an hour or so, but really, the weather wasn't as bad as I thought it could be. And they've rigged air conditioning for many parts of the trains. Some of the AC is just for preservation reasons -- you've got to have climate control or the trains would rust and the wood paneling would rot, y'know?

The trains... are magnificent. They have the Ferdinand Magellan, FDR's Pullman train car. It wasn't just his; it was commissioned after the start of WWII for security purposes, and it had 3-inch thick bullet-resistant glass and armor plates all over the car, and it weighs almost twice as much as a regular Pullman car.

FDR rode around in that car, and that train took his body from White Springs, GA, back to DC when he died. Truman rode in that car, and the famous picture of him holding up the erroneous headline that touted his [non]-defeat? "Dewey Defeats Truman"? That photo was taken in St. Louis, and Truman was standing on the back of that train car, holding up that newspaper. And Eisenhower used the car, and think Johnson used it a little. It was retired and wasn't used again until Reagan used it in the 1984 campaign.

That train... is beautiful. The wood paneling is surprisingly blond; the details are exquisite. You look in at the sleeping berths, and they seem too tiny to hold a President or a First Lady. FDR's specially made wheelchair -- narrower than normal -- is still in that car.

It was offered to the Smithsonian when it was retired, but the Smithsonian didn't move on it. When the Gold Coast Museum heard that the Ferdinand Magellan was up for grabs, they went through every step they had to go through to get it. It *ought* to be at the Smithsonian. But it isn't. It's in Miami, Florida, in the tiny little quaint Gold Coast Railroad Museum.

There are four other main exhibits besides that piece of American history -- an early 1900's steam locomotive and train cars, the California Zephyr (1950's/1960's touring cars), a Jim Crow car and proper era engine, and a ... Well, it's big and red and yellow, and it looks like a classic Art Deco diesel locomotive to me. Like... it belongs on the cover of a children's book. But I can't remember what kind of train it was! I loved that one. It looks retro-modern, y'know?

And I'm tromping through these trains and looking in at the accommodations, and at one point, I was sitting on a bench, enjoying a cool breeze, and the music that they play is so 1940's, and it reminded of me of Mama, and I started crying. Everyone got all upset at me, but I wasn't about to fall apart. I just wished she could have seen it. She would have loved that place. Everything is so *authentic* and beautiful, and she loved trains, anyway. I just sat there and cried until it passed, and then I tromped around on the trains again.

The Tobins came back from their ride, and it turned out that all four of them got to "drive" the train during its big loop. I am jealous of them for that, but then again, if we do absolutely everything we want to do, there's no reason to go back to Miami, is there? They were very grateful for me finding this museum; they had no idea it was there, and they loved it.

I hung out with Perry and Emily; Wesley and Woodrow tromped around some more; Jim, Peytyn and six-year-old Jake tromped around on trains -- it was all just perfectly lovely, and there were trains. No stress or pressure, just low-key fun.

I didn't read about the airship naval base until we returned to the gift shop. I had to buy the last "plain" shotglass in the display case -- all they had on the shelves were these awful, childish cartoony shotglasses with a teddy-bear-in-an-engineer's
-uniform figurine wrapped around the shotglass. Ugh!!!! No wonder the classic shotglasses were all sold out!! And then I read the displays in the shop about the airships, which were cool, cool, cool.

All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon and worth more than the $5 entry fee. The Tobins agreed. The Gold Coast Railroad Museum was a big hit for all of us.

Then we went home, and I crashed for a nap. I got a nap every day except the last two days.

And now I can't remember what we had for dinner. I'm just not sure any more -- I think it may have been the night that Peytyn made pizza dough and set out things to put on the pizzas to our exact desires. My pizza had pesto, grilled chicken, broccoli, onions, peppers, and hardly any cheese at all. YUM. Other toppings were tomato sauce, pepperoni slices, mushrooms, non-dairy cheese... all kinds of stuff. I am going to have to try that dinner myself sometime. It was seriously wonderful not to have to compromise my desires and share a tomato-covered, rubber-cheese-laden pizza with the family!

I was glad that we spent so much time in the shaded hangar, because in my opinion, it was hot as heck in Florida that day. Jim and Peytyn both complained that it was cold, though. Crazy people. They just don't know what "cold" is!

Monday: Everglades Alligator Farm!!!!


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