The final two days
Morning sun at Flagler Beach
The day had come when we had to say goodbye to northern Florida, and to Lexie and her parents. I picked up Tim at their home and around 9.30 we headed south. We had to return the car before 4 pm, but since there are only about a 4½ hour drive from Flagler Beach to Miami, it would not be a problem. From the house at the beach, we headed to the freeway and then we continued on I-95 all the way to Miami, only with a few stops to refuel along the way, either the car or ourselves. In fact, there is not much to tell about this part of the trip. We tried to avoid toll roads along the way, not because of the tolls, but because it has become difficult to pay without some kind of electronic device, which we didn’t have. And I say we succeeded in doing so as we didn't have to pay toll anywhere - and there are a lot of toll roads in southern Florida.
When we reached Miami, we drove straight through to our hotel, Conrad by Hilton, where we also stayed in 2016. It is located in Miami's financial district and it is a good hotel, but on the pricy side without ruining you though, if you only stay one or two nights. One of the advantages of the hotel is that it is right at the end of the free monorail that runs through downtown Miami, which is a quick way to get back and forth to the center of town. The hotel has valet parking, but we asked if we could just leave the car as we were only checking in, then we would leave again, and we were allowed to do so free of charge. We took the elevator up to the 25th floor where the hotel lobby is. Here our luggage was waiting - brought up by a bell boy. We got a room on the 16th floor overlooking the bay, and the bell boy brought the luggage down to the room. We tipped him, and then just went back to the car to drive downtown and return it.
We headed for the Avis office, which was quite close to the waterfront. It was just not that easy to get there as many streets were blocked due to road work, so we had to get out on quite a few detours but eventually, however, we managed, and when the guy in the office had checked the car for mileage, we got a receipt for returning the car - and a $500 bill for returning it in Miami and not in Los Angeles where we had originally rented the car. This fee cannot be paid from home; it must always be settled locally. We went to the nearest monorail station, approx. 300 yards from the rental office and rode back to the hotel. On our way back, we agreed to have dinner at Baire's Argentinian Grill, where we had also eaten two years earlier and which is within walking distance of the hotel. After relaxing, we walked down to the area where the restaurant is located, and on the way discussed other possible places to dine, as there are quite a few restaurants in that area, but in the end, we dined at Baire’s. It is probably not the city's cheapest restaurant, but certainly not the most expensive either, and since the food is good and the service excellent, it is money that is well spent. The rest of the evening we relaxed in the room.
Goodbye Miami, let's go home
Miami waterfront from Bayfront Park.
Our plane wasn’t scheduled until 6 pm, so we had plenty of time to spent on this final day. We were supposed to be at the airport at 4, so we decided to take the monorail (or Metromover, as it is actually called) to downtown, where we would walk around the Bayfront Park area. When we had packed everything, we took the elevator up to the lobby where we approached their concierge, who took care of the luggage and also booked a taxi to pick us up at 2 pm, as it was impossible to know just how much traffic would slow us down through the city. Thus ready, we walked to the Metromover station across the street and rode to the Bayfront Park station. The trip from the Financial District to Bayfront Park is nine stations and takes about 15 minutes.
We went for a walk around the park and looked at various monuments, a fountain, an amphitheater, and looked at the waterfront itself, at least the part located at Bayfront Park. Gradually, we walked down to the part of the park from where the various hop on-hop off buses depart, but we skipped a tour this time, as we had already done all tours two years ealier. However, there is also a mall located in this end of the park. The place is called Bayside Marketplace and it stretches in an arc around the local marina. We looked at some of the shops, among others we visited a Disney store. I wanted to see if I could find anything for my granddaughter, but the only things that she would be interested in were too expensive, so she had to settle for what I had already bought earlier on the trip. While we walked around the mall, I suddenly became dizzy and I thought I might be dehydrated. The weather had appeared from its semi-neat side with an almost cloudless sky, and a temperature that did not reach desert heights, yet was well above 95, and the humidity was, as it had been throughout our stay in Florida, extremely high. We therefore found a small cafe where you could get something to eat and drink, and here I bought a bottle of water. As soon as I had drunk the water, I felt fine again, so I was probably right in the assumption of dehydration. We agreed to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, located just outside the mall, so we walked there and we arrived just as they opened.
Hard Rock Cafe is a nice place to eat, that is if you like the kind of food they serve and if you like to listen to loud rock music while you eat. After lunch I had the only cup of coffee in a restaurant on the whole trip. Then we walked back to the station and took the Metromover back to the hotel. When we got to the hotel, there was still plenty of time until we would be picked up by the taxi, so we took the elevator up to the 25th floor and settled down in the lobby, where we spent the time with books and tablets. About 15 minutes to two I asked the concierge for our luggage and was told that we should just go down to the exit and it would be delivered there, which it was.
When our taxi or rather limousine service arrived the driver loaded out luggage into the trunk, and we were underway. We didn’t get far though, before he got a call, which turned out to be from his boss who wanted to talk to me. When I had booked the transportation I had given my credit card number, but now the manager explained to me in a heavy Spanish accented English that he had problems with the payment. It was was not approved, or so he told me. Then he read the credit card number aloud to me, and it was quite right while it turned out that he had got the expiration date wrong, and as soon as I had given him the correct one, everything went smoothly and we could continue our journey. It took just under an hour to get out to the airport, so we were in good time, and since both check-in and security also went quickly, we had a lot of time to kill. We spent it in the British Airways lounge, where we also got a little to eat before our flight. There is not much to say about the trip across the Atlantic. It was just as boring as flights usually is, but I got to sleep a few hours along the way. In London, we had about three hours before our final flight to Copenhagen, so again the lounge had to accommodate us, and we took the opportunity to have some breakfast. The trip across the North Sea to Copenhagen went just as smoothly as the rest of the trip.
And now it is time to take stock of this year's trip. We had been
away for 22 days (due to the time difference you return to Copenhagen the day
after you leave the USA, at least when you fly from the USA in the evening). The
weather had been hot on the whole trip and it had also been the case in Denmark
in the same period, but even though it had rained occasionally, there had not
been a single day when the temperature did not reach at least 82 F, and on my
hike in the Riparian Preserve at The Gilbert Water Ranch in Arizona I
experienced the highest temperature I have ever experienced in the US with 121
F. The air was dry on the first part of the trip, where we were in desert areas
and humid in the last part when we got further east.
Out of the 21 days we had had the car, it had been used for shorter or longer distances twenty of these. Five of these twenty days we had driven more than 400 miles, four of these five trips reached 500 miles and on two occasions we set a new record for one day of driving in the United States. The first time was on the trip from New Iberia to Lake City, where it was 625 miles, and the next day we drove from Lake City to Flagler Beach, and then I continued to Hendersonville in North Carolina, a trip of 629 miles, of which I drove exactly 500 miles alone in the car. Also, the 502 from Statesville back to Flagler Beach, I drove alone, and that's the longest solo stage I've ever driven. All this mounted up to a total of 7,233 miles. It is the second longest road trip measured in distance, we have yet been on. Only on the trip in 2012, on which we drove 7,689 miles, was longer, but with shorter stints - and on that occasion we were underway for four weeks, not just three as this year. But despite the many miles in the car, we have seen a lot, and also had time to relax and visit friends and acquaintances. And on top of that comes the kilometers that Tim traveled, while he was alone, but he didn’t record those.
Like the previous holidays since 2010, we counted trucks from different trucking companies. For the first time ever, Swift Transportation did not come out on top. The winners this year was Schneider National and runner up was Werner Enterprises. Swift came in third followed by J. B. Hunt Transport Services.
As usual the trip was a bit expensive, but cheaper than the 2016 trip, which is mostly due to the fact, that Tim stayed for free with Lexies parents for his 10 days in Florida. Also our “miscellaneous” expenses were much lower than two years before, but why I’m not sure. And we didn’t spent so much money on touristy activities as much of the time was spent with friends and therefore was free. Only plane tickets, car rental and gas was more expensive than on our previous trip. But it was well worth every dime.