Florida: 22 million people.
What’s there to do to pass the time besides baking in the sun?
One thing unique to the New Smyrna Beach area of Florida is cole slaw wrestling. Women cole slaw wrestling helps draw men into Sopotnick’s Cabbage Patch Saloon. Women in bikinis looking a little like Suomo wrestlers, approach each other slowly, getting into position, arms at angles on a platform filled with yummy cole slaw. It’s the kind of activity that might go well pared with a hot dog eating competition, but then again Sopotnick’s got a vibe that’s strong enough on its own. The activity may not make it into a tourist brochure or a National Geographic issue about fascinating Florida attractions, but it is a regular feature at the saloon in New Smyrna Beach and at nearby Daytona Beach during the annual Harley-Davidson Bike Week. Some people say the Cabbage Patch is the sleaziest rat hole of a place, but whose judging? While we didn’t make the scene we heard about it from some people we were visiting. Is this what makes America great or what?
Only 24 hours earlier we were learning about how sea turtles are rehabilitated at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in the Boca Raton Red Reef Park. We watched university marine animal researchers and volunteers work with sea turtles, rays and sea grasses, helping rehabilitate the injured sea turtles in giant plastic blue tanks. Private funds are relied on to maintain the facility. We also took a tour of the butterfly garden amidst the reddish colored gumbo limbo tree and tropical hardwoods. Only about a mile from the rich and famous of Boca Raton, this center was more extensive than the Jekyll Island Authority’s Georgia Sea Turtle Center we visited earlier in our travels. But each center in its own way made us more aware of how sea turtles are amongst the most vulnerable wildlife amongst us. Sea turtles, four or five feet long or even longer, get caught in commercial fishermen’s netting, digest oodles of plastic, get maimed by motor boat propellers too, and through the dedication of marine researchers and others are nursed back to health! The Jekyll Island Center work in collaboration with other rehab centers and aquariums outside of Georgia like the aquarium in Boston.
Jekyll Island is a public park and residential community off the coast of Georgia with three golf courses, 13 tennis courts, numerous beaches and bountiful wildlife including deer, turtles, raccoons, alligators too. We discovered it just by accident, and enjoyed its peaceful, laid back ambience. Walking in the park area with the gingerbread architecture of the houses and quaint stores felt like a throw back to an earlier time with no cars, no crime, no pollution. As a marketer, it’s fascinating to see how regional and local economic development groups create an experience to attract the tourists. I’d like to return to Jekyll Island for an extended stay and to enjoy their festivals like Whisky, Wine & Wildlife, or Shrimps & Grits. The dream element is alive and well and prospering in islands like Jekyll.
One of our favorite restaurants on our trip down south was MILLERS ALL DAY in Charleston, SC. We ate there twice on consecutive days, and we each ordered the same thing. First it was waffles drenched with hickory maple syrup, bananas and meringue, and then a delicious chicken salad sandwich with pecans and cranberries mixed in and piled high on a lightly toasted bread. MILLERS is a Southern cooking tradition, owned by two partners who own a gristmill. The worker are millers, and thus the name MILLERS. It’s not Miller’s with an apostrophe, as a last name, but the plural of one who mills grain or grits). MILLERS produces Jimmy Red Grits and Greechie Boy-Mill Blue Grits, both from Ediso Island, off the coast from Charleston. French & Fabulous was another restaurant recommended to us but since we don’t drink martinis or marguerites at lunchtime we passed on it. I’d rather become a regular at MILLERS.
If cole slaw wrestling is not your thing, and you’re tired of shopping or driving in South Florida, consider deep fried donut burgers, fried Oreos and fried bloomin’ onions which were sold by numerous vendors at a Palm Beach Florida festival we attended. (Not my usual thing, but our hostess really wanted to go …, and I thought I might just catch a peak of the Donald. He had landed nearby for a golf weekend. It looked like something he would savor). But one of the fried food vendors, a tall and slender man, proclaimed how he brings home fried donut burgers for his children and ‘the wife’ as a special treat. He acted as if they profusely thank him for clogging up their arteries or for getting a jump on the Joneses so as to be the first ones in their neighborhood to develop diabetes.
Whom am I to judge? To each his own.