Fountain of Youth

Part two of the Florida Road Trip.

Day 6

After breakfast I hit the road, promising to stop in again on my way home to pick up my box of records and books at the very least.

I headed South, stopping at an Old Florida town to check out the vintage clothing shop, Winters Past, recommended by Zannah. It was pretty and the shop and owner were charming. The antiques shop nearby was very old-timey, with high, old-timey prices. A cute dog was visiting, though, and there was a great shop cat as well.

Next stop was a wildlife viewing area over wet prairie, recommended by the vintage shop owner. I immediately saw an alligator just chilling by the pier. Some Chinese tourists showed up and took a lot of selfies. I hung out with the alligator until it disappeared.

I drove through a lot of horse country. And more horse country, tons of retirement trailer parks with trailer home bars named things like Bud’s Bar and whatnot.

I pulled into my only Air BNB on this trip, a weird but cheap place in West Palm Beach. It was weird because it was a house with 3 bedrooms, and each bedroom was rented out separately. So it was like a hostel, but with no person in charge. As a lady traveling alone, I saw some obvious risks. West Palm Beach is REALLY expensive, so I took a chance here. I imagine this place is usually rented by families and single men. The other occupants were men, both respectful, interesting, and friendly (but not overly so). One of them was a detective for an insurance company, on a business trip! He spies on people who have made personal injury claims to make sure they’re really hurt!

Day 7

South toward Miami. I didn’t actually have much interest in West Palm Beach, at least not on my own, so I headed to my next destination, OPA LOCKA, a ‘burb north of Miami. I had planned to check out the flea market, but it was pretty heavy on the flea, so I just checked out the parking lot.

I did a little tour of the Moorish buildings, including the dilapidated Town Hall. I chatted with a Lebanese junk shop owner, and took in a cup of Cuban coffee with him. Sadly, he didn’t have anything I could purchase, but we had a friendly talk.

The neighborhood was interesting. City Hall was in the worst shape. The houses in the ‘hood were mostly in pretty nice shape, but not all. It was a weekday morning, so the scene was pretty quiet.

Opa Locka was built as a middle-class White development in the 1920s, following a trendy Orientalist Moorish theme. Over the years, things have changed, and now it’s a mostly poor, Black and Latinex city. In 2004 Opa Locka reported the highest rate of violent crime in the country. There have been some movements to save the architecture, and many of the Moorish buildings have been restored.

Opa Locka was a major stop on my journey south, because this is just the kind of weird, yet non-touristy place, I love. Opa Locka is a city with a big flea market, a junk shop, and some economic problems, no visitor’s center, no gift shops. Not the sort of place on most people’s list of things to see. Highly recommended, though!

I continued South, stopping in at ROBERT IS HERE, described by a friend as “more than a fruit stand.” Well said!

I ordered a tamarind mango milkshake, and took it out back to drink, where I watched the animals hang out in their pen. There was a great variety, and there were some unlikely friendships in evidence. A chicken and a goat, a tortoise and everyone else, an emu, a miniature African cow with amazing eyes….

It was very hot, and the milkshake was very cold. Once it was gone, I picked up some mangoes and continued on my way.

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