Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Florida to Cancun 14-Week Delayed Passport Blues

When I applied for my passport in July, I hadn’t even settled on a trip to take. I did not pay for expedited processes, because I knew I’d be traveling on Christmas break.

I had a passport back in the Seventies. Eventually, the papers got all stiff and a little moldy, and I tossed it out.

Bad idea. But that was the good old pre-911 days when Americans didn’t have to stand on one leg and spit nickels to prove you are a gen-u-wine, bone-a-fi-dee U.S. cit-eye-sin.

Submitting your old passport apparently earns bonus points and helps you win the amazing race not to lose the money one has paid for the trip.

Yes, I do have trip insurance but I didn’t notice “didn’t get my passport on time” as a reason for reimbursement.

Within three weeks, the State Department sent a letter saying my birth certificate was no good.

It was issued by Schenectady County with a seal, damned upstart Dutch province established long before the colonies became a united-states of anything – and who can trust those demmed furriners to know whether I was born or not.

I had to order a copy from the New York State Department of Health.

The next part of the cock-up is my fault – I did not read the fine print. I sent a check for $30 for 10-12 week processing, instead of $45 for two to four week processing. So sue me, my eyes are not as good as they used to be, I’m bad at paperwork, and I did this right after the death of my mom when I was seriously grieving and handling all the details of her passing.

When I called about three weeks later, I was told not to expect the birth certificate for a long time. So long that there seemed scant chance I could get it to the State Department in time.

New York State had a simple solution for that, however: Pay us $65 right now and we will get the passport to you in five to 10 days.

This turned out to be a lie, as it took 15 days. Nothing I could do about it and, of course, no refunds to me for their poor performance.

Being stressed out about the process, I next paid $56 for overnight delivery to the State Department and $72.72 (yes, really, 7-2-7-2, does someone have a number fetish in the Passport Office?) for expedited processing.

So, I guess I will be going to Cancun and the Mayan ruins for Winter Solstice and can slip through some crack in the cosmic egg or whatever is supposed to happen then.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jupiter: Dappled Sunlight Through Canopy of Cypress Trees

The approach to Carlin Park in Jupiter, Florida, offers an outstanding canopy of cypress trees.

By this point in the drive, I had dawdled over where to eat so long that I created an impossible situation for myself.

In tourist towns and on the beach, one often pays for the view and quaintness, rather than the quality of the cuisine.

By this time, I wanted a hamburger, having consumed only two Dunkin' Donuts and an iced coffee all day. Well you know what they say -- America runs on Dunkin.

Since I've discovered how good the iced coffee is for half the price of Starbucks, I can't waste my money on the latter anymore.

I stopped in Delray Beach, another lovely small town voted in 2012 one of the most interesting small towns in the USA on Travel Channel.

It was crammed with couples from their 30s upward. Even so, I managed to find free parking.

By this time of a lovely busy Saturday evening, there were only two kinds of restaurants -- those that were crammed with couples and uncomfortable to eat in by myself or those that were empty and there suspected of bad food. Or else they'd be crowded, right?

I ended up grabbing some nachos at Moe's on Commercial Boulevard, bad food and not that cheap yet a satisfying end to a day in small-town South Florida.

Stuart Offers Picturesque Water View and Small-Town Charm

I drove down Route 1 from Vero Beach to Stuart. There are many antiques and second-hand stores along the way.

Daylight was waning, so I didn't stop. Someday I will return and take my time.

I haven't stopped in Stuart since 2003. I've always enjoyed it's small-town charm and small parks on the water.

The lock and chain attests that crime is not completely unknown, however petty.

This mural with tile insets was one of the first things I observed after I parked. Parking is still free, by the way, not like here in downtown and beachside Fort Lauderdale.

Like so many other South Florida town, Stuart has taken care to maximize its old-time appeal.

This building advertises a Stuart claim to fame.

I'm not sure if I completely like it. Before, Stuart was just an old town; now it has uniformly lettered signs with an antique script and Caribbean-colored storefronts that look like a movie set.

Theater with live band music coming from behind the closed doors -- probably a practice session.

Garden entry to attorneys' office evokes memories of New Orleans.

Charming pink cottage advertises rooms available. I believe the back yard is on the water.

I wouldn't mind living in an apartment with a balcony overlooking the small-town doings.

If you look closely, you may see a dancing woman and a parrot on the trompe l'oeil balcony that decorates the facade of the plain exterior wall.

Fake window scenes between real shutter further the illusion.

Built along the river, Stuart has preserved several places where all residents can enjoy the view -- unlike the Palm Beach to Miami metroplex where tall condos and hotels dominate the sands.

Here some folks enjoy cool evening breezes, and it looked like a preacher or other speaker might have been preparing for a presentation.

A final look at Stuart -- this sailfish fountain shining brilliantly as it was backlit by a bright sunset.

Vero Beach: A Quaint and Quiet Old Town

Vero Beach was named by a Mayor's wife, back around the 1920s, after the Latin word for truth, veritas.

This theater marquee preserves a sense of a vital city on the move, that it was considered in those days. While driving from town, a Public Radio program featured an interview with a town librarian and historian of Vero Beach history.

All photos are the property of Ordinary Gal and must be credited back to this article on the site.

Small shops and restaurants now occupy the theater building and arcade.

South Florida small towns, like those in other parts of the country, are working hard to provide the esthetics and things to do that appeal to local residents and tourists.

The plain facade, above, is relieved by painting building sections different colors. This makes it look as if there are attached buildings, instead of a single, unrelieved wall.

Another plain building was enhanced with tiles.

View of the Pocohontas apartments -- a native American who did not live in this part of the county.

Mural is more fitting homage to the Native American past in South Florida. Gator-fighting is still carried on as a tourist attraction by the Seminole tribe in the Fort Lauderdale area.

The part across from Vero Beach City Hall is beautifully maintained and lightly used on Saturday afternoon.

On the walk back to my car, I noticed this handsome guy. What gal can resist her knight in armor?

Small Town Florida: Vero Beach, Stuart, and Carlin Park, Jupiter

The small towns of south Florida are quaint and offer shops, restaurants, entertainment, and architectural beauty.

Yesterday I took a ride that lasted most of the day to Vero Beach outlet mall to buy some cotton bras that I can't seem to get locally.

I prefer the Vero Beach mall to the nearby Sawgrass Mills outlets mall for several reasons:
First, Sawgrass Mills is noisy. Very noisy. There are lots of things for kids to do. On Friday, I saw a youngster almost flying using bungee cord-trampoline jumping. I probably would have been too dizzy too walk if I tried it, but it made me happy just to see his grins and antics.

Second, Sawgrass Mills is a hub of indoor corridors -- great for the Fort Lauderdale visitor who gets trapped in a hotel room on rainy days but not so great for a Floridian who would prefer to transverse outdoor walkways.
Third, it is skewed very young. At Vero Beach, music that appeals to my people, Boomers, was playing. It is easier to find clothing that interests me at Vero Beach.

Vero Outlets is nicely landscaped and a pleasure to walk. There is a free trolley for those who prefer to ride.

After that, I went into Vero Old Town to take some photos. Pictures are the property of Ordinary Gal and must be linked back to the site. They may be sold or otherwise used for your personal profit or that of your organization.