: Spent a week in Florida. Road trip pics - Beaches and food.

12-15-08, 10:45 AM
I forgot to bring my Kodak, so all I had was my camera phone. I apologize for the blurry photos.

I was hoping to see other people and do more things while I was down there but my trip was cut short. Mom needed a ride to the airport (she's off to Thailand and Australia) and my cousin had an accident in his $380 Altima that I found for him three years ago. Its a shame that the lady hit him, but that reliable little Nissan paid for itself over and over and over.

My mom also got into an accident that same week in her Lexus GX, and my other cousin needed me to help him with car registration stuff. Mom also needed help with computer stuff. The whole family was clawing at me, so I packed my bags and headed home.

The St Louis airport/Lambert Field is kind of a crap heap. After American Airlines bought TWA, routes were closed and traffic has declined. To save money, they closed down all of Concourse D, which was mostly just a connecting hallway between the Main and East terminal anyway. A couple smaller carriers like Frontier used it, but they now have to share space with Southwest, which dominates Concourse E.

The airline I used, USA 3000 (excellent by the way), charged only $64.99 for a ticket to Ft Meyers FL. In-flight preprogrammed TV, music, and movies are free.

Anyway, because USA3000 is a tiny carrier with only nine aircraft in their fleet, they were relegated to a corner of Concourse E. There were no news stands, one bathroom that flushed poorly and lacked toilet paper and paper towels, no food, no drinks, and no television. The carpet, walls, and seating looked like they were pulled out of a warehouse full of early 80s junk.

After looking around and around for a socket to plug in my laptop and cell phone, I finally found one. It was dangling out of the wall! I used it anyway. Whatever they spent on in-flight entertainment, excellent customer service, and timely flights, they had nothing left for outfitting the terminal.

This is the bathroom sink in the exiled corner of Concourse E. The soap and water dispensers are both motion-activated, and both were terribly faulty. I waved my hands hoping for water and got soap, and when I tried to wash off the soap I got even more soap! I was stuck in an endless cycle of automatic water and soap, unable to get out. I finally gave up and went to wipe my hands, but the paper towels were gone. I had to reach into my bag for a paper towel.

When I landed, Ian discovered that a tire was nearly punctured, so he picked me up in the Cadillac.

After the BMW was totaled, I told him I would take the Crossfire off his hands only if certain conditions were met. The defects (power locks, intercooler pump, tire, rustproofing) all needed to be taken care of, and he needed to pay for the insurance for a year.

Well, he never did get around to fixing any of the issues (extended warranty is included, so I'll have to take it in myself), so he found a shop with a used and matching Continental tire for only $50.

An initial review of the Crossfire is here: http://www.haddawaycars.com/2008/11/i-went-down-to-tampa-for-minivacation.html

It really is a gorgeous car. In pictures it looks stubby because DaimlerChrysler decided to force the design to fit the wheelbase of the SLK, but in person the lines and flanks are dramatic. When I see a red Corvette or yellow Hummer, I feel a little bit of juvenile joy, like a kid playing with his toys, smashing them into each other while making engine noises. I get the same feeling looking at the Crossfire. Its a toy for grownups who feel like kids. Its loud and boisterous -- I love it.

I am a total sucker for weird cars with strange background stories. The Crossfire is a product of a historic and disastrous merger between Chrysler and Daimler-Benz. The Mazda 929 I owned (two, both 1988) was one of Mazda's early and ominously failed attempts at offering luxury to Americans. No one bought them, and most have been driven into the ground. The Q45 (I also owned two) was a pioneer, known more for its failed marketing than its world-class 300hp V8.

Since Ian's mom was the primary driver of the Crossfire, he had to get something for her to take to work. For $2500 out the door, he found a 1995 Taurus SHO automatic with only 80,000 miles.

Review here: http://www.haddawaycars.com/2008/12/sho-nuf-1995-ford-taurus-sho-in-stable.html

The inside is typical 90s Ford -- a good-looking design with cheap materials and buttons that like to break. All of the climate control buttons are cracked and the doors sound like a dumpster lid when you close them. The ergonomics are terrible, to be generous. Ford remedied the poorly located radio by places volume and preset controls up high on the dash, but even those are a bit of an odd reach. The ideal solution in this case would be an iPod with a steering wheel mounted remote from Belkin or Scosche.

Thats fine, because it scoots to 60 in just over 6 seconds, outrunning the Q45, Maxima, Seville STS, Mark VIII, Mustang GT, and most new sedans. It probably helps that the sheet metal is about as thick as tinfoil, but thats fine too because it handles beautifully. Despite plenty of body roll, it grips nicely, turns swiftly, and offers predictable and manageable understeer.

It even looks good.

Like a lot of Mercury and top-level Ford products from that era, the seats are infinitely adjustable. You can change how tightly those fat side bolsters hold you in. And yes, the seats are as squishy and comfortable as they look.

The factory spoiler integrates an LED CHMSL (center high mounted stop light) and the rear bumper has a subtle SHO logo. The wheels are sharp too, with wide 16" tires.

Yamaha's V6 sounds amazing, as smooth as the Nissan VH45 V8 with the throaty depth of GM's Northstar.

We took our cars to Landry's to enjoy some oysters on the bay. I also had swordfish.

The SHO's JBL subwoofer was blown, so we tapped the wires and plugged in an Alpine box. I was able to fit comfortably in the trunk.

12-15-08, 10:46 AM
I unplugged my shaver after showering and blew the outlet. Oops.

Bought clothes. Lost a little bit of weight since 2007.

Later that night we stopped at Dew Cadillac-Hummer, which was in the middle of being converted into Dew Cadillac-Rolls Royce-Lotus-Bentley. Apparently they dumped their Hummer franchise. That was my first time seeing a Cadillac dealer integrated with top-tier European luxury.

This 360 is the closest I've ever physically been to a Ferrari.

Distinct Hummer building in the process of remodeling.

Rolls Royces are inside, but the banners still mention Hummer and GM's Onstar.

The air mattress that I had the privilege of calling home for a week.

With time to myself, I took the Crossfire out for a cruise. My first destination was the Gulf of Mexico.

At a gas station on Gandy Blvd, a homeless man held the door open for me, spoke to me articuately, called me sir, and asked how my day was. I was impressed by his performance, so when he very politely asked for change I gave him a dollar. He told me to have a great day and I said the same.

While leaving the bank and waiting to pull into traffic, a cute little blonde in a grey Crossfire looked over and gave me a wave. Nice little bonus to a day that was going well.

Took some pictures by the Gandy bridge.

12-15-08, 10:46 AM
I thought this was odd. The train tracks bisected a road. While the train was passing by, a Camry crossed the intersection right next to it.

The south beach in Clearwater FL.

I brought with me a soda and a $7.50 burrito from Moe's, which was flavorless and bland.


Indian Rock Beach. I drove down the little island/peninsula and came back up 275.

On the I-275 bridge late at night, I played highway tag with a black G35 coupe. He soared past at 90mph, so I flew from 60 to 100 in no time (LOVE that supercharger). He responded by hitting 110, then I hit 120, and eventually I decided that despite the highway being empty, I couldn't afford a ticket and didn't want to get mangled in an accident, so I backed off. With the windows open, the music loud, and the bay on both sides of the causeway, it was like a scene out of a movie. I'll definitely remember it.

A couple days later I saw something on Google Maps called the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It was a long stretch of I-275 that connected St Petersburg to Bradenton. Alongside were fishing piers. $1 toll and worth every penny for the incredible view.

I pulled off on to the pier and parked at the Gulf where I watched the sun set.

In this terrible photo is a Camaro. It was cold outside and a couple kids were parked on the pier with their hood open. They attempted to drive from Clearwater to Miami but didn't get very far, experiencing a total loss of battery power and a dashboard that lit up like it was Christmas.

He described the situation and I told him his alternator was toast, and that despite passing a brief voltage test at Autozone, the warning noises he heard indicated impending failure. I advised him to buy an AC Delco part, offered my phone and a ride (he already had family coming to get him), shook hands, and continued on my way.

Also as a condition of taking the Crossfire, I made Ian give up his refrigerator and his old Sony TV, both of which fit nicely into the hatch and front seat.

Trinitron was belted in for its own safety.

Later on, the fridge turned out to be an excellent desk. At gas stations I took out my laptop and got online with Sprint to check my mail, maps, and forums.
I averaged 24.5 mpg!

"I drove all night..." to get to Motel 6.

12-15-08, 10:46 AM
I got my 40 bucks worth. The room was clean and equipped with a fridge, desk, bed, and bathroom. I checked in at 7am and left at 8pm.

The drive home was pretty comfortable. The ride was firm but well damped, like the drum head of a timpani. Only in Kentucky did it become irritating.
My affection for this car is growing with each mile.

Did I mention how much I love southerners? So darn friendly. Even women I've dated never called me darling, baby doll, or sweetheart.

I wish I had a garage to protect it from the cruel outside world. Its 10F right now with ice and "wintry mix". The poor little Chrysler must be horrified by the change from its native home in Florida. I feel like going out there with a cup of hot cocoa and putting a blanket over it.

12-15-08, 11:23 AM
SWEET review, and i was born and raised in FL and never take the time to actually LOOK around until someone visits. congrats on the crossfire jesda!

12-15-08, 11:24 AM

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The Tony Show
12-15-08, 11:36 AM
I love Jesda's travel threads- I feel like I was along for the ride.

12-15-08, 03:16 PM
Jesda's travel threads rock.

I love the 1989-95 Taurus SHO...such a fine car.

Night Wolf
12-15-08, 05:01 PM
Heh, I know, and have been to EVERY one of those places in the Clearwater/Tampa area...

...right now I am undecided about going with some friends up to Atlanta for a few days for New Years or going solo to Clearwater for a few days... supposed to be warm and sunny, that means the BMW with top down... which makes the deal more tempting... still deciding!

Awesome trip tho :cool2:

ted tcb
12-15-08, 09:31 PM
Nice read, as always, Jesda.

It would appear that St. Louis gets its fair share of icy winter weather.
Did you pick up a backup vehicle, or will you invest in a different wheel/tire setup
for driving the Crossfire in wild weather?
Up here in the middle of Ontario's snowbelt, I put winter steelies/snows all the way 'round
on every car I have. You may only need them a couple of times per year, but they'll save
your life.

12-15-08, 09:47 PM
You came down and didn't meet with the Destroyer, lol. I am in the vacinity and I own property on Clearwater Beach, well just by Clearwater Beach (Island Estates sound familiar?, right before the beach on the right hand side after the bridge leading to the beach). I almost met up with you and a few others a year or two ago when we were supposed to meet up at a bar in Tampa. I drove all the way there and nobody showed up....................till afterwards when I left. Like 07CTS said, we live here and it doesn't even phase us how wonderful our state really is. I lived in NY till '92 but I forget how shitty that was. I do remember visiting here prior to my move and thinking "this is paradise". I love Clearwater Beach but there are oh so many more in the area Jesda.

12-15-08, 09:50 PM
The travel threads, food threads, and car reviews here are second to none. Seriously. :cloud9:

12-16-08, 04:57 AM
Destroyer: Every time I go down to FL its usually on a tight schedule. I never have time to meet up with you, Brett, and the rest of the TPA people. :(

Ted: Sadly, the XFire got to see snow, salt, and ice on its first night in Missouri. Poor little thing. I intended to drive my cousin's Buick (the recently acquired one that he left at my apartment) but my other cousin needed it to get to school after some lady hit his Altima. MB's traction control is superior to BMW's, so far, and the heat works incredibly well. I'd like to get a 4x4 Chevy or Toyota pickup if sales improve this month, otherwise I'm on the lookout for a set of 19" snows.

ted tcb
12-16-08, 09:46 AM
Man, 19" snows won't come cheap.

Perhaps you could find compatible 16" or 17" steelies/tire packages ... if they fit, you'd save a lot of money.
I found my Blizzak pkg on a Mazda3 forum (used), and my 16" rim/tire pkg came off a Toronto Maxima forum ...
only $180 for four tires, and I change all 3 vehicles (12 tires) in my driveway ... takes 15 minutes per car.

Good luck in the hunt. One ice storm, and snow tires become a rare commodity.

c5 rv
12-16-08, 10:24 AM
Man, 19" snows won't come cheap.

Good point. I had an 04 CTS with 17" wheels and mounted a set of 16" wheels and winter tires with no problems. Since the standard wheel size was 16", I knew there wouldn't be any brake clearance problem. The taller sidewalls also add more winter pothole protection. I had no trouble finding attractive and easy-to-clean alloy wheels that looked a lot better than black steel ones.

12-16-08, 10:36 AM
Awesome write up as always Jesda! I will be in Florida in a month and cant wait! I am going to be in Ft Myers/ Sanibel/Captiva/Tampa/Naples!

Lord Cadillac
12-16-08, 06:16 PM
Most of the pictures aren't working for me.. At any rate, I love the SHO. :)

12-16-08, 09:05 PM
Awesome write up as always Jesda! I will be in Florida in a month and cant wait! I am going to be in Ft Myers/ Sanibel/Captiva/Tampa/Naples!

You should look up Ian and Brett. All Ian does is watch cable and eat tacos, so you should help entertain him. Treat him like a charity case.

12-17-08, 12:16 AM
Truly awesome. This and the AZ thread so make me want to travel. It's been ages since I've been out of this shithole we call New England, where we get every kind of bad weather save typhoons, only because when they happen here they aren't called typhoons. The Motel 6 looks exactly like the one here where my girlfriend and I would go off to for... extracurricular activities. Apparently they are the same the world over.

Lord Cadillac
12-17-08, 12:55 AM
You should look up Ian and Brett. All Ian does is watch cable and eat tacos, so you should help entertain him. Treat him like a charity case.
Wait. You came to Florida and you didn't visit your old pal Sal? :o

12-17-08, 12:59 AM
That Crossfire isn't a bad looking little car. Same with the SHO; pretty much the best sleeper ever. Who'd expect it to have all that power in such mediocre wrapping?

Looks like you had a nice trip :)