Friday, October 12, 2007

Truckin' Thru Sebring

Yesterday morning we went into town to do a spot of shopping and I took a few photos along the way.

It's not easy to photograph most small US towns as their layout doesn't lend itself to exploring them on foot. In my experience, many are basically one road towns with every important store along this strip. You drive into the parking lot of a Lowes or Home Depot (2 large home improvement nationwide stores like B&Q or Homebase in the UK) and you're suddenly a long distance from the road. To get to the next store you have to go back out to the road and sometimes go several hundred feet before heading into another parking lot and so on.

There are usually no pavements so walking in safety is not an option.

Yes there are small towns which are compact and quite like our towns back home, but these would normally be in the north of the country and basically restricted to the New England area.
I know this is a sweeping generalisation but read Bill Bryson's wonderful book on small town America and you'll see what I mean.

So with that in mind, I made use of being a passenger in the truck and took these photos mainly to give an impression of the town and as the weeks and months go on, I may be able to take more detailed ones as we stop for meals and visit more stores.

Sebring is located in mid Florida and has a population of almost 11,000. It gets it's lowest average temperature in January and that's still a very pleasant 73F.

This month (Oct) has an average temp of 84F and right now, at 12:45pm, it's 91.7F according to the probe I've got set up under the window awning so that it always gives a shade reading.

You can imagine the temp in the sunshine and that's why few people in the park are out and about right now. I'll be the mad Brit talking my daily walk after I've posted this but I only stay out for 30 minutes and as I've said before, I'm liberally basted with sun lotion.

Via the movies and tv shows, readers from the UK should be used to seeing that traffic lights are strung across intersections here.

The fast food place on the left is a Wendy's - a chain we still don't have in the UK. It slots into 3rd place behind McDonalds and Burger King and does the whole burger thing too. It's main difference is that it's meat patties are square and they add mustard to the ingredients.

Different and very nice actually. They also do excellent salads which I try from time to time - all fast food doesn't have to be Bad.

The road through Sebring is US-27 and as the photos show, is a wide dual carriageway which often widens even more to become 3 lanes in both directions. The town was built next to the 9,212 acre Lake Jackson which makes the drive through very pleasing on the eye.

This 3rd photo shows how close the road is to the lake as it sweeps around heading north.

Off in the distance, between the two poles on the right, you can just make out the distinctive light blue watertower, a feature common to most US towns.

I mention it here as it helps to show how the road curves around the lake as the next photo shows us passing by the tower.

I'm not sure how they came to the figure of 11,000 people as the population has to fluctuate enormously depending on the time of year. From April till October when the weather here is almost unbearably hot and humid, the snowbirds leave and return home - where it's probably just as hot and humid !

Then, at this time of year, they start to return to Sebring and take up residence in their winter homes and thus swell the population.

I'm now a snowbird I guess and although the heat and humidity will still be a big factor for a few more weeks, I'm loving it.

So here is the watertower which, if nothing else, lets you know exactly where you are !

When I first came to visit America in the summer of '89, I came to Florida and after a week of touring around, I visited Daytona Beach on the east coast of the state. There I met a family who I'm pleased to say are still close friends today. The first meal we had together was at a buffet restaurant and it was my introduction to the idea of 'all you can eat' food. I'd always thought it was a 'one off' restaurant until I came to Sebring and was delighted to see one here as well.

Given the popularity of The Simpsons and the eating prowess of the head of THAT family, it's been easy to remember the same of this buffet chain.

I try to avoid buffets now as the idea is quantity over quality and no one needs to eat THAT much anyway.

So I've not been to this one in Sebring but when I see the sign, I smile and think of my friends and that first meal an incredible 18 years ago.

The wife was pregnant with the young man who is about to go to college now and their little girl who was still 5 months short of her 3rd birthday back then, is now a wife herself and mother of 2 children. Where does the time go ???

Moving swiftly on, here is a sign which isn't unusual at all in the US but would never be seen in the UK........well not to my knowledge.

I've seen many drive through signs in my time, from weddings to church services and I seem to remember driving through a store of some kind where you'd drive slowly past all the items and place your order as you went along and they were ready and bagged for you at the end - all ready for payment.

It was probably somewhere in California where, God forbid you'd ever want to step out of your car to do anything. I'm sure internet shopping has done away with such drive through stores as nothing stays for long in this country.

At one point I glanced out the large passenger door mirror and decided to take a photo of the view.

It was a rush decision and the focus zone I'd set on the camera meant that the back wheel arch of the truck was nicely in focus, but the important view behind it, wasn't.

The truck is a dually which means it has two rear wheels on each side to help with stability when towing the 5th Wheel. With nothing to tow, the truck is a diesel thirsty beast which takes some parking even in US lots. We also have to remember just how far out the wheel arches are when pulling up at a fast food window and this means we have quite a job getting the money to the cashier and them passing the food out to us !

Sometimes the fast food becomes flying food but it all adds to the excitement of eating here. Where else would you expect an employee to throw you your bag of food without batting an eyelid ?

As you may see in the rear view photo, there was a biker coming up behind us and so I prepared to snap him when he passed by.

This is the shot I took and it's unusual mostly due to the fact he's wearing a helmet.

Most bikers here go bare headed or wear just a buff of some sort to ward off the effects of the sun. Beards are almost obligatory, the longer the better, and often we see ZZ Top lookalikes zooming along on their choppers in true Easy Rider style.

I never did get into town during the bikers weekend but given the wonderful climate, bikes are very common here at any time.

Many signs promoting restaurants, bars and motels tend to use words in an amusing way to get us to remember them.

Many motels make use of the word 'Inn' by prefixing it with words like 'Sleep', 'Slumber', 'Stop' and 'Died'.

Ok, I just made that last one up.

This bar sign took the idea to another level by creating an amusing and memorable name from the otherwise dull and common word 'lounge'.

When we're down in Key West, we love to visit the ultimate named bar and restaurant. In keeping with the laid back, no worries attitude prevalent in the Keys, this Pine Key establishment is called 'The No Name Pub'

The walls and ceiling are totally covered with signed dollar bills so even if the name (or no name) of the pub isn't memorable enough, the decor will always stick with you.

I think I'll mention this idea to the owners of The Wellington back in Leeds but I'm not sure if they'd like their customers sticking pound notes everywhere. I think it'd be asking for trouble and I can imagine the police report after a robbery - well, nothing was taken from the tills but the walls were stripped bare !

By now we'd done the shopping and were headed south, back to Buttonwood Bay.

Lake Jackson is now on the left and once again, this photo shows how US-27 follows it around.

It was about 10am and so the roads weren't very busy. Whatever mini 'rush hour' Sebring gets was long over and traffic was normal again.

There was just one more sign I wanted to get a photo of and it's not that it's particularly amusing or different (for America). I just like it - mainly as it's so bold and eye catching - which after all, is the whole raison d'etre for a sign.

It's ambiguity is the only thing I have against it. I mean if your dog needs glasses, why would you want another dog - even if it is free ?

I think I need a lie down.


Daphne said...

An interesting reminder that you're in a foreign country! All these photos are interesting to me: the only part of them that could be England is the trees and the sky. And actually, I'm not too sure about the sky, since yours appears to be a blue colour.

Gary James said...

Sometimes I'm almost sold on the idea of a trip to the US, but then I remember how much I rely on my feet, and I'm put off again. Maybe NYC or SF is the compromise I'm looking for.

Silverback said...

Well, Daphne, at this time of year, a clear blue sky is quite rare here in Florida..........but thankfully any clouds soon burn off.

Gary, I have to agree about SF as it's a VERY walkable city. Actually many of the tourist parts of the major cities seem that way, Dallas, New Orleans, Las Vegas etc. It's these one street places that are almost impossible to walk around - although to be fair, Sebring has a downtown part off the main road that is almost small town America like.


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