USA 1993

Copyright Ruud Leeuw Photos © R.Leeuw

I had entertained plans for a solitary trip, backpacking through China or Vietnam, but this was changed for budget reasons as I'd bought my first personal computer: a 386SX/40MHz (with a 170 Mb harddisk!). Computers were quite expensive in those days.
The summer at home had seen a lot of rain, so within the family it was decided we'd go looking for some Florida sunshine.
As a result we flew in october 1993 with Martinair to Miami. And in ten days we drove 2.900 kilometers, a veritable roadtrip.
The weather was nice the first few days, nice and balmy.. But that was going to change dramatically!


Florida 1993

We flew flight MP625, on a Martinair Boeing 767-300ER (PH-MCH).
My work with Martinair has brought special occasions; two hours before landing I was allowed to join the crew in the cockpit, to talk shop (I often did when travelling on a company flight). But I was also allowed to take my son Alexander in the cockpit!
The flight, inbound into Miami International, was vectored over the Florida Keys, turned around over Marathon (which we'd visited in 1992), but were kept at too high an altitude while approaching MIA. The captain had seen that coming and a full 360 was requested and granted by Atc; we descended in a circle with a good view over the Everglades! A thrilling experience for Alexander. Thank you, ATC KMIA!
A memory I treasure (just like the other occasions when I was allowed to introduce my wife, my father, my mother and my kid brother on seperate occasions to such a similar unique event).
Captain Polak was, as always, in the best of spirits that day and a good & instructive host in the cockpit, but he bitterly complained on how ATC Miami 'squandered' money on fuel by the extra flighttime. Sadly Capt Kees Polak sadly died at too young an age.


Florida 1993
After our flight arrival in Miami we claimed our rental car and continued to the Everglades, via the Tamiami Trail.
We found lodgings in Everglades City; $40, - we paid for a double room then. We were even upgraded to a suite
when we found the room which had been issued to us, had not been cleaned!
The next morning we went for a tour through the Everglades.
We witnessed spectacular countryside, but the immense roar of the air-boat engine was a bit of a spoiler.

Florida 1993 - Everglades
The tickets weren't cheap (you win some, you loose some): $ 30,- per person.
It provided for a noisy airboat ride and a more quiet sailing on another, larger boat.

Florida 1993 - Everglades
The alligator on the top has a white tip on the nose: it is a marshmellow thrown by
our guide to attract these 'gators; the season made their presence rarer than in other months.

Florida 1993

Florida 1993
Look at those two racoons: one is eying the 'gator, the other one keeping an eye on us!



Florida 1993
Fantastic bird life, pelicans in abundance and other species I did not know the name of.
We enjoyed some fun on the beach near Ft. Myers, even swam with small stingrays!

Florida 1993

Florida 1993
Beautiful bird refuge at Sanibel; we saw an alligator crossing our path, but I was too amazed and forgot to take a photo!
We saw tiny turtles climbing a tree; the wildlife is amazing here.




Florida 1993
At Sarasota we went to the Mote Sea Aquarium; I have a love for fishtanks, large or small..
It is also a Marine Laboratorium. From their website: "We are scientists, explorers and stewards of the ocean.
Driven by research, education and excitement we work to create a better environment for ourselves
and our children. The answers are in the ocean. Together, we will find them."

Florida 1993

Florida 1993




Florida 1993
Near Tampa are the Busch Gardens; we quite enjoyed doing all the tourist stuff inspite of the Disneyesque character here.

Florida 1993
A white tiger; animals in captivity are never an easy sight, but the environment seemed quite nice here for the animals.


Florida 1993
A colleague at work told us to visit Cedar Key, a 'must' she said!

But I had underestimated the distance from Tampa and the drive after our visit to Busch Gardens took much longer than I had expected. We arrived at around 20:00, in complete darkness, and checked into a motel still on the mainland, shortly prior to crossing the bridge to Cedar Key. I staggered at the amount I had to pay for a double room: $60,- plus tax!
The fact they did not accept cheques or credit cards, only cash, was more of a problem (for my cashflow, no ATM's on every streetcorner in those days), but we were too tired to refuse.
The next day we could stay and visit Cedar Key only during the morning, as yet again we had a long drive ahead
of us.
Cedar Key is a very nice place, it has (or had?) that special quality of a remote community, somewhere at the end of the universe.
So in the end I was pleased with the advise my colleague Ana had given me!

Florida 1993
That Route 98 was not scenic, as I had hoped; dense woodslands were left and right for much of the way.
The weather had changed too, it had started to rain a little during the night, though our walk around at
Cedar Key during that morning we had benefitted from a dry spell.

Florida 1993
At the time I did some photography with a medium format camera, a Mamiya 645S, loaded with B&W film.
I had been changing from aviation photography to landscape- and travel photography.
Did some model photography too in those days, but that is yet again another story.

Florida 1993

Florida 1993
Can't believe we stayed at a Trailer Park!

Those days we often spent nights at Motel 6, very affordable and indeed we were on a budget.
But after too many occasions where I was woken up by people talking loud or arguing, had groups of noisy kids hanging around, I found myself upgrading to a bit more expensive accommodation.
Often used discount vouchers ('The Traveler Discount Guide' and 'Roomsaver') and gradually over the years benefitted from online information and deals.
The same developed with the diners where we took our meals. Those early years, in the 1980s & 1990s, we often took our meals at McDonald's, Burger King, Hardee's, Shoney's, Denny's and Pizza Hut. Though I regret to see less and less of the local diners, I more or less insist these days (2016) on a beer or glass of wine with my dinner and for my dinner preferably a bit of entourage.
Fortunately, our standards of living improved over the years so we could afford all that.

Florida 1993



Florida 1993
I had arranged a visit to the Pensacola Naval Air Station and the museum. The weather started to go the wrong way..

Florida 1993
Visitor pass the the Naval Air Station; I almost but all changed my interest from military planes (jets) to
vintage propellor transports, but a visit to Pensacola was not to be missed!
Unfortunately the rain kept coming down and played havoc to my intention of plane spotting (photography);
it made us look for entertainment indoors. And as such we had a nice visit to Gulfport's Gulfarium.


Florida 1993

Fort Walton Beach saw the weather as its worst! It wasn't just windy but also very cold, a mere 6º C!
Police got us off this beach, warning us gangs roam the area and a German tourist had been robbed and molested here only days before!
The area has been sarcastically labelled 'the Redneck Rivera' and it certainly looked not very inviting in the low season, in the rain.
That police warning did nothing to increase our enthusiasm for our stay in the Florida Panhandle. It did increase my admiration for the policemen on their lone patrols in their cruisers!

Florida 1993

Florida 1993

The cold and rain hastened our retreat to Miami, where the weather remained cold but at least the sun was out.
After some plane spotting at West Palm Beach and Miami our time in Florida was up and Martinair flew us home again.
While only the first few days provided the sunshine we'd craved, we'd also seen a lot and enjoyed the trip all in all.
It also had been a test for that 8-year old, whether he could stomach a roadtrip with long days in the car.
We'd been pleased with the result and many more roadtrips through North America would follow; we were a good team!




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