There may or may not be a secret bar on the campus of Rice University. Wether or not it is hidden behind an unmarked door underneath the Chemistry building we can not say. Is it possible that this place is staffed completely by volunteers who serve 95 cent beers from unmarked animal shaped taps? We can neither confirm nor deny that such a magical land exists.
We stayed a week in Tampa, Florida, but we can comment little on the city itself. We spent almost our entire time there at Gram’s Place, where 'time stands still and the music plays on' as the sign reads. Originally built in by Mark Holland as a tribute to Gram Parsons, it is now run by Mark’s brother, Bruce.
Hidden in a forgotten neighborhood, cattycorner to a cemetery, behind a tall fence lies Grams Place. Walking through the entry gate you find yourself in another world. With two outdoor bars, an in-ground homemade Jacuzzi, multi level patios, two catwalks and a roof-top crow’s nest, it really did seem like a city unto itself.
We spent most of the week in the hostel telling stories late into the night with travelers from around the world. I was able to swap out a kitchen sink and retile a bathroom in exchange for use of a shower and a few beers around happy hour (the clock in the bar always reading 5:00.)
If you are ever anywhere near Tampa, Gram’s Place is more than a place to stay, it’s a place to go. Swing by on a weekend night and you’ll likely catch one of their outdoor concerts -Ryan
To see more pictures of Gram's Place and other Tampa fun
(including a 9 person ski pyramid) click here.
For some reason I like to go places that look on a map like there is no good reason why someone would want to go there, so despite all of Ryan's protests, we decided to camp for a few days down in Flamingo, Florida. Look it up on a map, you'll notice that there is one lonely road that leads all the way through the Everglades to a campground called Flamingo…nothing else for miles and miles.
I should mention here that Ryan has a strange sort of sweet blood …we can go to the same place and he will cover every inch of skin in clothing and douse himself with DEET 250 and still come out looking like a five year old with the chicken pox. I, on the other hand, can walk through the swamps barefoot at sunset and never see a bite. Needless to say he wasn’t too excited about a trip to the swamps, but after showing him that the 'mosquito meter' was only on 'moderate' and enticing him with the idea that Eisley might get eaten by a crocodile, he agreed to go.
We took a canoe out into the Everglades waterways and got to see lots of crocodiles, some baby crocs, amazing hawks and eagles, armadillos, wild pigs, and one very friendly manatee named Hugh (get it?) Eisley, somehow, did manage to make it out alive, though I did have to pick her up a couple of times when a big hawk would start circling. -Lane
To see more pictures from the Everglades click here.
at the southernmost point in the continental USA
I’m not sure if it was soft white sand and turquoise waters, or the diversity of the island’s nightlife or the awesome people who welcomed us into their community there, but something made Key West one of our favorite spots so far.
the view from Alan's patio
We were only planning on staying in Key West for a couple of days and ended up there for almost two weeks. This is due largely to two different houses that took us in thanks to www.couchsurfing.org. We had an extra room in a beachfront condo with a beautiful view and a Jacuzzi.
We spent our days on the postcard perfect beaches and our nights hanging out in town with Eric and his friends. I know that most people think of Key West as being very touristy with nothing but t-shirt shops and bars, but Alan showed us a different side of the island. We ate in little local Cuban cafes and hung out on some of the beaches not open to tourists.
I guess I’m a sucker for the romantic, but one of my favorite moments in Key West was a sappy one I’ll probably get flack for writing about…
One evening we found our way to a rooftop patio where the locals go to watch the sunset and avoid the crowds of Mallory square. We watched the sun soak the buildings below as a musician sang above the light hum of conversation. Just as the sun touched the water with the most amazing sunset I think I’ve ever seen, we stood and danced as the singer broke into “At Last”* and I felt like Key West was romancing us to stay.
If you want to see more pictures from Key West (including pictures of Ryan and Eisley chasing roosters) click here. -Lane
Always good to see family, we visited my uncle Jim and my aunt Sue and in Palm City, Florida and spent four days at their beautiful home.
In the nearby town of Stewart we met the owners of Ohana surf shop (www.ohanasurfshop.com) who are fellow VW owners. They hooked me up with a surfboard and wetsuit, so I got some surf time in on the east coast. Heading down A1A to the Keys… Ryan
See more pictures from Florida here. -Ryan