After a stop in Jacksonville to visit a friend’s daughters restaurant (The Town Hall) for a delicious meal. I made a last minute reservation for a motel just south of town (America’s Best Inn, Jacksonville). Prior to reserving, I saw comments such as “the worst place ever”, “my life was in danger”, “filthy” and other strongly worded cautionary notes. I thought that sounded cool, so I booked one night. I got lucky upon check-in – I only had to wait about 20 minutes and considered myself fortunate because apparently the staff keeps very limited hours and if one arrives in the evening after they have closed, one is out of luck and would conceivably have to sleep in their car in the parking lot or find another hotel.
I was given my key to a second story room – passing by garbage strewn in the parking lot and a number of rooms with small overflowing trash bags outside their doors along with various plastic bottles scattered about. My room had graffiti on the inside of the door, there were no sheets or blankets on the bed (or anywhere in the room for that matter), the floor was covered in dust, the bath was dirty like it hadn’t been used in months and there were no toiletries or toilet paper. Usually in dumps like this only the cold water works. But in this case only the hot water was accessible coming out with one setting – an extreme heat like what I imagine it would feel like to be scorched by a fire breathing dragon, if such a creature existed.
Initially I decided my room was next to either a brothel or a drug space. Not feeling the physical effects of hard core drug-induced sex from next door nor hearing any moaning (which I have experienced numerous times from neighboring rooms in various usually dingy hotels) my guess tilted towards being a drug room. Numerous people kept knocking next door, were granted entrance and then left soon thereafter. A couple of times they even knocked on my door but I didn’t stir. Fortunately the night was very chill otherwise people probably would have been hanging outside the rooms chatting all night.
While my stay here was an experience it certainly pales in comparison to the Overstay in Bangkok, perhaps one of the worst places to stay on the entire planet.After a restless sleep, the next morning I headed down to St. Augustine. This is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the United States having been founded in 1565. I spent some time wandering the historic downtown – admiring the picturesque old buildings and classic cars before heading south. While driving, I somehow remembered that one of the country’s most legendary and iconic restaurants is located in Tampa and I made a slight detour.
So without a reservation, I stopped in at Bern’s Steakhouse for dinner (arriving prior to their daily soft opening of 430pm). Their wine collection is formidable; this is the largest restaurant owned wine collection in the United States. One comes to this restaurant in search of an experience. Whatever that experience is – it will differ from person to person – but it must involve enjoying an antiquity. An old bottle of wine, to be purchased and shared with strangers. New friends immediately found. I ordered a 1973 Inglenook Charbono and ended up sharing the bottle with nearby diners at the bar.
That same night I ended up at a motel on the outskirts of Naples. The receptionist invited me to go clubbing at Noodles. I took her up on her offer. She never made it. I paid $10 admission and had a nice time gyrating to the loud music, watching the handsome youngsters partying hard and throwing back numerous bottles of Corona until about 1am.