When I was a child, I wanted to visit all 50 states one day. At the age of 45, I am severely behind in this goal. Heading into 2021, I had only visited 13 states, plus the District of Columbia. This does not include states. I have just been in an airport on the way to a different destination, so no Utah and Texas. I added West Virginia with my trips to Rough N Rowdy and Michigan for the Big Game Bet, but the one most surprising fact is that I have never been to Flordia. This means no home Dolphins games and no spring training. With Coach Duggs back home in Florida, I had the chance to see the Sunshine State for the first time, for a weekend of soda reviews, raw dogging, mini-golf, and a Mets game at Tropicana Field.
The weekend started on Thursday as I flew from Newark into Jacksonville. The plan was to drive across Florida on Friday, hitting hot dog spots and mini-golf along the way. Coach Duggs a Jacksonville, resident had his Tahoe gassed and ready for the trip as TJ joined in shooting the big weekend for content.
The flight to Florida was smooth as I landed in Jacksonville after six. It had been an abnormally chilly day in Northern Florida, with rain falling earlier in the day. Arriving in the Jacksonville airport, which is tiny compared to the gargantuan airport in Newark. One thing that struck me was a seating area filled with rocking chairs. Was this a Cracker Barrell? Sadly no. Still, does anyone understand what the deal is with the rocking chairs in the airport?
After landing, I was met by Coach Duggs. We went to Showtime Sports Cards & Collectibles, a local card shop that blows most card stores I have seen away. It had aisles of cards; I picked up a nice 1955 Television Set Bowman Card of Gil Hodges. From there, it was dinnertime at the Texas Roadhouse. Nothing says Flordia like the Texas Roadhouse. The honey butter rolls rocked, and the steak was solid. From there, it was time to check in for the night at Shereton in Jacksonville. Along the way, I saw my first real palm tree.
The next morning began early; TJ was there to document the footage, as we had a full day of raw dogging, soda reviews, and mini-golf as we went on a road trip from Jacksonville to Tampa-St. Pete. The first stop was Jacksonville Beach. It was the first time I had seen a beach in a southern state. It was especially windy, and the riptide was rough as the beach was lined with jellyfish. Of course, I had to stick my toes in the water with Coach Duggs, being sure to make use of the buddy system. I also had the chance to film a soda review. Serious, what is the deal with that guy? He did not even give me the chance to pick up the cap. After time at the beach, we stopped for the first hot dog review at Hot Dog Hut near the shoreline; the episode will be available in the coming weeks.
The next stop was a round of mini-golf at Coach Duggs' home course at Adventure Landing in Jacksonville. The first thing that I noticed was live alligators kept in a fenced-in area. I was shocked to see live Alligators, even though they were small, at a child amusement park. The park had water slides, old-school video games, and of course, mini-golf. The place reminded me of a place in East Hanover called Funplex that I visited some 30 years ago. Of course, I could have played better; Coach Duggs won the day again, as my losing streak continued.
For the full mini-golf experience, click here.
After 18 holes, it was time to head to Tampa, but first a detour down to Daytona Beach for a Raw Dog episode at Krystal, a local hamburger chain that is Florida's answer to White Castle. As you would expect, the dogs were not good. The spot was close to the Daytona International Speedway, where we filmed a soda review in the shadow of Dale Earnhardt and were able to get just a peek at the famous racetrack.
It was a trip across Florida from Daytona, making one more raw dog spot at Hog Dog Heaven in Orlando, a spot that had a distinctive Chicago feel to it, complete with Vienna Franks. We even passed through deLand hometown of the best pitcher in baseball, playing Simple Man from Lynyrd Skynyrd in tribute. The traffic in Orlando was terrific as a long like of cars visiting the various amusement parks created a long traffic jam. I guess they were busy Instagramming at Disney World.
We arrived in Tampa as the sun was setting on the bay. We got to a Holiday Inn a stone's throw away from Tropicana Field, where we set to match the Mets take on the Rays in the middle game of a three-game interleague series. We got there just in time to see the Mets holding a 2-0 lead meltdown in the eighth inning as Luis Rojas tried to push David Peterson past the point he was able to go. The Rays won the game 3-2, ending the Mets' seven-game winning streak.
It was soon bedtime as we got set for Day 2, a ball game, and more adventure in Florida, which will be continued in the next of this three-part series.