Day 523 – USA (Florida): Mistletoe and wine in Tampa

Regular readers: Please note extra editorial note on day 520.


Christmas in the USA. For some reason it was a bit of a surreal experience. I mean, that’s where Christmas trees, gaudy Christmas lights, mass over-commercialization, Christmas itself originated, right? At least that was how I felt as we drove through the city on Christmas Eve.

On the radio, advertisers kindly reminded us that we should ‘Hurry In and Buy in Time For Christmas’, ‘Beat The Christmas Rush’, ‘No Knuckle Dusters Needed In Our Store – Great Bargains For Everyone!’. Yes, that last one was an actual line on a radio advertisement. This constant bombardment of media painted an image of Christmas as being nothing less than a mad rushing, bustling, stressful time.

My friends and hosts Rick and Robyn seemed to be above all the hype however, leaving their Christmas shopping more or less to the last minute, and seeming none the stressed out for it. They had set Christmas gift value limits on each other, so that neither would ‘out-gift’ each other. I got the best of both worlds, being able to accompany both Rick and Robyn on separate occasions on their Christmas shopping trips.

Robyn put her sales expertise to good use, eyeing out discounts and bargains to make the most of her limit. Rick, having traveled somewhat, casually insisted on getting a discount on almost everything he bought. Price matching, one dollar discounts on marked goods (he may as well have been carrying a microscope)…

The real winners today (after Jesus of course, without whom none of this would be happening – check out The Meeting House sermons on Christmas) were however the family. Rick’s father, step-mother and sister, Robyn’s sister and boyfriend, all came over for Christmas dinner. Robyn spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen preparing a massive feast while the rest of us lounged around an outside fire enjoying some wonderful homemade wine, made by Rick’s dad himself.

Christmas at Rick and Robyn's place, Tampa, Florida, USA

From left: Lauren, Ryleigh, Richard, Rick, Rob, Robyn
The dogs: Abbey, Jeff

I made a traditional New Zealand desert, a Pavlova. Exceedingly sweet, this meringue is a Christmas favourite for many New Zealanders. Many Australians would disagree, however do not be deceived! See this BBC online article about the division over this desert’s origins.

Pavlova made by Rob at Rick and Robyn's place, Tampa, Florida, USA

I must say a very big thank you to a certain 14degrees Blog reader, Carlos Fernandez. I met Carlos in Key Largo in Florida, and he has very kindly supplied me with a few things on my gear Wish List. At great timing, a new tent arrived just before Christmas. Lightweight and small, the tent is going to be a great asset to my journey. Thank you very much Carlos!

New tent donated by Carlos Fernandez, Tampa, Florida, USA

Also thanks to my parents for supplying an extra merino wool t-shirt, and thanks to Chris Mandick for supplying the US Adventure Cycle Association cycle route maps I needed for traveling west across the US.

And a last note, if you are enjoying my panorama photos, take some time to check out Daniel Lang’s website. He is cycling around the world, and is currently in Australia, arriving there a few weeks ago after cycling all the way from Germany to Beijing, China. A great inspiration to my own travels, it looks as though he has just enjoyed a nice Christmas there in Australia. He has great photos!

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9 thoughts on “Day 523 – USA (Florida): Mistletoe and wine in Tampa

  • Aunty Lyn

    The pav looks good enough to eat!!! We have enjoyed pav at two parties, both times made by our kiwi colleague, Barb Perry. As we have many Canadian and some US friends here it was a new dessert for them and they loved it – and of course it is a NZ dessert copied by the Aussies!

  • christine

    that pavlova looks unbelievably beautiful and delicious. love the tent. and i love the meetinghouse christmas link, thank you for sharing that.

    merry late christmas… and very happy upcoming new year. you're a huge star and inspiration to me! glad i got to review your blog for the weblog review and found you!!!

    keep rollin' safe.


  • Ruosi

    Rob/Ron merry christmas! – what a wonderful time by the way, Michael and Stephanie's baby should be arriving any time soon….

    You take care out there, seems you've met nice ppl along the way. We'll keep praying for ya down here.


  • Aunty Les

    A great looking pav, Rob. You've inherited your great pav making skills from your Mum. We always get her to make the pav – she made one for our Christmas feast.

    All that you saw in Tampa pre-Christmas Day was the same here – rush, rush, shop, shop. It's even worse on Boxing Day because everyone has sales. There were so many people at the Riccarton Mall yesterday that the carpark building was closed!

  • Aunty Jenny

    Great looking Pav Rob. Nigel made a very good brew of ambrosia this year …. under my very close supervision of course!!!!! Needless to say, there is none left even though we literally made a whole bucket full! I went out and bought a brand new bucket just to make it in. I don't have anything large enough to mix it in otherwise. So apart from the pav, what other lovely food did you have?

  • Daniel N. Lang

    Hey Rob, merry Christmas! My Australian friends here at the Goldcoast served me pav and said it was Australian, so now I know where it's really from. For my taste it is much tooooo sweet, but the energy will be used to power my outback explorations for the next 2 months.

    Good luck and many friends and take care for bigger stones 🙂 (what is your crash statistic with the skateboard so far?)

  • Nana

    Did you have a recipe for the pav? Or did you "make it out of your head?"

    If you are wondering about a job when you get home you could become a chef in a posh restaurant with all the culinary skills you seem to have acquired since I saw you last.

    What a lovely family to share Christmas with. I am sure you will find as you go across USA just how hospitable Americans are.Les and I go down to Alexandra on Sat for New Year and visit some of our favourite places round there.

  • Uncle Peter

    It's nice to see the dogs aren't neglected in their nice warm coats. It's all the rage here when temperatures dip below about 25oC. The kiwi dogs must feel uncared for running around single digit temperatures.

  • Mum

    Looks a mighty good pav! I read on a website written by an Aussie, that a dessert called a Meringue Cake appeared in a New Zealand recipe book in 1927 but nothing equivalent is found in Aussie recipe books until 1935 where it is called Pavlova. Maybe this is where all the feuding arises. NZ invented the recipe – the Aussies invented the name! So depending which way you look at it, both countries are right in saying they invented the Pav. By the way, what are the temperatures in Florida at the moment?

    A note to Peter – dogs are quite capable of keeping themselves warm unless it is very cold and they are very small.