Palm Beach Ghosts, then Barrett-Jackson

After a relatively pleasant drive down the Florida Turnpike to Palm Beach, we checked into our Hampton Inn early in the afternoon. To have something fun to do in the evening, I bought some vouchers for a Ghost Tour in the historic Palm Beach downtown before we left home.

Why a ghost tour you ask? Well some evil spirit must have prompted me to book this tour as the Ramblers had never done a ghost tour. It’s not that we don’t believe in the supernatural, but as as for spooky stuff, not so much. I thought it might be fun to learn a little bit about the history of the buildings in the downtown heart of Palm Beach. As it turned out, I was wrong.

Many folks were strolling around the downtown area on a beautiful spring evening when we arrived for the tour. Finding a parking place took a while, but we located our meeting place and settled down to wait for our guide and the other folks on the tour to arrive, and waited, and waited…

Supposedly scary spot in downtown Palm Beach
Supposedly scary spot in downtown Palm Beach
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The scariest thing we saw on the tour was the very realistic mannequin of a cop in a store window

At last two other couples arrived, but no guide. This did not bode well for the tour in my book. When our guide finally did arrive, we soon learned that my bad vibes had been justified. Let us just say that the tour was a total disaster, but the Ramblers soldiered on until our guide mentioned that his tours usually ran an hour or more overtime. At this point, we politely pleaded senior fatigue and headed back to our car. We had heard a lot of bad history and talk of orbs, but felt no inkling of any unearthly presence whatsoever. Unfortunately by the time I finally decided it was time to leave (the Senior Rambler was ready to leave after 5 minutes) it was after 9 PM and all the restaurants were closing so not only did we see no ghosts but we ended up going to bed without our supper. Not to say that one might have a different experience with another guide. Oh well, we were looking forward to attending the Barrett-Jackson Auto Auctions and the weather forecast was favorable.

The South Florida Fairgrounds is just a short distance from Palm Beach, but even though we thought we had left early enough (9 AM), as we approached our destination, which was in a semi-rural area, we were soon caught up in auction-bound traffic. Our only previous experience with auto auctions of this magnitude was watching them on TV. The Senior Rambler’s usual mantra is “you can see it better on TV,” but both of us had some interest in actually attending  one. My curiosity was probably greater than his, but in this case, once would certainly be enough.

The red seats on the main floors are for bidders only,
The red seats on the main floors are for bidders only,

We didn’t reckon with the huge crowds, the Florida heat, the relentless noise in the auction room, the vast expanse of the fairground and the lack of places to actually sit down.  Our conclusion, you really can see a Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction better on TV.

For those of you who still want to attend  or are curious about our experience, here are a few tips. Probably the best information we can give you is to spend the money and register as a bidder. This allows you a seat on the main floor during the auction, and also has some other benefits. Everyone else, which means literally thousands of people, must try to find a seat in the bleachers on the three sides of the auction area. Thousands of people and maybe 500 seats means there were crowds of people constantly milling around in the aisles or standing or trying to wait out those who currently held bleacher seats. It is definitely not a place for the germophobe. Although the room was air conditioned in opposition to the 95 degrees of Florida humidity outside, this was not fun.

One thing we didn’t take into consideration was the extremely high noise level. The B-J auctioneers use a constant running patter which is broadcast at a very high volume. For those of you who are sensitive to noise, and the Senior Rambler is one, we suggest good quality ear plugs as a must. Another option is to attend an auction where the auctioneers have a different style. They are not all as noisy as  B-J, but even so, ear plugs are a good idea.

Finally be aware that lots of walking is involved and there was, as far as we could see, little consideration for people with trouble getting around and very few handicapped spots. We did eventually locate the handicapped parking, but it was not really close to the building. Because of the nature of these events, they are always held in very large facilities and weather can become an issue. At South Florida, it was the heat.

Inspecting the merchandise
Inspecting the merchandise

So did we like anything about our experience. Well, yes, it is a good place to get a good buy on a classic car if you’re lucky. We were amazed at the prices. Some cars went ridiculously cheap and others, at least in our minds, were ridiculously expensive. It all depends on what you want and who is bidding that particular day. So don’t get carried away. Some folks who regularly attend these events  pointed out at least one vehicle that had been bought at a previous auction and was being re-sold at a loss. So if you think you might buy something at a bargain price and re-sell at a profit, think again. It seemed to us that a lot of those bargain priced cars were snapped up by dealers although we could be wrong.

Of course there are many tents holding cars to be auctioned that you can walk through, although we were disappointed that they didn’t have more brass age cars, those which were built before World War I.

This car is heading for the auction block
This car is heading for the auction block

That’s the period I have written about and also the cars we most enjoy looking at.  The auction also had a midway where food and a myriad of auto related products are sold. In addition,  many manufacturers had their new models on display in air conditioned comfort. They also did provide parking lot shuttles which was a good thing as the lots were huge. This is a place where you don’t want to forget where you parked your car. It’s not a bad idea to take a photo of its location with your phone.

By day two, we were getting tired of the auction, left early and headed to a little biker bar on Jupiter Beach where we enjoyed delicious fried food and watched the boat traffic on the inter-coastal waterway.

A view from our table at Tiki Bar 52, a local favorite and fun place
A view from our table at Tiki Bar 52, a local favorite and fun place

Probably we should have just enjoyed the beach instead of the attending the auction, but we did learn what it was like, and the people watching was fantastic.  It certainly satisfied our desire to attend an auto auction of this kind, even though we enjoy automotive history and old cars. Never again will we go to a Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction,  it is incredibly better to watch it on TV.

Our drive home was uneventful, and we enjoyed our usual stop at Lanes’ Orchard

NO peaches yet, but soon
NO peaches yet, but soon

south of Macon on Interstate 75 for a large dish of home made peach ice cream, and some freshly picked strawberries to take home.

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