You can’t help but smile when you leave behind a place where it’s 35 degrees and a few hours later get off a plane in a place where it’s 75 degrees, going from dressing in multiple layers to wearing a t-shirt and shorts every day.
We stayed in a condo we’d rented for the week right on the Atlantic Ocean. It also had two pools — one for bouncing around with your kids, the other for swimming laps. On the first morning, I went down to the latter and jumped in, happy to see it empty so I could swim in peace. It only took a moment to realize why no one else was in there. Despite the nice warm air temperature, the water was much colder than I expected, ringing a round of curse words inside my head as I tried to get some exercise before parts of me retracted permanently. After a few minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore and went to lie down on the chaise lounge next to Martha, who could barely contain a smirk as she asked, “Are you awake now?” I shot her a look as I toweled off.
About 15 minutes later, a young woman who had been basking in the sun with some friends near us got up, walked to the edge, and leapt in. Perhaps a nanosecond passed before she resurfaced and shouted, “Motherfucker!!!” (with the right emphasis on the first and third syllables). She was immediately embarrassed at having said it so loudly, but as she emerged up the pool steps, I reassured her she had expressed exactly the right opinion.
Unfortunately, that was my only opportunity to do some laps, as over the next few days a fierce off-shore wind literally created waves in the pool. So, with the exception of one afternoon under an umbrella on the beach, we did most of our sun worshipping from the balcony of the condo — where we had no right to complain, considering our iPhones told us it was a mere sixteen degrees back in St. Louis.
Florida, which has no state income tax, has to pay for the upkeep of its roads somehow, and has chosen tolls to raise those funds on many of its routes. OK, fine, but in the 21st century, paying those tolls should be easy and entirely electronic. Sure, if you’re a Floridian, you can get the Sunpass, a device you put on your windshield that allows you to zoom through toll booths without having to stop. It also allows you to use the express lanes on highways like I-95, which has set aside its two left lanes for people who can afford to pay for what is otherwise a free interstate.
But if you’re in a rental car that doesn’t come with the Sunpass — as we were — it means having to stop every few miles to put coins in a basket. Coins! Who the hell travels with a roll of quarters? It’s an old-fashioned system and a nuisance. Upon first encountering one of those toll booths on our way from the Orlando airport to Cape Canaveral, we had neither change nor a Sunpass, so we had to just drive through — a choice that I’m sure will be rewarded with a letter from the state telling us we owe something like a $200 fine because we didn’t have the requisite three quarters.
There are some roads (e.g. the Florida Turnpike, which runs parallel to I-95) which use the Toll-By-Plate system, which is more modern and unobtrusive. The fee gets charged to the rental car agency, which passes it along to the user. At one point, I tried telling Google Maps to give us a route that avoided tolls altogether, but the result was a path that would have taken us an extra 45 minutes, doubling our trip time.
I guess I shouldn’t expect more from the state that provided more Knuckleheads In The News stories for my radio show than any other, but I do.
I also paid a visit to the Seminole Hard Rock casino, which has a beautiful new 45-table poker room with a ton of action, and high-hand jackpots every half-hour (none of which I won, unfortunately). The venue has changed locations several times in the years I’ve been going there, but is now in the new Guitar Hotel which, at night, has six bright beams shining out of the top as if they were strings on the fretboard. Pretty cool!