Florida: An Introduction

  Well, today has been my last full day in Kingston this year.  Tomorrow I leave for home and then Friday, if all is well, my parents and I will be starting our drive to Florida.  I am so excited 🙂

  I am excited not just for Florida, but the drive as well.  I’ve always loved it; it’s a wonderful combination of new scenery, new people, new accents, new roadstops (though many are the same), and the anticipation that it all will lead to even better scenery, temperature….. to my second home.  As a tradition, we celebrate the passing of each state as we enter a new one, and look forward to the big tunnels (West Virginia & Virginia) where we literally drive underneath mountains.  My sister and I used to try to hold our breath the length of them; she often succeeded, I often failed.  I’m sure our parents think we’re strange for this, but if we’re sleeping they will actually try to wake us up for them.

  Believe it or not, I usually stay awake for the majority of the trip (2 and a half days, about 8 hours each day).  There are seriously very few things that make me happier than listening to my music, sitting in the back of the van, looking at the scenery as we drive to Florida.  I get to daydream, I get to write if I feel so inclined, I know I have no work whatsoever to worry about, I know I’m going someplace warm and fun, I get to listen to tons of music, I get to count deer….. yes, I do count the deer we see.  We usually don’t count the ones by the side of the road though ….. !  I can’t wait to see the pale pavement of the Carolinian roads flanked by the vast white expanses of the cotton fields on either side of the Martian red soil in the ditches……  the little abandoned shanties that have finally succumbed and collapsed under the weight of all the Spanish Moss…..  the country music that infiltrates (seemingly) every roadside stop….. the three crosses that pop up everywhere (hills, fields, mountainsides…..) …… the different cities: Buffalo, Erie, Pittsburg, Beckley, Atlanta, Savannah, Jacksonville, O’Cala, St. Petersburg (just a taste of the bigger ones we drive through), and each of their little personalities….. the different restaurants we go to (though they’re mostly the same ones): Cracker Barrel, Shoney’s, King’s, etc…… and of course, all the landmarks we pass: the smallest police station in the world?/America?, Mount Airy, the mountains in the Virginias, Tamarack (which we still have never been to), the West Virginian insane-police (speed traps galore!), all the billboards advertising everything from Kennedy Space Centre to warnings about upcoming speed traps (haha), to FireworksFireworksFireworks!!  Then along the major route, we stop at a roadside orange grove for our first of many fresh glasses of orange juice….. oh and of course, further south, watching out for the alligators on the sides of the road……

  My family and I have gone every year since I was born, so it really feels like a second home to me.  It’s always interesting/potentially-heartbreaking to see what changes have occurred in a year’s absence, but sometimes we get a nice surprise.  Like, last year, although they were screwing around with the bridge nearby to expand it (oh expansion….. how I hate thee), the parking garage they’d built the year before (which we were devasted by that year) had been fixed up nicely to include some new shops, and a crêperie!  We didn’t know how they’d survive, what with the amount of fresh fruit they used….. we’ll see, though.  It was awesome: walking in the sunshine eating a warm crêpe filled with strawberries and Nutella and sprinkled icing sugar….. even if it’s not there anymore, that certainly was a little taste of heaven to remember.  It’ll be interesting to see how far they’ve made it with the expanded bridge too.

  I can’t wait to see the little salamanders!  They’re all over the place there, skittering this way and that, or sunbathing on palm trees and curbsides.  Some are really tiny and some long or fat (comparatively)….. all far too quick to be caught.

  I dare not start talking about how I miss the beach, or I will never finish.  Suffice it to say, I’m curious what will be the theme of washed-up stuff this year (crabs? starfish? seaweed? butterfly shells? conchs? minnows? sand dollars?…….), and I can’t wait to go shelling!!  Hours will be spent shelling, absorbing sunlight, and shelling some more.  It’s like nature’s treasure hunt.  You never know what kind of thing you might see while shelling….. various things I have seen include: interesting insects, butterfly shell dudes digging themselves back under the sand after being displaced by the waves, crabs scuttling around, birds dodging the waves as they run to avoid your path, pieces of wood from who-knows-what, coins, jewelry, gorgeous shells, minnows flopping around (I try to save them!), bigger fish sometimes, once a shark….. that one wasn’t in Florida though 😛 but yeah, the ocean’s filled with so many interesting things, they’re bound to at some point make their way to shore.  Plus it’s nice seeing the sandcastles, and the pits kids dig to make their own pools…..  even what’s considered junk is interesting on the beach — palm fronds, seaweed of so many different sorts, jellyfish …… Okay, I said I wasn’t going to talk about it and here I am writing a short story.  Haha, let’s just say I’m passionate about my beaches    🙂

  I wonder if Christmas Eve we’ll go see the luminaries….. there’s a little island we go to, where the residents all put out paper bags filled with sand and a lit candle, and line them all along the streets.  In the evening, it’s lovely to witness….. everyone goes out to their lawns to watch the Santa Claus Parade (which consists of a firetruck with Santa on it, and one or two police cars depending on the budget I suppose — haha, it’s really small and very quaint), regardless if they have children.  Santa throws candycanes, as do the firemen and policemen….. and the firetruck has a speaker set up to play Christmas music as it drives along.  haha, it’s really quite funny when I think about it…… but it shows what kind of character the place has.  Content playfulness, you could call it.  If you take Margaritaville to be a little less boozy, you could call it that.

  And seriously, don’t get me started on the restaurants I’m looking forward to…..

  So there you have it: an introduction to my Floridian trips.  This is why I don’t miss having a “white” Christmas.  In fact, Christmas morning, I’ve always been content to see Santa jogging the beach.

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