Some few weeks ago, I got an unusual phone call. Without getting into too many details, a friend needed a car driven from Florida to Connecticut, about 1,400 miles. It sounded fun enough, a good chance to see some other parts of the country, and it's not like I don't have the time, so a few days later, I got off a plane in Tampa.
Now, I've gone down that way a few times in recent years to escape the awful, terrible, miserable, soul-sucking New England winter, so just seeing that airport brought back fond memories of Crabby Bill's, pirate festivals and severe dehydration. Driving back from the airport with the top down, enjoying the warm night air and gladly stuffing my jacket into my bag, I couldn't help but wonder why I decided to come back to the North.
Then the sun came up. I guess it was about three months early for my Florida trip, because it was like 90+ degrees and sticky, nasty humid. I thought I was down with the heat since I'd been in Africa, but no, not really. Of course, I left my wife beaters and golf pants with Luke, so maybe the real problem was the lack of polyester paisleys and plaid on my thighs. Actually, that's probably true as a general rule in life.
Either way, I raided my friend's closet, and one salmon polo shirt and a pair of blue shorts later, I was wandering around Ybor looking for a place to grab some lunch. I'll say this about Florida. I've never been to a place that hates pedestrians more. Some people call it over-roaded, others just settle for Concrete Hell. Either way, with all the humidity, my old standby of hiding in the shade really didn't work that well. Long story short, I wasn't too sad to leave Florida behind.
In some ways, this trip was a sort of trial run on solo road tripping, given that I'm hoping to drive out to California in the next month or so. On that level, it was a roaring success. I remembered how to drive without too many surprises, except for the pockets of swamp gas in northern Florida that would fog up the inside of the car without warning. Actually, that was pretty disorienting and terrifying the first time it happened.
I had a nice chat with a redneck mechanic about why someone might want to visit “a country as messed-up as Africa,” though I think we ended up talking past each other most of the time. I ventured off the interstate to get semi-lost in rural Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia without really losing the general northeasterly trajectory that would get me to my next waypoint without wasting too much time. Really, the only unpleasant time was getting stuck in traffic going over the GW bridge in New York City, but that was at the very end of the trip, so it didn't matter.
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I could really get used to this whole “not having a job” thing though. It's just nice to be able to float around without much schedule and meet up with friends from college who are apparently all in grad school now. If only there was some way to get paid doing it.