The Great Florida Road Trip (and Other Roadside Attractions)
Summertime and the livin's easy. The end of the school year came, as it always seems to, quickly. I had a great summer planned with two trips and time to get work done as well. I want to create my own text book for Journalism, and gather resources and plan for the American Cultural Literacy class I'm teaching next year. So far, things haven't quite worked out as I planned. The mission trip to Nicaragua was cancelled, and I chose NOT to go back to Italy, where my soul lives, to go on it. So that's pretty dissapointing, especially since it seems like everything in my life is currently pointing me towards the choice I now think I should have made. But... it's too late now.
I have had plenty of time to get work done, though, and am still going to a journalism workshop put on by ASNE (American Society of News Editors) in Missouri. Not the most exciting location, I suppose, but a place I haven't been, free travel there, and an opportunity to learn how to do what I do better. I can't really complain. Plus, I'll get to spend some time in Chicago and Michigan afterwards, so that's even more of a plus.
I needed to take off, so to speak, for at least a little bit, so I decided on a little road trip. The Room mate and I took off together for a long weekend, beginning in Orlando and ending in Sarasota. I wanted to visit friends, as well as see Eatonville and the mermaids in Weeki Wachee, so we set off with those goals in mind.
We left Friday night and headed to Orlando. We got in late and attempted to sleep in, but the excitement or the new bed or our 30s prevented us from accomplishing goal one. So, we got up earlier than we wanted to and made the short trip to Eatonville. Before stopping there, since we had so much time, we decided to do a little geochache stop... and jump shots. Y'know, for the kids.
I wanted to go to Eatonville for two reasons. One, it's historically significant. It's the first all African-American incorporated town to exist in America. Two, it has literary significance--a writer I teach, Zora Neale Hurston--spent her childhood there, and many of her stories take place there. If you don't know her stuff, read Their Eyes Were Watching God and let your life begin to change.
Here's proof I was there, a marker in the median indicating the year the town was officially established, 1887. There wasn't much to see there, but we found the woman in the library extremely helpful. There was, theoretically, a path to walk (not well marked and extremely confusing) and an art museum we had to wait to see (the woman who ran it stepped out), but it seems there is some sort of movement, although slow, to make the town more of a destination. I think it should be.
After a morning in Eatonville, we headed to Old Town Disney to walk around and each lunch in the car. The joy, the nostalgia, of peanut butter and jelly never gets old. I think the find of the afternoon were some glass rings that cost $1.00, which is exactly how much a giant glass ring should cost, in my opinion. I bought three.
From Old Town Disney, we headed to meet a friend at Epcot. I haven't been to Epcot in probably 14 years, since the band trip when I was in high school. All I know about it is that the countries are there (except South America, or even Central America, does NOT represent. At all. Lame Disney. Lame. Little did I know that the most magical thing that has ever happened to me at Disney, a place of magic, was about to happen.
Eric, T, and I got on "Spaceship Earth" narrated by Dame Judy Dench. Once we got through the caveman days, and through ancient Egypt and the invention of papyrus, and into ancient Rome when it happened. The ride stopped. The usual announcement came on, something about staying seated and resuming soon, but after about three minutes of this Eric said, "Y'know, I've had to evacuate people from Toy Story a bunch of times."
"What? What do you mean 'evacuate'?" I reply, a dream forming in my mind.
"Well sometimes the rides just don't get going again, and we have to evacuate."
"That's POSSIBLE?! I want to get evacuated from a ride. That's AWESOME!"
And then... about five minutes later... it happend. We got up out of our "spaceships," onto the path along the side of the ride, and walked out into a light drizzle, Fast Pass for Mælstrom in hand. It was so awesome that I cannot truly and effectively express how awesome it was.
Although it was hard to top the evacuation, there was still plenty of Epcot to see. One of the rides I remembered from my youth was the one that goes through the gardens, where "scientists" (Eric says they're legit) work on growing plants in all kinds of cool ways. Here are some Disney sunflowers, because they're pretty.
After a few rides, we headed to meet some other friends in the countries, where Eric, T, and I stopped for a picture. In Morocco. Like ya do.
We ate in China (nothing amazing) and then headed to Norway so T could ride the ride. Good thing we got those Fast Passes, 'cause in Norway we encountered the longest wait of the day--25 minutes! We skipped the line and got right on... then found this guy at the end.
We went down the Rainbow River, about a two-hour course down a lovely river in northern-central Florida. It took us a little less time, mostly because I'm really not good at just floating, so I paddled a little bit...or a lot bit. Still, we saw turtles and lots of birds, and some summer houses and boats I lusted after, and some great trees. It was a little too relaxing for me, but enjoyable.
Then we ate some quick lunch in the car and headed to Weeki Wachee State Park, where there are women who do a mermaid show three times a day. They swim all under water, in tales, and take hits of oxygen from these tubes located all around the tank. It's pretty outstanding, actually. It's a little girl's dream come true.
Here I am, wishing I could be as awesome as the mermaids.
And here's a shot from the show. We saw "The Little Mermaid" and these are two of her sisters. The black tube between them is the oxygen hose.
I'm just saying that seeing the mermaids was on my Florida Bucket List, or even my Life Bucket List, let's be real, and now I can proudly say it's checked off. And it was awesome.
Our final stop on The Great Florida Road Trip was Sarasota, where I have a friend, T and I have a mutual friend, and T has family. We picked up a pizza and brought it to her grandma's and ate it with some tomato and mozzarella that we picked up at the side of the road from an Amish stand. Sweet.
The next day, we took T's cousins, who are nine and six, I think, to the Ringling Museum, which is free on Mondays. Only the art museum was free, and the grounds, but it was something new to do, at least. There were quite a few paintings of Italy and from Italian masters, which just put a little salt in the still-open wound of not going to Italy. I saw some of the artists I'd seen at the Louvre, as well, like the guy who paints vegetables into portraits of people, which I enjoy.
The girls weren't really into the art (can't blame them) but I think they liked walking around the grounds, which were lovely. They were made to look like they're straight from Italy, and I feel like they succeeded. Do you?
This is a picture of the house, which we didn't go into but walked around the outside of. I'd like to head back someday and check out the rest of the property.
John Ringling's wife, Mable, had a rose garden on the property, which was also lovely. We didn't spend too much time there; it was small, plus it was hot outside so we were all sort of ready to leave. Some of the flowers even smelled nice, and they looked lovely too.
That night, before we headed home, we met two friends at a Vietnamese place for dinner. It was delicious food, and great to see the guys and catch up. I feel like all of my friends are moving away, and this road trip was a great way for me to be proactive about seeing the few that have only moved cities, not states.
This trip was a great way for me to cross several things off my Florida Bucket List, which is probably pretty close to being completed now. It wasn't Italy, but it was a nice little break, and a way to celebrate not having to work until August.