We drove all day again today. This driving-all-day thing is getting to be a real drag, though I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Tyler drove 700 miles today, spending last night at South of the Border in South Carolina. Alone. Once we get south of the border, we’ll be driving a third of what we’ve been doing.

Apparently love bugs are a phenomenon across the south. They continued today all along our drive. At one rest area, there were automatic windshield washers. You could pull up to these and a high-pressure jet of water would shoot out at windshield height. Cars would wiggle back and forth in front of these, trying to get the bugs off. I brought St. Francis (my van) through, then used the squeegee at the pump, and then brought my van through again. I squeegeed some more, and then rinsed off once again. The van isn’t clean, but I got 90% of the bug guts off.

The grasslands of central Florida are beautiful. Endless gently rolling green plains with scrubbly little trees. Here and there is a small pond filled with water lilies. Then there’s Orlando. Orlando is a sort of bible-belt Las Vegas… i.e., less gambling and whores.

The last time I was here I was 7 and getting to Disney World required a 30-mile drive through swamps and forests. Now Disney World has *3* exits from the freeway. Those swamps and forests have been drained, paved over, and turned into ‘Haunted Castle’, ‘Medieval World’, ‘Universal Studios’, and about 40 variations of ‘Gator Land’. There’s even a McDonald’s with ‘LIVE ALLIGATORS!’

When it was just Disney World, the theme park was a delightful anachronism in the middle of Florida. Disney did a good job of blending the park into the native environment. (Plus, any company where 50% of the employees are gay can’t be that bad.)

But now the entire Orlando area is a horrible, horrible mess. Someone with taste needs to come through and cull this mutated growth of tourist traps. “This has to go, and (eeeew) this has to go IMMEDIATELY. This small coconut monkey stand can stay, but only for kitsch value. Oh, and call in an airstrike on the Fishing Hall of Fame Wax Museum.” Orlando would be a great tourist destination without all of this crap. Maine does fine, and you don’t see ‘Captain Hook’s Wild Lobster Experience’. (Or maybe you do… it’s been a while since I’ve been to Maine.)

We’ve spotted one Vanagon since driving through Albuquerque, and that was in the parking lot of the Miami Travelodge. It had to be Tyler’s. Sure enough, he had checked in, and while we were packing our vans he came ambling over. He seems like a very nice guy, and I expect that it will be lots of fun traveling with him.

Tyler, Ron, Shay, & Jeanne in Miami

Jeanne had a bottle of very good champagne that she’d had in her refrigerator since California. Her boss gave it to her as a going-away present. We popped it in the parking lot and had a toast. “To the journey!” “To us!” “To family!”

The hotel itself is a piece of work. It’s very close to the port, which is why I selected it as a place for us to meet. Unfortunately, it’s also under the flight path for the Miami airport. Indoors, the sound of the jets is fairly muffled. My room does have a nice view of the Miami skyline, and from my 8th Floor window I can see heat lightning flashing in the sky.

Folks hang around the lobby’s conversation-pit-style sofa, watching TV and talking. For some reason the clientele appears to be Asian and Haitian, a combination of ancestries which does not normally occur in nature. They all appear to be good friends, though, and it looks like it would be fun to spend time with them.

Tomorrow we bring the vans to the ship. We need to get them there before noon. Afterwards I have a few errands to run, and I’m hoping to be able to get to sleep early tomorrow. (It’s nearly midnight, so that’s not going to happen tonight.)


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