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A week on the road: gator road-kill and shuttle launches

BY EMILEIGH BARNES | MARCH 30, 2009 7:30 AM

Audio: The author reads her column


In Mississippi, we call this time of year spring, for which thesaurus.com offers these related words: bud time, flowering, prime, and springtide.

Excellent.

Better yet, in Florida, where I spent my spring break, they call this time of year hot. And, if you were lucky enough to spend the same week I did there, they called it unseasonably warm, or, record-breaking heat. Thesaurus.com offers these excellent words to go along in that vein: sweltery, piping, searing, sultry, baking, blazing.

So, with no offense to wonderful yet horrifyingly cold Iowa, let me take you back to that place for a while — hey, it’ll at least keep us from scraping the sleet and ice off our cars and sidewalks for a little while longer.

Here’s a list of all the excellent things one can see in Florida during a week off:

• On Interstate 10, I saw a road-kill alligator. Oh yeah. Not that I wish harm to any wildlife, but if I’m going to get personal with a reptile, I’d prefer it be his body that’s mangled instead of mine. Sorry, alligators of the world; my 9-year-old sister has persuaded me to watch enough “Animal Planet” (read: When Alligators Attack!) to keep me steadfast on this one.

• If you plan it right, a space-shuttle launch. I saw Discover go up, and it was inspiring. It’s pretty difficult, to say the least, to get close to it, what with the 3-mile radius they create for safety as well as the whole “everyone in Florida cramming into Cape Canaveral and the surrounding areas” to watch. Where I was, was outside a hot-dog restaurant in Titusville. Right after the shuttle went up, one boisterous man encouraged everyone around him to sing “America the Beautiful” — at around 100 decibels.

This is a good thing to experience.

My generation is so interconnected that Twitter tells us what a friend is doing across town at the same time as we choose to “like” someone else’s status on Facebook. We don’t have nearly as many life-altering, collective experiences as our parents (like my mama, who gathered with nearly half of a recreational club in California around a tiny television to watch the Moon landing.) Anyway, who knows how long NASA will be around anyway?

I also took the NASA tour later in the week, which was also cool, but it cost more than $30, a little outrageous considering my tax dollars are what’s paying for the program in the first place. And the hot dogs were more expensive.

• The Atlantic Ocean. It was warm. I know I know, anyone with Google could come to the same conclusion, but actually being in it, being tumbled around, felt so good. As did:

• Continuously seeing sand and at first thinking it was snow. There’s not much better than that, especially when snow now comes with the special fear that too much of it may mean more flood damage, again, to my new home.

• The whole slew of miscellaneous vacation perks: the no homework and work, the palm trees, the sitting on a balcony while reading, the sheer number of people in swimming pools across the state at any time, crazy, crazy Disney World and how its screaming happiness crushes any other emotion you might have had before setting foot in the park.

• Also, there’s the unfathomable number of Ontario license plates I saw. No, you wouldn’t believe it. There were at least 20 a day. I saw more of them than any other state. My dad even went so far as to ask one Ontarian why they all flocked to Orlando, and he said something about how they’ve got “winter” up in Canada, which explains nothing, because Iowa has plenty of winter but not nearly enough representation in Florida.

Not that I’m advocating we all pack up and move down there. I’m just saying, if anyone else wants to call in sick for a week (it’s still flu season, right?) and hightail it for the coast, I’m with you.


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