Sunday, May 07, 2006
COLUMN: Florida Pt. 2
Once upon an April dreary, while you pondered weak and weary, I was off in Florida for a week of fun, sun, and a family reunion. As we left the story last week, our hero (that'd be me) had just left the family reunion and, obligation-free and together with pal Jason, it was finally time to for some quality Florida adventures. Look out, Spring Break babes, here we come with proper SPF protection.
Day 4, 2 p.m. - St. Pete's Beach: If MTV has taught us anything, it's that -- as reliable as the swallows returning to Capistrano -- come every spring, the beaches of Florida teem with wall-to-wall dancing bikini-clad babes. Well, MTV lies. I mean, I knew that we had left for Florida a week or two after the spring break rush, but still, I expected SOME eye candy. Instead, I drove 1500 miles to see miles of chunky, leathery-skinned rejects from Skin Cancer Anonymous picking sand out of places people should NEVER pick sand.
"But Shane," you say, "you're being a pig. How dare you?" Yeah, well, sorry, but when a 2-piece bathing suit's involved, if true beauty's on the inside, these women need to turn themselves inside out, and in a hurry. Shudder.
Day 4, 5 p.m. - Orlando: Come to think of it, everyone in Florida appears to be obese and out-of-shape. This means I fit in nicely. I remember a vacation to Colorado once, feeling guilty as mountain bikers PASSED ME as I drove up the Rockies. In Florida, everybody's got a beer belly and a smoke in their hand. Then it hits me: Florida is the Quad Cities, just with more water.
Day 5, noon - St. Augustine, FL - Giving up on girl leering, we decide to soak up some crass commercialism and culture at "America's oldest city." This is the place where Ponce de Leon sought the fabled Fountain of Youth, and now, for $2.99, you can take home a souvenir bottle of the stuff while - for reasons unclear - a guy dressed as a Leprechaun sings Frank Sinatra covers at you. Welcome to tourism hell. The Fountain of Youth National Archaelogical Site features an animatronic Ponce de Leon and a planetarium. The only people in the park are me, Jason, and approx. 280 schoolchildren. Either that or maybe the Fountain really DOES work. We taste the water - it's not pleasant and as of press time, I'm still old. At the gift shop, I buy a back scratcher made from an alligator claw and a fanny-shaped ashtray that reads, "Sun Your Buns in Florida."
Day 6, 1 p.m. - Savannah, GA - Why is it that fish tastes better fresh? That's kinda gross. I don't check the death age of my chicken sandwiches, so why should it matter how near to carnage my seafood is? These are questions best left to the pros. All I know is that I've never eaten better tuna and grouper in my life. I could live in Savannah.
Day 6, 4 p.m. - Hunting Island Beach, SC - We take a trip to Florida yet find the best beaches in South Carolina, go figure. Hunting Island's nearly abandoned, and we wander the beach while bizarre little clam-things scamper around our feet. It's really beautiful and my favorite part of the whole trip. This, of course, makes me realize that I'm kinda lame and old. But it's still a great place.
Day 7, noon - Charlotte, NC - I owe my friend bigtime, as I've dragged him to Race City and the home of the Hendrick Motorsports headquarters and museum. My closet NASCAR fetish takes a front seat as I check out Jeff Gordon's uniform and Daytona-winning cars on display. Best knowledge gained: Either somebody washed his uniform a little too hot, or Jeff Gordon is one tiny dude. I try to buy souvenirs but the gift shop is closed for "noontime Bible study." We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Day 7, 5 p.m. - Who Knows Where, NC - If you're reading this, that's good news. It means I haven't been killed by the cast of "Deliverance." A family friend has a kid who collects postmarks, and we've been tasked with providing one from North Carolina. Problem is, they don't appear to have mailboxes here. Quite possibly, they don't know how to READ mail here. I stop at a gas station and ask if they have postcards. The guy looks at me and just goes, "Heh. Heh heh heh." I leave. Quickly. Illinois has never sounded so good.