Trip down south brings out appreciation for home
A few weeks ago I mentioned my family from England was flying to Florida for a vacation and I would be joining them for a few days. That vacation has now come and gone. Like all vacations, it seemed to pass all too quickly; they are back in rain-swept England and I have returned to my normal daily routine.
This was my first visit to the Sunshine State and it certainly lived up to its nickname while I was there, with temperatures soaring into the high 90s and occasionally topping 100. I appreciate that back here in West Virginia we also get these sorts of temperatures, but to my mind the heat seemed different there, if that is possible. Maybe it's the proximity of the ocean or the large amounts of fresh water that abound but I found the heat and humidity far less tolerable than it is up here.
I stayed in two places. Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state and Kissimmee, about 50 miles inland, close to Orlando and the theme parks. Before I went I told people where I was going, and the general consensus of opinion was that I was totally crazy. No one in their right mind goes to Florida in July and August, I was told. No one except tourists, that is. Go in October, they said, the heat is less and there are fewer crowds. Unfortunately I did not have that choice; I had to time my visit to coincide with my English family's vacation.
In hindsight, I have to say those who advised me to wait until the fall were probably right. The weather was oppressive, as I've said. The one brief spell of rain we had was very heavy and accompanied by thunder and lightning. The rest of the time the heat was almost unbearable, but that was not what made me question the timing of my visit.
I guess the truth is I've become accustomed to the relative serenity of West Virginia. I found the tourist areas around Kissimmee frighteningly busy. The highways were choked with traffic for all the daylight hours and well into the night. Most of the vehicles were crawling along at a snail's pace, many of them driven by tourists trying to find the right exits and theme parks. The traffic flow was not improved by numerous toll booths with very short distances between them. On top of that there seemed to be people everywhere and I missed the clean, fresh, open air of the hills and forests.
I'm not usually one for theme parks. Give me a historic site and I'll spend all day there but when in Florida one has to do what the tourists do. Especially when your family has spent a considerable sum on their vacation and they have several children with them. Personally I don't do many of the rides. I'm 6-foot-2, and most of the big rides seem to have been designed for people several inches shorter and with a lower center of gravity. I just can't get over the feeling that I am about to be thrown out of whatever vehicle I've been strapped in for the gravity-defying ride.
Having said that, I did go to a couple of the parks, 15 years after and several thousand miles away from the last ones I visited in California. They have not changed much. The prices have risen astronomically, the technology is far more sophisticated but basically they are the same, geared for children and the young at heart. My family enjoyed them, especially the children and to my mind that is what this kind of vacation is all about.
As I mentioned above, I also visited the beach. Sitting in the shade reading my book was very relaxing and I guess the sound the waves make does provide a soothing backdrop when a person is just trying to chill out.
I got to see my family for the first time in nine months and that alone made the trip worthwhile. It's amazing how fast children grow and how much difference you can see after just a short time. There were also other plus sides to the trip, of course. We drove down to Florida and back, making a diversion in North Carolina to pick up a friend. It's not an easy drive, 13 hours with only minimal stops, but I enjoyed it. I got to see two new states, Georgia and Florida, the 22nd and 23rd of the Continental United States I've seen. I fully intend to see the rest as soon as I can but so far I agree with Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she says "...there's no place like home."
And home, of course, is beautiful, peaceful, uncrowded West Virginia.
Derek Coleman is a part-time writer who is a native of England and who now lives in Hurricane, W.Va. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Herald-Dispatch welcomes your comments on this article, but please be civil. Avoid profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, accusations of criminal activity, name-calling or insults to the other posters. Herald-dispatch.com does not control or monitor comments as they are posted, but if you find a comment offensive or uncivil, hover your mouse over the comment and click the X that appears in the upper right of the comment. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal Facebook page, uncheck the box below the comment.