Wednesday, October 3, 2012

That's a Wrap, Florida

Today marks the end of the Florida stint of my travels. Tomorrow morning, I am FINALLY making the big leap and heading overseas.

When I first got down to Florida about two weeks ago, I wasn't necessarily looking forward to my time here. It felt like I was just doing more stalling before my real trip, which I pushed back a few weeks from my original start date for various reasons. I worried I'd be bored out of my mind, hanging out by myself in sleepy town, living in a condo building with mostly retired folks.

But in reality, my two weeks in Florida have been really enjoyable, and I'm a little sad to be leaving. I arrived here two weeks ago in a bit of a funk; I'm leaving feeling refreshed and ready for my adventure.

Of course, I've also been running around like a chicken with my head cut off for the past couple days trying to get myself organized for my trip, so I'm a little too brain dead to compose much of a blog post. But here are a few highlights of my final several days in Florida.

  • Highlight #1 - Manatee Sighting
Yup. After my blog post positing that manatees were mythical, did not exist, etc., etc., several of you told me that you had, in fact, seen manatees in the flesh. To be honest, I remained skeptical, thinking that you were all in on a big fat joke that I was the butt of. It reminded me of the time in eighth grade when several of my friends managed to convince me that I'd been pronouncing the word "knife" wrong my whole life, and it was really "ka-nife." Thanks, guys.

But I went out to the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge a couple days ago to do some biking, and when I looked at the map, I noticed there was a Manatee Observation area. I knew this was my opportunity, so I rode on over. I figured if I didn't see manatees there, it was settled, they did not exist.

And sure thing, there were about six of them floating around right by the dock. I got some pictures, but to be honest, I was a little disappointed. They just kind of floated around, breaking the surface every once in a while to get a breath, but that was it. I KNOW manatees aren't performers, but I was kind of hoping for some dolphin-like antics. Or a wave of a fin or something. I mean, I've built this up in my mind for so long that I wanted the manatees to appreciate the significance of the moment and rise to the occasion. That's reasonable, right? But they didn't. Boo.

Photographic proof, but they weren't posing very well
  • Highlight #2- Off-Roading
I took my rented mountain bike out a few times in the last three days, and really enjoyed the freedom of being able to ride off the roads. Especially in these parts, when the roads are pretty-well traversed by the elderly. On the same day I saw the manatees, I did a two hour, easy ride mostly on trails.

From my trail
Which went well until this happened:

I really have no idea what happened here. What was this broken-concrete-looking quicksand pit?

I've also done some riding on the beach. That's fun in the evening, at low tide, when the sand is nice and packed and the riding is easy. I rode up and down the beach until the sun set and I so much enjoyed the experience that I got back out there the next morning. Except then, it was high tide, meaning the sand was wet and the waves kept crashing up into me. So I was either riding in six inches of water or very wet, very soft sand. That didn't go as well. After two slow-motion tumbles when my wheels sunk in the sand, I called it a day and walked the bike off the beach.

  • Highlight #3- Scuba Certification
I did my final dive, in Palm Beach, and I am now an officially-certified scuba diver. We saw some awesome fish and assorted sea creatures. But, with water temperatures in the low 80s, I refused to put on a wetsuit, and then shivered myself to death and made Order of Business #1 after our dive a stop to get hot, hot coffee. I guess there's a difference between swimming hard in warm water and floating around/ scuba diving at a leisurely pace in warm water.

Despite the hypothermia and all, I got some good pictures and enjoyed this experience. My scuba gear is packed, and given the limited suitcase space I have, I think that's a pretty good indication that this hobby is going to stick.

I'm sure you're not supposed to pick up wildlife, but my instructor did it first:)

  • Highlight #4 - Date Night
No, I didn't meet a nice gentleman. Are you kidding? Where am I going to meet a guy under the age of 70 in Cape Canaveral? But Saturday night, I decided I'd had enough of the condo, and I took myself out on a date. First, I had sushi. Then, frozen yogurt. Followed by a long walk on the beach. Yes, the perfect date.

At first, sitting in that sushi restaurant by myself on a Saturday night, I felt a little pathetic. I hid my eyes from the other diners and stayed glued to my iPhone, sure they were judging me for being alone. But I got over that pretty quick, put the phone down, and just allowed myself to be alone with my thoughts and my dinner. Eventually, I felt empowered. It's one thing to sit alone at a bar, on a weeknight, eating dinner during a work trip. I've done that many, many times. I've even dined alone in my neighborhood in Chicago, but again, always on weeknights. To go out on a Saturday night, to a sushi restaurant, no less.... that's totally different. And that's a first for me.

It truly ended up being a delightful evening. Until, of course, someone stole my sandals while I was walking on the beach. Who does that?

  • Highlight #5- Getting Ready for the Election
No, no, not THAT election. From what I can tell based on yard signs and what I overhear at the Early Bird dinners (when in Rome....), this county is NOT in play when it comes to the presidential election. It's like being in Chicago again. Except the opposite.

What really matters in these parts are the local elections. If we are to judge the importance of a race based on the mere size of the campaign signs, well then, there has never, ever been anything as important as the mayoral election for the town of Cape Canaveral. These signs are huge!

Perhaps I'm not well-traveled, but I've never seen campaign signs with huge, glossy pictures of the candidates in any place other than Germany. And those were for national-level positions. What is going on in Cape Canaveral?

But actually, it's not the mayoral race that is drawing the biggest, most flashy signs. Check out this sign, for a woman running for the coveted Property Appraiser position.

Girl really wants the job! And clearly has quite a well-funded campaign. But I just keep wondering, do we really need partisan affiliation for a position like Property Appraiser?

So that wraps up the Florida chapter of this journey. Next stop--- Reykjavik! (brrr...)


  1. hey amanda. Loving your commentary. I am living vicariously through you right now. Enjoy it all. I look forward to your next stop. Aunt Sally

    1. Hi Aunt Sally! Glad you found me. In London now, will write more soon, but I keep thinking of that Browns game you went to in London YEARS ago, and the streaker on the football field!