Friday, March 21, 2008

Safe in Sarasota

I arrived in Florida last night. Took me two days of driving over 10 hours a day. Not very green, I know. Not sure flying would have been any better environmentally, but I wasn't willing to pay $600 for the privilege of being harassed by the TSA, crammed into a tin can like a sardine, and hoping my luggage arrived when I did.

I don't drive a lot normally, so spending two solid days in a car - a small, fuel-efficient car - was eye-opening. For the first time since I downsized to a Toyota Corolla, I really missed my midsized Ford sedan. The Corolla is so light it tends to be buffeted around by wind when you're traveling at high speed, even by the wakes of other vehicles. And when you're driving long distances on the highway, it really is a serious inconvenience to slow down. The speed limit is 70 mph on much of I-95, and going 55 mph means driving almost 13 hours a day to make it to Florida in two days, instead of only 10.

Driving through insane traffic and constant construction (I forgot the asphalt plants would be open down south - construction season hasn't started yet up north), I often wished I could have taken public transportation instead. Then again...there's nothing like the convenience of parking your car only five feet from your hotel room door. Florida, unlike many older cities in the northeast, is made for cars. There's plenty of free parking, people drive everywhere...and damn, it sure makes life easier, at least in the short term.

Thanks to Mapquest, I did manage to find my old neighborhood in Raleigh yesterday. It really hasn't changed a bit. It's an amazingly quiet, sleepy little street. It's funny, because in my mind it looms as this big, dangerous, busy street. Everything was recognizable...but so much smaller than I remembered.

Some things have changed. Notably, the shortcuts I used to take (to school, to the park, to friend's homes) have all been fenced off. People just don't want their neighbors cutting through their yards any more, I guess. Even the church parking lot, where all the kids walked to get to school, has been fenced off.

And nobody seems to walk to school any more. I was walking around the neighborhood just before school started, and instead of the scattered groups of kids I remember, it was totally deserted. Parents all drive their kids to school now, I guess. I saw a lot of SUVs disgorging kids in front of the building.

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