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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Impressions of Orlando, Florida

The View from Our Hotel
At the Kennedy Space Center
In the Gulf of Mexico
John's Pass Where We Had Some Terrific Seafood

Cat and I got back to Oklahoma on Saturday following our five day stay in Orlando for the High Schools that Work conference. I post my impression about the conference, which was very good, later. But first, my impressions of Orlando.

The people we met were very friendly. Most were not native to Florida. We met waiters from Cuba, hell staff from Brooklyn, toll booth operators from the Dominican Republic and tour bus drivers from Iowa. However, I believe the motto of the Central Florida area should be "You Wanted to Come here, and You're Gonna Pay for It!" It's nearly impossible to get anywhere in central Florida that doesn't involve toll roads. If you don't have some sort of turnpike pass, you have to stop every mile or so and pony up. Not only is it annoying, but it really slows down your time. Nothing in central Florida is very far away from Orlando, but you have to add 50% more time to your drive time than you normally would estimate in Oklahoma.

Another reason for this is that most of the drivers I noticed tend to drive much more slowly than we do in Oklahoma. It seemed that nearly everyone drove about 5 miles an hour below the posted speeds. Some of the drivers were senior citizens, but even the younger drivers seemed also to drive more slowly. I'm not complaining, but it's somewhat hard to adjust to this when I have been used to being the one everyone else passes on the Interstates.

Orlando seems rather artificial. I guess that's to be expected when pratically everything revolves around Walt Disney World. Everywhere there are amusement parks, "Halls of Fame", phoney pirate ships (pirates are really big now) Much of the time, I wondered if the palm trees were real. When we toured the Kennedy Space Center, I felt like I was in some type of grand commercial because most of the displays hammered home the need and importance of, well, the Kennedy Space Center.

The best part of our time there was when Cat and I snuck off for a little personal time on the Gulf Coast. We found a nice little motel on the beach and deal some swimming and body surfing in the gulf. The water was warm. We were even joined by two dolphins. Later at a restaurant called "The Friendly Fisherman" we had some fantastic seafood served by a great waitress named Lori who was from Maine.

Then we decided to drive up the coast a bit on state highway 699. Not a good idea. The coast in Florida is so heavily commercialized that you can't see a thing but hotel after hotel. The whole thing made me long for the Oregon Pacific coast where all of the beach is public property, and you can see everything.

All in all, we had a very enjoyable time in Florida. It's always nice to get away, but if I had my choice, I'd get away some place where that everyone else isn't there before me.

Maybe that's why I love Oklahoma as much as I do. I can still find places in this state where beauty can be enjoyed in isolation.

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