Friday, December 28, 2007

Soul searching (unedited)

I still feel guilty that I have so little appreciation for this past Christmas. I should be thankful for all the blessings I have, and I am, but somehow that doesn't keep me warm at night.

So yesterday I began my adventure to Florida. I flew standby thanks to Monica, and although my travel to south Florida didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked, I made it to West Palm Beach around midnight. Three hours later I was arriving in Naples.

Spending several hours waiting for an open seat at the Newark airport gave me a lot of time for soul searching. If I was to tell Rush this, he'd probably comment about how the exercise took me 20 seconds or that I probably failed to find anything during my search. But having a lot of time to yourself, not knowing when or if you're flying to south Flordia, turned out to be too distracting to work on my "Snakes on a Sudoku" puzzles or read a book. I worked on the puzzles for a while, but ultimately I would end up pondering my life, and what it all means. I'm not sure I answered many questions, but I pondered quite a bit.

As if I hadn't had enough time for that at the airport, I drove for about two hours to get to the resort. I enjoy being out on the road, I wish I could spend more time and money on the highways of life. It's often a great experience. I miss making road trips to Michigan to visit Roast Beef. If I manage to live past 58 and can actually afford to retire I doubt I'll be buying an RV and driving around the country, I'll be too old and cranky for long days on the road, I'm sure. I have to find ways to do these things now, while I still have a good heart and energy.

Driving down the east coast of Florida wasn't that exciting. Highways at night in Florida aren't much different than anywhere else in the country. When I reached Alligator Alley, however, and started heading west to Naples, I got a charge out of that. As soon as I hit Allegator Alley it was noticably different from my journey down the Florida Turnpike.

There were plenty of lights, billboards and businesses along the turnpike, but Alligator Alley offers almost none of that. At 2 a.m. there aren't a ton of cars crossing the southern portion of the state, there are few exits and few signs of life in the form of billboards or gas stations across Alligator Alley. There's a sense of alienation while driving across Alligator Alley at night.

I haven't driven through the desert between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, day or night, but from the descriptions I've heard, driving across Alligator Alley overnight is a lot like driving through the desert at night. Given the millions of people who flock to Florida for retirement, and the millions more who flock here for warm weather in the winter, it seemed odd to be driving for 80 miles through the state and see so few signs of life, relatively speaking. But the open road, the general darkness all around me, the techno music on Y100 from Miami and a little fog here and there made for an enjoyable trek to Naples.

Despite all the uncertainty and doubt I dwelled upon in Newark, driving across Florida was a nice contrast, full of optimism and hope. I already know I can't repeat 2007, but at the end of the year I can say I'm better off than I was at the start of the year. And that's something I have to build on, it's the only way I'll survive.

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