When I moved to Florida I knew it was home to many theme parks with thrilling rides. I just didn’t realize the roadways were among those death-defying attractions.
Everybody warned me about driving in Florida during season, but nothing could have prepared me for the world’s largest bumper car track: I-75. Twice a day I travel I-75 to get to and from work. These 10 miles are a mix of speed up, slow down, wait to pass, get over so the car behind can pass, brake for the car going 20 miles under the speed limit and finally breathe a sigh of relief as I reach my exit.
Traffic is not a new concept for me. I may have grown up in the country but I moved to Florida from a large east coast city that rhymes with Schmiladelphia. The volume of traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway (affectionately called the Sure-Kill by natives) has reduced many experienced drivers to tears. And I once spent two hours travelling 17 miles on the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. But neither of these experiences comes close to my fear of driving in Florida in the winter.
Let’s start with the traffic problems that exist year ’round:
Trucks: I know 18-wheelers are vital to our economy and lifestyle, but when there’s a pack of trucks traveling double-wide on the freeway, I can’t help but extoll the virtues of the American rail system.
Construction Vehicles: And I’m primarily talking about dump trucks. They are slow, smelly and there is usually stuff flying off of them that leaves little starbursts in my windshield.
Landscapers: Take a pick-up truck that is barely road worthy and add a big open trailer that sways from side to side as the driver switches lanes and you have the landscaper. I saw one driver pull onto the freeway who apparently forgot he was pulling a trailer full of blowers and lawnmowers. Unfortunately, the driver behind him helped him remember when the trailer slammed into his car.
Motorcycles: Just because you can drive between cars doesn’t mean you should. Enough said.
Livestock/Wildlife: I really didn’t believe it the first time I heard a report of pigs on a local road, but apparently it is problem. Not long after that I was stopped in traffic for cows, and then sandhill cranes, and an armadillo. Now add to this mix about 70 million cars from other states whose drivers are only here for a short time and are not sure—is this our exit? Is THIS our exit? >SHUDDER<
Explore Back Roads: So what’s a girl to do? I listen to traffic reports—all the time. And I am exploring back roads and alternate routes. Now I can get to and from work without ever merging onto the freeway. I’ve also started leaving for work earlier—a lot earlier. Sure it’s dark, but I haven’t been cut off in the acceleration lane lately.
Before long, season will be over. Things will slow down and all of those visitors will go back to their northern homes. But I will still be living in Paradise.