December 13, 2000
It was getting late when I got into Florida from Alabama. I planned on getting a room in or around Tallahassee so I could get an early start the next day. After leaving Montgomery at around 6:30, I entered the Recount State around 9:15. I got to I-10 about 9:45. It had been another long long day.
Looking at my trusty Rand McNally, I figured I'd get off at Exit 29. Great. I see the next exit is Exit 20. Fantastic.
My relief turned to dismay really quickly. After driving though more than a dozen states on this trip, I find out the hard way that in Florida, exits are numbered sequentially instead of by mile marker (except on the Turnpike, which is the complete opposite of most other states). A well-placed sign promptly informs me that Tallahassee is another 75 miles away. Lovely.
Then at around 10:15, I cross back into the Eastern Time Zone. Great. Now it's 11:15. I eventually made it to the Days Inn on North Monroe Street, which was kind of divey.
I took this picture the next day as I was leaving Florida. I was going to stop, take my Georgia welcome sign picture, run across the street, and then do likewise with that of Florida. Unfortunately there was no Georgia sign on US-319. Then, to complicate matters after I had turned around, the right lane was closed for new pavement and there was nowhere to pull over. No matter, though. I slalomed through the cones and stopped anyway.
I had been to Florida before. I did the Disneyworld thing with my family back in 1986. We couldn't go into the Vehicle Assembly Building on our Kennedy Space Center tour because there were pieces of the Challenger inside. Then, on my second trip, I visited my best friend Vanya in Port St. Lucie, where I also got to see my Mets as he lived about a half mile from the Mets' spring training complex. That was in 1994, the year of the baseball strike. This was my third time in Florida. I think we all know what happened this time around.
January 3, 2001
December 13, 2000
I would say that there were more media people camped out in Tallahassee than in Austin. Here in Tallahassee, they had a two-pronged attack. Across the street from the Capitol's east front was a parking lot that was overrun with news vehicles. I presume that this was the parking lot where Fox News Channel's Shepard Smith is said to have attacked another reporter with his car because she tried to bogart his parking space.
Behind the Capitol is a small plaza. On the steps of the West Front (essentially the Capitol's back door) a podium was set up, and at the bottom of the steps were a bunch of empty chairs. Using my renowned powers of deduction, I think I can safely say that that is where they held press conferences. Behind the chairs the walkway meandered around a few other buildings (to the left was a loading area, filled with — you guessed it — news vans), and then opened up into another plaza. Down a few steps, another open area, down some more steps, another landing where yet more news organizations had set up camp, and down some more steps, was another street. Across that street was perhaps at that time the most famous building in America: the Florida Supreme Court. And, of course, more news vans. There were even some protestors still milling about.
Even though it was December, you still felt warm inside looking at Florida's capitol. There were a few palm trees here and there, and looking at the white capitol with those huge red and white striped awnings over the windows, you get the feeling that you are on an island in the Caribbean. You can almost feel the soft grass and the warm, gentle breeze, with the sound of the ocean right behind you.
As you can see, there were a lot of old trees all over the Capitol grounds. Because of that, it was very difficult to find a good vantage point from which I could take a picture of myself and still get everything I wanted in the background. Then, as an added bonus, it was here that I discovered that my trusty tripod was broken, with three states still yet to visit. I found the best position I could, unlocked the three legs of the tripod, and one of them kept going. So instead of having my camera at a height of about five feet, I had to settle for about two feet. Which meant that I had to kneel down on the ground in order to look through the viewfinder, not to mention that from here on out I had to point the camera up which meant that every subsequent picture had to be taken from a really weird angle.
Well, if that had to happen, I guess it was poetic justice that it happened in Florida.
January 3, 2001
Note: The building in the foreground is Florida's old capitol, built in 1845 and renovated and expanded several times over the years until the state government finally outgrew it in 1972. In 1977 Florida dedicated its new capitol, which is the 22-story building in the background. The old capitol was spared from the wrecking ball and reopened as a museum in 1982. -May 16, 2003