Friday, February 26, 2010

Day One

My family decided to drive to South Florida to visit The Walt Disney World in Orlando and to see the southernmost part of the United States in the Florida Keys. That explains why Max, my laptop, is cradled on my tummy right now, while I am typing this entry in a semi-recumbent position. I am inside my aunt's recreational vehicle (RV) or motor home. For approximately one week, my bedroom, which is where I am now, will be the bunk just above the driver's and front passenger's seats. I will be sharing the bed with my mother, who by the way just decided a few minutes ago to call it a day after spending around two hours checking her Facebook account. My aunt and her cousin will sleep in the bedroom while my cousin's bed is actually our dining table during the daytime. The table's leg - yeah there's only one - actually folds down so that the panel then rests on the seats, thus providing a bed probably enough for someone who is six feet tall.

Since Mobile, Alabama, my home base here in the US, is just near the Florida State Line, it took us only about an hour and a half to enter the Sunshine State. Going to Orlando which is at the southern part of Florida, is a ten-hour drive from Mobile.

Our first night was already something to talk about. The gods must be crazy and just wanted to play tricks on us. Two tricks to be exact.

We decided to spend the night in Ocala approximately an hour and a half away from Orlando, so we looked for an RV park there. An RV park is a place where people with RVs can stay overnight or longer. Also referred to as campgrounds,since they also provide spaces and facilities for tent camping, RV parks provide hook-ups for power, drinking water, cable, telephone. Wireless Internet is also provided. Other RV park or resorts, like the one where we checked in now, have a pool complete with a jacuzzi. Sewer connection is available too, which I think is very good since RVers won't have to worry about a full septic tank. It's not easy carrying a heavy load, you know. Pun intended.

It was around 9pm when we started to look for an RV park in Ocala, with the help of the GPS. Indeed we found one. But to our chagrin, it was closed! I was really confused why RV parks would close when in fact this is America and almost everybody drives from one state to another - almost all the time, not minding the hours, whether it is night or day. Unfazed by this first disappointment, we went on to look for another RV park nearby but this time we called its office first before proceeding to the place. Only a machine answered our call which would possibly mean that the park was not open anymore or not receiving any new campers. I then understand that the closing time of 5pm is also for the safety of the campers or RV people inside the camp grounds.

So we drove and drove on the interstate, not actually knowing where to go, undecided whether we should just drive directly to Orlando or stop by somewhere and spend the night in that somewhere. But where in this part of the world is that? The nearest rest area from where we were is a good one hundred miles away. A rest area is a public facility located next to a thoroughfare such as a highway, at which drivers and passengers can rest, eat, or refuel, without exiting on to secondary roads. It does not provide those hook-ups made available to RVers in RV parks or campgrounds, and it has safety issues too. Many rest areas have the reputation of being unsafe with regard to crime, especially at night, since they are located in remote areas. However, the rest area is the next best option left for us, with all the RV parks already closed.

As we coursed through the interstate, we saw a very wide parking space in front of Winn-Dixie, a 24-hour commercial establishment. We finally decided to stay there for the night, hoping that the security guard would not drive us away. There goes the first joke by the gods.

While we were preparing dinner, my cousin turned on the television and looked for the remote control of the converter box. First it was only him but eventually, all of us were looking for the remote control but it was nowhere to be found. The day before we left Mobile, my cousin tested the converter box and the television to check on the channels and he was sure he placed the remote on the table. That left all of us puzzled. Why we couldn't find the thing?

After a good recall of events, we concluded that it was my aunt who left the remote at home. The day before our departure, the old TV was brought by my aunt to the machine shop for storage. She replaced it with the TV that we have right now, which her niece offered to her to use during this trip. Since the old TV had a remote, and my aunt remembers she brought a remote with it while she was carrying it to the shop, we suspected that she accidentally exchanged the remote controls and brought the remote of the converter box instead. Indeed we found the remote of the old television inside the RV. Now that solved the mystery of the remote control. That meant no television for us for this whole week. No Vancouver Winter Olympics, no American Idol, no Amazing Race. That was the second trick. We can do nothing about it but laugh at how the gods played their tricks on us.

We thought that was the end of it but ripples of the tricks kept coming. Since we had no power hook-ups, we had no heat to keep us warm for the night. We didn't want to turn our generator on overnight and consume our gas on that. A tank full of gas would only last for five hours if spent to power a generator. Good that we brought lots of comforters with us. That really didn't keep us warm during the night, but it helped us a little to survive the really biting cold.

I was thinking then, I was told that Florida is not as cold as the state where we came from. Probably the cold that we were experiencing was partially due to the Northeast wind blowing. Or maybe this is just how it feels to sleep during a winter night - or at least try to - without any heater to keep one warm.

Morning came and thank God, we survived the night, and maybe, the jokes on the playful spirits on us too. For the first time, I got to experience the Florida sunshine and it made me smile because it made me forget about what we went through the night before. The sunshine as bright as the one here in Florida would easily put a smile on one's face especially during this memorable winter season, when the sun has been extraordinarily bashful.

I thought to myself, "Aaahh! So this is the Florida sunshine," and smiled. I smiled at the sun as it smiled back on me. I smiled at the thought of the adventures waiting for me here. Lastly, I smiled because I have waited for this, and now, I am definitely ready for Day One.

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