Miami to Orlando (via Tampa)
Got up relatively early this morning, finished packing the bags, checked out of the Hyatt Regency Miami, and hit the road to Orlando. Actually, we were not quite heading to Orlando, but to the Walt Disney World Resort area, a few dozen miles to the west of Orlando.
Rather than drive directly there, we decided to see a little more of Florida, so we headed west along the I-75 to the western side of the peninsula. Took 3-4 hours, but we eventually got to St. Petersburg and then Tampa, quite spectacular area, with vast bays and long bridges spanning them. Pity about the traffic.
Traffic on the I-75 was horrendous, three lanes of crazed drivers doing 80+ miles an hour, swapping lanes without warning, driving less than a car-length behind the car in front, and generally being unsafe. What’s worse, the trucks were doing exactly the same !
We saw a half dozen accidents along that road, but only one of them looked serious (car rolled). Scary and stressful driving in conditions like that. Do these people really consider themselves invincible ? Do they really believe that ABS, airbags, and a big car is all you need to be safe no matter how stupidly you drive ?
The traffic eased off a little as we headed off the I-75 and in to St. Petersburg / Tampa, but then we hit Friday afternoon traffic and crawled our way out of the towns, not really picking up speed until we were well onto the I-4 heading back east towards Orlando.
Continuous roadworks along the I-4 slowed things down a little, but then you get truck drivers pulling half a house behind him at over 70 miles an hour, taking up one and a half lanes, with concrete barriers on the shoulder and absolutely no room to maneuver. I’m amazed he didn’t crash into anything the way he was driving … getting past required some careful timing and a bit of luck (ie wait and then pass on a segment of road where the concrete barriers on the shoulder gave way to plastic traffic cones, which he could drive over with no problems !).
One of the interesting things we found was the “rest areas” they have here in the US, particularly on some of the interstates here in Florida. These rest areas are huge – parking for trucks, RVs, and cars, large airconditioned buildings housing the “rest rooms” (ie. toilets), and vending machines. They even have employees ! Full time cleaners, and also security patrols at night. In Australia, we’d be lucky to get a couple of long-drop dunnys on the side of the road. These rest areas here have cloverleaf interchanges and bridges under the freeways to get you there. Quite an impressive operation, and very handy.
Despite the horrible traffic, we got in to the Walt Disney World resort area without incident around 5pm, checked in, dumped our gear in our room and walked around to the Disney Boardwalk area to find some food for dinner (we hadn’t had lunch yet). Did a little exploring around the Epcot resorts after dinner and then retired to our room to plan our activities over the next few days – so many things to do here, it takes some careful planning to make sure you get the things done you want to get done !
Alas, I don’t have all that much time to spend at Walt Disney World, I’m actually here to attend Lotusphere, IBM’s annual conference for the Lotus brand of the Software Group – customers, business partners and IBM’s Lotus specialists from all over the world converge on WDW this time every year to attend our key seminar. I’m actually here on a Staff Ticket, so I have to work too (*sob*), but I will get time to attend some of the sessions, and of course, Leanne gets all week to play at WDW !!