Perhaps it’s hereditary. My mom claims that my father traveled like a linen suit; in other words, travel was not his favorite thing in the world. I remember growing up and vacations were road trips across the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast.
I remember as a sixth-grader, the family went up to Detroit to go the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. Well, being in Detroit, I reminded Dad that we were super close to Canada. You know that mystical foreign country where they used the metric system?
Somehow I was able to convince Dad that we should go to Canada. We packed up in the station wagon and drove east down Michigan Avenue and went across the Ambassador Bridge and we were in Canada.
The next 30 minutes was spent not looking at the cultural beauty of Windsor, but trying to find the elusive tunnel to get back to the States. I asked if we could go to the McDonald’s restaurant in Canada. Using Dad’s thinking, there was no discernable difference between a Canadian McDonald’s and an American McDonald’s, so we waited until we got back to Dearborn to have dinner. I am sure there was also some murmuring about exchange rates and being stuck with Canadian money that couldn’t be used back home.
This past week, my wife and I had the opportunity to go to Orlando for a few days. Orlando is probably the mega-capital of vacationing in the entire country. Every hotel, restaurant, tourist trap is in the business of billing itself as “the Happiest *fill in the blank* on Earth.”
You quickly learn that the source of this happiness is based on an ever-present mouse. As one of the locals we met said, “Smile and obey the mouse. Everything will be just fine.” Our friend wasn’t being derogatory, but just laid out the stark reality of the tourist based economy of central Florida.
Our hotel for this stay was approximately one mile from where the mouse lived. And of course, everyone wants to see the mouse.
In many places, this one-mile distance would be considered walking distance. However, walking is probably the least safe form of transportation in Orlando; the entire landscape is paved with either streets or highways that are at least eight lanes wide.
Gridlock was everywhere. Our first night at the hotel, we were taking a bus to one of the locations we wanted to go to. Once we hit State Route 535, we were faced with red lights as far as the eye could see. Once we inched toward the highway, we were met with more red lights that probably went all the way to Interstate 95. Repeat this scenario every time we left the hotel.
One of the locations we were able to go to was the newly minted Disney Springs, which is a shopping area. Imagine an amusement parks, but with no rides and games. Rather, it’s filled with specialty boutique shops and restaurants. As much as I am not a huge fan of shopping, it was certainly interesting to see stores you wouldn’t otherwise see. There was a bakery that served up cupcakes out of an ATM. There was a four-story shop devoted to all things Coca-Cola. If you could imagine it and if the bank account could handle it, you could get it.
Even with all the traffic and the sensory overload that comes with going to a place everyone wants to go, it was an enjoyable trip. But I am quickly realizing that the more places I roam and visit, the more I miss my own hometown. We have it pretty good here in Miami County.
Traffic is good, our downtown shops are unique and there is just enough people to make life exciting, but not too many to make it a chore. And even though completely a bad idea, I can jaywalk in relative safety.
I will say there was one nice surprise I learned on this trip. As our plane landed at the Cincinnati/northern Kentucky airport, I was dreading the drive home. Well, I can attest, going through Cincinnati at 2 a.m. was an absolute breeze. That would have been something Dad would appreciate.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.