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Interstate of Being

February 18th, 2011


We’re trapped on the Interstate. Not that we’ve broken down or skidded into an alligator-infested swamp though. My wife, Lisa Calvi, and I simply have nothing to do for the next six hours but motor north on I-95 to Savannah, Georgia in our 2011 Chevrolet Impala rental car.

That’s the thing about the U.S. Interstate Highway system. Although getting to the destination is quicker and arguably safer than on the back roads, hours of cruise-controlled monotony can take the enjoyment out of a road trip. Good time to think and reflect though.

Thinking is good since I’m running low on fuel and am determined to fill the Flex Fuel-capable Impala with E85 fuel, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. The no-cost option is offered on plenty of General Motors vehicles and I’m anxious to do my bit in reducing greenhouse gases as we motor along reflecting on our all too brief encounter with Orlando, Florida.

Two days of power-touring Orlando attractions began with Forever Florida’s Eco-Safari where you can zipline in the treetops, over pristine Florida marshes and Pine Flatlands for two and a half hours without touching the ground.

Then we ripped around Lake Tohopekaliga in a 450-horsepower airboat at Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, a complete juxtaposition to the serene Forever Florida. But the captain cut the engine lots to point out American Bald Eagles in their nest and gators lurking in the swamp grasses. I learned the number of inches from nose to eyes indicates the number of feet long they are, an impressive morsel of intellect to throw out at dinner parties.

Keeping on a reptilian theme, Gatorland was next where Floridians have been wrestling alligators to the delight of young and old from all over the world since the kitsch attraction was established in 1949. Where else can you see someone hold a quarter ton alligator’s jaw open with their chin?

A chance for a spin around the Disney World Motor Speedway in an Indy car was rained out so we opted for dinner at Spanish-flavoured Café Tu Tu Tango. The packed eatery featured in-house artists who toiled by our table, a tarot reader offering a glimpse into our future and a tap dancer who stomped and spun among the diners. Alligator Bites for an appetizer? Not tonight thanks!

Meanwhile back on the Interstate, Lisa and I are trying to figure out how to entertain ourselves. Still not a fuel station with E85 and it feels like I’m back in Canada where finding ethanol is about as easy as finding palm trees.

Lisa and I take turns trying to out-do each other by spotting the most impressive roadside sign or billboard. Lisa takes the lead with ‘No needles… no scalpel… Vasectomy’. A delicate subject, but effective advertising to any man in the market for a pain-free snip.

Eventually I pull off the freeway and after refueling with regular gasoline, Lisa takes the wheel and for the next couple of hours we cruise in 75-80 mph traffic. I wonder why a tour bus keeps passing but it doesn’t take long for the drone of the slower transport trucks to bring on more daydreams of our 48-hour Orlando extravaganza.

On ‘Day 2’ we had hit the Big Tickets with an early start at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure where we missed out on getting tapped for the wand ceremony in Ollivander’s Wand Shop at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But who cared since it was non-stop thrills on the ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’ ride as we followed Harry on a high-paced, heart-racing Quidditch match. If only I had read those books.

On the way to SeaWorld, a stop at iFly Orlando spelled more heart acceleration in a vertical wind tunnel configured as a skydiving simulator. Our coach Matt, a Brad Pitt look-alike, gave a 20-minute flying lesson then suited us up and brought us into a chamber where 130-mph winds flew us up and down a 50-foot cylinder. End result? Matt described me as ‘a little stiff’ but praised Lisa for being ‘super stable’. Sure thing, Mr. Pitt!

SeaWorld had a calming effect and the Whale and Dolphin Show made Lisa cry.

“They’re sooooo cute.” Lisa sniffled.

We capped ‘Day 2 Orlando’ in Downtown Disney at the mesmerizing Cirque du Soleil show, La Nouba. Nerve-wracking tightrope walkers, fearless trapeze flyers, an unearthly juggler, impossible stunt cyclists and a gripping trampoline segment all powered by a rocking orchestra with two spellbinding operatic voices blasted every sense for a 90-minute surreal thrill ride. Whew!

Back on the interstate, I’m in the passenger’s seat, exhausted after reliving the last 48 hours. I jokingly wonder if Lisa thinks her hubby will ever live up to the flying finesse of iFly Orlando’s Brad Pitt look-alike, the athletic prowess of the Cirque du Soleil acrobats or the cuteness of SeaWorld’s obedient and clever dolphins.

Then my bleary eyes focus on a roadside billboard. As I yell the words out, I’m convinced I’ve taken the lead in our ‘Interstate Sign of the Day’ contest.

“Treat those spider and varicose veins now. Call 394-LEGS.”

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