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Dante Revisited: The Nine Circles of Florida Road Warrior Hell

It has been a busy couple months in the old Toyota (so old, it is pre-recall era), which makes it an opportune time to have a little fun with the blog. 

So here goes, Dante's Inferno revisited:  what the nine circles of politico hell would look like if hell was Florida's highways, destinations and airports.  As I've visited all 67 counties in the last couple years, most many times, I feel like I am pretty well suited to make these calls. 

Sometime in the near future, I'll hit the various spheres of Florida's road warrior Paradisio.  Hint:  Tampa Airport.

I hope my fellow political road warriors will weigh in with their thoughts.

1.   Political Conferences at Disney and other "Destination" resorts.   Growing up most of my life in Florida, I am a fan of Disney.  Nikole and I have been many times and love the place.  However, going there for a business is almost unfair.  You know you want to have fun and get in the Disney spirit, but you have to put on a suit and tie and play the other role, while everyone else around you is essentially care-free.   And if you aren't at Disney, Murphy's Law dictates that your political conference will probably be some place like the Fountainbleau in Miami, where you get to try to hold meetings while watching the surf.

2. Tallahassee.  I live here and it is a great place.   However, getting to and from this place is often just a tiny bit easier than getting to and from Bismarck, ND (trust me, I know this one).  As they say, Tallahassee is just one stop from the world, except that one stop is Atlanta airport (a place Dante definitely dreamed about in writing Inferno), which is the wrong way if you are headed anywhere south.  Sure, you can fly direct from Ft. Myers to Germany, which is probably the same connection you will make if you try to get from Ft. Myers to Tallahassee. Oh, and for the pleasure of one-stoping to the world, you will pay about 4 times what it costs if you lived in say, Tampa. 

3. Following a school bus on U.S. 1 in the Keys (nominated by Tom Eldon).  Going to the Keys for work is a perk of living in Florida, except getting to the Keys tends to take some work, and sometimes that work means following a school bus down Overseas Highway.  As Tom Eldon of Schroth, Eldon and Associates suggests, if this happens to you, pull off the road and go fishing for two hours, and by then, the chances are good that you won't catch the bus before you get to Key West.  Why isn't this further down the list, you might ask?  Well, because its the Keys and how bad could it be?

4. Orlando International Airport.  In the Pantheon of big airports, MCO is a pretty good one.  Well laid out, clean and easy to get around (just avoid the $5 a gallon gas station nearby).  Except when you go through security and you are in a hurry.  One day, TSA will find a special method of clearing all those massive tourist shopping bags, but until then, pull up a chair because you will be there for a while.

5. I-10.  I've probably driven I-10 at least 400-500 times in my political career.  As an interstate, it is uniquely special.  On a road where driving 70mph could be considered cruel and unusual punishment, expect to find about 75 state troopers every mile.   How many times have you been on I-10, say passing Madison going towards Jacksonville, then feel like you drive for 2-3 days, only to realize you are just getting to Live Oak?  You know who has never driven I-10?  Cell phone companies.

6. US 19 from St. Pete to Weekee Wachee.  I like Pinellas County a whole lot.  I am a big fan of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County is without a doubt home to the best grouper sandwich in Florida (Woody's).  I've spent so much time there in the last four years that they might make me start paying taxes.  In fact, it is one of the few places in Florida that I could see living in one day---as long as I could avoid US 19.  US 19 is essentially the spine of Pinellas County, connecting coastal Pasco and Hernando counties with St. Petersburg along a highway that includes 1750 traffic lights, 37 Hooters and more chain restaurants per mile than any place else in Florida, except maybe US 192. 

7. I-4.  Tampa to Orlando.  I-4 is Florida's Box of Chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.  Sometimes you leave downtown Orlando at 10:00 AM and find yourself in downtown Tampa a few minutes after 11.  Sometimes you leave downtown Orlando at 10:00 AM and find yourself in downtown Tampa a few minutes after 11---a week or two later.   On behalf of everyone who has spent most of an afternoon in a rain storm on I-4, thank you President Obama for high speed rail. 

8. I-95 from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami.  For most of the length of I-95, the driving is pleasurable, as long as your idea of pleasurable is bump drafting at Daytona.  But once you get to Ft. Lauderdale, it turns into a real adventure.  As one nominator said about the stretch, "it is seven lanes of hell, complete with thousands of drivers who apparently have made peace with God."  Hint:  pay the toll to use the express lanes in Dade County.  At least you will have orange cones to protect you from the melee.

9. The Miami International Airport.   Flying into Miami isn't all that bad, assuming you can figure out how to get to the expressway from the sand lot behind the abandoned industrial complex--also known as rental car row.  Leaving Miami on a regional jet?  Good luck.  First you have to navigate the parking lot known as Dolphin Expressway just to get there, then find your rental car return location, ride the bus to the airport, stand in line for TSA, walk halfway around the world to your gate, get on a bus to ride well out into the tarmac, get off bus and hope it isn't raining, then board your plane. 

Near misses:  Love/Hate relationship with Panera Bread, Continental's prop planes, Atlanta International Airport, the Sawgrass Mills Mall. 


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Reader Comments (8)

As a fellow politico road warrior, I can confirm the truth cleverly articulated above. Bravo.

For your "Paradisio" follow-up, consider the U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) alternative to Alligator Alley, the free DOT love bug windshield wash stop on the Turnpike south of Orlando, and the stretch of hwy 27 between Chiefland and Ocala with it's beautiful rolling horse country hills (was nicer before they 4-laned it but still nice.)

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark Ferrulo

Boss, how did Panera not make it in to the top 10? Seriously!!!

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris Turner

Reading this, so many memories spun through my mind like the static-laden garble you get when Spanish, Caribbean, country and hip hop radio waves compete for your car antenna on I-95 in Broward... or I-4 in Lakeland... or I-10 in Lake City... or any of the other literal crossroads of culture that make Florida politics so interesting. I thought to myself, "This spot-on analysis is an example of Steve's incredible grasp of the human experience, which is why he has run so many winning campaigns. He knows what speaks to people."

Then I woke up from my daydream - with that unique pain/pleasure sensation you get when spotty cell service frees you from an unending conference call - and remembered that this experience isn't exactly human and really only "speaks" to a small, unfortunate segment of the population...

Well, so, Steve, maybe the quote I wrote about you above doesn't apply here, but you can still use it for the dust jacket of your first book.

(Also, I have one addition to your list: Terminal A at Palm Beach International Airport, the waiting room for Continental's special seasonal crop-duster service to Tallahassee. The single source of sustenance for souls trapped in this locale is a soda machine that owes me at least three dollars. Fortunately, Continental employs Saint Teresa, the nicest, most helpful gate representative in America. Without her to calm the collective airport angst during long, foodless delays, there are times when I feared my fellow frequent flyers - okay, maybe just I - would eat the furniture.)

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark B

Good list - I think I would have included I-75 from Lake City to Ocala - perpetual construction, lots of state troopers looking for revenue; big trucks moving fast and spotty cell phone coverage. Much prefer US 27-19....and you can avoid the pitfalls of Pinellas and Pasco by shifting over to the Suncoast Parkway - have made it Tally to downtown St Pete in four hours (but don't tell any troopers)

February 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlucy morgan

As their eternal punishment for the most vile of political sins, producers of race-baiting ads on talk radio will be doomed to spend an eternity of canvassing for an African American candidate
in Liberty County. This is some serious 8th or 9th Circle stuff, with Demonic Pitbulls, Drunken Pickup Drivers on Meth, Shotgun Wielding Psycopaths, and a large population of recent ex-cons who cannot actually register to vote but will not tell you that until after they have filled out the reg. form.

February 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian L.

Nice post. Though Woody's, my favorite beach restaurant, is the place for wings, not grouper sandwiches. I'll introduce you to some grouper sandwiches next time you're here.

February 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin King

I have to agree with Lucy, Steve. If I-75 between Lake City and the Turnpike isn't a circle of hell, it's the convergence of many circles of hell. License plates from all over the United States, truckers, Gators, Seminoles, commuters and the occasional State Senator clocking speeders thinking he's still a Sheriff, makes me avoid it at all costs. I know towns like Perry, Cross City, Cheifland, and more recently Starke, Lawtey and Waldo much better because of my hatred for this stretch of highway.

August 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason Roth

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