Orlando may be the happiest place on Earth, but the road trip getting to this magical destination probably won’t put a smile on your face. You and a few thousand other people are on the same road headed to the same place. Yup, it’s the highway of hell taking you to the happiest place on Earth.
When the State of Florida urges motorists to “Arrive Alive,” it isn’t just spouting a catchy PSA. This phrase is a plan of action for all those headed south to Orlando with its many marvelous and magical attractions. And the plan is not an easy one to carry out because drivers must head south on dangerous and crazy I-75 South, the highway of hell.
Surely I exaggerate you say. Ha! If your life was in peril from venomous snakes waiting to strike, would you feel that this was safety hell? I would, and I experienced it. We innocently stopped for a quick bite to eat at a rest stop off I-75 just south of Gainesville, the one located at the edge of Payne’s Prairie. As we pulled our cooler out of the car to head for a picnic table, our attention was caught by a sign warning of imminent danger from slithering wildlife. We gingerly made our way to a covered shelter warily eyeing things on the ground to determine if we were approaching a stick or a snake. As far as I know, all we saw were sticks.
Actually, I-75 is just a warm up for a visit to the amusement parks in Orlando. Why you find things along this interstate that are worthy of paid attractions. Like bumper cars? The large rig hauling vehicles and swaying dangerously all over the road seems intent on bumping into me. I-75 didn’t have a log flume to get us wet, but there was a plume of water pouring onto our vehicle from the next lane as we sped down the road in the rain. I didn’t see a haunted mansion on I-75 South, but it was pretty unnerving to see all the signs claiming road work was underway with appropriate equipment present but absolutely no workers to be seen anywhere.
Live shows are offered at theme parks and can be found on the side of I-75 as well. I saw two such shows in a short space of time. The first show involved flashing blue lights from law enforcement vehicles, a wrecker about to tow off a mangled car and news crews on the scene to video and report on the action. The second show involved a small silver car pulled off to the side of the road wrapped up like a birthday present in lots of ribbon; yellow crime scene tape was wound all around it as a police car sat watch nearby.
Perhaps playing carnival type games at an amusement park is more your speed. Hurtling down I-75 South at high speed also affords one the opportunity to play games. Drivers can participate in the adult version of Duck, Duck, Goose–what I call Truck, Truck, Whoosh! The object of the game is to pass all the trucks slowing you down so you can speed off unimpeded towards your eagerly desired destination, Or you might prefer auto tag. No, I’m not referring to license plates but to the game where one car passes another, and then the other car passes the one that just passed it, and then the that car passed the other car is in turn passed by the car it just passed. Guessing games can be fun too. Travelers attempt to guess how much longer it will be until arrival at their destination. This game involves repeated checking of the GPS after one takes a stab at how many miles have been traveled since the last check of the GPS.
Animal attractions are quite popular. I-75 South provides the opportunity to spot living creatures in their natural habitat. Look! There’s a nice ranch with horses in the field. Look! There are some cows grazing. Look! There are some goats over there. Seems comical that these animals are leading such a peaceful and slow farm existence while vehicles of the modern world whiz by on the nearby interstate at a breathtaking speed.
Amusement parks might contain trams and boats, but interesting vehicles are found on I-75 South too. I’ve heard of going Greyhound, but what is that big blue bus? El Expresso???? Hmmm. Who/what is rapidly being carried to parts south? I can see what is being carried in the bed of that pickup truck–a huge set of antlers. Antlers? It isn’t hunting season. That’s pretty random cargo. Wouldn’t a surfboard come in handier on a Florida vacation?
Finally the dream destination appears on the horizon. You have arrived alive, but you are much poorer because you had to pay those tolls on the Florida Turnpike. If truth in advertising were observed, potential tourists would be told that Orlando is the happiest place on Earth merely because you will have survived the trip down I-75 South to get there. And if your Orlando vacation ending isn’t bad enough, just remember you’ll have to travel up I-75 North to head home. Yikes!