Not that many signs
Friday, 04.02., Kissimmee

"Any chance you seen the weatherforecast?" I asked the couple that was standing next to me, in the lobby of Hammond Hall, watching the rain drizzling down.
"It is supposed to clear up in the afternoon," the man said.
"It's the first time I see rain here," I told them, and added: "We are leaving today, towards Orlando."
"We just arrived," he said and kept watching the rain, as if it would leave if only he followed the fall long enough. Then, just as Ronnie appeared in the front with our car, he added: "If you go to Orlando, stay in Kissimmee."

It didn't take long to find the funny named place on the map.
"Look, it's right on the 441," I said to Ronnie. By that time, we already got used to name the roads by their numbers. Interstate 95, Expressway 836, 13th Street. Now to come: Highway 27, leading from Miami to Lake Okeechobee. From there on, Highway 441, moving up towards Orlando. And then, the Highway 192.
"Also called vine Avenue, this sprawling ribbon of more than hundred hotels and motels, accompanied by the same number of fast-food chains and gut-busting buffets that will unite body and soul."
"You made that up," Ronnie objected.
"Nope, that is exactly the guidebook's words."

And it hadn't lied. At least not about the numbers. After a long scenic drive that took us past everglade swamps, then past sugar cane fields, then past turf fields, we reached Lake Okeechobee. Further up north, the landscape changed again. There were cow ranches, orange plantations, deserted towns, and then, finally - Kissimmee. A forest of neon signs, competing so hard for the attention of the visitor that they at first rather confuse and compel. It was somewhere between the second Subway and the third McDonalds sign that we started to find our orientation again. And found a place to stay.
"You are lucky, there are only four rooms left," the desk manager of the Howard Johnson explained to us. Then he went back to routine and asked how we heard of the place.
"It was in our guidebook."
"Well, I am glad you found us, even though our sign isn't back up again."
"What happened?"
"Well, the hurricanes.." he said.
"They came through here?"
He nodded. "That is why there aren't that many signs up at the street."
We crinched.
He smiled, even though he probably didn't get the point.

Later, in our room, I stood at the window, looking out on the motel parking, trying to remember the Hemingway lines I had read on another road trip, in another country. They resurfaced with dawn the next morning. "He also knew that hurricanes could be so bad that nothing could live through them. He always thought, though, that if there was ever one that bad he would like to be there for it..."

more of that other road trip

next: Moon Tale

this travelogue is part of the subside travelzine
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