FLAT Florida (the highest point may just be the Skyway Bridge in St Pete’s) is a beautiful land of bugs, deadly spiders, snakes and big fat alligators. It is the electric storm capital of the world and we all know the sound of the storm siren. A place where the sun can scorch dry every ounce of sanity you may possess and then drown you in humidity. A land where at your child’s one-year checkup you are told to get them in swimming lessons NOW, as death by drowning is around every corner. Each May we start prepping for the likely threat of a hurricane and then make sure we know how to survive it.
The Sunshine state, home of the pirate, galleons and Spanish forts. Where Disney is a way of life, not just a vacation and if you do not have the season pass, then well you just ain’t Florida born (we do not – shhhh do not tell anyone). Only in this state can you watch Gators fight, whizz off on an air boat, nearly die from a lightning strike and or hurricane for a double whammy. Where nearly everyone has a boat or knows someone with a boat (that could just be Naples) and you are only ever one hour from a beach. In the Winter there is no better place to be and, in the summer, you scream at the sky as you sweat half your body weight running from the car to the store. AC is everywhere and we never light a fire to keep warm. I think since we have lived here (a full 9 years) I may have worn a jacket like three times and a winter coat like once in 2013 for the only 40F day. It is the resident home of the manatee (sigh), dolphin, where a sighting is a given (double sigh) and the Florida Panther, a beautiful beast that roams the Everglades (One of Americas largest national park at 1.5 million acres).
Florida has also taught us so much about random stuff.
1) a – NEVER touch a spider or snake, a black racer snake is safe and great for getting rid of rats.
1) b – I am now also an expert on deadly snake identification. The difference between a coral snake (deadly) red. touches yellow on their skin and a red rat snake, red touch black skin (not deadly).
2) Fire ants are a thing and fucking hurt, so do not stand in a nest EVER. I’m not joking I had to take my father to the walk in clinic because his foot swelled up so badly he could not slip his slides on.
3) Alligators are everywhere and could be in any body of water and they can run fucking fast, like real fast. They can often be found strolling across golf greens. Watch out for your balls; literally.
4) How to sweat profusely – I can cope with sweating profusely and everyone takes no notice of the sweat, as they are sweating even more than you are. WE constantly live in damp clothing.
5) I never leave the house without 3 essential items – sunscreen, water and sunglasses. If I do I go into panic mode and may just need to drive home.
6) Lying in the sun is for tourists. – BURN
7) Leaving your home after midday to go outside is for tourists. – BURN
8) If your skin is red = tourist, usually British, as we are ridiculously stupid when it comes to tanning. Like ridiculously STUPID.
9) It is highly likely you will be allergic to any bush (Of the green leaf variety) you may pass, so do not touch.
10) I can run 50 miles in the midday sun and not die – building my essential survival skills.
11) Hurricanes are real and badass. Skills I learnt in a hurricane, apart from the copious amounts of alcohol consumption. Surviving without electricity for 14 days, cooking on a stove outside, freezing bags of water in the freezer pre hurricane to keep food cold when the power goes and then have fresh water as it melts to drink. Knowing to have a fully stocked first aid kit, torches that are waterproof and float, windup radios, keeping all documents in waterproof zip locks and a generator is a necessity. A jug of bleach is invaluable and a TV is not. Dragging felled trees and roof pieces to the roadside for days, all the while making sure three boys under 8 do not die in the debris or get bitten by a snake in the long grass. I learnt about hoarders and ass holes, plus kindness and heart. I learnt about storm surges and hurricane levels, wind speeds versus the damage it could create. I learnt it was something I would never want to go through again.
Florida is truly a conundrum of pain harboring beauty and over these nine years it has captivated my heart. Even now as we pack up and prepare to leave, to venture from the flat up to the mountains of Colorado, a part of me will always love and pine for this long, skinny state of crazy. Who has taught us all so much and given us so many lifelong friends, therefore a little part of me will always be Flo grown.
Goodbye Florida it has sure been a great ride.
K Flo – rida Joy