Baltimore is a lot more comfortable than when I left last week. I had the bizarre experience of leaving 100° weather with humidity at rain-forest levels to travel south to a tropical state with less humidity and cooler temperatures.
Everything on that trip worked out better than I could have hoped, really. Despite working my ass off while I was down there, missing out on using the hotel pool entirely, we were staying only three miles away from the House of Blond Smiling Children, which made it easy for Jen to visit while I was at work. On Friday night I was able to back away from the computer for the evening, and we drove across Orlando to try Seasons 52, the first non-chain (well, it’s an upscale chain, because this is Orlando, after all, and there is no escaping chains there) food we’d had in a week.
As it happened, I was working with a fellow who was an avid skydiver, and he gave me an idea for the perfect birthday gift: falling out of a plane strapped to a total stranger! After some discussion, he helped me pick the right local venue for Jen, who was genuinely suprised and thrilled to take me up on the offer. A short drive out 50 to the coast on Saturday morning led us to the Skydive Space Center, where a nice man named Terry hooked Jen up to a very simple-looking rig, gave her a pair of goggles and a five-minute briefing, and then led her into the plane. As she disappeared down the runway, waving from the open door, I hoped I would see her again in one piece, and also thanked God she understood why I wanted to keep my chicken ass on the ground.
After waiting under a deep blue Florida sky for a few minutes, we spied the plane at drop altitude, and soon saw the first parachutes blossoming, specks against the fluffy cloud layer overhead. They circled lazily for a few minutes, riding the thermals, and then began to come in for landings one after the other. I picked out Jen from a distance and started shooting pictures as she came in over my shoulder and landed facing away from me. The verdict: swinging under the risers made her queasy, but freefall was amazing and she’d do the whole thing again in a minute.
After some recovery, we sought out a restaurant in town which was recommended by two separate parties: The Dixie Crossroads, where we were told to sample the rock shrimp. It’s a restaurant with a lot of local character, but the food is killer and the service is excellent. More importantly, the shrimp did not disappoint, and the comparison in taste to fresh lobster is true.
Making our way back home to the hotel, we passed several roadside attractions and sights unique to the area: Airboat rides, a petting zoo in the shape of an alligator, a dragstrip, and boiled peanut stands. Florida was good to us, something I wasn’t expecting, quite honestly. The friends are great, the A/C is cold, we got to see the Space Shuttle take off, and everything is beautiful from 15,000 feet.