State 29: Florida February 9, 2018
We woke up at a Walmart in Slidell, LA well rested and ready for a brand new day. For the past 3 days we have been exploring the Gulf Coast towns of Mobile, Biloxi and Gulfport enroute to the 29th state on our cross country journey to discover America and find a new state to call home; Florida: The Sunshine State. Although Florida is known for many things, The Retirement State, The Alligator State, The Hurricane State, and The Orange State, does not really have a lot of appeal. Florida certainly made the right choice by marketing sunshine. Florida is the Southernmost state in the continental United States resulting in a sunny, humid, sub-tropical climate with an average temperature of 71 degrees attracting vacationers and snowbirds from around the world. Will the Cross Country Couple face dark and dreary 7-day forecast in Florida, or will we end up calling the sunshine state our new home? We can’t wait to begin our week of exploration in Florida!
We entered into the Sunshine State at the western tip of the panhandle at the city of Pensacola, home of the world famous Blue Angels at the Pensacola Naval Air Base! Nate and I have both visited Florida numerous times prior, but have never ventured North of Orlando. We took 3 days making our way across the states panhandle on route to Tallahassee to tour the Florida Statehouse. As Rosie crossed the city line into Tallahassee, we blasted Freddy Cannon’s 1959 smash hit “Tallahassee Lassie”, and could not help but sing along! They lyrics are below if you would like to join in!
Well, she comes from Tallahassee She got a hi-fi chassis Maybe looks a little sassy But to me, she's real classy Yeah, my Tallahassee Lassie Down in F-L-A Well, she's romping to the Drag The Cha-cha, Rag-a-mop Stomping to the Shag Rocks the Bunny Hop
Everyone knows the ability to “Rock the Bunny Hop” is such an important quality in a woman. LOL!!! Just as Nate and I finished our awful duet, the capitol building came into sight, and after finding a parking space for Rosie, we walked 2 blocks to the Florida Statehouse.
The Florida’s Capitol Complex consists of four buildings. The oldest building is the nineteenth-century Old Capitol restored to its 1902 appearance, and the other three buildings are the House, Senate, and a 22-story executive office building referred to as the New Capitol. We began our visit by touring the restored old capitol building. The Old Capitol is a now a museum, and no longer serves in any official capacity for the Florida government. We had previously visited one other state who abandoned their statehouse to convert it into a museum, which you can read about by clicking here. Please see the pictures below of the outside of the Florida Statehouse.
While the Old Statehouse was attractive, it proved to be a poorly executed restoration specifically in regards to the types of materials used, and lack of detail paid to original craftsmanship of the structure. Walking into rooms with gypsum board walls and what appeared to be painted plywood flooring, did not make the buildings historic restoration believable. Furthermore, most of the rooms were either empty, or contained displays which had no relevance to a 1902 Florida Statehouse. In the end, it felt as if the Old Statehouse was only partly and poorly restored, and the space could have been much better utilized! If you are going to turn your statehouse into a museum, then please do it the right way, do it all the way and at least, offer visitors a guided tour! Please see the pictures below.
After departing the Old Statehouse, we naturally headed towards the New Statehouse. In the 1960’s the Florida Capitol Building was far too small to serve the needs of the state’s government, and a new statehouse was desperately needed. Concurrently, a debate within Florida broke out regarding whether the capitol should be moved from Tallahassee to a more centralized location such as Orlando or Ocala. To settle the issue, Floridians went to the polls, and results of the vote was to keep the State Capitol in Tallahassee. In the 1970’s 3 new buildings were erected in the capitol complex surrounding the old capitol building.
After passing through 2 rounds of security, we entered the New Statehouse, and were greeted by a massive depiction of the Florida state seal in the center of the floor. Our first stop was the Florida Senate Chamber, and it along with the entire building, had a very industrial and utilitarian feel. Please see the pictures below.
After departing the Senate, we headed to the House, where they were currently in the middle of their regular legislative session. Up until this point on our cross country journey, we have only toured empty legislative chambers, and today we would get to witness first-hand the state government hard at work for their fellow Floridians. The House was in the process of amending the proposed state budget, and of course everyone had a different opinion of how their tax dollars should be spent. Some felt more funds should go to private schools, and others felt the money should go to charter schools. Some felt more money should go to Medicare, and others felt more money should go towards the treatment of mental illness and substance abuse. We sat there for over 2 hours watching, while the legislatures poetically, passionately, and articulately debated the Florida state budget. Although, the views and opinions of each representative differed, it was clearly evident each took their job very seriously, and possessed a deep commitment to creating a better future for Florida. Seeing the House of Representatives in their regular session was the highlight of what was otherwise a lackluster visit to the Florida Capitol Complex. Thankfully we were permitted to take pictures of the of the House while in session, which are shown below.
After departing the Florida’s House, we took 2 elevators to the top observation deck on the 22nd floor of the Executive Tower. The views of Tallahassee were absolutely beautiful, and I surprised to see how many trees there were throughout the city! Please see the pictures below!
Warning: What I am about to describe is of a graphic and personal nature. I apologize in advance if I offend anyone, but I am used to openly discussing such things as nurse. If you find the discussion of body fluids and functions disturbing, then please DO NOT continue reading.
After departing the Florida Statehouse, we drove 152 miles Southeast to Gainesville to a Planet Fitness for a workout and a shower. Over the past few days, I had been having severe abdominal pains and rectal bleeding after having a bowel movement. I waited a week to see if the symptoms would resolve on their own, but they have only gotten progressively worse. I have traveled all across America exposing myself to a wide variety of people, places, food, water, and microbes most certainly giving my immune system a serious workout. Although I personally have no history of GI issues, there is a strong family history of colon cancer on the maternal side of the family including my mother, which was the motivating factor for my initial journey into a vegetarian lifestyle.
After my workout at Planet Fitness, the pain and bleeding became so severe, I had Lori take me to the ER in Gainesville. Since it was a Friday night, I knew I was in for an extremely long wait. Lori and I arrived at the ER at 8:00 pm, sat in incredibly uncomfortable waiting room chairs all night long, and I was finally seen 10 hours later at 6:00 am!!! I had bloodwork drawn, a full abdominal CAT scan, and abdominal ultrasound. The grand finale of the whole ordeal was a rectal exam by a rude and uncompassionate female doctor with very long fingernails! The results of all of the tests came back 100% normal. There was nothing else they could do, and I was discharged at 9:00 am. On one hand, it was comforting to know there was nothing significantly wrong with me, but on the other hand, I was still in pain, bleeding and still had no clue why! Not knowing what else to do, I decided to give it another week, and if my symptoms did not improve I would seek out a specialist. Lori and I were up all night, stressed, frustrated, and beyond exhausted. Hand in hand, we staggered back to Rosie to take a nap, and stealth parked in the parking lot of the hospital's ER. Similar to stationary life, some days on the road are great and some days just plain suck. Nevertheless, I feel it important to document my experience each day whatever those experiences maybe. Today, was a very hard day to be a vagabond, and I do hope I feel better soon!