Living in South Florida (Fort Lauderdale area) has given me the opportunity to indulge in a special kind of weirdness that is simply unavailable in the rest of the country. For example, four small bales of soggy marijuana recently washed up on the shore of my local beach. A good citizen actually turned in those four bales over to the local authorities. Or, six bales washed ashore and the clever citizen kept two.
This is not about the South Florida drug trade. This is about commuting to work and dealing with the large population of retirees down here. I ride a motorcycle. It’s my only vehicle. So, I ride to work and back. Contrary to what you might believe, the retirees stay off the roads during rush hour. They’re not stupid, they know their driving skills decrease with age. They also tend to avoid the highways and stick to surface roads.
Commuting on a motorcycle in South Florida is fairly straightforward. I use I-95 and I am legally allowed to ride my motorcycle in the carpool (HOV) lane. My fellow commuters are mostly consistent and predictable. It’s been extremely rare for me to witness stupid driving when commuting. These folks know where they’re going and are mostly focused on getting there. Sadly, using cell phones while driving is allowed in Florida and that includes texting. The worst part about commuting on a motorcycle down here is the weather. We have intense tropical downpours and so I must religiously check the doppler radar to see if I have to put on the rain gear before leaving.
Sometimes I run quite late. This is the running of the Buicks. I am convinced that the large retirement communities release the Buicks at about 10AM, well past rush hour. If I’m on surface streets prior to getting on the interstate highway and it’s after 10AM, I feel like a runner in Pamplona, dodging death from large moving things. I can never be sure when a retiree in a Buick might drift into my lane or turn directly in front of me. My level of focus is intense, my head swivelling back and forth to look for an errant and unpredictable Buick. There’s one! It’s at complete stop during a 90 degree turn, the driver likely confused. It’s ironic that I feel safer when I reach I-95 and get to cruise happily at 75 miles per hour amongst 18-wheelers when I felt in mortal danger when on the surface roads at 30 miles per hour.
I-95 has large, illuminated, and changeable digital signs at regular intervals. These signs inform drivers about traffic conditions, accidents, and other relevant information for interstate travel. My favorite is the “Watch for motorcycles” admonition to those behind the wheel. My second favorite is the “Silver Alert”. This is a notification that an elderly driver is out and about and unaccounted for. It shows the year and brand of car (Yes, often Buick) and the license plate number. I see this one daily and I always wonder about the circumstances behind it. Perhaps grandfather swiped the keys and went for quick drive. Or maybe grandmother hasn’t returned from her doctor’s appointment.
I rather enjoy it here, despite the road risks. And as a bonus, there’s a lot to ponder about South Florida and a curious of ages and nationalities. It keeps my mind quite busy as I take my usual walk up and down the beach, looking for bales of marijuana.