Florida 2018 - Day 1

Joel’s Journal - February 4, 2018 - Volume 3 - Entry #35


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Day 1

Early mornings, cramped airplanes, and a warm arrival

The day started like all the others, an alarm blaring from my bedside table. 

When I opened my eyes though, my body was slightly more surprised to be jostled from sleep, and my eyes were not quite so accustomed to all the light shining in the room. 

“Florida time, honey,” M said as she got up and moved across the room. 

I blinked, groaned, and swung my feet of the bed. 

Florida time indeed. 

It was 2:30 in the morning. 


The car bumped to the curb outside the airport. There were a few people milling around outside the terminal. The glowing wall of windows stretching high above them. Their shadowed forms appeared small as they maneuvered large suitcases onto carts. 

I turned and gave M a few good kisses. It’s only a week away from each other, but I know I will miss her a lot, and it’s the longest we’ve been away from one another in a long time. 

On top of those goodbye kisses, I planted a few more, retrieved my bags from the trunk and headed inside.

The rest of the family wasn’t there yet, so I walked the empty airport to find the departures board, checked our flight info, then waited for the others to arrive. 

It didn’t take long, but as I waited, I stared out from the other side of the terminal’s wall of windows, taking in the darkness, the snow and the ice, and thinking that I wasn’t too upset to be leaving it all behind. 

We ran through the usual airport song and dance of checking our bags then milling through security. 

My bag was pulled aside as the officers analyzed the x-ray of all the camera gear, chargers and batteries filling the inside pockets. I informed them as such, but the man staring at the screen grunted and only continued to peer at the distorted image. I shrugged, but suddenly feeling nervous that by some devilish miracle, illegal drugs had found their way inside my bag. 

They hadn’t, and we all moved through without a hitch. 

It was about 4:30 in the morning and we all had caffeine on the brain. Judging by the line-ups outside of the airport terminal’s Starbucks and Tim Hortons, everyone else had the same idea. 

My dad and I chatted in line, my brain slowly starting to come back to life. I was beginning to thank my lucky stars that M and I usually started out days very early. While 2:30 a.m. is not a time for waking up, it was only a couple hours removed from my typical 5:30 wake-up time. It allowed my body and brain to perform at pretty much normal levels as we waited for the plane the board.


Early boarding.

Early boarding.


I’ve never been able to sleep on airplanes. Whether it’s the constant groaning of the engines, the hushed conversations of people around me, or just the brazen knowledge that my body is hovering thousands of feet in the air inside a metal tube. Whatever it is, sleep rarely comes for me in the air. 

I remember the only time I really fell asleep on a plane was during a layover between Denmark and Germany. My brother Daniel and I were exhausted after a late night and an early flight. It was our second plane of the day and we both conked out almost immediately when the plane was in the air. 

However, it was a short flight, and when the landing gear slammed down on the runway, we both exploded from sleep to wakefulness, practically jumping over the seat in front of us. 

This flight was not like that though, and I spent the time editing some photos for a January collection and watching Spotlight. 

And despite the fact we were delayed for about 45 minutes as they tried to get the ice off our plane’s wings, we arrived earlier than our set time of 9:15 a.m. 


Travel involves a lot of patience, especially in airports. While they may be the hubs for one of the fastest and most efficient forms of moving people across this earth, they still involve a shit-ton of standing still and waiting. 

After doing it in Toronto to check our bags, going through security and waiting to board the plane, there was yet more waiting up arrival in Orlando as my dad took to the line to get a rental car. 

The rest of the family, after grabbing our luggage, found a small collection of chairs nearby and waited. My name was being put down as the second driver on the rental van, so I needed to be there to provide my license and sign a couple things. Across the wide room, dominated by the escalator in centre, and lines of people milling about on the floor, was another wall of windows. However, outside this one was not snow, ice and darkness. Outside of this one was sunny skies and palm trees blowing in the breeze. I longed to get outside. I was already started to feel warm in my hoody and denim jacket. 

When that was all done, we finally made it outside. The air was muggy, but warm, and I stripped off my hoody on the way to the car, starting to remember what it was like to be outside and not completely hate life. 


After a small debacle trying to find our way out of the parking lot, which involved about five screaming voices and my dad driving over some spikes (they didn’t pop the tires), we found our way out of the parking garage, passing through an “Employee’s Only” lot as the attendant smirked at our stupidity. 

We had some time to kill, as the condo wasn’t going to be ready for us until mid-afternoon, but we drove in that direction. 

When we got close, food became a top priority. The stress levels in the car were still simmering as everyone’s fatigue and hunger began to swirl into a hangry cocktail. 

 My hunger snuck up on me, the growling in my stomach temporarily put at bay by the responsibilities of retrieving bags and getting the rental car. Yet, when someone mentioned breakfast, my stomach growled in response. We pulled into the Denny’s parking lot, alongside the rest of the population of Kissimmee, FL, and waited about 15 minutes for a table. 

The stress levels in the van were significantly depleted with everyone stuffed full of eggs, coffee and tea. 

It still wasn’t time to get into the condo yet, but we went to register anyway. 

That killed another 30 minutes, leaving another three hours. 

There were a few assorted yawns and a bit of frustration, but I think we were all pleased to have arrived and for the warm weather. Despite the fact it was starting to sprinkle rain, I was happy. 

I was in Florida. I was with family. There were no serious assignments or work for the next week! 

The resort we’re staying at is a sprawling acreage of condos and golf courses all wrapped together like a labyrinth decorated with palm trees, fountains and cyprus trees. 

We drove through to take a peak at the condo, which wasn’t ready yet, then moved to get some more food. 

We picked up some groceries for the condo, making sure to get some goodies to munch during the Super Bowl later that day. 

We got lucky after that. The second that the car was packed with the grocery bags, my mom’s phone jingled to life telling us the condo was ready. There was a brief celebration in the car as my dad headed in that direction.


Florida home. 

Florida home. 


A pair of Sandhill Cranes were picking away on the lawn to greet us. I hopped out with my camera and got within touching distance as I snapped away. The two long-legged waders eyed me with a mixture of curiosity and muted suspicion. Judging by their demeanour, the couple were used to the attention of humans, and it allowed me to get some pretty up close and personal pictures. 

With that done, and a massive smile on my face, I grabbed the rest of my stuff and headed inside. 

At that point, beers were cracked, cigars were smoked, and relaxation was had. 

My dad, brother and I played a few rounds of cribbage as evening approached. We cooked some dinner, drank a few more beers and waited for the game to start. 

My brother and his boyfriend went off to bed, and my mom followed into her own room shortly afterward, leaving the three of us to cheer The Eagles on to victory. 

All in all, it was a extremely long day, but capping it off with a few beers, good food and family, was the perfect end. 

Until tomorrow, thanks for reading. 

J.J.W. 


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Joel Wittnebel