Along for the Ride



Roberto Gonzalez

T he last couple of months have been full of great moments in transportation. It was revealed that the Voyager I spacecraft, launched 36 years ago, has reached interstellar space. We learned that Pope Francis is tooling around the Vatican in a 1984 Renault. Local time-share magnate David Siegel and wife Jackie told CNBC they plan to use Segways to navigate their new 90,000-square-foot mansion.

On a personal note, my bare-bones 2004 Honda Civic turned over 80,000 miles, and the roll-up window handle on the passenger’s side promptly fell off.

But let’s put a modern, visionary twist on travel, shall we? SunRail, the commuter train that will eventually extend 61 miles from DeLand to Osceola County, will begin taking its first passengers next spring. Plans for the privately financed All Aboard Florida train, linking Orlando and Miami, are also in high gear: Construction could begin next year, with completion in late 2015. 

Then there’s Drive Electric Orlando, an initiative involving Enterprise Rent-A-Car, local hotels and attractions whereby tourists can rent electric cars during their stay here. The program kicked off in early September with this news-to-me tidbit: The Orlando area already has 300 car-charging stations.
I attended the Drive Electric Orlando launch party at the former Peabody Orlando hotel and had the chance to drive one of the cars. But that Nissan Leaf was a little too quiet for my liking, so I simply watched. Although the test drivers were certainly excited, some also had that “driver’s ed stare’’ that I recall from high school—when you got behind the wheel and hoped that the teacher had the good sense to hit the passenger’s side brake pedal in time to save everyone from a student-induced inferno at a major intersection.

Yes, unfamiliarity breeds stark terror, but I’m sure that one day I will wonder what was so heroic about sticking with my Civic beater well beyond its better days. Maybe it’s because it was paid off long ago. Or perhaps it’s because I want it to see the true transportation Promised Land before it dies. That would be the $2 billion, 21-mile overhaul of Interstate 4. All those new lanes, all those new tolls…by 2020! Not to mention more gridlock once construction starts late next year.

Meanwhile, Voyager I continues its journey to who-knows-where, having left the solar system sometime last year and now more than 12 billion miles from Earth. It’s operating just fine on 40 kilobytes of memory, a fraction of what it takes to run your iPhone (Voyager doesn’t text while driving, by the way). Its science gear likely will stop working within the next decade; then the spacecraft will be freelancing to the great beyond, passing within 9 trillion miles of a star in another 40,000 years.
Just in time for Phase 6,000 of the I-4 makeover.

*****

Attention artists! It’s time to submit your entries for consideration in our 12th annual Paint the Town art show, to be held next spring at the Gallery at Avalon Island in downtown Orlando. We’re looking for your vision of Orlando in most any medium, from painting and photography to sculpture and mixed media. Go to orlandomagazine.com for details on how to submit your works.

 

BARRY GLENN
BARRY.GLENN@orlandomagazine.com
 

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