PrologueWhat we are doing, and why we're doing it!
We entered Florida on the panhandle, near Fort Walton Beach. It didn't take much wandering around to realize that we were well and truly in hurricane country. The impact was most noticeable near the water where we saw smashed docks, partially sunken boats, plastic tarp covered roofs, and the occasional building that had been completely blown apart. It looked as if a divine hand had rolled dice across the community, devastating some and leaving others untouched.
Seeing the reality of the damage gave us pause to think about our interest in settling in Florida. It wasn't, however, enough to discourage us completely. As we continued traveling eastward along the panhandle, we left behind the damage left by the summer storms.
The coast along the western panhandle is speckled with small resort/retirement communities, some of which are incredibly picturesque. The lack of a good job market kept us moving along toward Jacksonville, which looked like the first place that might be a candidate for our new home.
As it turned out, Jacksonville didn't have the thriving economy that we hoped to find. It seemed a pleasant place, but lacked the vibrancy we sought.
The trip down the Atlantic coast to Daytona Beach was somewhat reminiscent of the coast along the panhandle. There are a profusion of small towns and villages, all lacking a healthy job market.
Daytona Beach marked our departure from the Atlantic coast. It was time to head inland to fulfill a promise we had made to the kids to visit the theme parks in Orlando.
Once checked in to the RV park near Disney World, we headed for Epcot. The international pavilions provided ample opportunity for dining, and the occasional shows were entertaining. The Disney-MGM park had thrill rides galore. The 'Tower of Terror' was particularly memorable. Universal Studios was also great.
While everyone had their favorites, the Animal Kingdom park was a real surprise. There was a lot to do, and they had a collection of wildlife in a setting the rivals the best zoos in America. Of all of the parks in the Orlando area, it's the best place for photography by far.
In addition to ample entertainment, Orlando also seemed to have a vibrant economy, and reasonable housing prices. It was the first city in Florida that had some appeal as a place to live, but it's a long way to the ocean for water loving folks. We decided to continue west to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.