The 2016 Election

Above:  After leaving St. Joseph State Park on the Florida panhandle, I started heading south.  My first stop was at Rainbow Springs State Park, where I spent two days, mostly following the upcoming election.

I got back on the road on a beautiful Sunday morning and left St. Joseph State Park, driving west along U.S. 98, known as the Gulf Coast Highway.  I headed back through Apalachicola and its Piggly Wiggly, then gradually turned south.  The geology in this part of the state is known as “karst,” a landscape that’s underlain by limestone which has been eroded and dissolved by groundwater, resulting in a wonderful panoply of freshwater springs strewn across the region.  That includes one of the most beautiful, Rainbow Springs near Ocala, which is now a Florida State Park.  Rainbow Springs, in fact, would be my home for the next few nights. 

After checking in with a friendly ranger at the park headquarters building, I found my campsite, in a mostly-deserted loop with my closest neighbor being a Floridian who proudly waved a large Confederate flag next to his trailer.  Decades ago Confederate flags didn’t bother me much, because I didn't fully understand what they stood for.  Heck, when I was in college back in the 1980s, I loved watching “The Dukes of Hazzard” and their Confederate flag-draped Dodge Charger, which they called the "Robert E. Lee." 

But times have changed and so have I, and I see the flag differently now.  There's a saying in Florida that "the farther south you go, the farther north you go," meaning that the northern part of the state holds strong to its Dixie roots while the southern part has been largely infiltrated by northerners in recent years, especially retirees.  And having lived in Florida before, I definitely think that's true.  I wondered how the guy, here in northern Florida, would feel if I brazenly waved a flag at my campsite that said something equally ignorant and hateful like, "Southerners Who Wave Confederate Flags Are Morons."  Fine, wave a Confederate flag at your house or business if you want to display your "rebellious spirit" or whatever you call it.  But in public places, think about other people.  I've driven through the South many times over the past 30 years and fortunately no Confederate flag-waver has ever bothered me – but perhaps that's because I'm white.  I stayed well clear of the guy and otherwise enjoyed my stay at the quiet campground that evening.

The next day, Monday, November 5, was the day before the 2016 presidential election.  I haven't mentioned this in my website but I am the ultimate political junkie, and I have been my entire life.  I prepared for Election Night in November 1968 at the tender age of eight by drawing a map of the United States (my geographic tendencies emerging even then) and colored in each state as the election results from Walter Cronkite rolled in.  I can’t remember what colors I used to show the Democratic (Hubert Humphrey) vs. Republican (Richard Nixon) victories, but this was long before the “Republican Red State vs. Democratic Blue State” thing came along (wasn't that around 2004?)  And four years later when I was in eighth grade, I got into frequent heated political discussions with my lunchtime pals in junior high, including Mark and Troy, whom I visited previously on this trip in Minneapolis and San Diego respectively.  I’m still good friends with them and now, over 40 years later, we still occasionally have lively political debates – although we don't throw Ding Dongs at each other anymore.  Well, not too much.

So yes, I’m still a political fanatic, one of the most engaged political fans that you’ll find outside the Washington D.C. beltway.  I’ve been keeping close tabs on this election during my current trip around America, reading every poll result, following the primaries closely in the spring, listening to both conventions while camping in Colorado this summer, and this fall listening to every debate while camping around the northeast or watching them at my brother's house in Connecticut.  So it shouldn't surprise you that on Monday, instead of walking over to look at the Rainbow Springs, which the rangers had told me were fabulous, I spent the entire day sitting at my campsite glued to my laptop while listening to news broadcasts from all the last-minute campaigning that was going on around the country.

I continued listening to the campaign broadcasts while eating dinner at my campsite on Monday evening.  And I was still listening a few hours later, after I got in the back of my truck and threw my sleeping bag over me.  Virtually every poll had Hillary Clinton ahead by several points and most pundits were saying that Donald Trump didn't have a chance.  In fact, HuffPost's sophisticated political model pegged Clinton’s chance of victory at 99%.  Her victory looked like a sure thing because pollsters are never wrong, are they? 

Rainbow Springs State Park



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