Day 1: Tampa, Florida
“It is better to travel well than to arrive”
—Siddhartha Guatama (the Buddha)
We started off our trip on Tuesday the 18th by getting a ride from my dad’s business, partner Baldev Singh Bambrha, up to Sacramento International Airport. In front of the Southwest terminal, we grabbed our bags and guitar cases (yes, we all brought guitars—it’s going to be a musical trip) and thanked Singh for the ride.
Going through airport security involved taking off shoes, belts, phones and, in my case, a poorly planned pocketful of small change. We gathered our bags and followed the martial injunction to “hurry up and wait.” I wandered off to gaze hungrily at the newsstands. I eyed an issue of Lappham’s Quarterly enviously, but thought it better to hold on to the fifteen dollars. I skimmed through the Economist and the New Yorker. Instead, I broke a parsimonious five dollar bill over a two dollar copy of the Wall Street Journal.
Two hours later, we boarded our plane. Stowing the guitars, we settled into our three contiguous seats and waited for takeoff. Within a few minutes, the jet engines began to roar, the world seemed to shake and in an instant we were airborne. The plane banked as it ascended and the sun traced the edge of the wing, reflecting light in through the windows. I settled in and read long articles in my Wall Street Journal about Syria and the Dow and German bond trading. Reilly plugged in his IPod headphones. I drank a rum and coke.
About an hour later, we landed in Las Vegas for a quick layover and had slices of pizza at an airport restaurant. Soon back on the plane, we were taking off again, staring out the windows at the shrinking Vegas Strip, with its pyramidal Luxor hotel and the golden Mandalay Bay. The desert sun shone over the housing developments and barren, brown expanses outside the city. I broke out my Wall Street Journal again. I drank another rum and coke.
Finding the nuances of German bond trading a little difficult to grasp, I abandoned my rum and coke and ordered a coffee, soon to be followed by two more. Looking out the windows, I found the sun had set. My father and brother and I debated whether the lights we saw below were Dallas, or New Orleans or Mobile. Our speculation unconfirmed, the descent into Tampa began.
After touching down around 1 AM local time, we were met by Linda and picked up our luggage. It was then I discovered what humidity is. Walking into the parking garage to Linda’s car, I thought we had walked into a sauna. “How ritzy” I thought, “a sauna in the airport”; but no—this is just normal weather for Florida. I’ve travelled in my life, but humidity like this was new to me. I’d describe the experience as the entirety of the outdoors being like a steamy hot shower. The air is thick and warm and wet and clings to you.
We drove North up Highway 41 to Linda’s home in Hudson. My father calls her neighborhood “Wrinkle City,” as most of the residents are retired (this causes some consternation). Linda’s home is nice, and immaculately clean. As we step outside, I’m surprised at how salient nature is here; small frogs jump in the thick grass; we hear insects and birds and God knows what coming from a stand of trees. Later we see squirrels and hawks and Sand Hill Cranes.
I walked out front with Reilly to talk with him as he smoked a cigarette. Seeing that the ground was wet (though it wasn’t raining), I ran back in to grab my shoes. Shoes on, I opened the front door again and—rain was pouring down in buckets. Reilly explained that that is what Florida weather is like (he’s been to the South before, in 2010 on another road trip). A minute later, the rain stops completely and almost instantly. Another two minutes or so and it’s pouring again.
Florida weather is something else. In addition to the jet lag (it’s three hours earlier here), it’s going to take some acclimation but there are so many exciting prospects for this trip.