Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Illogical Shortcut

When I moved to Celebration, Florida, I knew that traffic would be a constant headache because I was moving into the heart of Tourist Land. It's manageable most of the time, but at peak times like the holidays it's best to stay home as much as possible or learn all the alternate routes, since main roads like 535, 192, and I-4 turn into veritable parking lots.

Ironically, one of the best shortcuts is driving through Disney property. You'd think that traffic would be worse right in the Belly of the Beast (or, better yet, Belly of the Mouse), but that's not really the case. I know it sounds illogical, but Disney World is actually the best shortcut during the peak season.

Most of the people who stay on site at the Disney World hotels seem to depend on the internal transportation system. Those who stay offsite clutter up the roads outside the resort much worse than they do around the theme parks. When I use Disney property as a shortcut, I mostly avoid the parks anyway. I tend to cut from Celebration to Crossroads (535) if I-4 is backed up and I'm heading to SeaWorld or Universal, or I bail off of West 192 at Black Lake or Sherbeth and take the back roads back home. The tourists are trying to get TO Disney World rather than wanting to drive THROUGH Disney world, which makes the illogical sounding shortcut a real time saver.

Of course, when you drive on Disney property, you're one of a tiny minority of locals in a sea of lost, confused tourists. The stress you save by not being in traffic is somewhat replaced by being surrounded by a predatory forest of cars that might "attack" by swerving into your lane, abruptly coming to a stop from 40 m.p.h., or some other type of dangerous behavior at any time. After a while, you actually develop a sixth sense on what a tourist is likely to do and the spots where they're most likely to do it.

I do pity the tourists a bit. Florida is famous for lanes that suddenly turn into "right turn only" or "left turn only" with literally no warning. I can just imagine some sadistic Sunshine State traffic planner saying, "If we have to deal with their tourist antics, we'll at least make them suffer a bit. The locals will learn where those lanes are, and they can laugh at the out-of-towners who get suckered into making turns they never wanted to make."

Fortunately, all of the mayhem is over for a while now. Peak season ended today, and the tourists are all heading back to real life after their holiday vacations. The streets are already blissfully deserted and I can take the main roads without relying on Mickey for my shortcuts. Still, I don't mind driving through Disney, even if it adds a bit of time to my trip. I've lived in Celebration for years now, yet I still get that little thrill at driving through the Walt Disney World gate. I guess a little part of me will be a tourist forever.

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