In early November of 2020, I took a trip south to Jacksonville, Florida for business. The State of Florida was open for business as COVID-19 numbers were declining. I’ve been really careful this entire pandemic, observing social distancing and wearing my masks religiously, so I figured (and prayed) I’d be okay on this trip. I hadn’t been to Jacksonville in many decades, but vividly remember the river boardwalk and the putrid smell of sulfur in the air when I did. It left a bad taste in my mouth about the city (or should I say in my nostrils).
I was headed to Florida for a multi-location commercial shoot for my company. Only this time, the drive felt different. After being nervous about traveling during COVID and being on semi-lockdown since March 2020, it was really nice to get out. And fortunate for me, I’m no longer that really young guy who wanted to break my last trip time’s record with each new trip down I-75 South. Instead, I rather enjoyed driving around the State at a steady pace that allowed me to actually soak in the sights and appreciate the opportunity to travel. I think not being able to travel or pretty much anything for so long will help many people really appreciate the blessings in life (no matter how large or small) once we pull through this global pandemic.
As I got closer to Jacksonville, after enjoying hundreds of miles of sunshine with only one highway patrolman with a radar spotting, the clouds and everything else shifted. Typical Florida. Notorious fast moving rain storms that come and go, leaving the Florida roads and swamps to steam up after each downpour. Fortunately for me, I was in no hurry as I entered metro Jacksonville’s city limits. However, I can’t say the same for the three cars that had just passed me in a hurry trailing each other – yes even in the hazardous weather. There were 3 State Troopers lined up in wait, in a speed trap, and pulled over all three of the cars in succession. Whew! Glad I was in my new grown-man state of mind and taking my time. As I got closer to the downtown area, the speed limit was even slower and even more troopers were monitoring the interstate. Well, then again, Thanksgiving was around the corner and bills have to get paid right? Driving immediately became a more tense experience, trying to stay exactly on the speed limit while others who know the local roads drove by visibly pissed that I would have the audacity to drive at the speed. No one wants to have to deal with local law enforcement while vacationing, right!? Welcome to Jacksonville… now slow down!
I finally reached the downtown area and really couldn’t recall anything visually from my trip decades ago. However, the smell was gone and that’s all that mattered. Two of the prominent paper mills shut down in the late ‘90s, and the city’s sewage treatment plants and turpentine plants both modified their practices to lower their odor output to an acceptable level.
As with most cities during Covid-19, the streets were bare and many businesses along the way didn’t seem really busy. And as with most vacations, you wonder what type of area will your hotel or lodging be in as you get closer and closer to your destination. For this reason, I launched 3D Travel Club.
For this trip I chose the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront. Honestly, I always study the maps on the hotel rental websites pretty intensely, looking for the highest star rating I can find at the best price for my budget.