Monday, August 07, 2006

Alligator Alley

When I first moved to Florida, the route that is now I-75 was a notorious death trap of 18-wheelers roaring down the two-lane highway, drunk crackers, and was littered with the bodies of dead armadilloes and Florida panthers. Or so I heard-tell; the drive was so notorious, I always took a more northerly route across the state through the sugar plantations at the foot of Lake Okeechobee.

Driving back from Sarasota to Fort Lauderdale today, the Everglades channel reported that the tunnels for animals beneath the four-lane divided highway have been a success. Larger fleet animals such as deer and panther will travel miles, apparently, to get to an underpass. Smaller animals, such as fox, don't travel that far from their hunting grounds and don't use the tunnels. But sturdy fences keep them off the highway, too, and from hurting themselves and motorists.

A program on National Public Radio continued my traveling education. I can get real excited about preserving the wetlands when I listen to the sparkling descriptions of Marjory Stoneman Douglas of River of Grass fame, or Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who wrote Cross Creek. In theory, preserving the environment is a good thing. In reality, I'm not much for wading through bug- and alligator-infested swamps.

It's easy to get up the West Coast with the improved superhighway that has outgrown the derogatory "alligator alley" appellation. And bravo for the folks who like to go out canoeing in the wilderness. Go for it. I'll stay home and watch the documentary.

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