Friday, February 5, 2010

Travelogue: Florida or Bust

I'm sure my readers have read interesting stories of exciting travels. Here's mine...

We plan our annual trek to Florida for the month of February. That seemed like the best time for us to get away given our schedules. Three days before our departure the weatherman started his warning calls. It seems that extremely heavy snow was predicted the second we pulled out of the driveway. Using better judgement, we decided to wait until early afternoon to travel instead of early morning. We were all packed up and ready to go....1st mistake!

Looking at the Weather Channel we saw that the storm was moving quickly so it looked good for us to leave around 1pm. So off we went heading for the highways. But first, Geri insisted we stop by our son's house and pick up a fishing rod....2nd mistake! The roads leading to his house were treacherous. The side streets were almost impassable and we hadn't even left Baltimore City yet!

I assured my wife that the major highways would be salted and cleared so that travel on the Interstates would be a joy....3rd mistake! There was so much snow on I-95 that even the 18-wheelers couldn't see the lanes they were in. I just picked a spot behind the 18-wheelers and rode in their ruts. We passed at least 10 vehicles stranded in the gullies between the North and South sides of the highway.

This pattern was as our sole source of travel until we arrived at Rocky Mount, North Carolina, some 8 hours later. The trip would have been made in 5 hours under regular conditions. Our average speed was 35 MPH. It was 17 degrees with a 20 MPH wind blowing.

The next morning we were up early, ate a free Continental Breakfast (not sure which Continent it was supposed to be from). We left Rocky Mount heading South. Driving down the street from the hotel we couldn't find the exit back onto I-95. When we spotted it, there was about 20 feet between where were were (I think we were on a road) and the exit. I brazenly pulled into the medium strip to get to the exit and got stuck in the snow. First I drove and Geri pushed, then Geri drove and I pushed. After 10 minutes of this waltz we got the Prius out. Thanks to all the drivers who rode by us without stopping!

Did I forget to tell you that the gas meter registered "E" and it was BLINKING! When it blinks that means "don't be stupid, get to a gas station right away". We asked our trusty English Waitress on the Garman where the closest gas station was and she gave us some phone numbers. It was 7:30am and in the first three, no one answered. I was getting a little worried but my macho face never showed it. On the fifth call a guy answered and said he was open. After giving him her Polish Blessing, my wife gathered the directions to his oasis.

Back again on I-95 heading South. No salt, no snow plows, no lane lines, and plenty of ice. I can deal with snow, even on the Interstate, but not ice. Those crazy 18-wheelers must think snow and ice don't apply to them the way they sped past us. So thanks to the States of Virginia and North Carolina who would rather invest in keeping the exits open to their convenience stores than plow the main highways.

All of a sudden, when we passed Pedro's "South of the Border" the snow and ice started to disappear. South Carolina was our Saviour. The trip from there was great, averaging 70 MPH. We had a 13-hour trip that day to get to Ft Myers Beach. Even though I suggested getting some empty bottles so we wouldn't have to stop at restrooms, my crew wouldn't hear of that. Wife and dog Pepper insisted on three or four stops.

So we flew along all the way until 30 minutes short of our final destination. Geri checked the iPhone map and there was a long RED LINE on the screen indicating traffic stopped. We lost at least 30 minutes there and I still don't know why. We arrived at Ft Myers Beach at 11pm after leaving Rocky Mount at 7am.

Oh, did I forget to tell you it rained in Ft M B the next two days!!!

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