This is a follow-up post to my Goin’ South blog, about the first time I drove to Florida with my brother. Before I make the big U-turn and head back, there were a few later-remembered details about the trip down, and the stay, that I thought I’d present.
The first two occurred in/near Toledo, Ohio. First, I had worked for over seven years making parts for Jeeps. The Jeep plant is just off I-75, and can be seen clearly from the highway. It’s an old plant, parts of which are five floors tall. On the roof of the building, they display three or four different models, one of which is sitting on its ass at a 45 degree slant, looking like it’s climbing an elevator housing.
The I-75 bypass runs down the west side of Toledo, then across the southern edge. Just as it makes the big turn to the south again, across the highway sits the largest Muslim mosque in the United States. The huge white building, with its gold-colored dome is very impressive.
We shared the driving. Rest areas on the highway are about forty miles apart. One of us would drive, and stop at every third rest area. Since we drove at 110/120 KmH, which is 65/70 MPH, the hundred and twenty miles took us about two hours. Then we’d pull in, jump out, stretch and walk to the washrooms, get something to drink, trade drivers and be on the road again in about five minutes.
All the way down I-75, at every rest area we stopped at, the men’s washrooms were on the left, and the women’s were on the right. I believe it was at the welcome center near the Georgia border. We pulled in and, since I was passenger, I got to the washrooms first. I plunged through the left door, and it took me several seconds to wonder why there were no urinals. I backed out quickly. Fortunately there were no female customers or a security guard to explain why I was in the women’s washroom, to, at four in the morning.
While in Florida, we went to Kissimmee, where there is a huge flea market under roofs. I bought a copy of the floating bill trick, at a magic shop for my son. The flea market was across the road and just down the street from a Medieval Times dinner/show. Apparently it’s not there anymore, but there is one in Toronto, a little over an hour down the highway.
We also went to a place called Olde Towne, in Orlando. It’s a tourist cash siphon with period restaurants and cars on display, as well as a plethora of little shops selling trinkets of all types. This was the first place I had ever seen a shop selling semi-precious stones, so I bought some and some holders, for the wife. These shops have since made their way into Canada. There’s one up at the farmer’s market. The son has thirteen different carved stone skulls, from thumb-tip sized, to golf-ball.
I had won a contest in a knife magazine, and received a hand-made knife from a maker in Orlando. In my thank-you letter to him, I said that, if I were ever near him, I would stop in to visit. Here was my first chance. I borrowed the van and drove into the city. I missed an exit on a toll-road and had to pay an unnecessary charge, both going, and coming back. We spent a nice morning. I saw his neighbor’s mint Corvair. He had a map, with pins, of all the people he had sold knives to. Not knowing anything about Ontario, he had my pin in the muskeg, somewhere just off Hudson’s Bay, so I correctly placed it for him.
We left to go home on the next Saturday morning. Early! I had provided a Koolatron, an insulated chest with an electrical heat exchange unit for keeping things cold. It could plug into a cigarette lighter, and had an adapter for in-home use. We prechilled it Friday and took it out and plugged it into the van Friday evening. We were up at five AM, finished closing up the trailer, and were ready to hit the road by five-thirty. And the Koolatron had killed the ten-year-old battery.
Now what do we do? He complained that “the old folks” in the park slept in, sometimes till seven-thirty or eight o’clock. While we were still thinking about who to wake up, and when, a young man in his late teens came around delivering newspapers. At first I thought it was SightnBytes’ rusty Corolla, but it was a beat-up red Datsun. We waved him down and he had jumper cables and agreed to help start the van. At last we were on our way home. An hour *late*, but moving north.
The trip back was just like the drive down, only without a visit to a women’s washroom, and still no mountain scenery. Three years in a row I made this trip, and six times I missed the Appalachians because they were always in the night portion of our trips. I had to wait a couple more years till I could afford to take the wife to South Carolina, to see the wonders of the mountains. He and I had a late supper at a seafood restaurant near Mount Airie, where Andy Griffith lived, 3500 feet up and two hundred miles from the ocean. I remembered it and took an appreciative, seafood-loving wife there five years later.
This was my first long driving trip, and I found I liked it. I became a bit of a map-nut from studying the road-atlas, to see where we were. I now have two road-atlases and two hardcover atlases at home and often look up exactly where a newspaper story occurred.
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