Heading North

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.

P.S.

www.granmaladybug.wordpress.com is now on the air.  First blogs about cats, to be followed by cooking, candlemaking, etc.  Visit at your own risk.

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Goin’ South

Mom and Dad stayed, for several winters, with the Tylers, when they went to Florida to get away from the Southern Ontario winters.  Eventually, Bogey Tyler changed his crop schedule and needed his 55-foot trailers for migrant workers again.  My brother had lost a long-term job and got another in the grounds-crew of a local golf course.  This gave him eight to nine months of work, and then off for the winter.

After a couple of years, he got a better paying job with a small company that made commercial window and door awnings.  Sadly, the same eight to nine months of work still applied.  Nobody wants to purchase, or install outdoor awnings, in February.  Ineligible for unemployment insurance, he felt he might as well spend some time in the warm south, and joined the parents.  Recently divorced, he had to sell “their” house and split the money.  He was wondering what to do with his meager half, when the news came that they would have to find new quarters for the next winter.

The parents’ house came with a small upstairs apartment.  For years they rented to a local nurse, but eventually she moved on.  Then followed a series of worse and worse tenants, until finally Dad just said no more.  When the brother lost his house, the parents let him move in upstairs at no cost.  He was there to do yard work, run errands and keep an eye on them.  He decided to purchase a mobile home in a nearby Florida park so that they would all have a place to go in the winter.

The parents eventually reached a point where it was physically impossible for them to drive to Florida.  Mom and I used to correspond a letter a week.  One day I got a letter from her that said, “I had a heart attack.”  She hadn’t, but I almost did.  That is not the kind of information to convey in a letter, a middle-of-the-night phone call perhaps, but not a letter.  The next winter Dad thought he was having a heart attack, and my brother drove for three days to get him to a hospital in Windsor, because they could not get health insurance.

Just when they could no longer go south, my brother got a year-round job and had to stay north, both to work, and to take care of them.  He made arrangements with the park management to administer winter rental on the unit, but still had to make sure it was cleaned, the furnace worked and propane, water and electricity were supplied.  These were best done in person. His new employer was busy in the summer and slow at the end of year.  The first year they allowed him a week’s holiday near the first of December, and he called me to ask if I wanted to go on the trip with him.  I didn’t have to work as hard readying the trailer as I did at the plant, and I hadn’t been south of the Canada/US border in twenty years, so I jumped at the chance.  I had enough seniority that I could book the week off easily.

In his early retirement, Dad had driven to both Canadian coasts, but as they both aged, the long drive from Ontario to Florida became three short days of driving, and two nights in motels.  My brother however, loved to drive, and with only nine days to get a lot accomplished, saw no reason to waste valuable time or money.  I was warned that we would be driving straight through, and I was expected to spell him at the wheel.

I’ve said that my brother is an early morning person.  Excitement may have prevented a lot of sleep after finishing work Friday night, but at least he finished at 5 PM.  I had an afternoon shift, and wasn’t home till after eleven.  I don’t know what time he was up, but he told me he left home at five.  From his place, straight to the border was almost four hours.  The run to pick me up was two hours, and we were still almost four hours from Windsor.  I climbed in his van at 7 AM, and the race was on.

The connection from the bridge at Detroit to I-75 is two miles and seven stop lights.  The back-up at customs was relatively light.  Once we were on I-75, it’s a straight run to within fifteen miles of his camp in Florida.  I saw Michigan, Ohio and the beginning of Kentucky before it got dark.  After that, I knew we were in the mountains, because I could look out the window and doowwnn, and see lights, but entirely missed the vistas.

The sun came up again when we were just north of Atlanta, Georgia.  Just in time to catch the morning rush.  Down the hill into town, over a little flat spot, and down again, and traffic came to a complete stop for no apparent reason.  All except the guy in the next lane.  Screeeech, bang!  I didn’t witness anything, keep moving!  Nothing against Georgia but, unlike the beautiful mountain scenery I’d missed up north, in the dark, Georgia is flat, and orange.  People say the soil is red.  It’s prison jumpsuit orange.  I’ve seen roadside billboards, but this was the first trip I’d seen them on top of fifty, or hundred-foot steel poles.  Hotels?  Okay!  Restaurants?  Okay!  Boiled peanuts at every exit?  It was several years before I got a chance to try them.

We drove on into Florida, slid off I-75 onto the Florida Turnpike, slid off again onto a smaller highway, and climbed out of the van in front of the trailer at about nine AM.  We napped (?) until mid-afternoon and went looking for supper.  This, the first year I went down, we went to Daytona Beach and I swam, for the first time in the Atlantic.  My brother does not swim, and begrudged me the time.  Then we went back to Daytona, where he wasted an hour at the museum, while I explored the stands at the Freeway.

This was a strange, rushed way to travel, but it did leave time for me to see and experience some pleasant and interesting things.  Some day, when you’ve all had lots of sleep, I’ll tell you all about them.

 

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