As avid readers of RICH RIPLEY already know, our oldest daughter was fortunate enough to gain employment with an international company who, in turn, based her employment in tropical Miami Florida. Not having the time to drive her car down to Miami from Iowa herself, I took it upon myself to drive it down there…all 1500 miles. Now, normally, I’m pretty mild-mannered and not much of an adventurous soul, but the idea of getting out of town, and the cold (it’s been snowing ever so lightly here AND getting out of work for three days sounded like A DREAM VACATION. Just me, some classic rock and roll, assorted snacks and 1500 miles to sort out some things that have been on my mind. Priceless.
It went like this:
- Day One. Work half a day at the store then take off and drive seven hours…taking me south of St. Louis. I don’t think that I’ve ever been so happy to see a hotel in a long time. I’m so tired as I’ve brought along a sore throat and head cold with me.
- Day Two. Get on the road at six. I’ve got ten hours of driving to do, taking me from Illinois to Tennessee to Georgia back into Tennessee (dead serious…the interstate goes back NORTH for a few miles) then back into Georgia. I end up in southern Georgia. It’s a great day. Jammin’ to tunes. Looking at the scenery (Tennessee and Georgia are still in “fall foliage” mode with plenty of color left to enjoy). Southerners LOVE billboards. In south-central Georgia I witness these three billboards within miles of each other. “ADULT WAREHOUSE!!”, “ADULT SUPERSTORE…semi and RV parking in the rear!!” and “ADULT SUPERSTORE CENTRAL” (I can only imagine the wacky scenario’s that come up. “I need a price check on register five on a……”. I end up in Valdosta where I asked the front desk of my hotel about how long it took to get to Gainesville Florida (just ninety miles away) and I’m repeatedly told “we don’t live in FLORIDA, so we don’t KNOW.” I live in Iowa and can tell you just how long it takes to drive to Chicago ILLINOIS, Minneapolis MINNESOTA, Omaha NEBRASKA, Kansas City KANSAS and MISSOURI and the like. I think it had everything to do with their dislike of each others football teams (is it any wonder that they lost the Civil War?) I did, however, have my best meal of the trip in Valdosta.
Now being the usual stupid Midwesterner that I am I figured that it’d be warm, if not down right hot in Georgia, but it wasn’t. It was like 20 degrees almost to Atlanta.
Day Three. Valdosta Georgia to Miami Florida…six and a half hours. I’m thinking to myself that I wish that I had a couplea more days off…just to stop and visit some family and friends. I resign myself to do just that…hopefully within two years. My thoughts range to when I was a kid and family trips would be guided by Dad at the wheel of our ’72 Ford LTD with Mom as co-pilot, Atlas and a thermos of Folgers in hand. Now I’m guided by GPS and traffic delays are announced prior to me ever seeing them. Family and friends recovering from illnesses cross my mind and my prayers. Silence. Sweet silence. I don’t think that you can put a price on time spent with just your own thoughts. The weather gets warmer. The sweatshirt comes off. An hour later the A/C comes on. God…thank you for the warmth.
A big college football game between Florida State and Miami has the interstate filled with fans darting in and out of traffic while we all manage not to crash….four lanes wide…with the slowest lane going 70. I end up at my hotel and meet up with our daughter and going out to eat at a Cuban place. I order the Snapper but in south Florida the folks don’t always speak English…like our waitress. I knew that she understood the fish part of my order (partly because I pointed to the menu AND said “I WANT THE SNAPPER!!”) but the two side dishes that she explained (without me understanding anything that she said) I just touched her on her elbow and told her “whatever you bring me…I’ll eat.”
After the long drive, a good meal and great visit with Jordan we sat poolside and soaked up the late-day sun of southern Florida. I retired to my room after paying TEN DOLLARS for a watered-down Jim Beam and Coke (the hotel bartender in Valdosta may not have known how long it takes to get to Gainesville but she sure as heck knew how to pour a strong Jim Beam and Coke. It took away my stuffy head, my sore throat AND my 20/20 vision.
Day four. I get up at 2:45 AM Iowa time and ready myself for my flights. Miami to Dallas, Dallas to Cedar Rapids. Let’s just say that it got progressively colder as the day grew older.
Its so cold that even my luggage didn’t want to come back to Iowa. Its still in Dallas…somewhere.
Peace and good health to you and yours this holiday season!