Trixie watches the GPS in the car, wondering when we would reach our destination.
We didn’t leave until well after 3; and Gainsville was three hours on – so no other stops for us.
Driving hard north, going on to Lake City, Florida, through downpours that almost blotted out the road, but in the black of the night we made it to the Holiday Inn – even though we went off the first exit rather than the second, because the only stop we made after being misdirected by the GPS as we wandered around on the GPS map was at a seedy gas station that was just waiting to have its first murder of the day.
All I had programmed in at that point was Lake City; I had initially put in Lakeland to avoid returning to the mess and off-course route of Tampa. And at least until the downpour, the road was all right.
The bridge from Sanibel to Fort Myers
We tried to drive the length of the island, but gave up because we needed to visit a friend and her husband in Arcadia, so again we drove through the insane mess of roadways, nearly getting into a major accident when some moron in a white contractor’s van ran a red light and nearly into us. What should we expect in a NASCAR state?
At least after that, it was a country road that took us well off the planned route, to Arcadia, and we had a lovely visit with our friends, who were delighted to have company; we had lunch, talked about everything under the sun, and with Trixie (who explored the whole house ahead of time) got a tour of the sprawling settlement.
Concrete barriers block views on the narrow ribbon of highway leading to the Florida Keys.
With that stop done, we moved onto Florida’s Turnpike, and headed south to Key Largo; the drive was rather monotonous, and the Florida toll system is weird; they do not use EZ-Pass that is common in the northeast, and at some points we pass places that state they are taking pictures of the license plate tags and will send us a bill in the mail.
The turnpike went fast though – and soon we were paralleling the Everglade park, along a long two-lane highway that was all that is left of Route 1/1A and I-95 when you get this far south. As if to remind us we were leaving Florida, the Jersey Barriers were painted or stained a light blue – and with all the barriers and fences, it was like driving a slot car racer.
Congestion in Chicago.
Today was a series of disappointments that became a driving day only.
The hotel we stayed at, the Best Western Clocktower Resort sounded great on paper, but in reality it was a sprawling decaying shell of its former promises. No shops, only one of two promised restaurants, beautiful empty pools and a labrynth of endless hallways that surrounded a dank green courtyard. Road noise from the nearby highway was muted at least, but the comings and goings of the neighboring inmates and their yappy dogs could be easily heard. The worst disappointment was the breakfast, served in the defunct restaurant – the waitress was no where to be found when Pops arrived, but she popped up noisily when he was preparing a modest dish to take back to the room. Apparently, taking food out of the restaurant was forbidden.
So it was cereal bars for breakfast for Mum and Pops. Trixie had her usual fare.
The main route out of Rockford to Detroit passes directly through Chicago, and for thirty-five miles of it, we were delayed by road construction that had ripped up half the road to enlarge it. Thus an hour’s drive was drawn out to two or so hours as we threaded our way around these massive obstacles, and got to see the hazy skyline of the city – and nothing else.
You can drive on for miles without the sight of an exit on this interstate – indeed, the exits seemed to be numbered by milepost markers, rather than the order in which they appear on the highways. Only a few rock outcrops can be seen here and there as we went along, and those became fewer and further between, looking more like dirty lint poking out of the rich black soil.
Indianapolis arose unexpectedly, and rather than taking us around the city, the GPS took us through the heart of it, a daunting task given that the city, despite its love of cars, did not join the two sections of Route 70 and Route 74 properly, forcing us to drive an awkward roundabout route on roads best left to the locals – although the roads and streets were oddly vacant, as if everyone had left for holiday. Back home, even on a weekday, Lafayette Road is an impassable mess during the winter. Here – not so much.
We did get to see the outside of the Indianapolis Speedway before returning to the westward route; the massive steel grandstands hid the track behind grey girders where thousands of screaming fans swelter in the sun to watch men expertly drive cars at a breakneck speed in a circle.
We paused again in Crawfordville, Indiana for lunch, daring to visit a Crackerbarrel – it might be a fine place for a sit-down meal, but we have Trixie with us. Worse, the gift shop only had generic Americana, not regional souvenirs. A shame. Luckily, the old standby of McDonalds was there across the street.
One of the many tunnels cut through the mountains of Pennsylvania along Interstate 76
The one thing Mum was impressed by as we drove were the number of mountains we went past – and through, since they built tunnels through these long stretching ridges of forest-covered ridges and rises, stretching from southwest to northeast. These are not like the mountains back home – layers of rock in dusty grays, rusty reds and tans poke out where the roads were cut through them, in some cases showing off a small landslide because they are so soft compared to the unyielding granite of New Hampshire.
The forests are different as well, with fewer pines, and more deciduous trees – many poplars I imagine from their height and straightness, reaching for the sky along these deep-cut roads. Some are dead, a ghostly white-grey, reaching for the skies with skeletal fingers.
Between the mountains and forests lay fields, some ten times the size of farm fields back home, filled with the crops of summer – in one, Trixie spied some deer frolicking about. There are plenty of deer here – and we see too many dead ones on the side of the road, along with other unfortunate animals that tried to cross the road.
We paused for gas and to reprogram the GPS to take us onto Carlisle, PA, our destination for the night. This took us southward, through New Jersey and into the rolling green hills of Pennsylvania, already lush with fields of green corn and other crops.
The one constant we see on these roads though is a distressing one – blown-out tires. It is a nuisance and a hazard to spy these black remnants of someone’s misfortune because they were too cheap to buy new tires, and opted to take a chance with retreaded tires. Not only did they lose their gamble that these tires would last, they put other drivers at risk from the steel and metal bits littering the roadside. One piece of a tire hit us in Massachusetts, leaving a mark on the car. But Trixie doesn’t think anything will be done to solve this problem.
We arrived in Carlisle with daylight to spare, and found the Hampton Inn we are spending the night at – a finely done newer building that has taken ideas from the cruise lines for its room arrangements, in the form of a cornered bathroom, and recessed entries in the hallways. Compared to other hotels, it is quite luxurious without being over-extravagant or over expensive.
Total miles between refueling stops: 263