First of all, I want to pay respects for the people who have already died from the hurricane that has went through Haiti and is on it’s way up the east coast of the USA. I hope people are smart and safe. This story is about the time that Victoria and I drove to Florida on a whim and ended up in the middle of a hurricane.
Years ago, On a Friday night, my friend Victoria called me and said that she had just finished her last exam for the semester and wanted to do something fun. I suggested we take one of our legendary road trips. Now, I say this because we had done too many road trips with no real purpose for any of them. But we usually had fun and our friendship had remained intact through most of them.
Driving west was out of the question because the drive to Pecos feels like a week long, and there is still another few hundred miles between Pecos and El Paso. I wanted instant gratification, so I suggested we head east to the beautiful sunny beaches of Florida… Granted I had never been to Florida before, but what I heard and have seen in movies, it looked pleasant enough. I expected it to look like the Birdcage, I mean, why not right?
Just one hour after our phone call, we loaded in to her lime green beetle and headed west. We made a quick pit stop at Wal-Mart first just to load up on snacks and silly hats first. We made exceptional timing driving on highway 10. The speed limit was 80 and every car driving on it was going closer to 100 miles per hour, so we kept up. We did make a pit stop at a gas station in Louisiana that looked as though it belonged in the film Deliverance. They had so many alligator heads mounted on the walls, and every guy in there was over 300 pounds, pale as snow, except for the horrible farmers tanned arms and only wearing overalls. It was scary, so Victoria made our purchases quickly and jumped back in the car hoping to never be unfortunate enough to stop their again. The cool thing about Louisiana is that you can legally drink and drive, just not be drunk.
We listened to music, sang song, told stories, gossiped, and had a pretty good time. We were both pleasantly surprised when we saw the sun come up and we were just crossing the Florida border. We made it from Austin to Pensacola in only 12 hours. All the credit is given to Victoria who drove the entire way. She was amazing. We pulled over at a rest stop and were delighted when they offered us free samples of orange juice. You know, because it’s Florida. We hadn’t really been paying attention to the news or weather reports, but as we continued our journey, originally meant for Miami, we became aware.
We finally got to Jacksonville and noticed that we were the only car trying to drive east. Everyone else was going West and quickly too. We started to head south on highway 95, but here we also noticed everyone was headed north. Then the real terror struck us, the street signs on the highway had all been removed. Neither of us had ever lived in a hurricane zone, and we were not used to such oddities. So we quickly exited and made our way north, but we needed to pull over and get gas. Another blow, most of the gas stations were closed and the ones that weren’t had large signs saying “Out of Gas.” Driving on the last few droplets of gasoline in the tank, we arrived at a gas station with lines that went 6 cars deep. We finally got to the pump and filled up. Thank god.
As we realized that the whole beach idea was a no go, we decided to drive back and maybe stay a night in New Orleans. Well driving east, the highways were closed off. We had no option but to drive up north through Georgia, and not just a few miles, but half way to Atlanta. Finally Victoria spots a small country road that wasn’t blocked off and I pulled out the map trying to figure out a route for us to take to get home.
Both of us were physically and mentally exhausted. We did make it to New Orleans, but the odor of the town, and the standing water all around the dirty streets and homeless people walking around half clothed was just another sign we needed to get back home. So we stayed in New Orleans for all of 10 minutes with the windows up and doors locked.
Finally our journey had ended. The 12 hour drive there was nothing compared to the 24 hour drive back. We stopped and napped in the car in a parking lot of a mall, which was the most sleep either of us got the entire trip.
I don’t think either of us had much affection for Florida before the trip, but after this experience, it was non-existent. So yes, to answer your question, we drove all the way to Florida, overnight and we never once saw a beach. I have been to Florida since, and found some wonderful places to see and play. And of course, anytime someone wants to re-live a Golden Girls experience call me and I’ll go back. But the moral of the story is that if you’re going to do an impromptu road trip, check the weather conditions first.