A Wild Ride To Florida
A Wild Ride to Florida
We rolled into Estero, Fl. This morning after a three-day, 24-hour driving time ride, from Western New York. We had seen much in our short journey, including the absolute physical beauty of the rolling hills of West Virginia. On a sunny day, they stretch out before you in a rolling green range of mountains and forests that take your breath away. From the vantage point of 3,500 feet you can see forever.
Just as we were about to start our descent, on a seven-mile thrill ride down into the Carolina plateau, traffic came to an absolute halt.
We sat for two hours, inching forward and wondering what obstacle blocked our path. We were to find out later that a horrific crash of two tractor trailers and a passenger’s vehicle shut down all traffic on Rte. 77, one of the busier north/south highways in the east. In that it occurred in the mountains, away from media coverage, it did not get reported on the evening news. But the 20,000 vehicles, that stretched backward, in a 15-mile-long traffic back up, all knew something had happened.
……. When we did break free, the ride down into the Carolina plains is awesome. You can see scores of miles towards the distant Atlantic Ocean. The knobbed horn of Pilot Mountain, near Greenville, North Carolina is visible on the car horizon. In between lies a velvet carpet of farms and communities that glistened in the late afternoon sun. We made it to Statesville, just shy of Charlotte, N.C.
…….. The next morning greeted us with a rain storm of daunting proportions. We were riding into an ocean based storm that raged eastward from Charleston, on the Coast, northwestward to Charlotte in the interior. All you could do while driving was grip the wheel tightly and point your chariot into the fog hoping no one hit the brakes precipitously. Fortunately, the rain storm broke at the coast as we careened southwards on I-95 through South Carolina and Georgia. The scented pines here alert your olfactory senses. The red, iron-rich soil shines up at you. It has the feel of travelling through a pine scented tunnel of conifers.
…….. We crossed rivers and watersheds aplenty. The Savannah River is they divider between S. Carolina and Georgia. It is navigable up to a point westward. The flat and dry plains of Georgia were almost a welcome diversion as we wended our way south.
…….. The Florida border is always a welcome sight. The scent of oranges and the promise of beaches beyond give you a mental pallative. Jacksonville does not. It is a large modern city with an entire network of highways newly constructed. We usually take the beltway around the city. But, this day our faithful GPS system led us right through the heart of the modern maze. We paid attention, watched the road signs and dodged the lunatics roaring by us. But even then, we missed the final exit leading us southward. Luckily, the all-knowing GPS led us back onto the highway and away. were trying to get as far south as we could to dodge the Mobile, Alabama land fall of Hurricane Nate on Sunday morning.
We called ahead to several locales and discovered that on a given Saturday night, much of Florida’s hotel space is booked solid. Three professional NFL teams and several wildly popular college football teams drag in visitors by the thousands. We finally found a berth in the far reaches of Vero Beach and made for our destination. By now, you get mildly goofy from the fatigue of driving for 10-13 hours and start acting a little strange. We pulled into Vero Beach, found the hotel and settled. A brief visit to what we called the “Old People’s Restaurant” (Cracker Barrell) was pleasant enough. We were among the youngest diners present. This is after all Florida, the land of the elder citizens.
……. On the third day, we were greeted with sunshine and perfect driving conditions. We cut across rural route seventy and saw what Florida used to look like. Cattle farms, orange groves and rolling fields of tufted grass, amidst the swamp-like plains. Palm trees studded the far horizons. We could see boarded up tenant-farm homes, the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Piles of foliage debris were everywhere.
Route 27 and 29 carried us deep into the interior, to rural La Belle, near Lake Okeechobee. Life seemed pretty normal all around us, as we cruised through the aftermath of what Irma left behind. We were tiring even at this late stage. After a certain age in life, physical demands catch up with you much quicker than they did when in your younger years. Even mega doses of caffeine merely mad you irritable not more awake.
…….. Finally, we rolled into our castle in the Spring Run golf complex in Estero, Fl. We could spot immediately the damage to the foliage. Whole stands of trees had been blown down. The clean-up activities had carted away much of the debris, but still there were mounds of damaged tree and plant matter awaiting attention.
The roof tiles, on many of the condo complexes, sported back elastic patches from frantic roof-repair efforts seeking to secure the existing structure. The needed repairs would go on here for many months. In our own condo, we got both the good and the bad news. We had electricity and air conditioning. That is a huge plus. Irma had torn whole swaths of dry wall from our lanai. The jagged roof supports glared at us from their now unhidden settings. It would take some effort to clean up this mess. The moldy and sodden plaster board seemed to be strewn everywhere. In all, we counted ourselves lucky that we had escaped with so little damage. I had watched the T.V. coverage of Irma’s aftermath in Puerto Rico.We felt for those poor souls. It was ninety-two degrees here today in Florida, with a heat index of over 100. I couldn’t imagine living in that heat and humidity for several months. God bless them all.
By now, the fatigue factor was setting in. As a veteran of South Buffalo nightly perambulations, I had some familiarity with performing in adverse circumstances, when your senses are somewhat clouded. Now, I was to experience that goofiness when extreme fatigue has a similar negative effect of thought processes. I started out with an attempt to feed a coffee pellet into our Kindle coffee-maker and ended up looking at a pair of golf shoes. What collateral thought vectors had led me through a series of tangential images and action precipitators is a mystery to me. You bounce from one thought to another until you sit and say “What?” “What is this all about?” Even now, I feel the utter strangeness of trying to set down a rational pattern of consecutive thoughts with a logical analysis that precipitates a course of action. You blow with the wind until you settle like a leaf upon the ground. It is strange behavior in the extreme.
Finally, we settled in, grateful for having arrived safely from the journey and appreciative of the relatively minor level of damage to our home. We made a large contribution to the employee benefit fund, hoping our neighbors would do the same and ameliorate the much harsher problems that these estimable employees even now face to return to normal.
I set this narrative down now, to remind myself of how lucky we are and remind me in the future to be as generous as I can with those around me that are more in need in times of trouble.
Tomorrow always looks better when viewed form a difficult day.
Joseph Xavier Martin