Road Trip: Orlando, Florida

On Monday, May 10th, the Baby Honda and I hit the road for my first big road trip in my post-Cole world. I made a photo necklace with Cole’s picture in it and hung it from the rearview mirror a few weeks ago so I could feel like I was still taking him with me on road trips. It was still hard to enjoy some parts of the trip. I felt sad and lonely at times and really missed having Cole by my side. It was hard to be in the moment sometimes and enjoy my surroundings. There was a lot of time to think and feel and miss him therefore lots of time to cry. You never really know what people are going through on the interstate and I find it fascinating to think about what they are experiencing in the moments that I am briefly passing them by.

Driving through Illinois was fairly uneventful and mostly just a lot of flat farm fields and not a whole lot of trees. Kentucky was a little more interesting but I noticed a lot of dead armadillos on the road which I didn’t even know were in the area. Tennessee was very pretty with lots of lush greenery along the interstate. I stayed with some friends in Nashville that first night. It was great to see them and their pug after 3-years of not being able to since they moved away to Seattle from Portland, where we originally met and became friends. We went out to dinner and enjoyed catching up before retiring for the evening.

The next morning I hit the road and headed to Savannah. When I arrived, I was mesmerized by the gorgeous Spanish moss covered cypress trees. I checked into my hotel and explored a bit by the art institute to photograph the trees before heading to Tybee Island while a rain storm was rolling in from the distance. I chatted briefly with a couple of fishermen coming in off the water while taking some photos of the seagulls and landscape. The storm cut things short a bit but it was still a pleasant experience. I went back to my hotel and hung out there the rest of the night. I was a bit annoyed with the helicopters flying in and out every 5 – 10 minutes from the military base next door but other than that, the room was comfortable.

The next morning I got a leisurely start to the day, knowing I didn’t have too much further to go to get to Orlando and had more flexibility in my schedule. I stopped in Jacksonville to get an oil change. I had to stop at three different gas stations after that before I was able to fill up my tank thanks to the cyber attack on the company that supplies a big chunk of fuel to the southeastern part of the country. I arrived at the homeowners house in Orlando in the early afternoon and was pleasantly surprised with how nice they and their home were. Their cat Talulah was super friendly too and I knew the next 10-days there were going to be very pleasant there. I loved all the lovely art on their walls, the screened in porches, the porch swing, all the different flowers and plants in their hard and especially the anoles running around. We had dinner together and enjoyed pleasant conversation getting to know each other more. I was fascinated learning about their lives, how they met, and all sorts of other things.

The next morning the homeowners left early and I mostly spent the next 10-days hanging out at their home with Talulah. I did my normal work tasks, watched TV, and chatted with friends. I cooked a lot less than I thought I would and ended up ordering in more than anything. I booked a kayak reservation on the west coast one day but unfortunately was unable to go after getting only an hour of sleep the night before. The joys of insomnia! It seemed not smart to try to drive for a few hours after that so I cancelled the reservation. I felt bad about not being able to go though because I was looking forward to seeing manatees and getting some photos of the beautiful clear water. I fell into a bit of a funk but managed to get it together to go to the east coast, to Cocoa Beach, for a sunrise, my first sunrise as seen from the east coast ever. It was a beautiful experience but I definitely missed Cole. He loved the beach so much and would have been running around so happy while I waited, watched and photographed the sunrise. After the sun was well into the sky, I drove north along the coast on the way to Cape Canaveral Seashore. I didn’t get to explore much there though, mainly due to my fear of these big black bugs that kept swarming my car whenever I would pull into a parking lot which was a bit of a bummer but mostly I was proud of myself for finally getting myself out of the house for a bit.

The homeowners arrived back on Friday night and we hung out a bit and talked about their trip for a while before they headed to bed. The next morning, I loaded up my car and started to make my way to Montgomery, Alabama for the night, where I had a budget-friendly hotel room reserved. I had also reserved a time slot to visit The Legacy museum as well and was looking forward to the experience. The drive was fairly smooth and after about 7-8 hours, I arrived at the hotel. The check-in process at the hotel was simple enough. I ran into a chatty woman in the parking lot after I grabbed my things from my car and made my way to my room. I was a bit nervous because she said she wasn’t vaccinated and already had COVID and was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. I suddenly found myself overwhelmingly thankful that we were outside and far apart. Once in my room, I found myself disappointed with my accommodations. Most seriously in disrepair was the air conditioner falling out of the wall. There were also lots of areas that needed maintenance and cleaning attention. I contacted the front desk about the air conditioner and after coming to inspect, they offered to switch my room. Upon inspecting the second room and also finding lots of issues, I decided to leave and head 4-more hours to Nashville where I had planned to stay with my friends again the following night. Unfortunately that meant missing out on the museum experience.

In lieu of the museum, I was greeted with a comical series of misadventures. First up, getting coffee. The first place I tried to stop at was overly difficult to get to and had a long line of cars and when I finally got to the order speaker, I found out that they “did not have coffee” by a very rude person. I can’t imagine that they were truly out of coffee but had no choice but to take them at their word so left there a bit angry and went to another place which also had a very long line but I did indeed finally get my coffee to help keep me awake from all the driving I had ahead of me. Next up on the misadventure train was getting gas. I had difficulty getting to the gas station with lots of wrong turns because the entrance was not intuitive or clearly marked. The first gas pump would not read my credit card. Of course it didn’t tell me that, it just sat there and did nothing so I eventually gave up and went to a different pump. At one point in the transaction, it asked if I wanted a carwash, something that had been on my to do list so I was happy to buy a basic wash. After finishing pumping gas, I drove away, looking for the carwash station. I drove around the entire gas station before finding it next door. I tried to relax as I sat in my car and let the sound of the wash calm me down. After the wash, and noticing that a lot of the dead bugs were still on the front of my car, I resigned myself to the fact that that was just how it was going to be. I wanted to use the gas station bathroom before I left but once inside, I saw a blockade saying their bathrooms were “closed”. So I got back on the road and drove until I found a rest stop. Once back on the road, I ran into a traffic jam caused by road construction. That was the final straw, I had reached my limit and broke down into a somewhat comical and hysterical laughing fit similar to Tom Hanks in that scene from The Money Pit when the tub fell through the floor and crashed on the floor below. I called a friend to talk me down which seemed to help ground me. He stayed on the phone with me all the way to Nashville, where I ran into lots of crazy drivers on the interstate but eventually arrived at my friend’s place. Once saying farewell to my friend on the phone, I grabbed my bags and made my way to the front door of my friend’s place and was greeted by a June bug, my nemesis. I ran past it as quickly as I could after it crawled under the doormat with my luggage in tow and was so thankful to finally be someplace comfortable where I could relax. I put my swollen legs up from my 14-hours of sitting and caught my friends up on the last few hours of drama as I breathed a sigh of relief to finally be done with the stresses of the day.

I slept great that night and woke up not super early the next day to enjoy a shower before packing up and hitting the road. The kayak reservation I had made the day before did not pan out due to them not getting enough other reservations for my time slot so I just hit the road and made my way back to Wisconsin. The drive went smoothly through Kentucky and Illinois with only a few grumpy drivers and construction projects. I arrived home in Wisconsin in the early evening and unloaded my car. Even though I was only gone for a couple of weeks, it seemed longer. There is definitely something to be said about coming home and being in your familiar surroundings and sleeping in your own bed again. Traveling definitely helps me appreciate the newness and challenges of the adventures as well as the familiarity and safety of home and I think it’s a good balance to have in my life right now.

Next up on the house/pet sitting front: New York and Texas! Stay tuned..

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