We are currently in Florida trying (and succeeding) to get away from the bad weather in Indiana. We have been making this trek for about ten years now and arrived just before the New Year at about the same time as my newspaper column deadline for the following week. After 12 years of these deadlines, fresh new material for a column subject is hard to come by but luckily, the trip down here was still fresh in my mind. Here is what I came up with.
Getting to Florida
When a person reaches Senior Citizen status, the decision to take a winter trip to the warm weather of Florida, Texas or Arizona would seem to be a no-brainer. Up until this year, it has been for us. However, 4 dollar Diesel Fuel, grandchildren and the fact that we are getting older had us considering riding out this winter’s cold at home. However, an early December cold snap nipped that idea in the bud and 2 days after Christmas, we were busily packing up for the drive to Florida and going over the various ways to get there.
There are several routes that can be considered when driving to Florida from Central Indiana and I think we have tried them all. The quickest –quick being a relative term – and shortest way for us uses all Interstate freeways, going south through Louisville, Kentucky, then East at Nashville, Tennessee to Chattanooga and from there, south on Interstate 75 through Atlanta, Georgia to our destination in Southwest Florida. We have abandoned the idea of going this way; Atlanta’s highways are too much for my innards to handle. But if you like living on the edge, this way works. This route can be varied slightly by going through the Cincinnati, Ohio area instead of going to Louisville. This has the added benefit of avoiding Nashville and its perpetual highway construction. The speeding traffic in Music City can frighten an old person out of their wits, especially when this old person has a 10 thousand pound Recreational Vehicle attached to the back of their truck. I can’t figure out where all the people come from: it must be all the budding musicians hurrying to Opryland to start their music careers.
Another thing to consider is that the majority of Ohio and Michigan’s snowbird population flood the Interstate 75 portion of this route. When we first started driving this route about 25years ago on the kid’s Spring break, CB Radios were still in vogue and I looked forward to the chatter originating from these folks. I learned a lot of new colloquialisms even though at times we had to turn the CB off to protect our children’s sensibilities. There was also little, if any, sightseeing in the early days. Having only a week of Spring Break meant driving 20 hours straight in order to get to our destination. That also is a thing of the past. We now take 3 days to make out way to the Sunshine State and I spend part of that time wondering if CB radios have now joined the parade of devices that have been replaced by more modern technology.
If you like scenery, have the time and don’t mind the additional cost, I recommend picking up Interstate 40 either in Nashville or Knoxville and taking this Freeway to Asheville, North Carolina. From there, it’s a pleasant trip through Columbia, South Carolina to Interstate 95. This freeway follows the Atlantic, carrying hundreds of thousands of Northeasterners to Jacksonville, Florida and points south. If we still had CB radios, I would go this way again. I expect I would learn a lot.
The route we now prefer goes south through my hometown of Loogootee, Indiana where I like to stop for a short visit with family and friends. However, when I got there and saw that diesel fuel was 25 cents more per gallon than it was at the station I had passed 25 miles earlier, I pouted for a while and kept on driving to Owensboro, Kentucky. From there, it’s a short trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky and its Chevrolet Corvette assembly plant and museum that I plan to visit someday. I just never seem to have the time. We picked up Interstate 65 in Bowling Green and headed for Nashville –there’s no way to avoid it -, praying that the Titans weren’t playing football and that we would survive Nashville’s Interstate interchanges.
Going south towards Birmingham, the scenery is good, traffic thins out and there is an exit for the Jack Daniels distillery, another place I’m going to visit someday. At Montgomery, Alabama, we picked up Highway 231. Selma and its Civil Rights History is only a few miles out of the way but is not on our itinerary this trip. Someday, we will do that when we have the time.
Highway 231 is a relaxing drive for the most part and carries us to Florida’s Interstate 10 and Tallahassee. This area of Florida with the Suwannee River and the Spanish Moss dripping from the live oaks provides the best glimpses of the old South and is a welcome change. The only real complaints I can muster about this direction has to do with the ungodly number of traffic lights in Troy, Ozark and Dothan, Alabama. There’s also the scarcity of Interstate Rest Areas in Alabama. Being a man, that doesn’t bother me but it tends to give Susie fits.
I do wonder, though, if perhaps the “Roll Tide’ Alabama folks have oversize kidneys.
Since I’m trying to shorten my columns, I dropped the rant I was going to use over the diesel prices in Loogootee. I also left out some information about other routes we have taken. If you have a lot of time, take 231 to Panama City and then follow the coast on Highway 98. The scenery is beautiful and the oysters in Apalachicola are wonderful. There are also the Highways that go south off I-10 east of Tallahassee, especially 19/27. You will get several chances to sample smoked mullet and boiled peanuts at roadside stands. You’ll also see a lot of the old Florida on these highways. I took this picture on Highway 221 south of I-10.
If you do take highway 19, Cedar Key is interesting. We had some However, don’t go south of Homosassa Springs. The traffic becomes almost impassable anywhere south of there until you have passed Tampa. Move over to I-75. If you want a thrill and have enough pucker string, take I-275 through Tampa and over the Sunshine Skyway bridge. That drive should be on any bridge lovers bucket list.