Seven years ago I took one of the best trips of my life. Two weeks on the road with my Mom. I know, some of you are probably thinking, “I couldn’t spend two hours in a car with my mother!” But Mom and I got along so well that it wasn’t a problem. Quite the contrary. Over the next few weeks, I’ll recount the trip. The pictures won’t be up to my usual standard, as they were BDC (before digital camera). C’est la vie.
The setup. I was still living in Gainesville and working at WebMD, and had accumulated a month’s worth of vacation time. I wanted to use it all, but TPTB said they couldn’t spare me for that long. Ironic, since I was laid off 6 months later. Anyway, we settled on 2 weeks.
I decided to leave in early September of 2004. I planned and plotted the trip for months beforehand. I really wanted Mom to go with me, and she was amenable. She’d retired years before, Dad had passed in 1999, and I wanted to get her out and about. I’d taken one weekend road trip in April to Columbia, South Carolina, solo. Fun, but I wanted to share this one.
There were 3 spots I wanted to visit on the trip:
- Nashville, Tennessee, the WebMD corporate headquarters. I know, on my vacation I go to work. But I wanted to meet some of the folks I’d been corresponding with through my job. And they could show me some of the scenic sights whilst I was there.
- Allentown, Pennsylvania , to meet someone I’d been corresponding with online for a while.
- Penns Grove, New Jersey, to visit Mom’s brother’s family, whom I’d not seen for twenty years or more. Funny thing. Mom and Dad came from Philadelphia, and most of the relatives still lived in the area. Mom didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the relatives we didn’t visit, so we didn’t tell them. Also, part of visiting them was that Mom wanted to get rid of a bunch of Christmas decorations, because she wasn’t putting them up as much, since it was an effort for her. One of my cousins there wanted to have the decorations. Mom was going to mail them, but there were 4 or 5 big boxes. I suggested just taking them to her. I figured that what we saved on postage would help pay for gas.
So Mom and I very assiduously budgeted for gas and food and lodging. Rachael Ray was doing her “$40 a Day” food travel show, so that’s what we budgeted for food. At the end of the trip, we had money left over, since we rarely ate 40 dollars worth of food between us. Better to over budget than under.
My plan was to drive down after work to Ocala, where Mom lived. I’d spend the night, then we’d leave early the next morning. Then we’d drive up the east coast, avoiding the interstate so we could see the sights. I figured 3 or 4 days for that, then stopping in New Jersey. After that, over to Allentown, then Nashville, and home. I had maps and books so wherever we were, we’d not get lost.
That was the original plan. Then along came the hurricane season. Yeah. Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne. And those were just the ones that hit Florida. Charley was the one that made me make major revisions to the itinerary. It went right up the east coast, and I heard reports that roads through the area were washed out or had trees down or otherwise damaged. I didn’t think driving that way would be too scenic.
So, reverse it. Instead of New Jersey-Pennsylvania-West Virginia-Tennessee, it’d be Tennessee-West Virginia-Pennsylvania-New Jersey.
But I kept pushing back my departure. I didn’t want to be driving through a hurricane as I was leaving Florida, or on the way back. When Hurricane Ivan was going to come through in September, I went down to Ocala to help Mom if she needed it. She did, because the power went out and was out for almost a week. Ironically, the power at my place in Gainesville was fine.
By this point, I was ready to go-go-go! Then hurricane Jeanne came along, meandering all over the Atlantic, and I decided not to put it off any longer. I called my boss and said I was leaving on the 22nd. Since I’d put off leaving for about 3 weeks at this point, he was fine with it.
Now I can’t remember if I went to Ocala on the night of the 20th or the 21st. You know, I think it was the former. I probably wanted to give myself time to pack and rest and finalize travel plans.
I’ll post installments every few days. Later, y’all!