Tuesday, 7 December 2010

What Shall We Do For 26 Hours?

It has been many many many years, fifteen in fact, since The Husband and I have made the winter exodus down to the Southern Home the old-fashioned way-via Henry Ford's grand invention. (Or in our case, the technological advancement of some genius Japanese engineers at Lexus!) The last time we attempted the drive, Bill Clinton was still in the White House basking in the afterglow of Monica, OJ's glove didn't fit so the jury acquitted, Yitzchak Rabin was brutally murdered after a peace rally, and the first Toy Story movie had just been released. A lifetime ago! The boys were quite young and it was the only way that we were able to afford a trip south for the four of us. Flights from Toronto at Christmas were and still are, quite expensive. By throwing the kids and their paraphernalia into our very suburban mini-van, we were able to make the drive in about 26 hours of highway time and get away for a couple of weeks at minimal cost. The  results were usually lovely and uneventful, but on the return trip in January of 1996, we were waylaid by Mother Nature, Pizza Hut and the good people of Kentucky. The story is long, convoluted and ridiculously  absurd, but suffice it to say that the four of us were stranded under 5 feet of snow in the hamlet of Mt Vernon Ky for almost 6 days with nothing to sustain us but cable TV (how I learned to loathe Nickelodeon) and a Pizza Hut that adjoined our tiny motel. None of this prose is in any way, shape, or form exaggerated. Honest!! If any of you faithful readers are really interested in the whole gruesome story, post a comment and I will continue.

It was because of that incident that The Husband swore off driving to Florida in the winter. That time was the last time. The rental car costs were nothing compared to another incident on the snow-covered interstates. But this year, he seemed open to the idea of a return trip. I am spending larger chunks of the winter in the Southern Home, and the irritation of not having a car all the time was beginning to wear. The cost of renting down here during the winter months is ridiculous. I was thinking of offering the car companies the soul of my first born son, but I believe that it is already spoken for. Thus, The Husband suggested (it was HIS IDEA!!) that we drive this year and leave the car here until the middle of March. He figured that if we left early enough in December, we probably could avoid the worst of the weather and vice versa come early spring. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but his intentions were good.

Two days before we left, Buffalo got slammed with a major winter storm that closed the NY State Thruway for 24 hours stranding tens of thousands of cars. The weather channels were calling for snow showers, snow squalls, or snow flurries (anybody know the difference?) on every route available to us. In the end we decided to go with the known quantity, the tried and true. We headed down I75 just like before. The drive is a few hours longer, but at least we knew where we were, and the hope that the further south we travelled, the less the possibility for the white stuff. We decided to get a jump on the weather by heading out on Saturday afternoon after Shabbat morning services.

We were so concerned about the weather that we forgot that we needed to occupy ourselves for many hours of drive time. I75 is one of the most boring stretches of road ever constructed. What would we do? Here are a few impressions of 26 hours alone with a husband of 25 1/2 years.

  • We crossed the border around 4:30pm, just as dusk was hitting. Our border guard seemed to have a Napoleonic complex and kept asking us how much money we were bringing into the country. We said we only had a few dollars and he couldn't seem to grasp how that might work. When The Husband explained the concept of a ATM, he seem perplexed. He kept grilling us about our condo and our luggage. He didn't seem at all happy to be working on a cold Saturday night, and we were his convenient targets. God bless The Husband. His cool demeanour seemed to throw off The Emperor until there was nothing left to say. I, on the other hand, was ready to go all Waterloo on his ass. Off we went.
  • We had heard tales of snow in southern Ohio that day, so The Husband desperately wanted to stay in front of what might be heading north. By the time hunger had set in, we were cooked and fairly confident that we had avoided the worst of it. We stopped for the night in Bowling Green Ohio and we couldn't figure out where all of the college-aged young people in our hotel had come from. It turns out that we were staying directly across the street from Bowling Green University and a visiting basketball team had come into town for a game. There were a line of vans in the parking lot and a bunch of kids in matching sweatsuits in the lobby. It seems as though we got our room just in time. 
  • I finally got to taste Chipoltle's fine cuisine. The Husband and I have been very concerned as to what we would eat on this road trip after our nauseating experience with highway fare this past summer. The American Interstate's food system just wasn't considering vegetarians at all when it decided that Mickey D's was needed at every exit. My boys have raved about Chipoltle's for years, so when a franchise was next door to our motel, we silently cheered. Not bad for fast food. Huge veggie burrito, but very heavy on the salt. Still it beat out the alternative dinner of Doritos and Diet Coke. 
  • As we passed Mt. Vernon Kentucky the next morning, The Husband perversely exclaimed that we should stop at Pizza Hut for lunch. I decided that spitting out the window as we passed by was more to my liking.
  • There was more snow in Knoxville Tennessee than there was in Cincinnati. What is up with that? The temperature actually dropped from the morning in Bowling Green to midday in Knoxville. The squalls were worse the further south we travelled. Certainly not normal to our experience. By the time we stopped for the night 2 hours south of Atlanta in Perry Georgia, the thermometer read -5C. (For my American friends-that is f*&@ing cold!!!)
  • I just want it on the record that my knowledge of American midwest geography is better than The Husband's. He thought that Columbus was west of Cincinnati. We fought about it until we saw the sign directing traffic east. I win! (A big apology to Younger Son's Young Lady for that gaffe!!)
  • I love satellite radio. What a wonderful invention. The Husband, however is ready to murder me and any direct relative that introduced me to Broadway show tunes. Sirius/XM has a station on channel 75 strictly devoted to Broadway. After 6 hours of said music, The Husband got a wild look in his eye reminiscent of Freddy Krueger, Chucky, and Jason. I quickly switched over to the 60s channel strictly for self preservation. After hearing Marianne Faithfull sing As Tears Go By three separate times over the next 12 hours, I went back to Broadway. We are still talking, barely!!
  • Florida-what is up with the anti-abortion billboards on the highways? They are ubiquitous!! Every few metres or so, these huge nasty slogans screaming pro-life talking points came at us at 70 miles/hour. I tried to get a picture, but really-what for! What was even more distasteful were the gun and ammo ads that were right behind them. It seems it isn't okay to "destroy" a human life through a pregnancy termination, but it is perfectly fine to blow them away with an AK47 legally purchased at any number of outlets advertising on the Florida Turnpike. 
  • A few more random thoughts: Burger King has a veggie burger. Who knew? Not great-but edible. Perry Georgia? Not all that Jewish. The deer hunting magazines and Christmas decorations were everywhere, but nary a Channukiah. American mega churches seem to gravitate to the Interstates. What is up with that? We must have seen at least 10 with direct proximity to exit off-ramps. 
So we finally rolled in around 4:00 pm yesterday afternoon, and after an excursion more dangerous than the drive down (grocery shopping at Publix on Hallandale Beach Boulevard!) we are settling in. I love my man for doing every minute of the driving and I need to tell him publicly that he is way more than just my chauffeur. Any man who can put up with me and Broadway show tunes for 26 hours in a car with no escape hatch must be my B'sheret!! By the way, for all of my friends and family freezing and digging out, it was 0C this morning in Miami. Hope that makes you all feel a bit better.


    1. No Jews in Perry, GA? Shock!! There are a few Jews in the ATL, and maybe Athens (University of Georgia) but if you get off at the wrong exit, you'll meet folks who've never seen a Jew except on the TV.

      Lauren did a college visit to Bowling Green State University. It was her safety school.

      Also you must have driven through
      Toledo. That's where I grew up. When you crossed the line into Ohio, the second exit, Ottawa River Road, is about four miles from my house. Only an hour from Tiger Stadium.

    2. John,
      The weirdness in Perry was palpable. I didn't expect any differently, but it was definitely strange. There is a real difference to life in the more rural south. And yes, we did pass right through Toledo. I actually commented to Barry about the Ottawa River exit, wondering if there was any connection to the Ottawa River that I am more familiar with up in Ontario. After some Wiki-searching-I discovered that is a big no, but still it is cool. Tiger fan, hmm. We Blue Jay fans have some history with you guys! :)