Wednesday, December 15, 1999

Florida 1999 - Traveling

The trip from California to key west is 2950 miles, or 47 hours of pure driving, which ever sounds worse to you. Because of this we decided to visit L.’s friend in Arizona. We left Phoenix at 3PM on Friday, and the car did not stop for more then a half hour until Sunday night at 10PM at which time we both flopped out of the car into the warm sand of Key West. While driving through Arizona and New Mexico we received some very strange looks for having the kayaks on top of the car. Some of the questions we received were: where are you planning on sailing those things, aren’t the rivers a little cold for that right now, so how do those two fit together into one boat, and my all time favorite- don’t you get bugs in your teeth when you ride them on the car like that? - Yes, she was serious.
Texas is a long state to drive through- it took us 12-13 hours to get through it. The west half of the state is very boring desert- luckily we passed that at night both ways to spare the boredom. Once you get to east Texas things get more interesting. There are hills- and deer. When driving through Texas I kept seeing deer crossing sign after deer crossing sign. Then I saw why there were dead deer all over the freeway. There must have been 11-12 an hour for the 3 hours I was driving at night. This spooked me out considerably as I did not want my vacation to end because of venison. I drove in the passing lane with my brights on as much as possible through the rest of the night. When sunrise did come I could see why. Over the next hour or so that I drove there were 18-19 deer just standing at the side of the freeway. The good part about Texas and the other southern states is that Gas is cheap- the cheapest on the trip was for $1.08. It was interesting that we only saw 2 Japanese car dealers in Texas and we could only find import vehicles with Texas plates in the major cities. Every second car was a full size truck. We really stuck out in our little purple Toyota with the kayaks on top.

Louisiana I found interesting. I liked the accent better there; it sounded more like a southern drawl instead of people just talking with something in their mouth. I also found the drivers to be more courteous. I knew that we were in the South for sure though when crossing over from Texas one of the first signs I saw was "Bridge may be cold in cold weather."- All other signs said, "Bridge may ice in cold weather" so I’m not sure where they went wrong with the fist sign. The Waffle Houses caught me off guard. If someone has never been to the south then they may never have heard of the restaurant chain. However in the south it is an integral part of the culture. There was one at EVERY freeway exit. It reminds me of Wawa’s in New Jersey, outside of New Jersey they don’t exist, but in the state they are every 2 miles on any road. These restaurants remind me of a cross between a little diner and an IHOP. My favorite there was the pecan waffle.
    Alabama and Mississippi went by during the night but still the whole time I was driving through Alabama I couldn’t get the song "Dueling banjos" out of my head. It was obvious when driving through a swamp because of the smell in these states, I guess people get used to it after a while. The drivers in these states seemed as if they were very offended if they were passed. They would speed up their car, pass, then return to their previous speed. It was very annoying when this happened time and again. To pass someone I would have to floor it and kept accelerating until at least a quarter mile in front.
    Once we did get into Florida, the drive seemed to go quicker just because most of it was behind us. The driving there was very interesting; the rule of the "right lane for passing only" is very strictly followed. Even when traffic was heavy, people would change over to the left lane when passing even if only for 2 seconds before passing the next car. On both sides there was jungle, complete with palm trees and vines, and they had just carved out areas for cities and the freeway. When I saw that all the houses had what looked like an extra one or two rooms added in the back yard just made from mosquito netting I was glad that we were there in the winter. Some houses just had mosquito-netting running from their roof to the fence. Driving through the keys was tedious after such a long drive because we were so close to where we wanted to be but the seep limit ranges from 40-55 the whole way to save the key deer. L. got a little spooked out when she saw an "Alligator X-ing" sign, but we never saw any live ones on the trip, although D. and C. saw plenty going through "gator highway". When we arrived in Key West we went to our rendezvous point with D. but since he was not there and they were setting up a carnival for Christmas we pulled our car in with all the carnival workers cars and went to sleep.

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