The Drive From Florida

Paul Morrone |

This past winter was pretty mild in the northeast when compared to prior years. The winter in FL was cool and rainy at least by Florida standards. Nonetheless, many snowbirds from around the country flocked to Florida for the winter months to avoid the frigid temperatures as well as the snow and ice. Forgetting the weather for a minute, at the end of the winter all the snowbirds had to return home for the season. Many fly back and forth from their homes to Florida and another large population of snowbirds drive back. Cathy and I decided to drive as well from the sunshine state thinking we could make the trip over a few days to spread out the driving. The mistake in our thinking was not to drive but when to leave Florida for the drive back to Connecticut. We left April 1st and that was a huge mistake.

Most of the snowbirds rent or travel to their homes for the months of January, February and March each winter. What that means is that April 1st there is a mass exodus from Florida of these snowbirds flocking back somewhere up north. Route 75 goes north on the west coast of Florida and route 95 goes north on the east coast. These two routes are the main arteries to accommodate all the vehicles leaving the state. Cathy and I were one of those vehicles that actually used both routes. We drove up the west coast on route 75 for 175 miles to Ocala. Did I mention there was construction on route 75 almost the entire 175 miles or at least it seemed like it? The traffic was horrible almost the entire way.

In Ocala we picked up route 301 to cut across the state for about 100 miles to Jacksonville where we picked up 95 heading north towards Savannah. It was a beautiful drive through farm country with horses and cattle and rolling hills that actually reminded me of Connecticut. There was some traffic but nothing terrible. We went through some neat little towns along the way that were definitely the old Florida. When we got to Jacksonville and route 95 we hit a wall of traffic. We saw nothing but brake lights and license plates from every state in the country. We saw every type of RV and SUV imaginable with some type of trailer attached with boats, bikes, motor cycles, scooters, lawn chairs, coolers and every type of entertain gadget possible.

The traffic was stop and go, from Jacksonville through the entire state of Georgia until the South Carolina border. The first day of driving took us 9 hours to travel 425 miles. It was painful, extremely painful. The day ended with tornado warnings in South Carolina and a scramble to get a hotel room for the night. Everybody and their brother, sister and cousin were doing the same thing and we were lucky to get a room that night and did so only because of a cancelation. Bright and early the next morning we were on the road and drove to Baltimore where we spent our second night. The traffic was heavy through Virginia but nothing like FL and GA. After some lump meat crab cakes for dinner, a good night sleep and a visit to Cathy’s aunt in the hospital the next morning in Baltimore we were on the road again. We made it through the rest of the trip to CT with uneventful traffic through NJ and NY and even made it across the George Washington Bridge unscathed.  After more than 1,300 miles we were home.

There will be future trips to and from FL but they will be through other travel methods. Driving is off the bucket list for sure.

Until the Next Tom’s Take…