South from Orlando

In which my car becomes a bug cemetery.

The freeway is a cruel, cruel place for insects and flying creatures of all kinds. Just a glance at my bumper and windshield will give you an idea of the sheer volume of grisly deaths that occur on Florida highways every day.

I was moved to compose a soliloquy on behalf of baby bugs everywhere. If you ask me I will probably sing it for you.

Day 5 started grouchily, as I realized I had overslept and would have to skip some things if I would make it to Key West by nightfall. My neck was so stiff I might have to turn my whole body to check my blind spot shifting lanes. In short, my plans were really putting a cramp on my plan-free adventure.

Physical limitations are a reality of road-tripping, and this trip was testing mine. But the good news is… I’m a Christian! And so I prayed.

Surrendering to life as it is and not as I wish it to be is never easy, but it’s good. Rather than rushing out the door with my grouchy self, I took a few minutes to stretch, got some grub at the La Quinta continental breakfast bar (with waffles!) and spent some time reading the bible and talking to the Lord.

As it happened, my devotional for the day led me to Psalm 127, one of the poems written by ancient Israelites sometime around the tenth or eleventh century BC. It was good then, it’s good now:

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Psalm 127:1-3 (www.biblegateway.com)

Isn’t that great? It’s like God said, “Hey Cortney – it is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest. Chill out and enjoy what I’m doing here.” So I said okay.

Things start to get exciting

Much of the morning drive passed uneventfully. I listened to Great Expectations a lot because I had to take the interstate for the sake of time, and 95 is boooring. Somewhere past Miami I stopped to get gas and a salad. When I got back on the road it Stormed with a capital S.

Now, I’m from Northern Virginia, and we are notorious for our extreme nervousness when it comes to precipitation of pretty much any kind. I think Miami is worse.

Suddenly my placid highway of nothing-much-to-pay-attention-to was an obstacle course of hazzard lights, speeding trucks, 15 mph Lincolns, and water from all directions. More praying ensued.

The weather cleared just as I exited at Homestead. I was a little ahead of schedule, so thought I’d swing by the Coral Castle – which according to my GPS was only ten minutes out of my way. But.

Traffic jam!

See that little blue thing near the center of the photo? That’s where I’m trying to go. See all those orange blockade thingies? They appear to be cutting off all possible entrances to the place I’m now spending 20 minutes (with traffic) to see.

I did manage to snap a picture as I inched by. But a few minutes later I was on the Overseas Highway through the keys so I didn’t take it too hard.

Can you see it?

What a beautiful sight! Miles of 2-lane highway surrounded by calm blue waters as you skip from one tiny, quirky island to the next. It was a treat to pass the 2 1/2 hours marveling at this feat of God’s creation and human engineering, right next to each other, even though an obnoxious 18-wheeler rode my tail most of the way.

I got into Key West at 7 on the nose. My hotel was easy to find and I was able to quickly check in and deposit my stuff to go exploring. The front window looked right out at the Gulf of Mexico and I asked the woman at the front desk if she ever got tired of the view. “Never,” she said. “I’ve lived here 9 years, and I’m grateful for it.”

It was hot, but not debilitating. I strolled lazily through Mallory Square, which was full of tourists being entertained by jugglers, snack vendors, musicians, and something to do with fire. There was even a man giving a Bible lecture to an audience of one (no, not that One).

I wanted to see Key West, but the light was fading fast and everywhere I turned I found tourists and touristy things. Stumbling across a tiny shop painted key lime green, I took refuge from the crowds and chatted with the lady selling the keys’ best Key Lime pie.

She’s lived here for 9 months, working for the owner of the pie shop. Most folks come in the shop because they saw it on TV (Bobby Flay’s Throwdown – Bobby won, but apparently he cheated).

It was pitch black and difficult to see beyond the bright lights and noisy crowds of Duval Street, the main drag. I called it a day, purposing to get out early and see the place I’d spent all week getting to. In my room, I flipped on the TV to find that all the channels were agog with the royal wedding. Oh yeah. I guess that was today.

Sunset in Key West

Day 5 stats:
Miles: 409.5
Water ogling: plenty
Near-death experiences: 0 (but I was skeered)
Chapters:finished 42

Next stop… home!

I’m Going Nowhere and I’m Only Taking My Time

In which I embark on a 10-day, multi-destination road trip fraught with danger and uncertainty. I mean, how will I know if I packed enough books?

It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I read it about it in Jamie Jensen’s Road Trip USA seven or eight years ago – a drive down the Atlantic coast by way of scenic two-lane highways and picturesque little fishing villages.

If your impressions of the East Coast come from driving along the I-95 corridor through nearly nonstop urban and industrial sprawl, following our Atlantic Coast route will open your eyes to a whole other world.

Yes, that has been precisely my impression, I thought when I read that. I-95 is a blessing as a means to an end. If you have somewhere to go it is the quickest way to get there. But wouldn’t it be fun to take a trip in which the trip is the destination, and it’s nowhere in particular I’m in a hurry to get to?

So sometime in February I determined this would be my year. The coastal route goes all the way from the tip top of New Jersey down to the southernmost point of Key West, with lots of intriguing stops along the way. Somewhat confined by time and cash, I chose to start in Maryland and travel down through Chincoteague.

By way of Chincoteague

The only issue was timing. A good road trip can really be enhanced or detracted from by two factors: weather and traffic. If I went too early in the year, it would be chilly most of the way. If I waited too late, I would run into vacationers gunning en masse for the beach.

I settled on late April, the week after spring break for elementary kids. As this happened to be the week after a planned trip to Saint Louis to visit my dear friend Lina Gentry and her husband Owen, I include Saint Louis in my road trip adventure.

The itinerary:

Thurs-Sun: Saint Louis, MO
Sun: Fly back to BWI
Mon: Drive to Virginia Beach, VA (by way of Chincoteague)
Tue: Drive to Morehead City, NC (by way of OBX)
Wed: Drive to Charleston, SC (by way of Ocean Isle Beach, NC)
Thurs: Drive to Orlando, FL (by way of Midway, GA)
Fri: Drive to Key West, FL (by way of Homestead and the Coral Castle)
Sat: Drive to Miami and fly home

One carry-on suitcase for ten days at large, including Good Friday and Easter services, cool rainy weather, six days in a car, beach attire, and super humid hotness. It was a challenge I was willing to meet.

Wanting to get the most out of my six days on the road, and not being a fan of redundancy in general, I chose to rent a car for the drive, then fly back at the end. This was the smartest thing I did out of the whole week.

I planned on about 5 to 7 hours of driving each day, which I hoped would allow for any hiccups in the route and still give some wiggle room to explore. I had a few landmarks in mind, but mostly just wanted to be open to whatever caught my fancy.

So Thursday evening I flew out of Reagan National Airport into Lambert-St. Louis to be joyfully reunited with my friend. I have only seen her twice since she moved to Missouri three years ago, and one of those was at her wedding.

Lina kept me entertained with all the local interests. We went to the top of the Arch, wandered around the art museum at Forest Park, and enjoyed the botanical gardens, thanks to a couple of umbrellas from Dollar General.

Escaping the rain

It was a really sweet time to be with her, and to get to know Owen, who I had only met once and that was at their wedding! He is a really special guy, and I’m so happy that they are together.

The Gentrys

We had a few adventures while I was there. The Friday night church service was serenaded by tornado sirens throughout. I was assured that someone was monitoring the weather, and we would adjourn to the basement if need be.

We made it through unscathed, but the airport did not. All flights canceled until further notice! Well, what was this going to do to my road tripping plans?

Nothing, as it turned out. The Saint Louis airport was cleaned up in a hurry and as of Saturday evening, some flights were making it out.  My flight for Sunday evening was delayed 20 minutes, but otherwise I was unaffected. If you haven’t seen the video from the storm, it’s pretty wild. I had just been there 24 hours prior:

St. Louis Airport Tornado

Praise God for his grace and protection thus far. Next stop… Baltimore!