Im not scared……..
Through a series of unfortunate adventures that go beyond even those of the much maligned Lemony Snicket, a very close and long time friend found himself living in what had been intended to be a vacation home in Naples Florida with most of his personal property scattered between new jersey and naples, the most valuable being the car(bmw525I), the boat (Irwin 46 ketch) and the leftover bar inventory (mostly gone now having been left in my custody) were here in Maryland under the tender car of yours truly.As reestablishing himself in a gainful occupation until the notes from the sale of his bar in Annapolis begin later this year kept him unable to obtain sufficient time to get his car back down to florida and his live in girlfriend was threatening bodily harm to bodily parts he wished to remain in relatively good condition if he didn’t stop using her car, I volunteered to bring the car down this past weekend.
Now lest one think this is a totally chivalrous and kind act on my part, you should know that I LOVE to drive long distances especially in a good car. I drive to New York every time I go simply because the elapsed time of the drive is similar to going to the airport, clearing security and finding a cab into Manhattan and I prefer to drive. I ll pick an off hour and just go..marland to parked in midtown in under 3 1/2 hours. When I had more time on my hands back in the days of my misspent youth I drove cross country just for kicks on several occasions. When I have something on my mind, or just need to get away..I drive.This was not exactly an imposition is my point. Driving down to florida in Feb was the joining of two of my favorite ways to send a self manufactured long weekend.
So at noon Thursday I set south. Leaving earlier would have meant dealing with the vestiges of the Dc rush hour and having to find an appropriate detour to avoid the mess that is the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. By delaying my departure, I avoided traffic hassles and was comfortably south of Dc in less than 35 minutes. I had all necessary supplies for the first part of the voyage, 3 packs of cigarettes, two large coffees, a diet coke a radar detector and some classic rock cds.Once through the mess that is Richmond, that fine southern collection of tobacco factories and gothic catholic churches( I assume they were catholic…your average protestant avoids worshiping in buildings that look like draculas weekend getaway) jammed right up next to the freeway, I settled into the I95 daytime rhythm, pacing myself to the fastest collection of trucks ,staying in the left lane and keeping an eye out for Virginias finest. I left the radio on news for the most part in the daylight hours so the rock and roll beat didn’t influence the gas petal and lead me to trouble too early in the voyage.The beamer rolled along at a leisurely 85 mph relaxed into the pace of traffic and I blew through Virginia in less than 2 and half hours into the comfortable confines of North Carolina.
for those of you have never done the drive through the fair tarheel state, it is a unique journey through the American mind. It is a toss up as to whether there are more Jesus loves you billboards or firecracker stands and all nude, all the time , open 24/7 combination diners and erotica boutiques. One assumes then that outside of time spent at basketball games worshiping either the heels, the wolfpack or the damn dukies, your average north Carolinian spend all his time either
Blowing thing up
In nudie joints.
As tempting as the all nude, all the time open 24/7,breakfast served 24 hours place was, my only stop was at JRs discount cigarette outlet to replenish my supply at the lowest prices in the country.I loaded up on the nasty little things along with Tylenol…driving south in mid afternoon means the sun is ALWAYS in your eyes and can make for a killer headache…quick burger, gas and a large diet and back down the highway.
As the sun began to set I shifted into I95 night driving mode. This uses basic tools of deception and betrayal to wring the maximum speed out of the car. I settle into the pace of traffic and wait for the first “breakaway pack” to come by. It never takes along and here they come. A pack of 4 or 5 cars running together at a high rate of speed,usually with new york, new Jersey or Pennsylvania plates. I hit the pedal and drive the beamer right into the middle of the pack,theory being the cops will get the first or the last of the pack, but not all of us. Further I have a radar detector so at the first shrill warning that lasts more than 10 seconds, I drop out into the right lane and allow my fellow travers to take the tickets. Then its just a matter of settling in at pace..usually around 80..until the next breakaway comes along.
In this manner we raced along into south Carolina where speed limits are really more of a gentle suggestion anyway. The original plan called for taking a leisurely pace to the trip and stop halfway though the palmetto state breaking the drive into two even halves. Bu not now..I still had two cartons of cigarettes, plenty of gas, a radar detector and the greatest hits of Kiss rocking me down the road. I was set to rock and roll all night if need be. My only comment on south Carolina is that although I know it to be a beautiful state, by night on the highway it is as featureless as the surface of some far off planet that advertises new condos and gated communities every 7 and a half feet. They also have developed a way of hurling advertising at you without disturbing the local fauna. They simply build the billboards taller than the pines and palms and shine enough lights on them to shame a Hollywood premiere. Rather than stop I decided to keep going right on into florida before stopping for the night.
Passing through Jacksonville was a very nice surprise. I spent a lot of time there back in the late 70s and early 80 and recalled it a grubby, rundown north florida redneck kind of town. Viewed from the highway at least the town has revitalized nicely. They have outlined the bridges and building in muted colored lights, a mixture of blues,tropical greens and soft reds. The downtown waterfront area appeared to be alive with lights and activity I don’t recall from years gone by. I made a note to get back there at some point and spend a weekend to just to see how much it has changed.
I stopped for the night in st Augustine florida, a great little town of which I have many fond memories. I jumped off the road grabbed a room at country suites. Naturally, I selected the only exit containing only one open eatery, something called a huddle house, and no tavern where a thirsty traveler could seek respite from the road.For the less prepared this could be a problem. After a heary plate of steak and eggs at the aforementioned house of huddle..very similar to a waffle house the greatest chain of good eatin known to all mankind , except the signs are red instead of the traditional waffle house yellow, I returned to my room,cracked open the portable supply of potables, poured a famous grouse and spent a relaxing hour or two reading before drifting off to sleep.
The next days travel was uneventful for most of the first part of the trip, down to Daytona beach and then cutting over on interstate 4 through Orlando and into the greater tampa area. I did however provide some observations about the current state of the state of florida. The entire orange state economy rests on one of 5 pillars
The cocaine trade
The bodily functions and healing thereof of thin blooded aging northerners
A certain mouse
They are building on every possible surface in central Florida.The state bird is the construction crane and the official vehicle is a backhoe. Orland now begins a good 40 miles west of downtown and is possibly the ugliest suburban sprawl in the united states today. The western side consists of cut rate motels for those who have to get the rug rats to Disney or never sleep with both eyes open again until the little snots go off to community college, the military or prison and office parks full of insurance agents peddling long term care fraud, holistic healing universities, medical parks and virtually every type of faux shaman and peddler ones mind could conjure. The west side of course is the home of the almighty mouse. Luxury hotels line the interstate on the west side..they are painted in every possible garish colors known to man and some beg the question of the possibilities of adding one more color without the collapse of the very building itself. They are garish, tacky, expensive…and full to capacity.If the economy is danger of slowing, someone forgot to tell the mouse chasers. The parking lots were jammed to capacity. The Disney influence shows even from the highway as even the support structures on overpasses and exit signs are all done up in a space or castle motif and the signs for fantasy land, waterparks and other places of great fun abound.The mouse and his minions rule west Orlando and you are not allowed to forget this fact for a millisecond.
The rest of the drive west was uneventful but I will pass along one warning. Never speed through lakeland florida. In the span of 10 miles in and around this fair town I counted 11 people pulled over being given tickets. It is the worlds largest speed trap. Apparently unable to generate the revenues of mousetown, they settle for picking the pockets of mouse bound travelers and returnees.
Along the trip down south 75 I did managed to work a little spec related activity into the trip. I met with esteemed fred crossman for a coffee break in Sarasota where he was down from the windy city visiting relatives and chatted about the markets and various trades that were and were not working,ways of adjusting methodologies to capture movements, particularly to the downside in overblown issues with enduring the colon removing agony of fighting the tape and the dimsonian drift..a very nice discussion of credit spreads for bear moves and selling puts on value issues under the palms outside a scenic checkers burger stand.
An hour or so down the road, I stopped in Cape coral for an hour or so to visit the lackey clan . I got a chance to sit canal side with james Lackey, the kerouac and Odysseus of the list. He talked of his plans to embrace his inner redneck and leave his little slice of heaven in Florida to relocate to Nashville in the future. Not sure I see it but to each his own. Talking to lack is best described as a hopeful experience. He posses an enthusiasm and excitement about life, and a happy determination to make his way through life on his own terms surrounded by the people he loves. One leaves lighthearted and aware of lifes possibilities.
Into Naples for a great weekend of fine dining and great drinking with an old friend. Long talks of days past and future plans, a little fishing off the pier and all too soon time to fly home from a great weekend..olots of driving, eating smoking, drinking and seeing some of my oldest, newest and greatest friends on the planet in deep florida in febuary.
Some observations from the road
I95 south of Virginia exists for only two purposes. To get the snowbirds to florida and turn as much of that Yankee money into the property of former members of the confederacy as possible Virtually every exit has an attraction, mini park, historic district or shopping outlet that I the worlds finest, states largest, lowest priced, grandest and greatest something or another that the weary traveler simply must see. Billboards for restaurants of dubious distinction, buffets of undefined quality and safety, strip joints, fireworks, cheap smokes, new condos, resort living, tumbledown motels..all are advertised and available virtually every mile along the way.
Naples Florida is one of the pretiesest towns in the united states. Beautiful beaches, wonderful dining establishments, interesting architecture and just a great atmosphere. All of this has combined to cause what will surely be serious issues in the future. The infrastructure simply cant handle the number of people in season. I would love to be a roads and highway contractor in southwest florida right now as they are feverishly trying to widen and improve roads.
However, building continues at a torrid pace.Every spare piece of ground in and around naples in under construction.I wont call for a burst in the bubble but the activity level reminds very much of the mid to late 80s in San Francisco
Property prices have gone from the absurd to the ridiculous..to the point that attracting service workers..bartenders, waitress, retail shop clerks and the like is becoming very difficult as they simply cannot afford to live within commuting distance of naples.
They are serious about the cigarette lighter thing on airlines. I had my zippo given to me by my son and threw it in my bag on the bottom without another thought. Naturally I ended up being drug out of line and subject to a bag search. I offered to retrieve it for them..but nope…all my dirty laundry was scattered on the tables so they could retrieve it.The little girl working the place treated as osama bin Melvin, calling the airline to make sure I did not check it through, although Im pretty sure that’s legal. My only alternative was to leave the secure area and go to the fed ex stand. Naturally..no envelopes. The guy working there was nice enough to offer to send it when he got to work tonight so hopefully hes hones. I have a tracking number so it will be interesting to see.next time I am wearing a turban, carrying a copy of the Koran and shout racial profiling the first time someone looks at me funny.Having ones unmentionables and dirty socks spreads in front of god and everybody is not a happy experience.
There is nothing like a long drive and good friends to clear ones mind and return the sense of optimism and love of life.Further, should you ever have a chance to sit and visit with crossman or lackey I advise you not to miss the chance. These two gentleman posses a wealth of knowledge and experience that has been of great benefit to many.
current spec list land speed record, annapolis to Naples
12.5 hours total elapsed driving time
average speed 90.34 mph