Florida Or Bust

My ride to Florida will involve an early to mid-April departure to get there before the weather gets nasty. I’m told arriving there in the summer as I’d first thought (my inclination because I always try to leave Oregon in good weather) is a mistake. It’s extremely hot, muggy and hurricane season actually starts in June, not in September as I’d previously thought. It’s questionable but possible to find a decent April day to leave Oregon and find good weather left overs in Florida, but that means crossing Texas in tornado season. I’ll have to risk it.

Another Texas dilemma is the opposite directions where lives two of the three people I’d like to visit while passing through the state.  How to do it without wasting miles and time? Two cousins live in the Dallas area and a Navy buddy I haven’t seen in 40 years, but have had recent contact with, lives near San Antonio.  Maybe I’ll go to San Antonio first and from there straight up to Dallas, thereby avoiding the dreaded Houston congestion on the eastward route from San Antonio. Not wanting to negotiate Dallas freeways any more than Houston, I’d stop shy of the city at the suburb of Lancaster, a place of historical interest to me.

My great-great grandfather, Charles Horatio Bernard, arrived in the area of Lancaster in 1846. He, his wife, and a smattering of cousins, migrated there by wagon train from Adams County, Illinois. My great great grandparents are buried in the nearby Rawlins Cemetery. The Rawlins and Bernard families mixed by marriage so I’m related to a few them as well.  At Lancaster I’d be close enough to visit some live cousins in the Dallas area, one of whom also rides a motorcycle and might like to accompany me to the Louisiana state line, showing me the much preferred backroads.

If I linger in Texas it will obviously take longer than 8 days to reach Florida, which is what I originally planned based on 300-to-400-mile-per-day “freeway” travel. With these adjustments I should plan for at least two weeks getting there, especially if I’m stopping to take pictures along the way, which most assuredly I will.

In order to maintain this blog and store the numerous pictures, it will be essential I take along my laptop and seek motels offering “wi fi”. That might prove difficult in my quest for backroad travel where even lodging itself might be scarce, much less motels with Internet service. Packing a laptop in my limited space won’t be desirable but it’s becoming apparent I’m addicted to the device and will have to make room.

Weather wise it behooves me to seek a southern route as soon as possible upon leaving Oregon in early spiring, which will mean traveling down Interstate 5 in California. Once south of Redding any snow-threat should be nil. The trade-off will be having to contend with heavier traffic, in particular the congestion of passing through Sacramento. I plan to avoid Los Angeles entirely by cutting east at Bakersfield, up and over the Tehachapi Pass to Barstow and Needles where I hope to spend my second night.

The first significant stop on the trip will be a visit with my daughter, Charlotte, and her family at Cave Creek, Arizona, which thankfully sets on the northern outskirts of Phoenix. Leaving Cave Creek I plan to skirt around the east side of the big city and angle into a mountainous region leading to Globe, then angle southeast to Interstate 10 that will take me all the way to Van Horn, Texas where I will leave the freeway, angling down to San Antonio. A hiccup will show on my cross-country map as I shoot straight up to the Dallas area, only to return south before leaving Texas entirely.

Preferably, I'll stick to the backroads into Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama before entering Florida east of the busy Pensacola area. On the other hand, a return to Interstate 10 might be the choice if those backroads between small towns with sparse lodging aren’t to my liking. Past experience reminds me loose-running dogs are commonly allowed in the rural south, not to mention the added hazard of deer crossings in the backwoods. High speed hazards of freeway travel might be safer after all, not to mention the better selection of motels. Another consideration is a route south of Interstate 10, right on the water, though close study suggests heavy congestion, especially east of New Orleans. Nevertheless, if time and money were no problem it would be enjoyable to stay along the waterfront.

Florida being the focal point of the trip, I would like to take my time traveling to the southern tip of the state and meet three cousins who are scattered along the way. I've never met any of them but we've communicated for several years on the Internet concerning our mutual interest in genealogy. The first one lives in the relatively small town of Bell. After a brief visit my interests will take me an hour or so east to the historical “Cross Creek”, made famous by the “The Yearling,” a 1938 novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (and 1946 movie) who lived at Cross Creek, a virtual wilderness at the time. She based her story on the people and surrounding landscape. A 1983 movie, “Cross Creek”, starred Mary Steenburgen as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and was partially filmed in the area. Since seeing that movie I’ve had a hankering to see the place for real.

Florida Cousin #2  (“Ralph”) lives east of Tampa in the town of Thonotosassa, my next stop. We’ve discussed my pending visit for quite some time via email and are both looking forward to finally meeting one another. Ralph might show me some of the local points of interest.

Along the route from Tampa to Key West is Everglades City. I hope to spend at least one night there, in what looks like a small, lodging-scarce town at the edge of Everglades National Park and undoubtedly where reservations are a must. If I'm lucky I might even go on one of those air boat rides.

I’m not expecting much from a visit to Key West, having heard accounts of it being very crowded with high dollar lodging and a fair share of debauchery, none of which is appealing. Yet I’m also told one cannot consider a Florida visit complete without a trip to the famed Key West.  It should be a unique ride along those long stretches between the keys. I expect I’ll enjoy that and, if I decide to spend the night, I might get a good “sunset” picture. Once the “Key West Mission” is complete, I’ll set my sights north to the east coast town of Edgewater, near Daytona, where lives Cousin #3.

Miami looks to be the “mother of urban spread” and I have absolutely no desire to ride through its maze of freeways. I will do whatever it takes to find a rural route bypassing its west side, though I realize I can’t avoid heavy traffic entirely in Florida. Somewhere north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, I’ll connect to Interstate 95 and ride it as far as Jacksonville where I’ll cut inland on Interstate 10 to Interstate 75 and up to Georgia.

Travel Route Made With Google Earth (Click To Enlarge)


Charlotte Ralphs said...

Looks pretty exciting. :)

Anonymous said...

I see my posting made it on the other page. What a trip of a lifetime. Way past my age to do this long trip now and I'm 75 come August. Good Luck and happy travels Glen.

Gregg B. said...

This does indeed look like a trip of a lifetime. In a good way I am jealous of you! I am looking forward to following your travels and hearing about visits with family and friends and seeing all the beauty in our awesome country. God bless, Gregg