2014 Florida Road Trip


Vacation: The word “vacation” is a combination of two Spanish words: “Vaca,” meaning “Cow,” and “Ation,” meaning “is what we call you for bragging about being on vacation.”

March 14, 2014: As someone on my comment list has mentioned (I won’t name names), I did pay a brief visit to Mattoon, IL during my all-night drive through Illinois. I cruised the main streets looking for adventure, but adventure was already in bed by that time. I also had this need to see something unusual…such as, oh, I don’t know, a two-story outhouse. Unfortunately, I did not get to see this wonder 😦 Perhaps another time…

March 15, 2014: Nothing to report at this point (8:21 A.M.). I left town yesterday evening and more or less drove all night (I did take a few naps though). My plan is to hit Nashville this afternoon, BUT FIRST…I couldn’t resist stopping off at Metropolis, IL, home of Superman.

100_1392Superman in Metropolis, IL

100_1399I’m curious…If Superman wanted to hide somewhere so he could change, why would he pick a transparent phone booth?

As previously mentioned, my next stop on the tour was Nashville. Although there were many things I would have liked to do there, I had only one purpose in mind. Just outside the city is the Nashville National Cemetery. Here is buried my great, great great grandfather Hiram Multy Minor, who was a corporal in the 110th IL Regiment. Sadly, his military career was cut short when he died in 1863, presumably of disease. As a history nerd, cemeteries tend to pop up on my trips quite a bit. Obviously, this one was a little more special, and even though I had visited here before, the experience was moving. This was my flesh and blood link to the Civil War; history made real.

100_1402My Great x 3 Grandfather

As it was close by, it seemed fitting to visit the battlefield that my ancestor fought on: Stones River Battlefield in Murfreesboro, TN. This was my third visit to this site. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but very underrated in terms of historical impact. This can be noted by the urban sprawl that has taken over a large portion of the place where the battle was fought. Still, what has been preserved is remarkable.

Never heard of the Battle of Stones River? It was fought from December 31, 1862 through January 3, 1863, and was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, ranking it among the likes of Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg. With the hard-fought Union victory, the Confederates more or less lost Tennessee for the remainder of the war. My ancestor, along with the 100th were a part of Hazen’s Brigade. I won’t bore you with the details of their actions, but the Brigade really made a name for themselves during the battle. I’m proud that Hiram Minor was a part of that!

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Cannon at Stones River Cemetery, keeping silent vigil over the fallen.

100_1428This is the monument to Hazen’s Brigade. Unlike most of the memorials you see on battlefields, this one was constructed by the soldiers themselves soon after the battle. It is also one of the oldest Civil War monument in existence.

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All right, I usually don’t make light of those who served our country, but…look at the guy’s name!

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat

The soldier’s last tattoo;

No more on Life’s parade shall meet

That brave and fallen few.

On fame’s eternal camping ground

Their silent tents to spread,

And glory guards, with solemn round

The bivouac of the dead.

(Theodore O’Hara, Bivouac of the Dead)

From Murfreesboro, I concluded my day’s adventures in Chattanooga where I honored my Irish ancestors by having a Reuben sandwich (corned beef, mmmmm…). Sorry, I didn’t take a picture of my dinner 😦

March 16, 2014: Due to the cold and rainy weather that greeted me Sunday morning, I cancelled all of my outdoor activities, including a trip up Lookout Mountain and the Chattanooga Battlefield. Instead, I decided to honor my Irish ancestors once more before leaving Chattanooga. I got a shamrock shake.

After a fairly uneventful drive, I arrived in Atlanta in the late afternoon. Do to the lateness of the hour, the only thing I was able to see was the 1996 Olympics exhibit at the Atlanta History Center. It was a really nice set-up. Unfortunately, by the time I finally pulled myself away from the exhibit, the History Center was closing up. This is a place I’d definitely like to explore more thoroughly if or when I come back this way again.

Afterwards, I had a grand time meandering in the Atlanta traffic, trying to find my way back to the highway. Actually, it wasn’t all that bad, especially when you compare it with driving in Chicago. My only complaint with Atlanta is that it seemed as though half of the streets were named “Peachtree.”

The long drive from Atlanta to Tampa was one for the books! First, the rain which had been steadily falling all day became a downpour as I headed south. It was a storm that I would stack up against any of the blizzards we have had in Chicagoland this winter. With such low visibility, my march through Georgia quickly became a crawl. The natives didn’t seem too bothered by the weather, just by me as I selfishly hogged the far right lane, refusing to go above 50 MPH. I tried to wait out the storm at various rest stops. I would pull off, take a nap in my car, wake up an hour later, and find that the rain was still coming down hard. I would then return to the highway and slowly make my way to the next stop. Rinse and repeat all the way to Florida.

At 11:52 PM, I crossed into Florida. This was my ultimate goal for the road trip. Never having been to Florida before, it was a state that I had desired to cross off my Bucket List for many years. Crossing the border also made it the big 4-0 for me: 40 states down, 10 to go! This may not be a very impressive feat to the globe-trotters who might be reading this, but this accomplishment pleases me greatly!

March 17, 2014: 11:16 AM: So…it rains in Tampa. Who knew?

5:20 PM: Still raining…

10:15 PM: Raining…

That Tampa Sunshine is Coming Down in Buckets

 

March 18, 2014: The sun finally appeared today, and it was time to explore my surroundings. I drove down the coast and stopped off at Medeira Beach for a couple of hours. The temperature was in the 70s, a cool, steady breeze chopped up the Gulf and sent in some decent waves. I must have been the only Northerner on the beach today because I was the only one willing to go swimming in the relatively cold water, but after the winter we had in Chicago, it was nothin’. However, I underestimated my skin’s ability to burn quickly. Even with the application of sun tan lotion, my skin rapidly went from white to glow-in-the-dark pink. Good times.

100_1448_00Medeira Beach

I also paid a visit to John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk and promptly O.D.’d on fudge from Kilwin’s candy shop.

Despite the sunburn and chocolate overload, I had an enjoyable day.

March 19, 2014: I made my departure from Tampa this morning and traveled east to St. Augustine. What a beautiful place! I had only meant to stay for an hour or so, then move on. I ended up staying for three hours and still didn’t get to see all that the city had to offer. I started with a bus tour which proved to be quite adventurous. We almost got T-boned by a car, I nearly tumbled out of the bus on several occasions when when we took a couple sharp turns into traffic, and then there was the cat on a motorcycle. The tour bus made a special stop just to take pictures.

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A cat on a hog. Oh, the wonders of Florida.

There was a lot of beautiful architecture in the city that I wish I had the time to take pictures of. I got what I could, but this is a place that I’d definitely like to make a return visit!

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This tree is over 600 years old. Apparently, people aren’t the only ones to retire to Florida when they get old.

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Mission Nombre de Dios. It was here that St. Augustine was founded in 1565. It was also the sight of the first Thanksgiving to be held in the New World, 55 years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The tour bus driver summed this little historical tidbit quite eloquently when stated: “Suck it, Massachusetts!”

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The old Spanish fort.

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The original gates to the city.

And now, Steven’s March to the Sea continues with Savannah in his sights…

March 20, 2014: Today has been a bittersweet one as my vacation starts drawing to a close. However, this Thursday has not been without its little adventures. I arrived in Savannah late last night and drove around the city, hoping to locate a hotel. Despite my diligent searching, I wasn’t able to find one! Perplexed, I made my way to the little town of Pooler. There, I found an inexpensive place to roost, and slept well despite the dire warning plastered on my motel room door to use ALL of the door’s locks. This warning gained merit the next morning when the police paid a visit to an upstairs neighbor. I hoping to see a live episode of Cops, but the situation resolved itself quietly. How disappointing…

If I could sum up the South as a whole (judging from this experience), I could do it in two words: Waffle House. I lost count of how many of these restaurants I passed while on my way to Florida. Still, I had never been in one, and I felt that my trip wouldn’t be truly complete until I visited this establishment. I don’t know if all Waffle House are the same, but the one I went to was quite the experience. It was a delightfully stereotypical greasy-spoon, roadside diner. I, the mysterious stranger, sat at the counter with a newspaper in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other while the waitresses and cooks chatted and joked with their usual customers. I loved it! I wanted to stick around and swap the latest gossip, but I still had much to see.

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Yes, I took a picture of the sign. Don’t judge me.

I returned to Savannah, and wouldn’t you know it, I located half a dozen hotels in the downtown area (I swear, they weren’t there last night!). Due to time constraints, I made a quick visit, strolling down Bay and River Streets, and taking the occasional picture.

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Savannah Cotton Exchange

My next stop was Charleston, SC. It was a bit out of the way, but I really wanted to see Fort Sumter…AND FIRE UPON IT! (Ha ha! Where did that come from? I think I’ve been in the South too long). Incidentally, I’ve noticed that in the past few days, that my pattern of speech has been changing. I don’t know if you can tell from reading this, but my accent has developed a bit of a drawl. At this rate, I may need a translator when I get home. Now, where was I? Oh yes, Charleston. I spent some time in the city, mostly being lost. Sadly, by the time I finally located the Fort Sumter ferry, the last boat had left for the day. I missed it by 15 minutes. At that point, I realized that it was time to go home.

So…as of now (10:12 PM), I am about 90 miles south of the North Carolina border. I was hoping to make more progress, but I got caught up in an hour long traffic jam. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what caused it. It was too late for rush hour, and when the jam finally broke, I didn’t see any sign of an accident. I pulled off at a McDonald’s a shot time later, and a gentleman in the restaurant was talking about it, although I didn’t catch the whole conversation. It seemed that someone was threatening to jump off a bridge and all traffic was stopped until the issue was resolved. Hopefully, it was a good resolution.

Well, it’s late and I’ve got a lot of driving ahead of me. I’m hoping to be home sometime tomorrow evening. We shall see…

March 21, 2014: Not much to report about right now (12:00 PM). Last night and this morning has been a hazy blur of driving and rest stop naps. I’m now in Owensboro, KY, right across the border from Indiana.

It’s amazing how all-night driving can mess up your perspective on time. The time zone change doesn’t help with the confusion either. I feel like it should be much later in the day.

I have had a blast on this vacation (and thanks to those who “joined” me on this little adventure!), but I think I’m ready to go home now, which I take as a sign of a successful road trip!

10:30 PM-Home.

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The rent-a-chariot that took me to Florida.

Total miles: 3012

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