When I was growing up, half way between New York City and Philadelphia (and also half way between Boston and Washington DC), air travel was expensive and it was a rare kid who got to fly on an airplane. So when my grandparents moved to Florida we started taking annual migrations to visit during the winter break in our station wagon.
This would always start with the traditional packing of the car, with a space large enough for a kid to sleep in the back next to the cooler that enabled us to travel with fewer breaks. We would leave as soon after sunrise as my father could get us all into the car. Frequently this would mean that he was the only one awake as we would get in the car and fall back to sleep for another hour or two. After an in car breakfast of bagels and fruit we would all be awake for the 26 hour drive. As we drove there were the traditional car games such as looking for letters on license plates, but as this was a trip down Route 95 it had its own special game. That was the competition as to who would see the first South of the Border sign. We would usually spend a night in southern North Carolina or northern South Carolina (only once actually staying at South of the Border). We even once made such good time that we changed the motel reservation to northern Georgia. Sometime around 4 pm we would arrive at my grandparent’s condo in Ft. Lauderdale or later at my grandmother’s condo in Boca Raton.
- These trips would include all sorts of unusual warnings like:
- Always watch out for alligators.
- Be careful not to fall into the canals.
- Don’t go onto the golf course, unless you are playing.
- Do not be surprised at the daily four o’clock thunder shower and the resulting humidity.
- And dinner is at five o’clock.
Sometimes these trips would include side trips and tourist activities. We went up to Disney World for a day trip; or to Cape Canaveral to see NASA and the launch pads; and once to see Jai alai in Miami. These side trips were often the highlight of the trips.
I can recall one trip when we were planning to go deep sea fishing, and the night before I was unable to sleep and spent the most of the night reading Treasure Island. Then when we go onto the boat I was so tired that I slept through most of the trip.
Later, when I was working full time my family would still drive down each winter. Sometimes I could join and other times not. One year I made arrangements to fly down on Christmas day. The flight had more crew members than passengers; apparently they needed the plane in Florida the following morning for flights back so they did not cancel the flight. At the crew’s request we were all given an on-board upgrade to first class so it would be easier to support the 10 of us.
Another time, I was coming down as a surprise for my Grandmothers surprise birthday party. Unfortunately there was a problem with fog at the airport in Florida. So we were rerouted to Atlanta, and put up but the airline overnight at an airport hotel. Te hotel voucher included meal vouchers at the hotel restaurant. I had gotten to chatting with my seat mate on the flight and the shuttle ride to the hotel. She was more than a little put out by the delay as it seems she did not have a change of cloths as they only let us have out carry-on luggage with the rest staying on the plane overnight (to save time in the morning) . I was only with carry-on luggage (as I was going for a few days) so I loaned her on of my spare t-shirts. We kept each other company over dinner, and parted ways at the Boca Raton airport.
I was picked-up at the airport by my father and we went to the condo, my Grandmother thought my being there was the surprise – little did she know what was planned. On the following day we went to take her to one of the local restaurants. In the lobby we accidentally bumped into one of her cousins who lived in the area, after a little chatting we separated and went inside. Once there we took her to the banquet hall. When we walked in my Grandmother bumped into her brother who had told her he was not available to get together for her birthday. After she could catch her breath she started hitting him and yelling at him. Then she saw everyone else there and realized it was a surprise party for her.Come to think of it, I never got that shirt back.