I am sure there are a lot of folks out there who spent their Memorial Day weekend similar to me, traveling to visit family. That seems to be what three day weekends are for. If you have read my blog before then you know I live in Gainesville, FL . You may have also read about a trip up North to visit my youngest sister and her family in PA, but I also have another sister who lives in Coral Springs, FL. She and her husband had just purchased a new home (new to them) and they wanted me to come for a visit. The Memorial Day weekend was a good chance for that.
Now, I like to drive and love road trips. I love the feel of the road as it moves under you and the change of scenery as you move along. I like the freedom of being on the open road. That was part of the allure of truck driving when I did that for a living. But I have a confession to make, I hate driving in South Florida. In fact, that is one of the big reasons I moved north to Gainesville from Ft Myers/Cape Coral. I can remember days when it would take me an hour and half to drive five miles to go to work. And that was on the Gulf Coast. The east coast is much worse.
The entire east coast of Florida from around Ft Pierce all the way south to Miami is often one large traffic jam. There are a few other areas of the country that are like this (LA, Chicago, DC, Charlotte NC, Phoenix AZ, just to name the ones that stand out in my mind) but none have quite the flavor of South Florida…. especially around the end of the workday on a Friday. It is a mix of people rushing to get away from work, start their traveling, kids getting out from school, retirees heading to the early bird special, and just general idiots who don’t have courtesy, skills or intelligence to drive but have been granted a license by the state.. or not. Before I get off on a tangent about the state of driving skills in America today let me continue.
Since my sister and her husband wouldn’t get out of work til later in the day, I decided to leave Gainesville around Noon (which means I ended getting around the road at 1 PM) so that I would get to their place around the same time they did. I packed a couple bags, prepared a travel bag for Tucker (my dog) and hit the road. Now this is the first lengthy road trip that Tucker and I have been on together. He likes to see where we are going for about the first hour, so that meant frequently stepping onto my lap to see out the windows. By the time we hit the turnpike he started to settle down a bit an just rested on the seat beside me. Now, I don’t know about other dogs but Jack Russell’s being high energy as it is and the tension of being in a moving vehicle added to his needing to vacate his bladder about every 1 ½ – 2 hours, which was okay with me as I need to stretch my legs at about the same intervals.
The trip was relatively uneventful, with the occasional Florida afternoon rain shower to drive through and some construction along the way. We ended getting to their place around 6 PM. Now if you look at the map above this paragraph you will see that it should only take a little over four hours to get there. But with the traffic we started hitting at around Ft Pierce south on the turnpike it added another 45 minutes. And they live about 20 minutes closer to me than they did at their old place.
Having been about four months since I’d seen them all in person, it was good to see my sister, brother-in-law and nieces again. The youngest niece keeps shooting up like a sprout and for a nine-year-old is very tall. She gets that from her father. Her older sister has just graduated high school and will start college soon. She has grown into a lovely young woman, also tall like her father.
My bro-in-law threw some steaks on the grill while my sister cooked some baked potatoes in the house. I brought out my home-brewed wheat beer for us to have with dinner. We served that in some beer goblets featuring the Swamp Head Brewery logo, gifts from me to my bro-in-law over the last couple of Christmas’. Both my sister and bro-in-law really liked the flavor of the beer, which being the brewmaster for that batch delighted me to no end.
The whole next day was spent around the pool and the patio. My bro-in-law fried up some chicken in the turkey fryer, which he then coated in wingsauce. It was really good. And my sister cooked up some Mexican corn-on-the-cob, which was delicious, and they also grilled some burger made with a special recipe. I don’t know all the contents I just know it tasted good. I prepared bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers which my bro-in-law grilled. They also had friends over who I have met before and who brought a desert and a fluff fruit salad. And the beers purchased were the Blue Moon Summer release variety pack. Some of you may not think of Blue Moon as a craft beer and if we were talking about their normal belgian wheat I might agree, but their varietals are what I would consider craft as they are not available all the time and do require different tactics for making.
On Sunday we went to one of the guests house for a little pool party there. I over-exposed myself to the sun the day before so I stayed in the shade and out of the pool. The beer variety there was Coors Light. Yes, I agree whole heartedly that Coors light, or any light beer for that matter, should be illegal. And I would not normally choose to drink it. But since I was dehydrated the day before I felt that drinking soda water wouldn’t hurt me. And when in Rome…
When we got home that evening for dinner we had left over BBQ from the day before. And my bro-in-law pulled out the growler I had brought along as a gift. It was filled with Ursa (American IPA) from First Magnitude Brewing. He and my sister both liked that as much as I did, maybe more. I think next time they visit me we’ll have to go by First magnitude so they can see the brewery and sample more their fare.
The next day was Memorial Day and since I was back to work Tuesday I knew I needed to head home. Tucker and I said our goodbyes and loaded up the truck and head off. It was a fairly uneventful drive home, despite Tucker trying to take the wheel (see pic below) until we got off of the turnpike. And as I was afraid would happen the traffic on I-75 started coming to a stop not long after the turnpike merges with it. That almost always happens on the last day of holiday travel. So I got off at the next exit and took US Highway 441 through Belleview and Ocala and on up to Gainesville. It was not as fast as the interstate with frequent stops along the way, but at least the truck was moving and not stopped and waiting for the flow of traffic to resume. Besides… the scenery along 441 can be quite nice.
I reflected a bit on what Memorial Day means to me. It means being able to enjoy the gathering of friends and family, and remembering those who sacrificed everything so that we can enjoy those freedoms.
I hope your Memorial Day was equally enjoyable and that you took time to remember those who made it possible.