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Florida in the Key of West

Yesterday was not a pleasant day.   10 hours of driving only to end up at the Best Western in Jacksonville, just so I could stand around waiting for my laundry to finish because the hotel in Key West that I'm staying in for 4 nights had no laundry mentioned on their website.   So it's 10:30 at night and I'm sweating on the second floor between the world's loudest dryer and the local ice machine for an hour.  And that's following 30 minutes of washing.   I even had to hang dry some stuff because even after an hour it still wasn't dry yet.

It's times like that that make me question whether or not this trip was even a good idea.  It usually happens in the waking moments before sleep when I'm lying in my rented bed in the middle of a town where I know no one.  Why am I here?  Am I learning anything?  Is this just a giant waste of time and money? And then there's times like the Wendy's.  

I got in too late in Jacksonville and the hotel was far enough and hidden away enough that finding it again would require reprogramming my GPS and I had just driven 10 hours so fuck that.  After the laundry I ended up going to the vending machines to try to eke out some kind of junk food sustenance, but I was so tired I barely ate anything (no room service) and went right to bed.   The next morning I got up and got out of there as soon as I could, and, wanting to put as much distance between me and Jacksonville as soon as possible, I drove straight on for the next 4 hours.  I hadn't eaten worth mentioning since lunch the previous day so it was around 1 or so when I noticed I was starting to swerve.   On long trips I should mention that to avoid muscle strain (and because of my general laziness) I tend to drive on highways almost entirely with only my left index finger -- it doesn't give you a lot of precise control but if you're paying attention it works fine.   Well I find myself swerving (noticing even more thanks to the budda budda budda of those road reflectors they have in Florida on the lane lines) and I decide I need to get something quick.   I get off at the next exit and I pull into a Wendy's.

Now, I don't usually eat at Wendy's as a rule.  The closest one to my house is far enough away to be annoying to travel to, and I tend to stick with what I know.   I get in there and I order the spicy chicken, and I go sit down, and I look out the window.  I bite in and I'll be damned if it wasn't the tastiest sandwich I ever had.   I look out the window and across the road I see the palm trees waving in the breeze.  And I realize it.  I'm in Florida.   It's a beautiful day.   I'm on an honest-to-god road trip.  And I start to smile. 

This helped too:

When you see that out your car window, you know it's going to be a memorable drive.

Key West by the way, and the Keys in general are an interesting mish mash of the last 50 years of the American tourist experience.  50s era places like the Kon-Tiki (complete with Tiki mask on the sign) mix in with modern day resorts and beachfront condos.  Old school banquet halls and fish houses that have been around for decades side by side with chain steakhouses and ubiquitous IHOPs (or it's southern counterpart the Waffle House).  Almost hard to believe they're due west of the Bahamas.

Going exploring (and shopping for shorts!) tomorrow.


And now for a new segment:  Road Snark.  Where I get snarky about things on the road in my travels.

1) Stay of the Median.  Hey!  The Median is made entirely of a line of trees surrounded by swamp.  Better keep off it!  Thanks, government of Georgia.

2) The Following 10 Miles have Increased Fines for Speeding.   Uh... why?  It's still the Interstate.  There's no elementary schools, or day cares, or hospitals that release people directly on to the highway.  So what makes this 10 miles so special?  Oh, it's the part that easiest to speed on..  I see now.

3) Holiday Inn/Red Roof Inn/Sleep Inn/Marriott/Best Western next exit.  Or the next one.  Or the next one.  How exactly, is it economically feasible to have 3-8 chain hotels located at literally EVERY exit on the I95 from Washington to Jacksonville?   I know a lot of people take the road... but every exit must have 2000-odd beds.

And one thing I liked...  The rest areas!  Yep, they're convenient, the areas around them are well maintained, and most unbelievably, their bathrooms are actually fairly clean.  Good Job America!

By the way, the hotel I'm at in Key West does have it's own laundry.  And its cheaper too.  Such is life.


  1. Hurray you made it to Florida! I was "Wiki"ing Jacksonville and it is the largest city in the United States. Did you see the statue of Andrew Jackson? I guess even though it is the largest, it must also be hell on earth judging by your blog.

    So I guess it is hot there too? We are still having mid-teen temp days in the Great White North :) Oh yeah, and the swine flu thing is all but done. There are reports that the illness is beginning to level off.

    Nothing much else has been going on. Did you take any other pictures on your trip down the Interstate?

    So after Key West.... what's next? I thought for sure you would only reach there in June.

  2. Part of this stop is deciding what to do next. Move on to New Orleans, or go back up to Memphis, or what. I realized that there wasn't a lot in the Carolinas or Georgia that I really wanted to see, and I'd been to VA Beach/Norfolk before so they were out. I figured an extra night in Key West would have been a better use of my time from a relaxation perspective.

    And I didn't do any sightseeing. I'm sure the city of Jacksonville is all well and good, but I only saw the inside of the hotel and the freeway so who am I to judge? I may mosey back up a little more relaxed now that I know hotels are so plentiful.

  3. haha love the road snarks :p Yeah the rest areas are awesome...fairly safe too...I've slept in the car in a rest stop a hundred times on my occasional trips to the midwest...

    and don't worry about the "why am I here" feelings...obviously you aren't any more anyway but yeah, even if the trip turned out terrible it'd still make a cool story...experience is never a waste of time..


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