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Archive for August 23rd, 2015

Solo Road Trip

August 23, 2015

So much for the idea that once I was retired, I’d have more time to write journal entries. That so has not been the case. In the month plus since I last appeared here, Mr. Karen and I hosted the long planned family reunion, with 28 people including us here at our not at all big by today’s standards house. The weather was pretty cooperative, thank goodness, so we could use our outdoor space (not that that’s huge, either). We had house guests for several days around the reunion, too, so all in all it was a lot more socializing than usual for us. It was fun, but a bit draining, too.

Since the reunion, we’ve kept working on getting the house ready to list. We interviewed three real estate agents, chose one, and got a list of tasks from her that need to get done in order to bring the price we can ask up from what we could get listing “as is”. We don’t need to get top dollar, but the payoff for doing some work is not insignificant, and we’re not in a huge rush to sell, so we chose to go that route. I’ve packed up all my quilting fabric and most of my yarn to go into storage, a necessary step but a bit sad since I don’t know when I’ll next get to start a new project. We’re going through stuff and doing the classic “keep, toss, donate” approach. Too much is still in the keep pile, so we’ll have to go through it again, but right now we’re just trying to keep moving. Some tossing and donating is better than putting it off until we can do a perfect job.
But all work and no play makes for a cranky Karen, so I took a break for a solo road trip I planned earlier this year. I grabbed my tiny plastic guinea pig (unnamed) and my rainbow teddy bear (he’s called James W., after the Ohio Turnpike), and about seven thousand other things, including more nail polish than most salons have, and headed south. I left so late that the first night I only made it as far as southern Ohio.

James W. along for the ride

The first full day of my trip began with a stop at one of the Ohio Big Boy restaurants; their boys are more manic than ours in Michigan. Our boys hold their burgers up for your admiration; the Ohio boys run toward you, thrusting their burgers forward.

Ohio Big Boy

I stopped for lunch in Lexington, Kentucky. I’d intended to grab something from the deli at Kroger, where I’d stopped to get gas, and just eat in my car, but I grabbed a salad, and it was too hot to eat in my car, so I ate sitting on some display patio furniture in the spacious, air conditioned vestibule of the store. I kept expecting an employee to ask me to move along, but though several saw me there, they let me be.

Lexington lunch spot

I pushed on through Tennessee that afternoon to meet our friend Wendy, who’d left some kayaking gear with Mr. K that I was bringing back to her. It had been hot and sunny all day (as one might expect in the southern US in midsummer); it was in the mid to upper 90s and humid when I got out to transfer the gear from my car into Wendy’s SUV. Since it was also rush hour, I decided to take a break from the sun and traffic by doing some browsing in the shops where we met to do the transfer.

James W. holds the paddle

I decided to push on past Atlanta that night, rather than risk hitting it at morning rush. I did end up in a long backup caused by an accident, but that probably wasn’t near as bad as regular traffic would have been in the morning. I chose my hotel based on what exit it was at, that it was in the rewards program whose points I had to redeem, and that it cost fewer points than nearby alternatives. I failed to notice from the website that it had outside corridors with no elevator. That would have been okay if I’d gotten a first floor room, but no, I got one on the second floor, about as far from the stairs as it could be. Worse, on every trip to my room through the heat and humidity, I could see a slightly fancier hotel (in the same rewards program) across the parking lot, knowing they had interior, air conditioned corridors and an elevator. The stingy woman pays the most. I had a moment’s concern when a Georgia state trooper pulled up to the hotel as I was unloading my car, then another when about five more patrol cars came, but apparently they were just guests like me, not doing a midnight bust on the property.
Because part of the point of a road trip is to wander a little, I didn’t get straight onto the freeway the next morning but rather headed in the general direction I was going via a two lane road. I caught glimpses of water to one side of the road and turned, coming upon peaceful Lake Juliette.

Lake Juliette

I did get back on the freeway eventually, but wandered off again at an exit that took me to a little town in Georgia that, like my Detroit, had seen better days.

Window on decay

I made it to Florida that night in time to check in to a hotel and see the sun set from a Kohl’s parking lot, both of which were in locations that confused the navigation system in my car (probably because I have yet to pay for a map update—why do that when I have continually updated maps on my phone). In the morning (well, very late morning), James W. and I posed with the horse statue placed inexplicably in front of our hotel before heading further south.

We don't know why this horse is here

I drove through rain and sun and Alligator Alley to reach my hotel in the Miami area the night before the main event of this trip: meeting up with my nail polish friend Julie. She came to collect me at the hotel that Saturday morning and we shopped and ate and chatted the day away. I got to stop by her house and meet her animals, including Bruce the cat, who I watched grow up on Julie’s blog and in posts on the nail board we both hang out at (or I used to before I got so busy). We then retired to my hotel room to play with nail polish, only taking a short break for dinner at a nearby Columbian restaurant where due to the language barrier, we weren’t entirely sure what we were eating or how to go about getting our check after we had.

All important nail shot
Bruce is skeptical

Sunday I did something I rarely do: lounged by the hotel pool for a couple of hours, going in the water for brief swims when I got too warm. Then Julie came back over and we played with nail polish some more, again taking just a brief dinner break. If she didn’t have to work the next day, we might have just kept going.

Lounging by the pool

Monday I started home, making a side trip to the beach not too long after I left metro Miami.

James W. at the beach

The second day of my drive home featured having to stop to put air in a tire and ignoring some “no trepassing” signs to take pictures of a derelict ferris wheel, which I wouldn’t have seen if I’d taken the same route home as I did down.

Ferris wheel and vines
Ferris wheel

I spent my last night on the road in the same hotel I’d spent the first night in. I thought I’d booked the same type of room I had the first night, as the price was the same, but ended up in a two-room suite with a ridiculous amount of space. Maybe since I got there so late they decided to upgrade me without saying anything. The next morning I had to fill that same tire with air again before making the final push toward Michigan and home.


It was a fun trip, and so nice to be able to take my time. I was glad to be home, though, at least for a little while until the next trip.

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