CLARKSTON, GA TO FT. LAUDERDALE, FL--November 15-18, 2013

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November 15th 2013
Published: November 30th 2013
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Clarkston, GA--Friday, November 15th. Our starting mileage is 39,893 with the temperature at a cool 46 degrees at 12:36 and drizzling.

Instead of flying south, we opted to take off in Rosie II and drive to catch the cruise ship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We started by driving I-285 south to the I-675 cut off and then hit I-75 around Stockbridge. At that intersection we found the Golden Corral for a lunch stop. As we exited the off ramp there was a small sign that caught my eye. It read, “On-line Heating and Air Conditioning” and gave a URL address to contact. Valerie and I had a lively discussion as to how you might deliver that service “on-line.” Freon top-off through the either??? New compressor delivered by aliens?? What???

At the Golden Corral we bought enough cooked food at $4.29 a pound to last for our trip. Before we left home, we had taken all the canned and pre-packaged food out of Rosie as we knew she would be stored and we were afraid insects and or mice would find their way inside after the goodies.

Near Vienna we watched monster harvesters “picking” cotton and rolling it into mostly round bales like they do hay. Not at all sure how the stems/leaves etc. are separated from the cotton in the machine as the cotton bales looked pure white. We saw a huge number of hawks on poles, trees, and in the sky. I guess the harvesters are also stirring up the mice and other creatures for the hawks’ dinner.

Exited at the town of Adele and drove 5.5 miles west to the Reed Bingham State Park situated in Spanish moss covered oaks on a lake. There are plenty of camp spots on flat land with graveled spaces to park on. We quickly plugged in and settled into a spot next to a gentleman who had a motorcycle with a hand built sidecar that could be opened into a tent. After talking with him for a bit we walked toward the wash house and observed an absolutely fantastic sunset in orange and strange blues. Stood outside and watched until it faded.

Reed Bingham State Park—Saturday, November 16th. Starting mileage is 40,120. Temperature is 64 degrees this morning as we drove around to the other side of the lake.

The pretty lake had just a little fall color showing in the undergrowth as most of the trees around the lake are evergreen long leaf pines and oaks and not deciduous hardwoods. Walked out on a boardwalk with a sign in front warning that alligators are present in the lake so there was no swimming here. We watched an egret on a small island catching breakfast and some mud hens and white ringed ducks for awhile. As we pulled along the dam, we saw lots of turtles sunning themselves on the causeway.

Drove back toward I-75 and got gas at a truck stop for $3.09 a gallon and then just as we neared the on-ramp we saw a Bon Worth store in a strip mall. We decided to check it out and Valerie and I each bought some clothes that were on sale since the seasons are changing to winter fashions now. Ate lunch at Captain D’s and then headed further south on I-75. Around Ocala we drove by lots of big horse farms like those in Kentucky near Lexington. Crossed into Florida and it rained off and on.

Turned off I-75 at exit 329 and headed east and then drove through one retirement community after another. One complex called “The Villages” was huge with houses built around several golf courses. Pulled through the town of Fruitland and found Griffin Lake State Park. It is a typical Florida campground with lots of sand and the trees festooned with lots of Spanish moss and palmettos growing thickly under all the trees.

Griffin Lake State Park, Fruitland, Florida--Sunday, November 17th. 40,331 starting mileage. 76 degrees at 10:00. Overcast.

Looking at the campground map we realized that we couldn’t get to where you could look at the lake without a boat. So we went and dumped out Rosie’s tanks as this is the last campground before we will store her for 11 days in Ft. Lauderdale and then a month in Miami.

Left the campground and took a left turn onto highway 27, a 4 lane that was basically quiet this Sunday morning. We were heading to the Florida Turnpike that was the most direct way from I-75 that basically runs along the western Florida coast to the eastern coast of Florida. Since the toll road starts north of Orlando, the state reaps the benefits of all the fees from the hoards of vehicles heading to Orlando from the northern US. Made a quick stop at a Walgreen’s to purchase some sunglasses we left somewhere in the house.

Our first toll was $1.50 to get on the Turnpike. After driving 30-40 miles we entered a toll plaza with two divisions of the lanes. The first was labeled for all those with a “Sunpass” the second lanes were only labeled with the word “ticket.” Valerie and I looked at one another and said “we weren’t given a ticket when we got on.” As we got to the machine we saw we were to TAKE a ticket. Why didn’t it say get a ticket??? If we were confused, can you imagine the discussion of older New York couple. “What did you do with the ticket Goldie?? What ticket Mort??? Did you take one from the young woman?? If you weren’t making google eyes at her assets you would have paid more attention to taking a ticket. Goldie, I would have handed YOU the ticket so I could drive.”-----you get the idea.

At the service plaza at Fort Drum we got gas and paid $3.349 a gallon. Got just enough gas to get us to Miami since the gas prices here seemed a bit high. Went inside and looked at the prices of the food at the food court and decided to go back to Rosie and eat the last of the Golden Corral food. It was too hot to sit in this place very long, so we got back on the toll road. Finally, we began traveling through some orange groves. So very few remain as the retirement communities proliferate and the orange groves are torn out. Lots of water in ponds and irrigation canals but no interesting birds, only cattle egrets on the banks. Going through the last toll plaza we paid about $15.00 in tolls for using this road. Getting off, we crossed over a serious tangle of other roads coming in, crossing overhead, plus off and on ramps going all over, crisscrossing more than our Spaghetti Junction in Atlanta.

We arrived at the Quality Inn at about 3:45. Checked in and was assigned room 107 by the argumentative desk clerk. The motel was really run down on the outside and across the street were long blocks of transition housing and other services offered by the Salvation Army. We opened the room door and were confronted by a dresser with three missing drawers and a very unpleasant odor. Valerie immediately returned to the front desk and asked for another room or to be given another Choice Hotel property location.

When I got involved the clerk had turned it over to a woman subordinate making comments to her about finding us a room at the Crown Plaza since that was what we were expecting. Since we are Priority Club members and have been staying at this association’s motels all over the country, we obviously weren’t expecting 5 star accommodations. We did, however, expect the room to be clean. Going back and forth with this woman trying to find us another room, I overheard the original desk clerk checking a man into “one of the new” rooms on the fifth floor. I went up to the fifth floor and checked out a new room and we decided we would take it as there had been too much talk from the clerk about charging us for the room if we moved to a different venue. In addition we also would have had to figure out a way to let Christina and Paul [Sharon’s daughter and son-in law] know where we were if we moved and how to get them there as this motel ran a free airport shuttle and they were flying in from Baltimore. So, after a most unhappy experience we ordered in a meal from a local Italian restaurant that was passable. We connected with Christina about 10 and then called it a night.

Quality Inn, Ft Lauderdale, Florida--Monday, November 18th. Already muggy out at 7:30 in the morning. I got up about 6:30 as the traffic was very heavy in front of the motel as it is the main road from I-95 to downtown. We went down for a very limited breakfast as space was very cramped with renovations taking place. Packed all the suitcases in Rosie and drove to the parking lot where we had reservations for her storage. They said we were too early as people were just coming off the cruise ship(s) and hadn’t had time to retrieve their cars. We came back as requested in a half hour and left Rosie and her keys which we weren’t too happy with.

We took their shuttle to the cruise port and went through the boarding process. It didn’t seem as long a wait as the Royal Caribbean’s system. Found our rooms and put stuff inside and then headed to lunch. Afterward, we went back to the cabins to unpack and organize things. We watched ship pull out of port close to sunset. Met Christina and Paul for dinner in the dining room where we have open seating. Seated at a table for 4 and had a nice dinner although it took a long time, before calling it a night. Paul and Christina went exploring.

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