This article was originally written for Positive Tribe Magazine, November 2018.  For your own free subscription, visit today.

Have you ever driven from Southern Florida all the way to North Carolina and then back home 4 days later?

I have – several times in the last few years actually because my hubby, CJ, LOVES to drive.   We always have a great adventure when we travel by car – he owns the driver seat and I’m the passenger extraordinaire! It’s a 738.8 mile trip which takes about 11 hours one way.  Shall we drive or fly?  We had that discussion but it was really short.

If you REALLY look at the time it takes to prepare for a flight and get through the following checklist, why NOT drive all the way!

  • Pack up the night before and hide the suitcases because the cats stress out every time you leave and that brings on a UTI and there’s no time for a quick trip to the Vet. (2 hours)
  • Drive to and get to the airport two hours early – ok, we have a need to be in the airport WAY ahead of time – comfort zone. (2 hours 30 minutes)
  • Fly, usually not non-stop because the airport nearest Cashiers is Greenville, South Carolina or Asheville, North Carolina and neither are huge airports, so there is a connection through Atlanta or Charlotte. (Up to 5 hours)
  • Wait at baggage claim for your two 50 pound bags, including an extra large golf bag! (30 minutes)
  • Rent a car, and finally drive 2 hours to Cashiers (2 hours)

Sounds like fun, right?  Are we there yet?

Well, this last time we drove up to North Carolina was because my best friend asked me A YEAR AGO if her son got married up there, would we attend?  Obviously, I said “Yes, there is nothing lovelier than Highlands/Cashiers, North Carolina in October!”

All the way north we were consciously outrunning the violent path of Hurricane Michael which was on a rampage from Mexico Beach, Florida to the Atlantic Ocean east of Virginia.  Our GPS, Lizzie,  wanted to direct us up through Atlanta, but the weather channel said “Stay East” so, in spite of Lizzie yelling “recalculating…make the next left turn” when we didn’t  follow her directions, I-95 became our best route!  My job was to check out Mapquest on my phone, the Weather Channel on CJ’s phone, and to consider Lizzie barking orders on the car speaker!  I’m so grateful I was the passenger because the ultimate decision maker was my driver, or at least I let him think that!

We really wanted to take some of the more direct, smaller roads west to the mountains, but the thought of the hurricane coming our way and not having a Hampton Inn, my favorite,  available kept us going north “on the big roads!”  I-16 outside of Savannah, Georgia, had been a terrific route for us last year when we went north, but this time it looked like a beeline directly into Michael’s path, so we stayed on I-95 north towards Charleston and then took I-26 west to Columbia, South Carolina and that would be our resting place– 10 hours from home was a good enough drive for one day.  So grateful for warm chocolate chip cookies, fluffy white pillows and a huge down comforter!

Columbia looked promising when we arrived at 10:00 pm but by 6:00 am the following morning the Weather Channel and  Jim Cantore had Hurricane Michael, soon to be a Tropical Storm Michael,  bearing directly down on top of us.  Go figure.  We looked out our 3rd floor window and could see the rain blowing sideways but we heard there was going to be a lull soon and since ALL the schools and businesses in South Carolina were closed, we figured it would be a great time to get on the highway and zoom up to the mountains.  Good thinking, at least from the traffic point of view!  No one was on the road except for the occasional 18-wheeler and a few crazy Floridians headed up to “leaf look” or go to a destination wedding.

I’m really grateful my hubby loves to drive because throughout the trip my mind kept wandering back to turning around to enjoy a quiet weekend at home where the sun was shining, the temperatures were near 86 degrees and the breezes were calm.  He truly loves “Driving Ms. Debby!”

We had smooth sailing up Route 107 into Cashiers, although this beautiful scenic route was all switch back hairpin turns with what looked like railings made of aluminum foil – I wasn’t convinced they would hold back our Chevy Tahoe if it decided to deviate from the intended course!  Of course, I knew my driver was a proven expert and he really didn’t want to journey into any ravines and so far the Fall foliage wasn’t worth any off road escapades!  The comfort of our North Caroline family home was all I could focus on and thank goodness the sun came out when we drove up the dirt drive!

Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Gulf Coast and did some damage along the rest of his path through the Carolinas and Virginia but up in the mountains except for the 24 hour Weather Channel coverage, you’d never know a storm had been around.  For the next three days the sky was the most exquisite blue with periodic fluff clouds blowing by.  The temperatures were a bit cold – that coming from a former Vermont  Damn Yankee who gets cold walking past the freezer aisles in the grocery store – and every Floridian up there had long sleeves and wool coats, except for the ones snuggled tightly together in front of the hotel fireplaces!  This was not a wedding to show off your legs in a short cocktail dress or halter top and those young women doing that were shivering all the way down the aisle!  So grateful for my mother-in-law’s St. John wool coat with chinchilla collar and cuffs!

The weekend was full of wedding excitement but outside tents with no heaters provided a cover for the designer buffet tables but all 150 Florida guests were talking about how cold they were, not how delicious the lobster mac and cheese tasted!   In spite of the evening temperatures, we managed to do our share of sightseeing during the days.  We found every golf course that we could get into – heaven forbid we run out of golf shirts but long sleeve shirts can’t be found in the South Florida clubs so we collected several over the weekend!  I must admit it was exciting going up and down the mountain ranges full of cliffs and a variety of trees just waiting to burst into full colors.

Soon Sunday morning was upon us, and I, once again, became the navigator/passenger armed with Google as my guide in an 11 hour adventure back to Florida.  Going DOWN the switch back mountain roads at 7:00 AM in the morning with fog rising up from the valley floor wasn’t my favorite activity because I couldn’t see the horizon – a trick I learned to quell motion sickness when I had 4 children ready to throw up in the back seat -but at least we got started before any of the other Floridians hit the pavement!    I’m grateful my driver is slow and steady and not trying to break the land speed record back to Florida.

One big plus of driving off the Interstate highways is going through the many small towns.  I love seeing America through small towns and yet many times wondered why people lived there – especially when you might not see a home or store for miles and miles.  What’s the draw?

At one point CJ and I must have had the same thought at the same time as we looked out at the cattle/cows in the vast pastures.  Ok, what’s the definition of “cattle” versus “cow”…a Google moment!  Here’s the elementary school definition, “One is for beef and one is for milk.”  What an existence…eat, stand around, sleep (standing up?), poop, and then start all over.

We laughed at the thought “Don’t eat too fast or you’ll be Prime Rib at the closest Long Horn Steak house! Then again, don’t eat too little or they’ll think you’re sick.”  Not sure either alternative is pleasing to the cattle/cows and we certainly didn’t ask them!

Who thinks those things, except a couple of butt-tired travelers driving along a LONG, two lane road through “no-where!”  No offense to the country folks – I love the quiet towns all along the journey and I pondered how the frenetic weather and news of the day, broadcast from NYC, Washington, DC or LA, really affected their lives.  I try not to let the news affect my daily life too much – it’s definitely a spectator sport which I limit to an hour/day just because I really only need to see the local weather! I bet that most of us prefer our local news or no news at all to most of the national stuff these days! No digression here.

As you can tell, I love being a passenger as long as my husband is the driver.  The long trips give us time to talk – really talk about our kids, our work and most importantly, our marriage.  We hold hands for hours.  We look up what’s growing along the side of the roads.  We use our travels as a living classroom and realize how grateful we are to be living in one of the most beautiful, interesting and diverse country.

I’m grateful for my friend inviting us to her destination wedding.  When you have the opportunity to go someplace different, say yes.  Look at everything with your grateful glasses on and enjoy the ride.  Every driver appreciates a grateful passenger!

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