Early this spring my wife and I planned a vacation trip to the South. A few weeks before we were scheduled to leave, however, Julie became ill with kidney stones which took most of the summer to resolve. Finally, earlier this month, we were able to leave on our spring vacation.


Our destination was central Florida where we planned to visit my baby sister and her husband who live near Orlando. Along the way we stopped at two points in Georgia to visit relatives.


After 10 days of touring and many miles of driving here are some reflections on our October spring vacation ̶


My GPS unit has become a treasured traveling companion. In the old days I was proud of my map reading abilities and was disinclined to spend money on a GPS unit. When I found a GPS unit on sale at 75 percent off retail I changed my mind. Now I’m on my third one and it makes traveling on unfamiliar roads so much easier. Three times on this trip, however, I did not understand the directions given and had to turn around. Discouraging words were heard.


I have driven in Chicago, Washington, DC, and other large cities but none caused as many discouraging words on this trip as Atlanta. In years past I have driven through the heart of Atlanta without a hitch but on this trip I had to exit I-75 to I-285 on the north side of the city. Welcome to a 10-lane parking lot and that was before the “rush hour.”


While I appreciate our nation’s Interstate highway system I also enjoy occasionally getting off the freeway and driving two-lane roads where you can see the real world. In Louisiana and Arkansas we took some less traveled roads and saw fields of sugar cane and cotton plus a crop I couldn’t identify. There were plenty of miles where we saw nothing but scrub ground, sloughs and tiny towns… and some cows.


Down South every bridge is preceded by a sign advising that bridges become icy before road surfaces. The same principle applies here in the North, of course, but most of us Yankees know from sad experience that it’s all going to be ice-covered real soon.


While in the Orlando area we spent a day at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center. It’s a wonderful park but for a frugal Iowa country boy the prices are a bit high. A bottle of water cost three bucks; a modest waffle cone was $4.35. To add to my discomfort Florida was enduring a heat wave and while we were at Epcot it was 95 degrees and humid. If anyone smelled meat burning that day it was my rear end dragging the pavement.


We enjoyed a delightful lunch at a German restaurant in Sanford where my mittagessen (that’s lunch here in America) included pork schnitzel and potato dumplings. I always thought quiche was a French dish, but was surprised to learn that quiche originated in western Germany… near France. While I salivated over my schnitzel Julie savored a quiche. C’est délicieux, mein Freund!


That afternoon my sister and brother-in-law treated us to a pontoon boat ride on Lake Dora, one of the many lakes in central Florida. We saw alligators… from a distance ̶ my preferred point of view.


In Louisiana we toured an antebellum mansion built in 1835 and expanded a decade later. The plantation hearkened back to a day of genteel Southern living but also evoked thoughts of the shameful days of slavery. The park-like grounds surrounding the mansion were planned by an early owner and are maintained to the original design today.


We encountered a lot of road construction during our trip. Whenever it seemed we were making good time we saw the familiar orange, white and yellow traffic cones and had to slow down again.


On the way home we encountered some heavy-footed drivers on the Florida Turnpike and on I-10 in the state’s panhandle. For many of the 400 miles to the Alabama border we drove in the slow lane… at 80 miles per hour.


We had a wonderful time on our vacation and of all the lovely things we saw on our trip the most beautiful sight of all was when we turned onto our street and saw our home.