Alligator Alley–that’s the highway (I75) I took to cross over to the western side of Florida. The name alone did not sound terribly auspicious, but it seemed the quickest route to go and allowed me to by-pass Miami. Surrounded on both sides by swamp and everglades and brackish water, Mabel (the van) crunched over the occasional -already-dead turtle or bird or “blob-of-something” as we headed West. I realized this was the first time in seven months I was actually heading away from the sun in the morning. All this time, I have been driving north or east or south. After a while, it is the little things that bring amusement to the long distance road traveler.
I truly did not think it was possible to have so many mosquitos and no-see-ums alive in one spot on this planet. I was proven wrong at the Big Cypress National Preserve in western Florida. The Panther Sign wasn’t exactly incentive to go for a walk either.
None of this scenery particularly appealed to me and as Alice’s nose began to turn a new color of pink from so many bites, we left first thing in the morning for Naples and points beyond!
Another dramatic transition in scenery I witnessed as I drove along the tree-lined streets in Naples, Florida. “Old money,” as I was told, “does not lend itself to gaudiness.”
After finding a coffee shop, I left Naples on Hwy 75 when Mabel stopped. No, I mean, she STOPPED. Wheels locked up as we coasted to the highway’s shoulder and that was it. Engine wouldn’t catch, cars zoomed by and they did not move over to the left lane – they were feet from us. What does one do? This ONE called Triple A – Automobile Association which truly has been a life saver during my life time!
The following is the conversation I had with the tow truck dispatcher (let this be a warning–pay attention to where you are ESPECIALLY if you are listening to books on tape and you are lost in the history of the Civil War, as I was)
Dispatcher: Where are you, ma’am?
Lisa: On I-75.
Dispatcher: Where on I-75?
Lisa: Not real sure. Let’s see north of Naples, south of Fort Meyers.
Dispatcher: Uh, ma’am, that is a 50 mile span. Can you be more specific? Mile marker?
Lisa: No idea..I was lost in learning about Grant.
Dispatcher: Who? What?
Lisa: Grant–the Civil War guy.
Dispatcher: Civil War? No ma’am, I need a mile marker to find you.
Lisa: Well I don’t know what to tell you because I wasn’t paying attention.. how about..oh, I guess around 20 minutes or so up the highway from Naples. All I know is I am stuck and am going north on I-75. Can’t you “ping” me or something on my phone?
Dispatcher: Ping you????
Lisa: Yes like the TV show NCIS or whatever. You know they say, “Ping the phone.”
Dispatcher now thinking, “Oh sweet Jesus, why?”
Dispatcher has now turned over to Tow Shop Owner: Ma’am, I am here to help you, but we need a SPECIFIC location. Do you have a smart phone?
Lisa: I have an iPhone.
Shop owner: Follow my instructions and it will show you exactly where you are.
Lisa: Still, after all these years, I disconnect people when I try to go to another application and I am talking on the phone. Sometimes these phones drive me CRAZY!
Shop Owner: OK..Now ma’am..just listen and follow..
Google maps came through for us, tow driver showed up, Mabel and Alice got in back and the driver had to practically hoist me up to the passenger side of his Ford550 truck because the side step was gone.
Poor Alice could not ride in the tow truck. We ended up in Ft. Meyers after digging deeply into our “patience well” and the result was:
We spent the night in the van at the garage and some friends from my college days drove down from Venice and picked me up while a new fuel pump was installed. The good side of all this was I saw some old friends who were kind enough to put me up for a few days, I visited Venice, FL and was not in some remote area of Labrador when this happened!
Onward to Florida’s southern panhandle or Florida’s Forgotten Coast..
Hwy 27 to Hwy 98, Ocala–horse country with manicured, well, everything!
Hi.. Alice here.. let me just break in here for a sec! This is what I saw from the passenger seat as Lisa was humming and Mabel was churning her wheels:
We arrived at St. Joe’s Campground. Alice and I are in seventh-heaven walking, enjoying the sun and the unspoken freedom of the beach.
Here we stay until February with a side trip to Georgia, enjoying the beach and the mixture of people at the campground. I continue to be so grateful as the New Year approaches to experience life and all it has to offer and share it with others.
Mabel, although she doesn’t know it, Alice and I wish you all a wonderful New Year. Follow your dreams, make one come true.
Take good care!
Lisa, Alice and Mabel
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