I had a plan. Don’t I always have a plan? I would leave Brewster for Florida in no great rush, stopping and seeing friends along the way. The plan was to be home by Thanksgiving. This one went about as well as the rest. I almost didn't make it.
Because it was so late in the year, I did not want to leave Washington and go eastbound over the Rockies on the way back to Florida. No thank you! My van doesn’t have snow tires and I wanted nothing to do with winter weather. But I didn’t have many choices.
For a number of reasons, I finally left Brewster, headed south on November 20th. My friend Gene was flying up to San Francisco. The plan was to pick him up there, and then he’d ride with me and share the driving on the way back to Pensacola. We'd head south all the way to L.A. and catch Interstate 10 eastbound. It was "the long way" home, yeah, but eminently more preferable to me than driving in snow. Heh.
The first part worked okay - the picking up Gene part. We got to see a little of San Francisco before taking off. The original plan was to head straight down Interstate 5 for Los Angeles. If we were lucky, we could hit the Griffith Observatory before sunset. There, we could get a good view of the City of Angels before beating feet east to our overnight destination: Barstow, California.
A little winter storm named Boreas had beached-in at Southern California and was wreaking havoc as it trundled eastbound across the whole country. L.A. was rainy and miserable. So instead of heading directly south, we decided to take our time and mosey down CA Rt 1, otherwise known as the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Gene had never been west of the Mississippi River. And I mean, if you’re in California you really shouldn’t miss the PCH. We didn’t, and it was spectacular as always. We made it as far as San Luis Obispo Friday night.
Saturday morning, still in great weather, we did the rest of the PCH, but cut off at Ventura and headed inland. Griffith Park was jam-packed, but we expected that. The view from the Observatory was incredible. We tried to figure out what else we wanted to see in L.A. but couldn’t come up with anything, so we struck out eastbound for Las Vegas, where we spent the night at the Downtown Grand Hotel-Casino, walking distance from the Fremont Street Experience, which I wanted to see again. It was raining in Vegas when we got there, but it cleared up entirely overnight.
The plan after Vegas was to see the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, heading east on I-40 we’d caught up to Boreas again, and it was snowing heavily by the time we got to the exit that would’ve taken us up to the Canyon. Better to leave that destination for a clear day. Instead of continuing eastbound to Albuquerque, we diverted south from Flagstaff on I-17. There’s a helicopter boneyard in Casa Grande that I wanted to see. We spent Sunday night there.
In beautiful (but still chilly) weather now, we struck out on I-10 on Monday morning, headed for Kerrville, TX. At a rest area in Arizona, a guy came up to us and asked if we were from Pensacola? He’d seen our Florida license plate (which says "Escambia County" at the bottom) and said he was from there too. Now living in Gulfport, Mississippi, he was on his way home after a visit to Los Angeles. While talking he mentioned that he’d intended to take I-40 across but decided to drop down to I-10 because of the storm. Gene and I looked at each other and chuckled. “That’s exactly what we’re doing,” I said. Small world.
Kerrville to San Antonio was okay, but we caught up with Boreas yet again in Houston. It was raining pretty good, and I knew it would be like that the rest of the way home. Since it was only midday on Tuesday, and Gene and I debated as to whether we should drive straight through to home or short-stop in Lafayette or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In the end, we just drove, and got home to Pensacola at ten p.m. As always, it's good to be home.
Coming east across the Rockies and stair-stepping down to the Gulf Coast is usually three overnights and about 2,700 miles or so depending on the actual route and depending on how much of a hurry I’m in. The way Gene and I did it ended up taking 4,000 miles over the course of six nights.
I’m often reminded of something I learned a long time ago: “You want to hear God laugh? Tell Him your plans.”