Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Great Drive South

Whatever Google or your GPS says, do not follow its advice. Seasoned veterans who drive south each winter know better – just go straight south as far and as fast as you can! Bad weather often hits Minneapolis and other areas nearer the Great Lakes.

For me, the drive from Winnipeg to Tampa Bay started out ominously: after checking and double-checking the packing list, I left, but forgot my wallet!  Then, once outside the Perimeter of the City, the weather looked like it was stacking up against me. A warm spell (above 0°C!) brought rain the day before, which turned to freezing rain overnight and resulted in fog in the morning. This meant I was passing people on the highway while doing 80kph. Embarking on a 30+ hour journey to discover that the first few hours will be very slow wasn’t heartening. However, the US border brought clearer skies (somewhat) and better yet, clearer roads. In fact, during the entire trip, I only had the sun in my eyes once. An incredible continent-long blanket of cloud seemed to track me.

I made it to Omaha the first day, and by midday on the second day I was already bored of the Interstate. Occasionally something would perk me up, like passing a trucker from a company in Morden, MB. But otherwise, the podcasts and audiobooks were doing their trick to keep me awake.

Just south of Kansas City I decided to veer off course: take the hypotenuse route to Memphis instead of the longer route on the Interstate – the GPS said that both routes wouldBack country Missouri get me there at about the same time. So I took a random exit (at Archie) and headed east. And I’m glad I did! The road I happened upon was curvy and hilly and quite a lot of fun. At some points the hills were so steep that you couldn’t see where the road was going as it dove down away from you. And the scenery here was better too: small farms and classic American Midwest houses.

This route sent me through the Ozarks (hwy 63), a place I’ve never been to. It’s a pretty area, full of big oak trees covering rolling hillsan old Ozark house with an occasional town in the mix. And I’m pretty sure one of the small villages smelled like garlic sausage.

The hills end abruptly and open up into the flat Mississippi delta; coincidentally a flock of Canada Geese flew overhead and welcomed me to familiar terrain, complete with farm equipment beside the roadway from the rice harvest.

As I exited Memphis and got further south, I noticed that other Crossing the Mississippi in Memphisdrivers were now treating the highway as an extension of city roads; wherein slower traffic wouldn’t always “keep to the right”. Down in the Florida panhandle, while driving through heavy rain, I found I could actually go faster in the “slow” lane! Not nearly as organized as I found in California, where each lane seems to have a 5-10mph speed differential. So the final push to get to Bradenton was mildly frantic. But alas, it was worth it, as the Gulf came into view while crossing the bridge over the Manatee River. And then of course, my family was there.

Punched in hard one day, 7hrs non-stop!

Punched in hard one day, 7hrs non-stop!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

It's winter get-away time!

I don't mind winter, I may even like it. But this year's polar vortex-induced freezer has tested everyone's limits.
It didn't take long for the first cold snap (in December) to send Julie to the flight search engines looking for possibilities.
As luck would have it, her sister got word that her company was holding meetings in Grand Cayman - perhaps we should tag along?

We were there briefly a number of years ago during a cruise stop-over. The clear blue waters of the Caribbean are a fond memory. So I'm pretty stoked to do some scuba diving again.

Should be good!

(on my MTS Blackberry)