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Road Trip of a Lifetime

<turns on the lights>

Oh, hey. You all startled me. I didn’t think there was still anybody here, but I see you’re all still sitting there, waiting for me to post some fresh tidbit of content, some tasty morsel of one sort or another. Hope it wasn’t too dark in here for the last month or whatever it’s been, but I’ve been…well…busy, as you can no doubt imagine. You’re probably getting tired of hearing that excuse. Truth be told, so am I — but that’s a story for another day. Like tomorrow, maybe. Lots to say, very little time.

The Tennessee mountains

Anyway, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the brilliant road trip to Michigan from which Apple and I recently returned. We spent three weeks in my hometown, and saw miles of beautiful countryside on the way there. As for the trip northward itself, we drove my GTO the whole way, and I’m happy to report that we couldn’t have asked for a nicer ride — it was trouble-free for the duration. Plus, our new GPS unit was a real boon, guiding us effortlessly to our hotels during each evening stopover, and even finding a nice Korean restaurant in (of all places) Lexington, Kentucky. We even ate at quite possibly the best Red Lobster on this planet, which you’ll find in Valdosta, Georgia, y’all.

The centerpiece of our trip was my friend Reaper’s wedding, in which I was a groomsman. Our mutual friend Pooch (who occasionally authors on this very site) was the best man, and served admirably in the role. The whole event was definitely the highlight of our trip, and I again offer my sincere congratulations to Reaper and his wife. The wedding was beyond a doubt one of the nicest I’ve ever seen, and it appears that one could not ask for a happier pair of newlyweds! Everything went smashingly, and I even (not without a mite of embarrassment) worked myself into a Captain Morgan-induced stupor, during which I undoubtedly said numerous idiotic things. But it was a great and memorable time, and I’m glad to have been able to attend. May the bride and groom find many years of happiness ahead of them!

Despite having to work the whole time I was up north, Apple and I got to do almost all of our favorite stuff. We really made good use of our time, enjoying home cooking and great restaurants alike, partaking in the autumn tradition of the Michigan apple cider mill, hanging out with friends, shopping, touring the Ford Rouge plant, and lots of other stuff. The weather was excellent, too, although a little cold on certain days. Above all, it was great having my GTO on hand for the trip, which definitely made going places a lot more fun. Cruising those old familiar roads, including the well-traveled route between my home, Pooch’s house and our high school on dark and chilly evenings, brought back a lot of memories.

Gibson school, now derelict

One of the more unusual activities I undertook was an impromptu “tour” of the schools from my past. I’ve been to a lot of different schools. Apple was curious about them, so I took her on a driving tour of these myriad sites of education long past. Each stop on the tour was enlightening for me as well, because I got to see what had become of these familiar places. Most of my old schools had grown, expanded or changed in some other positive way, but one — Gibson School in Redford — stood in stark contrast. It had been abandoned two years ago.

Since I’m fascinated by urban decay, abandoned buildings and the like, I found myself obsessing over the place after we visited it that evening. A few nights later, on my way home from Pooch’s house, I made a short detour and drove by the empty school building again and admired its sprawled, lifeless form, bathed in the amber light of high-pressure sodium floodlamps. Finally, to satisfy my curiosity once and for all, Pooch and I went back to the site later and took a few pictures, the best of which you’ll find in the photo gallery.

The weeks came and went, and soon we were on our way back to Florida — and only just in time, for just days after we left, Michigan’s weather took a turn for the worse and doused metro Detroit with sleet and freezing rain. Our trip back home, meanwhile, was just as good as the trip up, with perfect weather, decent traffic and plenty of scenery along the way. On the second day, we even decided to satisfy our collective curiosity and follow the signs to the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Corbin, KY.

Apple posing in front of the KFC birthplace monument

I expected the KFC birthplace attraction to be hokey (like Michigan’s infamous Mystery Spot), and to a degree it was, but for the most part it was a charming little piece of Americana at its purest. The site consisted of a recreation of Colonel Sanders’ cafe (the original cafe and motel are long gone), containing some authentic furniture, kitchenware and a showcase of other relics. Of course, there’s an actual KFC restaurant right there, although it was a purely modern one (which made for an interesting juxtaposition, I can assure you). Apple completely ate it up, no pun intended — after all, Colonel Sanders is a huge icon of American business throughout Asia. We couldn’t leave without ordering some fried chicken, despite the fact that it was only 11 a.m. It might have been the surroundings, but it was probably the tastiest KFC I’ve ever eaten.

We stopped at our favorite Red Lobster in Valdosta again, dodged an exploding semi truck tire near Gainesville, and made it safely back to Naples on Monday afternoon — without encountering a whit of snarled traffic anywhere in Florida. Seriously, I was prepared to sit for hours in a calamitous tie-up once we got within striking distance of the Sunshine State, but it didn’t happen — thank God! Speaking of which, this road trip removed any remaining doubt that my continual bitching about Florida’s drivers is deserved. Despite driving through five other states, I didn’t see anything approaching the vehicular stupidity we were greeted by when we got back to Naples.

Overall, our road trip to Michigan was a rousing success — both the trip and the destination were a breath of fresh air, in more ways than one, and exactly the change of scenery both Apple and I sorely needed. I was particularly amazed that I did not once become agitated (as I am wont to do) behind the wheel, despite driving for three straight days in each direction. The GTO handled (and held up) superbly, averaged between 25-27 MPG on the highway, was eminently comfortable, and made it back without a scratch. I couldn’t have asked for a better time.

Once we made it back to Florida, it didn’t take long for my life to settle (well, that’s not really the right word) back into its typical, harried track. A big new side project took hold of me literally within days, shit started to hit the fan at one of the websites I built before our trip, and my day job started to really pick up steam as I began inheriting a whole slew of new responsibilities. I had intended to use our Michigan trip to cap off what I saw as the last batch of side jobs for the year, but it looked like things weren’t getting any easier. In fact, they were already getting harder.

My work situation returned to a state of “thoroughly crazy” with such haste, it caused certain issues to come abruptly to a head — resulting a total paradigm shift that took several days to play out this past week. I’ll explain this in more detail tomorrow, or at worst, within in the next couple days. Truly, its importance prevents me from simply letting it go without commenting on it. This could be the biggest change in my work life since I switched jobs in 2005, but this time, the inner strength to make the changes I’m now making is coming completely from within — and there’s not a shred of doubt that this is the right path to take.

In the end, our trip to Michigan was perfectly timed. It gave us each the breather we’d been needing, and it gave me the vigor to attack a problem I’ve been sidestepping for months (if not years): my inability to say “no” to people who want me to work for them, do things for them and generally help make their lives better. Well, now it’s time for me to make my life better — and what’s more, in the process of doing that, I can help make a difference in something I really care about. Not an online bikini store, not a website for a fitness studio, not an untested new product idea that somebody wants to bet the farm on. Something important, something I believe in, something built and supported by some of the greatest people in the industry. People I know. People who don’t suck.

In a short time, all of this will be revealed.

2 thoughts to “Road Trip of a Lifetime”

  1. Chief Oddball returneth~what a delight 🙂

    Enjoyed the recap of your trip, and seeing the photos. Someday I’ll have to check out the Colonel’s place myself.

    I’ve meant to tell you how much I liked your Gibson photos – especially the one where your car is reflected in the widow. They certainly captured the whole feeling of emptiness and abandonment. Nicely done.

    I look forward to hearing more about the changes in your work situation, as they sound very positive and exciting.

    And, don’t worry, I did check out your Christmas list 😉

  2. HIYA!!

    welcome back!

    Thank you for the lovely words about our wedding…and thank you again for the congratulations! It was so good to see you and the Mrs. and to spend some time with you both…now we just need to get down to Florida to see the lot o’you…

    married life is agreeing well with me and Reaper…

    by the way, you were HILARIOUS with the Captain in the limo….glad to see you got along with my brother so well too!

    I’m glad you guys had a great time. It was wonderful to have you there to share the day with us.

    (and your parents are so sweet too!)

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