Road Trip Awry – Lessons Learned
So, Keith and I headed to the Florida Flywheelers. This road trip to and from was a bit different than those in the past. Take heed, we have a few crazy stories, and a few recommendations and a lesson or two learned!
Watch for Criminal Activity
In Ocala we stopped at a Best Western for our second night before heading to Sebring. That would be our stop for the Florida Flywheelers, our favorite winter show getaway. The room was on the high side. Prices would stay that way once we crossed the Florida border. We should have taken a hint that we would always need reservations from then on. Later when we were at the beautiful Forgotten Coast, a man would say to us, “Are you on your way to or from Florida? Everyone is either going or coming.” He hit the nail on the head.
After checking into our sky-high room, we deemed to walk to what we thought was the nearby Cheddars. It seemed like a good idea to stretch our legs. We were in a nice part of town, but after a couple blocks, there were no streetlights. So, we rethought our plans. “I think this could be dangerous,” I said.
Yes indeed, around 11 that evening, our phones went off with a Blue Alert, a fugitive was on the loose. According to an article on MSN, a blue alert is, “an imminent and credible threat that an individual intends to cause the serious injury or death of a law enforcement officer.”
The fugitive had killed a deputy. In the morning we saw that an armed homeowner had dinged him when he tried to enter their home and thankfully, he was apprehended. Lesson learned!
Lesson 1 – Watch where you walk, criminals may be in nice areas too!
Wednesday, we arrived at the Florida Flywheelers. We didn’t rent a golf cart the first day not knowing if we would arrive early, late, or at all. Walking about we were mesmerized with the great set up of John Deere, the featured brand. We saw Georgia friend Hamilton Halford, “Stay hydrated, this heat will get you,” he warned these two northerners.
We didn’t take heed soon enough. I have trouble with heat and later under the John Deere tent I fainted dead away like a southern belle but with much less grace. Two medics, one policeman and a scared husband and scarred interviewer that I scared the daylights out of, I was fine. Keith wouldn’t let me out of his sight the rest of the show. I got in trouble for venturing up or down the aisles of the flea market more than a foot or two. The next few days, I drank a minimum of four bottles of water a day!
Lesson 2 -As Hamilton said, “Hydrate”. When in a climate you are not used to be sure to drink plenty of water!
Breakfast Inn on the Lakes check and double check
Our favorite Sebring hotel is Inn On the Lakes . The room rates were up quite a bit, but I had made reservations late, and we were staying only two nights, and they have the best breakfast ever! When we checked in on Wednesday, I stopped in horror when they asked me which breakfast choice I wanted delivered to my room? Did I want the breakfast sandwich, or the granola yogurt concoction? Horror of horrors, the dining room, the award winning, wonderful Chicanes, was only open now for lunch and dinner. All the sudden the price we were paying was not quite such a bargain.
The hotel was still lovely, and the service good. We ate dinner at Chicane’s one night and loved it. But, oh, the loss of breakfast was a shot to the stomach for sure! The fresh squeezed orange juice and as our friend Kent Elliott said, “Chicane potatoes,” in a fun accent, we m-i-s-s it! I understand lack of staff, prices higher etc., but we didn’t know of this change and the disappointment would have made a difference in where we stayed for the price we paid.
Lesson 3 – Ask about breakfast/whatever it is you deem important, don’t make any assumptions after COVID. Those breakfast sandwiches were a disappointment from what we accustomed to.
Reservations, Reservations, Reservations
Florida (and I assume any busy southern climate during the January/February and spring break time) on the weekend requires reservations and a bit of preplanning. We decided last minute to head for Florida’s Forgotten Coast on our way home. Wonderful decision. It was everything I had hoped for and more. But we needed to stay somewhere on Friday night leaving the Flywheelers on our way to beautiful Carrabelle. We found one room at a Best Western (our new favorite hotel) with ONE room available for the princely sum of around $240 a night. No thank you, we said and hit the road north. Looking, looking, looking and not only high prices, but NOTHING! NOT A ROOM TO BE HAD.
Finally, I saw a Motel Six in Lake City. I think I am calling the hotel directly, and they are full, however, there is a nearby (15 miles off the beaten path) hotel (don’t want to give the name) that is available. We jump, reserve the room and head. The hotel looks rather suspect, but we go ahead and walk in to see the desk clerk and another we assume employee embroiled in an argument. The disgruntled employee leaves and the desk clerk tells us, “I don’t know why they said there were any rooms, we are booked.”
A bit thankful because it looks rather dingy, we hightail it on out and stop at the also booked Comfort Inn next door where they inform me that if you didn’t like the room at the hotel next door, the one we were originally at and decided not to stay, they would keep your deposit.
Down the road we go. The next day I learn that I had not called the hotel directly. We had used one of the booking sites, I won’t go through all the hoops I had to go through to get my money back from the reservations that they made for a room that was not available 15 miles off the beaten path.
Lesson 4- Check and double check that you are talking to the hotel, (or Holiday Inn reservations etc.) rather than a hotel booking site.
We found a Highway Angel when we stopped at a hotel after our dubious dealings at the hotel where we really didn’t have reservations
I told Keith, “You have to lower your standards a bit” not knowing what that would really mean. We stopped at a hotel and asked if they had rooms. The phone was ringing off the hook and they were saying they were filled up. I saw people coming in after me. It was ten at night and we were out of options. The owner or manager I’m not sure which, looked at me and said, “it depends”.
Then a girl came around from behind the desk and said, “follow me”. I went up the iron outside stairs and she opened the door to a hotel room. “Do you mind a hole?” she said. They were working on technology lines and a big opening that looked like an attic access was open. There was also what looked like a fist punch in the bathroom door. Otherwise, the room was clean, and had beds, I caved. We paid $166 for the privilege, and we were grateful. I think the owner took pity on us and allowed us to stay in a room that he wouldn’t consider renting out usually. People may say, “You paid that to stay there?”
Yes indeed, and we were blessed to do it.
Lesson 5- Be grateful when God provides blessings in the face of trials. In this case, our Highway Angel was a harassed hotel owner with a sign that had half the letters missing that took pity on two stranded travelers.
Reality vs Online, Visitor’s Center to the rescue!
Overall, we had a pretty good sleep (Keith made the comment, ‘I hope there are not rodents up there’, so I had one eye open when I got up during the night). The next morning, we headed across the street to eat at one of our favorites, a Waffle House. The diner had a sign that said “affle House”. Inside, they had a sign posted that said, “be kind our employees showed up”. We were kind and the employees were wonderful. When I ordered my waffle with PeanutButter chips and pecans, the waitress tilted her head and smiled and said, “fancy”. She had no idea what we had been through. Fancy no, but she made me smile.
We headed onto Florida’s Forgotten Coast and our first stop was viewing a property that looked acceptable online. Needless to say, a drive by check out yielded it was more like rooms for fisherman than tourists. Our next stop the Carrabelle Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center. The man at the Visitor’s Center provided us with great advice on where to stay and dine. The hotel they referred us to, The Moorings, was one we would never have found because it was not obvious. It was right on the Marina and wonderful. We lucked out that a couple cancelled, and we scored a room. Again, reserve ahead, when possible, in southern climes during busy tourist season!
Lesson # 5 – Sometimes things look much better online than in person. Check with the Visitor’s Centers for clean, safe and lovely advice.
These are just a few tales from the road and a lesson or two. Take heed if you choose. It may save you a dime or two or a night at a rest stop!