Christmas on the Alafia Locator map

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Day 1
A Fifty Degree Swing

Day 2
Merry Christmas

Day 3
To the First Key

Day 4
End of One

Day 5
No Room at the Inns

Day 6
Some '01 Repeats

Day 7
Too Much Sand for Me

Day 8
Ending the Year in Georgia

Day 9
Starting the Year in Georgia

Day 10
Return to Asheville

Day 11
A Bonus Day

January 3, 2009 (day 11)
I regretted not at least touching the Blue Ridge Parkway when I was here in November so I drove just a few miles of it today. A wonderful breakfast spoiled my lunch but not my dessert.

I can now claim to have driven all the Dixie Highway East, except for a half dozen sandy miles in northern Florida, between Cincinnati and Florida City. I don't know that I'll ever be able to claim the entire Dixie Highway because, in addition to that requiring going north for quite a ways, there are two trunk routes plus numerous feeders and connectors. I'll see what I can do.

January 2, 2009 (day 10)
I made it to the point in Asheville, North Carolina, where I had left the Dixie Highway on Thanksgiving weekend. I started and ended the day with poets. One of Carl Sandburg's objectives was to sing a little every day so maybe he and James Brown would have done a duet had they met.

January 1, 2009 (day 9)
I put my sweatshirt to good use and walked along the Savannah waterfront. I toured a barquentine, ate "a southern classic" inside a warehouse, and even took pictures of rocks & bricks. The day ended in Augusta where I watched the UC Bearcats lead the Orange Bowl for awhile:-(

December 31, 2008 (day 8)
After a stroll around St. Augustine, I had lunch at a gas station and prepared to end the year in Georgia.

December 30, 2008 (day 7)
I enjoyed driving some more of the Old Dixie in spite of a close call with a sand covered brick segment and ended the day at the light house in St. Augustine.

December 29, 2008 (day 6)
Today's travel was between Jensen Beach and Ormond Beach and included stops at a couple of repeats from the 2001 trip. But I've learned a lot since then and the actual route covered several old stretches of the Dixie Highway that I was unaware of seven years ago.

December 28, 2008 (day 5)
There were very few rooms available -- and none I wanted to pay for -- in the keys so I ended up back on the mainland for the night. This was a little disappointing but was probably for the best. Motels being that full is an indication that everything else is too. My next visit to Key West will not be between Christmas and New Year's but I did enjoy the time I spent there.

So, I'm even more ahead of where I thought I'd be. Today started with a castle and ended with the blues.

December 27, 2008 (day 4)
Plenty of traffic on the Overseas Highway and plenty of music in Key West. A nice sunset, of course, and the bar at the end of the route.

December 26, 2008 (day 3)
After an Everglades day, I enjoyed a Key Largo night in a two story motel room with live entertainment.

December 25, 2008 (day 2)
Due in part to the weather and in part to having my breakfast stop planned, I didn't stay put on Christmas day this year. I took up the Tamiami Trail and ended the day about where I thought I might be on Friday. Along the way I saw the "Ring of Fame", some twenty-five foot tall smoochers, and the arrival point of the first DeSoto in America. The temperature was in the eighties and the top was off of the car for most of the afternoon.

December 24, 2008 (day 1)
Just hours after I posted the prelude section for this trip, I received an American Road Magazine newsletter announcing the winter issue. It included a small picture of the cover which showed the Seven Mile Bridge section of the Overseas Highway. By a remarkable coincidence, I was about to put an American Road article to practical use within a few weeks of publication. Although I finagled an electronic copy a bit earlier, the real thing hit my mailbox one day before departure and is riding along with me.

I left Cincinnati on the twenty-third in freezing rain and the temperature was barely above freezing when I woke up this morning in Tennessee. By the time I reached Gibsonton, Florida, the thermometer read 86 and the AC had been on a long time. The drive was almost entirely on expressway but I still found a couple of things to photograph and there was a really cool bar waiting.

In addition to spending Christmas in the same area that he did eighty-eight years ago, I shared another of my great-grandfather's experiences recently. It all started when a certain Oklahoma blogster claimed to have seen obsolete razor blades. Since the blog entry I speak of appeared just days before I settled on my route, it's possible that the memories it triggered subconsciously influenced my choice. Read about some recent shopping & shaving here.

Prelude - December 8, 2008
A target for this year's Christmas holiday drive has emerged in just the last couple of days. The candidates included Cape Cod, Massachusetts, (I've recently read two articles about the pleasures of visiting there off season.) and El Paso, Texas, (It's the southern terminus of US-62.) but I finally settled on a town of not quite 9000 near Florida's west coast. Florida entered the picture when I thought of picking up the Dixie Highway where I left it near Asheville, North Carolina, on Thanksgiving weekend. I plotted a drive to Miami then tacked on one to Key West. Time seemed adequate but the workings of the calendar has Christmas day very near the front of the vacation window. I'd probably not be in a location on the 25th that was entirely appropriate for whiling away the day. Even worse, it looked as if New Year's Eve was the likely day of arrival at Key West. Key West is noted for its end of year celebration and motel prices reflect the anticipated crowds. As a twenty or thirty-something, I'm sure I would have enjoyed the crush on Duval Street. As a sixty-something, I wondered about staying awake long enough to get my money's worth from the high priced lodging.

I first plotted a high-speed return from Key West then explored the possibility of including the Tamiami Trail in my homeward route. The very first issue of American Road magazine had included a Michael Wallis article on the Tamiami and the Trail had formed the final southbound leg of the Dixie Highway's western route. It is a trail I'd like to travel. I believe my last visit to Florida was in 2001 when I retraced my great-grandparent's 1920 trip. I was reminded of that as I plotted the path of the Dixie Highway along the east coast and again as I plotted the Tamiami Trail near Tampa. It was somewhere in this area, I recalled, that Frank & Gertrude had spent Christmas in 1920. I suddenly had a slightly different plan. If I reversed direction and superslabbed my way to Tampa, I could be on the banks of the Alafia River, where Gert "spent Christmas eve listening to fishermen tell sea tales", on Christmas day. There was now a town on those banks that had not been there in 1920 and it added a couple pluses of its own. For one, its name is Gibsonton. Almost certainly no family connection but still a bit of an attraction. However, the other plus is a big one. Gibsonton is what calls a "Circus Freak Wintering Town".

The change in direction would also, I hope, let me get in and out of Key West before the worst of the year end frenzy set in. I would again be leaving the Dixie at Asheville instead of picking up it up there but that's a compromise I can live and drive with.

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