When I left The Swamp off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, Central Florida, my plan was to travel up to Lake Ontario, and somehow finagle a ride on a boat there. Wouldn’t have to be long. Just get out on the lake and back. Then I intended on roaming over to Minnesota and do the same thing on Lake Superior so I could brag that I’d been boating on all five of the Great Lakes.
But as I related earlier, I broke down on my first day out. Alternator quit. Had it replaced in one day at a place called Lugnutt’s in Walterboro, SC. Cost? More than I’d have liked. Less than it could have been if the mechanic wasn’t honest. The mechanic said that the transmission was on shaky ground. There was no fluid on the dipstick when he pulled it and it has been losing fluid as the trip progresses. I’m now in New Gretna, NJ. The friend I’m staying with said he’d had some transmission work done on one of the three cars he owns and the mechanic at that shop was also good and honest. Going to take it in, probably Tuesday, and have it looked at. If the cure isn’t too expensive I’ll get the work done. If it is out of line with what I want to pay then I’ll just buy a bunch of fluid and replace it as I limp along on back roads until I’m in Florida again.
Another crimp in the plans is the price of gasoline. In DeBary I paid $3 (rounding up to omit the point 9)/gal. In South and North Carolina I paid as low as $2.66 but generally around $2.80. It was back up to $3 in Delaware. Here in NJ it’s up to $3.21+!! On the route I’d been planning on gas prices, according to AAA run between $3.13 to $3.38 in Illinois where I was planning on stopping in and visiting an old college friend. It all seems outrageously expensive. Using the AAA Gas Cost Calculator the trip from Nearby Atlantic City to Orlando, which is close to DeBary, should cost around $157. To do the trip from here as envisioned would cost nearly $400. One third of my monthly SS earnings.
I can meander in a southerly direction and use the money I would have spent on gasoline to stay at some actual campgrounds, instead.
Okay, so here’s the plan (Plan? Bwahahahaha I don’t need no stinkin’ plan). It is, of course, subject to change at any moment whether at the drop of a hat, a whim, whatever.
I hope to depart from the swamp here off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, Central Florida, this coming Thursday headed to Wilkesboro, NC where a nephew owns a five-acre menagerie of critters both two and four legged. Nick is a total gearhead and has done some amazing things with vehicles over the years. He has welding equipment, or at least access to same, and we’re going to modify the bed that’s taking up most of the interior of the Montero Sport. My youngest brother, Mark, is driving out from Raliegh for the weekend.
There will be a stop overnight on Thursday. At 79 I’m not inclined to pushing nine or more hours behind the wheel anymore. Did as many as 10 and 12 hour stints at the tiller on my boat cruising along Florida’s Gulf Coast a couple of times but that’s a lot different than being on the highway. It is my contention that EVERY other vehicle on the road has evil intent and is out to kill me, or at least hospitalize me.
I’m inclined to stay off the Interstates and travel the back roads as much as possible. Going that way the trip to NC is over 12 hours. Can chop nearly 4 hours off that going the Interstate way. I may do that for this first leg of the journey.
A FB friend, Tom Doherty, who I’ve spent time with in person, lives in New Jersey, not far from the coast. Tom’s a boater and has come up with some novel craft in his time. He’s offered me a place to camp for a while. At first I was inclined to take a pass because it’s a bit of a diversion from a direct route from my nephew’s farm up to the Lake Ontario region. But I’m going to need a couple of days to further get the Sport in shape for living in the next couple of months. Jersey would be a good place to stop over to do that.
I think I’ll trend over towards the Chesapeake and lay up for the night since the trip to visit Tom isn’t doable, for me at least, in a single day. Interstate routing is the shortest at close to 590 miles and 9 or 10 hours. But I’m much more inclined to take a longer, slower, and more scenic trip up through the Delmarva Peninsula instead. Travel time according to Google maps would be a total of about 13 hours. Back in ’86 when I left Louisiana and was headed up to Cape Cod I visited a friend in Manteo on the Outer Banks and then took that route across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. That’s an experience in itself. I’ve been UNDER the bridge part more than a half dozen times but over it but once.
Then it would be up to Lake Ontario and get on a boat, even very briefly, to add the fourth Great Lake to my list of places I’ve been boating. Maybe there only a couple of days.
Next is headed westward. Trying to get in touch with a friend I’d met in Panama who’s now living somewhere in Ohio. Be nice to visit. Haven’t heard from her yet. I’ll continue down to vist another FB friend I’ve met who lives in Indiana. Rest up a day or so before heading to Minnesota to get on Lake Superior and complete the Great Lakes lineup.
Having completed the boating part of the adventure I need to swing north of Duluth to visit Hibbing, Bob Dylan’s hometown. Then down to Wyoming, Minn. to start down Highway 61. Dylan’s iconic song and album “Highway 61 Revisited” is the inspiration for this segment. As I’ve written before I actually LIVED right on the route when I was going to college in Canton, MO.
I plan to stop off there for a couple of days to visit Culver-Stockton College then swing out for a diversion to Kirksville to visit yet another FB friend, Chris Shelton. Chris used to have a boat tied up in Tampa and we got together about three years ago for a nice visit and lunch. Chris went back to Missouri for the summer but his health issues have kept him there since then and he’s sadly sold his boat. A day or two there and it’s back to Canton to return to Hwy 61 and about 30 miles down the road I hope to swing off and cross the Mississippi to visit an old college friend, Cecil Williamson, (that’s Cecilia). Haven’t seen Cecil since Chicago back in the mid ’60s.
After that it will be keep on truckin’ down “The Blues Highway” to New Orleans. No particular places I want to stop, but of course I will. I won’t stop off in Hannibal. Been there bunches of times when I was going to college. Here’s the interesting thing about Hannibal. Everything there is Tom Sawyer this, Huck Finn that with an occasional Becky Thatcher or Injun Joe thrown in. But in all the times I visited Twain’s hometown I never could find the “Nigger Jim Mall.”
The goal of this leg is to stand on the corner of Baronne and Gravier streets where I used to wait for the streetcar to go home. There is a marker there indicating that it’s the end of Hwy 61. I used to catch the streetcar (NOT the trolley. The “trolley” is the pole that connects the streetcar to the overhead electric cables) here rather than down on Canal Street for a simple reason…The Canal street stop is usually filled with tourists our of the French Quarter wanting to ride on the historic Saint Charles Streetcar. Passengers unload at Canal Street and then the tourists board and often take up all the seats. Hey, I LIVE HERE. I shouldn’t have to stand up to go home! But by going to the stop BEFORE Canal I get on and may have to stand, but when the crowd disembarks at Canal all the seats empty out and Voilà!
After that it will be a slow meander back to the swamp. I’ll stop at some of the spots I hit, and missed, when I was boating up along the coast 4 years ago…like Apalachicola, Suwannee, Steinhatchee, and maybe Wikee Watchee.
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