To Florida by road…
Who wants to go on a long road trip? That is one of the questions, heads of the household or the one who has the car key, routinely ask and always get an enthusiastic “IIII, MEEE, WEEE” answer. I asked the same question over dinner during November and all I got in return was pin drop silence for the next 5 minutes. I had to admit, I am a bit late (10, 15 years) in popping this kind of question. My sons are 23 now. Then I realized SDS struck my family again – “Selective Deafness Syndrome” which is usually followed by ‘no eye contact’ or ‘blank stare’ side effect. SDS usually starts with my wife and quickly spreads to my children whenever I exhibit signs of brilliance or unmatched intelligence for example when I suggested driving around all 5 great lakes few years back.
I demanded a reason for their response. I really wanted to know whether it was my driving skill or my ability or the lack of it to start and maintain a conversation. None was offered to console me because either they could not come up with one immediately or did not want to offend me. I spent the next 2 weeks trying to convince my family how important it is to spend time together (other than dinner, movie, TV etc.). After 2 weeks, Sibi gave a half-hearted “YES” response and Latha and Manu a firm “NO”. A compromise solution was reached. The no-sayers or the non-believers (Manu and Latha) would fly to Orlando and the yes-sayers or the brave and adventurous types (Sibi and I) would drive to Florida and back.
Re-bonding with my wife and sons was not the only reason why I wanted to drive to Florida. Testing the newly leased Audi Quattro Q7 and meeting friends and relatives who live all over USA were other factors that pushed me closer and closer to a road trip. America’s endless highways, bridges and tunnels always fascinate me. My previous two vacations to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in the East and British Columbia in the West were by plane, so this time I wanted to drive, drive and drive forever to the South end of Florida, which is Key West.
So we left Ottawa in the midst of a snow storm on 21st December, 2012. Just as we were pulling out of our driveway, Latha whispered something to Sibi. After few minutes, I couldn’t help asking him about that secret exchange between mom and son. He said in a nonchalant voice “Whatever happens, don’t come back alone leaving your dad stranded on the road”. மணந்தவள் மகனிடம் சொல்லியிருக்கிறாள், “அப்பா ‘ஒரு மாதிரிதான்’ அதற்காக வண்டியில் இருந்து இறக்கிவிட்டு விட்டு வந்திராதே என்று”. Though I trust my son, as an added precaution, I made sure the car key is always with me, even when he was driving for the rest of the trip. Thanks to the auto start option on many cars, the key can be in your pocket and car can still start and run as long as the car senses the key inside the car.
It was not pretty for the first 5 hours. Every few kilometers (miles) we saw some car in the median or right side of the road in the ditches, covered in snow, people waiting for tow trucks or police. Those sights made us even more cautious. We crossed the border at Thousand Islands and after answering few questions by the US Customs and Immigration officer who was friendly and wished us a good vacation, we were on I-81 which would take us through states of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. We stopped couple of times for gas and food and took turns at the wheel. One of the goals in this trip was to enjoy local food, not the usual fast food at stop overs. You can see those posts in my Facebook account soon.
We stayed at our relative’s home for the first night in Herndon, Virginia. அடுத்த நாள் –
காலையில் காப்பி கேப்பைமாவு புட்டு
அரிசிமாவு தோசை அதுகூட சட்னி
மறுத்தாலும் விடவில்லை மைத்துனரும் மனைவியும்தான்
மாறிமாறி உபசரித்து மனம்மகிழ வைதார்கள், இல்லை வைத்தார்கள்
For lunch, met couple of friends (Sivanathan and Dilliraj) in and around Herndon, Virginia whom I haven’t met since 2000. Our next stop was Atlanta, Georgia to meet my college senior Narendran who helped me get my first job in 1979 and my nephew’s family.
இருவர் மூவரான கதை இயம்பிடுவேன் கேளுங்கள்
அட்லாண்டா அக்கா மகன் ஆனந்தைப் பார்க்க, பேர்பேக்ஸ் தங்கை மகன் அரவிந்தும் எங்களுடன் சேர்ந்து கொண்டான். மகனுக்கும் மருமகனுக்கும் நடுவில் நான். அடுத்த தலைமுறையின் எண்ணங்களை, சிந்தனைகளை கேட்டுக் கேட்டு மனதில் சேர்த்து வைத்துக் கொண்டேன்.
We stayed at Hilton Garden Inn, Blacksburg, Virginia for a night before driving to Atlanta. Blacksburg is a beautiful town at the Eastern slopes of Blue Ridge Mountain range, home of Virginia Tech.
அட்லாண்டாவில் அக்காவின் பேரன் ஈசானை அள்ளி எடுத்து அணைத்துக் கொஞ்சி உச்சி முகர்ந்தேன். அவன் கண்களில், கன்னக் கதுப்பில், கள்ளமில்லா சிரிப்பில் எங்கள் பரம்பரையின் மூலக்கூறைத் தேடினேன்.
இரவில் இட்லி மணம் , காலையில் தோசை மணம் .
சக்தியின் சமையலில் நெல்லை மணம்.
We left Atlanta before noon and reached Orlando right in time to receive Latha and Manu at the airport. In between we stopped at Gainesville, Florida to meet another relative (Pappu and Chenthuran) from Madurai.
Now that the family is together again in the same car, we spend the next four days in Orlando, Key Largo, Key West, Miami and Fort Lauderdale to enjoy as much fun, sun, sand and beach before Manu and Latha flew back to Ottawa by Air. Though there are hundreds of hotels in Orlando, we chose the brand new Hampton Inn and Suites near Orlando Airport. We visited Shiva Vishnu temple of South Florida and thanked God for this wonderful travel opportunity. After the temple visit, once again it is dosa time at Udipi.
Manu did the ‘structured swim with dolphins’ at dolphin plus which was to fun to watch. Key Largo Marriott Beach Resort had its own beach resort, boats and dotted with comfortable hammocks. We did not like the Courtyard Marriott at Fort Lauderdale due to very high valet parking charges and the fact that I was not recognized as a loyalty member.
Sibi and I hit the road again, stopped at Daytona Beach for couple of hours, At Daytona Beach, we can actually drive on the beach for miles and miles at 10 mph. Then we drove through states of Georgia, South and North Carolina, stayed overnight at Fayetteville, North Carolina. Next day we were back in Herndon, Virginia to celebrate New Year with Kumar, Vanitha, Sudharsana and their friends. Easiest way to gain weight is to stay at your in-law’s home. Vanitha and Kumar made sure we were always full with food.
உப்பு காரம் அளவா சேர்த்து
கருவேப்பிலை கிள்ளிப் போட்டு
வட்டில் நிறைய வடை தந்த
வனிதாவே, நீ வாழ்க.
வதக்கி அரச்ச மிளகா சட்னி
வாசமான மாவு தோசை
சாதா 3, முட்டை 1
குமாருக்கும் எங்கள் நன்றி
To summarize, 12 days, 8 states, 6900 kms, reliable German engineering (Audi Q7) one amazing co-pilot(my son) – met long lost friends, made new ones, spend time with relatives, kissed a new born child, enjoyed variety of local food, beaches, nice hotels, bridges, tunnels, tolls, snow, rain, rolling hills, vast plains, fast highways, one beautiful, calm and quite temple (http://www.sfshivavishnu.org/), watched Manu Anand’s close encounters with a dolphin, Universal City Walk, Disney Boardwalk, Biscayne, Daytona and Key West beach walk – overall, a well-deserved break from back-breaking work.
On 1st of January, 2013 when we stopped at the Canadian side of the customs and immigration, the lady officer was surprised and disappointed that we don’t have cigarettes, alcohol, gifts, purchases, drugs, arms and ammunitions, fruits and vegetables or food. All we had was very good memories and a very good feeling that father and son survived each other in a car for more than 80 hours together.