27-Dec-1999 -- US-301 was my kind of highway.
It's just a little two-lane blacktop
that snakes through the woods, around tiny little towns, and isn't
highly traveled. I love to see America on these roads: farmers are
out moving their tractors from field to field, people who really
make this country go are doing the things that spin their lives.
The highway runs straight south, and we followed it until we found
a nicer than average gas station.
Deb went to the bathroom, and I bought some sodas. While I waited,
I examined the map and tried to decide what our long-term strategy
would be. When Deb returned, I suggested that we hook-up to I-75
and bust all the way down to the next confluence on the slab. That
way, we'd make the best time and also have a good shot at finding a
restaurant for lunch.
Around Exit 62 or so, we decided to stop and eat at a Cracker Barrel.
Neither of us, as fate would have it, had ever eaten at one of these
roadside icons before. We stopped, but had to rattle around a bit to
find the restaurant because it was hidden behind a gas station off
Once inside, I realized it was a country boy's paradise. The restaurant
was tied to a little gift shop that did everything it could to seem
like an old country store. They had a wide variaety of gifts, from
surprisingly expensive porcelain dolls to NASCAR souvenirs. We bought
my mom a little lighthouse to thank her for letting us use the truck.
Conveniently, though the crowds were thick, our names were called for
our table. We ate our simple lunches and chatted about our trip. The
restaurant had those pesky little peg games on the tables: you hop
pegs and remove 'em until there are no moves left. Somehow, we couldn't
figure it out: we persistently left no less than three pegs. The legend
burned into the wood board told us that we rated "stupid" for not
being able to clean-up.
I paid, and that was that. We stopped for gas at the Amoco and continued
on our way south.
To break-up the time after lunch,
we played a license-plate game while we were driving. Deb wrote down
all the plates we saw. We found cars with tags from
Delaware, Georgia, Florida (of course), Indiana, Connecticut, Ohio,
New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, Michigan, Alabama, South
Carolina, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, Tennessee,
Wisconsin, Iowa, Kentucky, West Virginia, Massachussetts, New Jersey,
Maryland, Missouri, Washington, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Mississippi,
and California. We also saw plates from three Canadian provinces:
Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.
Since there were so many Florida plates, we also wrote down all the
counties that we saw. Florida used to stamp the county where the car
was registered underneath the number on the plate. The newer plates don't
have the county stamped anymore, so we were at a bit of a loss for most
of the counties. But we did spot Charlotte, Manatee, Pasco, Hernando,
Hillsborough, Seminole, Polk, Orange, Broward, Serasota, Lee,
Collier, Pinellas, Desoto, Palm Beach, Highlands, Hardee, Osecola, Monroe,
It took us more than three hours to make it past Tampa Bay and down to
Port Charlotte. Deb got me off the highway at the right exit, and
we rattled around on a couple of local streets before finding the
road where the conflunece would be found. It wasn't a bad drive, though
there were (as always!) some real fools on the road.
In the little village of Harbor Heights, we found Palm Tree Avenue.
Of course, on the map, it was called Palm Tree Avenue. But in real life,
it was Pinellas Avenue. All of my travels have tought me one particularly
important rule: if the terrain and the map disagree, trust the terrain.
sparsely populated. The houses looked like they
had been setting a couple of decades or more on the carefully laid-out
streets. But there were a surprising number of undeveloped, overgrown
lots. We parked in front of one hoping it would hide the confluence,
but we had no such luck: it was right in someone's front yard! On the
street, just in front of the driveway, we got a reading of 26 degrees,
59.999 minutes north, by 81 degrees, 59.986 minutes west.
While we stood on the street examining the GPS and thinking of what to do,
a dog in the home started barking. Unfortunately, we stood around for
so long that the owner came to try to quiet the dog and asked us if
she could help with anything. I replied that were were on something of
a treasure-hunt, and that we had found what we needed. I apologized
for disturbing her.
I felt pretty bad: the dog was really set off, and she might have a hard
time quieting him down. I wished I could've explained our quest a little
bit, and at least told her the significance of the spot where her front
yard -- or, maybe even her living room -- was sitting. But I figured it would
be best to leave well enough alone.
We got out of there.
The drive home was pleasant: I took a couple of local roads north until
they hit US-17, and we cut through all sorts of little towns before getting
onto I-4, and then onto the FL-417 toll road. We were back home before
7 pm, and had a pizza dinner.