August 5, 2017
The weather in Southwest Florida is warm and humid again today. Showers are a normal way of life in the summer. We have rain almost every day, any time of the day or night, but mostly in the afternoon. So, if you like warm, humid and wet, you’ll love Southwest Florida in the summer.
I have been trying to figure out what to title this post. Pike? Maybe. Pike Class Reunion? Pike High School Class Reunion? Should I go all the way, drum roll please, The 55th Pike High School Class Reunion at the Embassy Suites in Indianapolis, Indiana?
I think I will simply call this post “Anticipation.”
When I became aware that a “committee” was being formed and was thinking about a 55th Pike High School Class Reunion instead of the more traditional 50th or 60th reunion I was a little taken back. Well, you know, it’s not normal. Normal, now there is an interesting word. Aye?
But, I understand the “anticipation,” we keep losing classmates at an ever increasing rate. I think we’ve lost 12 classmates at this stage. The old 8 x 10 black and white photo of the class of 1962 shows 83 faces.
That means 14% of the class is gone. A quick check on line about the national number says on average 21% of high school classes will have died at our age. So, my class of 1962 is doing better than the national average. I’m still alive. Good for me. Cue the Bee Gee’s music.
The official invitation announcing the 55th arrived and was open and laying on my desk. It talked about the date and time and where it was going to be held. The first question that ran through my mind is, can I go? If I do go, how will I get there? Where will I stay? What will it cost? Who will be there? Whom do I want to see after 55 years? I mean, there are some tasty looking women in my high school class.
So, I took a few days to process the idea of going back to Indianapolis. After all, I walk past my bathroom mirror, too, you know. My first concern is my father. My father, George, is 98-years old. I’ve got to figure out what to do with Dad if I go back. (Yes, my dad lives with me.) If I can’t get that problem squared away, there is no way I can leave Dad at home alone for more than a few hours.
Okay, I have that problem fixed. Next how to get there. With people helping me with Dad, I could be gone longer than a quick flight into Indianapolis and a quick flight back. Maybe I could drive my hot rod this trip. Spend a few days on the road? Wouldn’t that be lovely for a change? This is where my “anticipation” started to flower. Then, the emails flashed across my computer screen. Classmates were talking up the reunion, more “anticipation.”
So, I wrote the $50.00 check for the evening meal at the Embassy Suites. I put the check in the mail. It’s gone. I’m going. I continued to watch airline prices and the closer I got to the date for the reunion the cost for an airplane seat continued to rise. So, I scrubbed the plane ride and made a commitment to myself to spend a little time on the road. A road trip; “anticipation.”
The road from Southwest Florida to Indianapolis is about eleven hundred miles from my home to my son’s home in Indianapolis. I figure a two day drive with 500-600 miles a day and 16-18 hours of windshield time. Oh, the anticipation. I even started loading my smart phone with podcasts and music. I’ve been living in Southwest Florida for three years now, and I do miss certain aspects of Indianapolis.
I miss the super cold weather. I miss putting on lots of clothes in the winter. Let’s see if I remember, coat, boots, gloves and a hat. Then the joy of spending hours shoveling snow off the driveway. I also miss pushing the blanket off my legs and getting up and checking the thermostat to see why the house is so cold.
Did I say I miss all that?
The time is close. Tomorrow morning I leave for Indianapolis. It was time to hit the road and behave like a kid again. My bags are packed and in the trunk. I decided to get an early start. I lay down in bed with great “anticipation.” Falling asleep was difficult.
The hot rod dash board clock reads 4:44 AM as I pull out of the driveway. I had a cup of coffee in the drink holder, and I am off shifting through the gears for Indianapolis. Clutch in, let up on the accelerator and move the round gear shift knob to the next higher gear. Before I knew it, I was cruising north at 75 miles an hour three lanes wide.
The big green highway signs read mile marker 158. Florida is about 500 miles long and a couple hundred miles wide. I live close to the bottom. All I had to do was drive 311 miles and I would be out of Florida. My first major goal. I wasn’t sure where I was going to stop to bed down for the night, but in the back of my mind I wanted to get past Atlanta. There is always something interesting to see on the highway.
As I slowly drove past the parade of custom cars, you can’t help but wonder how much time and money these guys have in their pride and joy.
I felt I was close to Georgia state line, but I didn’t realize Florida was going to say good bye to me first. I was making excellent time. It was 9:00 AM on the button when I drove by the Florida good bye sign.
Just look at that sign. The impression I get from Florida is “You need to come back.” Two reliable and strong pillars with palm trees behind the big blue sign. And the message is, Thank you for visiting! I was impressed. But had I missed a sign that might say, “Welcome to Georgia?”
Two miles down the road, “Welcome to Georgia.” I pulled over and took a couple of shots of the sign through the windshield of the hot rod. “We’re glad Georgia is on your mind.” The governor put his name on the sign as well. I’ll let you decide if I needed to know Nathan Deal is the governor of the state of Georgia.
Speaking of Georgia “Being on my mind,” I received a traffic citation from one of Georgia’s finest late one night many years ago. I was on a cell phone call talking to my son, Scott. I hadn’t noticed his big bright blue SUV patrol car at 10:00 PM with his lights off sitting in the bushes. I looked up in my rear view mirror, and there he was a few feet off my back bumper. Not only did he have the bright blue digital lights flashing in all directions, but he had bright blue digital lights that spelled “Georgia State Police” across his windshield. I told my son I needed to pull over and talk to the nice man. I told my son the state trooper apparently wanted to award me with a safe driving award. We ended our phone call quickly.
The trooper approached my car on the passenger side. I lowered the passenger window. His flash light scanned my front and back seats and lingered on the open bag of potato chips sitting next to me. I asked him if he would like a chip. That apparently was the wrong thing to ask our mighty Georgia warrior “In The Heat Of The Night.” That question turned out to be a costly error in judgment on my part.
So, needless to say, when I enter the fantastic state of Georgia, I lift my right foot off that gas pedal just a touch, so the Mean Yellow Pontiac Solstice GXP hot rod won’t go “zoom – zoom” through the state of Georgia. Okay, I know you’re wondering. No, I didn’t have an open bag of potato chips on my passenger seat this trip.
I was out of fuel. I had to pull off the interstate and fill the tank. I stopped at the first exit after I entered Georgia. It was called the Lake Park Travel Center, in Lake Park, Georgia. This place is one of many Travel Centers of America Truck Stops and had a few gas pumps for cars as well. I gassed the buggy and went inside to get a fresh cup of coffee. I noticed all the junk food, row after row of junk food. Yes, they had potato chips, all kinds.
However, I was not able to pass the display with the iced honey buns in the clear cellophane wrapper. I tried, I really did look for something else to have with my coffee, but the temptation was just too strong. Iced honey buns have a clear see through cellophane wrapper. It’s like looking at massive cleavage on a beautiful woman. It shows the milky white frosting flowing over soft cinnamon dough, and I can’t turn away. I’m weak, I tell you. I’m weak. Coffee and an iced honey bun, $3.84.
After getting back on the road thinking I was good for at least 300 miles, I found that two and a half hours later I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was falling asleep. The coffee had apparently worn off. Getting up at 4:00 in the morning to shower and leave the house was also playing games with my stamina. I had to exit the high way and get out of the car.
I found a Subway restaurant just off of Interstate 75. I got out of the car and stretched my legs. This is not a stop I planned on making. The time is now 11:30 AM and I find myself in little Byron, Georgia. I think I’m about an hour south of Atlanta. Or, at least I hope, I’m only an hour out. It’s a little too early for lunch, but if I’m stopped I might as well eat something. Let’s call this stop a light lunch break.
I picked the sandwich of the day. A 6” turkey sub on cheese bread. I ordered a 21-ounce fountain drink and a small bag of chips. My hands trembled as I opened the little bag of chips knowing I was inside the borders of Georgia. The mind can play terrible tricks on a man.
Back on the road, Atlanta was hopefully only about an hour north.
The traffic is as you expect it in Atlanta.
Downtown Atlanta is seven traffic lanes wide with large green signs hanging over the road telling me, “You are in the wrong lane!” I made it! My goal for the day was accomplished. I was north of Atlanta. I checked the time, 12:35 PM. I decided to keep going until I needed to fill the tank again.
I had very little fuel left when I hit the Tennessee state line. I checked my watch. It was three in the afternoon. I knew I was almost out of fuel and was forced to stop and refuel in Chattanooga. I cut this fuel stop way too close. The hot rod only holds 13 gallons. I purchased 12.2 gallons at Browns Ferry.
The state of Tennessee is broad and not all that tall, as you can see from the sign above. I decided to push on and go for the Kentucky state line.
Kentucky. It’s now 5:18 PM and I’m looking at the Kentucky sign. Holy smokes. The “anticipation” of going all the way is becoming a reality. I decided to keep going on this tank of gas and see where I would need to pull off the super slab and fuel up again. I kept looking off to my right at the western sky. The sun was low in the sky and hiding behind clouds. But, I still had light. I still had gas.
I knew I was close. I drove over the new north bound bridge that takes me over the Ohio River. I arrived at the Indiana state line at 8:30 PM.
I had enough fuel to make it to Seymour, Indiana. I stopped at the Circle K in Seymour and took on 12 gallons of fuel. Surely, enough gas to get me to my son’s home in Indianapolis. I also realized I was hungry. The last meal I had was back in Byron, Georgia, at that Subway. I decided I to see what was open when I got closer to Scott’s home, Exit #103. I pulled off the interstate at Southport Road. Down the block was a Rally’s. I pulled into the express lane. I ordered the Big Buford. I grabbed by Big Buford and put it on my passenger seat. I pulled into Scott’s driveway, stopped the engine and opened the door to the hot rod. I just sat there thinking, I’m tired. I had no intention of driving all the way from North Fort Myers. I looked at the trip meter, and it read 1,110 miles. I knew I was only a few minutes from a real bed. I pulled myself out of the hot rod and stood up and stretched my back.
Being back in Indiana was an incredible feeling. Indiana will always be home. The air was crisp and clean. It wasn’t hot or muggy. I looked up into the sky and realized I was safe and “home.” I bent over and reached inside the hot rod and grabbed my Rally’s bag, and closed the door. I wanted to go inside to eat my “Big Buford.” I approached the keypad on the garage door. I entered the super secret code. The door made creaking sounds like an old door opening in a horror movie in a forgotten castle. I walked into the garage and pushed the close button on the garage wall next to the utility room door. The garage door slowly creaked its way shut. Everyone in the house had to hear the garage door open and close. I went to the kitchen, sat down at the dining room table and opened my Rally’s sack. Scott came around the corner, looked at what I was eating and asked, “Do you need anything to drink with that? Why did you stop at Rally’s? We have food in the house.”
The time has come. I dressed and walked to the car. I was on my way to the 55th Pike High School Class Reunion. I pulled into the Embassy Suites Hotel parking lot. I strolled to the front of the hotel and noticed two beautiful cars parked out front.
People were either coming or leaving the hotel. Bags were being loaded or unloaded. I wasn’t sure, but my mind was on what was going to happen inside. Anticipation was now at its peak.
I stood looking down into the open area of the hotel. I didn’t see anyone I knew at first. I took a couple of random photographs and then I noticed faces from the past. There they were, 29 smiling classmates with a warm, welcoming smile. With spouses, we had a total of 47 who attended the 55th Pike Reunion.
THIS YOUNG LADY WAS IN THE HOTEL. SHE IS A 1992 GRADUATE OF PIKE HIGH SCHOOL.