A few weeks ago I took my first long distance road trip, and it was a blast! I was invited to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of my college roommate; however, the wedding was taking place in Florida. There was no way I could miss my roomie's special day though, so operation road trip began.
After researching plane tickets and realizing driving would be cheaper, my husband and I decided to go on an adventure. Thanks to a AAA trip tik, we learned that we would drive through Ohio (of course), Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and then reach our destination of Fort Walton Beach, Fla. So quite a long haul, 17 hours to be exact. It was exciting though and I looked forward to the journey.
My husband and I were married in December, right before Christmas, so we didn't really have an extended honeymoon. We decided to take this road trip opportunity as a chance for a sort of second honeymoon get-away. We would be gone 6 days, with only 2 of those days belonging to the wedding. The other 4 days were ours to plan and there was no way we were going to drive all the way to Florida without taking advantage of the roadside stops and attractions. So we planned some side trips and also randomly pulled over along the way, which we all know is what makes a road trip memorable.
We decided to break up our traveling and spend the first night in Nashville, Tenn. We got to the city fairly early in the evening, and decided to search for The Grand Old Opry. After lots of driving in circles, we finally found it and took advantage of a photo opportunity. However, during the search, hunger had hit, which then led to short tempers and the sad conclusion of eating at Cracker Barrel... It's a delightful restaurant, but one that is common in Ohio. I wanted authentic Southern BBQ, he wanted Rainforest Cafe, but due to reasons we couldn't control, neither of us got what we wanted ... Which was probably best. So ended the first night.
We began day two with a fresh start. Once back on the road, we quickly learned that armadillos are the equivalent of Ohio's opossum. Apparently they often wander onto highways. Who knew? We also learned that the outline of the state of Tennessee is too small to contain state route numbers, so the number is placed above the state on highway signs. This made me laugh. I had never realized what a perfect shape Ohio is. Poor Tennessee, and the majority of New England.
We soon entered Alabama, where we pulled over at a rest stop for another photo op with a United States Rocketship, the Saturn 1B. It was developed in Huntsville, Ala., and made a few unmanned trips into space before becoming a tourist attraction. Pretty cool! Six hours after the rocket, we reached our destination of Florida and the wedding rehearsal right on time.
The wedding went beautifully the next day. I gave a toast and cried through it all. You may remember one of my previous columns describing my sentimentality. I feared I would cry throughout my wedding, but surprisingly I didn't. Apparently I just lose control when it's happening to other people. Anyhow, the wedding was really fun and marked my first occasion as a bridesmaid.
Day 4 was for us to enjoy, so we decided to go to the beach, which was literally right behind our hotel. If you ever want to go to a Florida beach and avoid tons of bodies, I would suggest you visit in late April. It was still warm enough to tan, a.k.a. burn to a crisp, and even swim in the ocean, just minus the crowd, which I enjoyed.
That evening we chose Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant for dinner. It was a restaurant full of Forrest Gump memorabilia and references. For example, a set of ping-pong paddles containing the drink and dessert menu sat at each table. It was really neat, but you paid for the atmosphere.
We started our drive home on Day 5 and stopped for the night in Kentucky, but not without first making an unplanned side trip to the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was a very historical little town. It reminded me of a smaller version of Williamsburg, Va., if you're familiar with it. We didn't have time for a tour of the distillery, but we did get to explore the museum and town square for a bit.
The next day began our last leg of the journey home, but first we visited The Creation Museum, in Petersburg, Ky. We were able to coordinate a free pair of tickets with the hotel that we stayed in the night before. Hotel perks are always a nice bonus and something to keep in mind when traveling. The museum was excellent! It discussed the creation of the Earth and natural selection and then walked the visitor through the fall of man, including a great descriptive display of Noah's Arc. The main exhibit then ended with the crucification of Jesus Christ and the redemption that his sacrifice offers us.
After the museum, we finally made our way home, this time only stopping for gas and food. We were back in EL just before dark and crashed. Our first real vacation had come to an end.
It was a memorable journey and a great first challenge for a newlywed couple. The trip taught us new lessons about ourselves and was in many ways a growing experience. We made it there and back in one piece, which I consider a success.
The next time you have the opportunity for a road trip I definitely suggest you take it and bypass the plane tickets. The convenience of a short flight can never make up for the memories made on the road. And if you ever happen to find yourself on the route we were, try out some of the same stops. There's always something to see.
(Laura Reed is a desk editor at The Review. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org)