On The Road Again
Road Trip Reflections
With Willie Nelson’s song running through my head, my wife Margaret and I embarked on a multi-day Road Trip down South to see our daughter for the first time in 16 months. The drive to Florida was easy but long. We took our time, made a few stops and enjoyed seeing some nice sections of Virginia and Alabama before we got to Florida. Transitioning from Alabama to Florida was a real eye opener.
The Florida Panhandle suffered through Hurricane Michael in October 2018, and the destruction is still unbelievable, nine months later. About 30 miles from our destination, as far as we could see, trees had been blown over or chopped off part of the way up. Houses and buildings were still exposed with roofs torn off. The damage continued all the way to the Gulf Coast. It was like a tornado 10 miles wide had torn a swath 30 miles long through Florida. Many homes and businesses had not yet been repaired. The devastation was troubling to see. The running “joke” in the area was to stay away from churches and Burger Kings and head to a Waffle House. Those small brick buildings seemed practically indestructible!
The air base at which our daughter is stationed sustained severe wind damage – roof blown off a large hangar, buildings damaged, housing for the air servicemen and women destroyed. It’s a real mess and not likely to be completely repaired for a long time.
These people need any help we can offer. Many in the area lost everything. And yet, what struck us the most was the friendly, polite attitude of everyone we met there. We were impressed by their tremendous “can do” spirit and positive attitudes, despite their less than ideal living conditions.
We met Meara at a Starbucks – of course. She looked great, but a little thin. She had been deployed to the Middle East for a year and for the three years prior, she was stationed in the Pacific. Life at her base overseas was a little tougher than she let on.
Fortunately, her new apartment is a fantastic contrast to the spartan accommodations she’s occupied the last few years…no more sleeping under armored trucks! It’s on the 17th floor of a complex right on the Gulf Coast with spectacular views from both her front and back windows. We spent the better part of a week working with her to get furniture and to decorate the rooms. Her belongings finally arrived from her past two duty stations, so we spent a day opening boxes and hanging clothes and storing dishes, etc.
It is good to have her only one time zone away and within easy reach via airlines or even another road trip. Now if she can stay put for the promised three years, we have a nice place to visit in the winter to escape from the cold weather!