Escape from the arctic


OK, I reached my limit halfway through February. The snow, the relentless cold, it’s just been too much. I’ve put off a winter escape vacation for too long, so I decided this was the year. We were unable to leave until Friday afternoon, so I became determined to make the most of our travel time. Every other trip I’ve made south in winter has involved an airport and a rental car, and this time I just didn’t feel like it. I love to drive, and my Subaru Crosstrek has proven to be a good travel companion, so we hit the road. Destination? The west coast of Florida.

Unlike a number of my contemporaries, I’m OK with Florida. I don’t mind that it is an overcommercialized, overbuilt mecca for the elderly. I am officially a senior citizen, and so I ought to fit right in. Our plan to get there is not direct. My biological father and his wife have a winter home in Georgia, and we plan to spend some time with them. They are located in her hometown south of Atlanta, a quiet berg with a massive courthouse and some antebellum homes that are simply gorgeous. The house was once her mother’s and is located downtown near the courthouse. Restaurants and shops are just steps away and the livin’ is easy.

With a full tank, a destination set in the GPS, and a satellite radio for tunes, we gingerly creep out of our driveway with its mountains of snow piled high near the mouth, making visibility almost impossible for oncoming traffic. Once we are on the way I slip into road warrior mode with a singular goal ... make as many miles as I can before I am too exhausted to continue. There’s an interesting psychological transformation that takes place once the GPS unit declares an arrival time ... central Georgia, 10:55 a.m., the very next day. It’s like a challenge that I am more than willing to take on. This goal would be unattainable if we stop for the night ... so I look over at my fiance and say "You OK with a mad dash to Georgia?" She replies in the affirmative with the caveat that she not have to pull a driving shift until daylight. Well, I almost made it.

When 5 a.m. arrived I stopped for gas and declared that I was spent. She had slept all the way to Roanoke, Virginia. I noted that even in southern Virginia the temperature had not risen above 21 degrees. It was 15 back home when we left. We switched seats and when I awoke we were well into South Carolina. I turned over and fell back asleep. My next lucid moment came on the Georgia/South Carolina border. It was 48 degrees, and climbing. When we finally made our destination a couple of hours later, it was 20 minutes later than the original GPS arrival time.

We enjoyed lunch on the patio in 70 degree weather about 18 hours after leaving Vermont. Not bad. I slept for part of the afternoon, and when evening fell we walked down the street to a great little restaurant. On arriving back home we wasted no time falling asleep, awakening the next morning to a beautiful sunny Georgia day. Our moods were instantly elevated by the perfect temperature, and I went looking for a car wash to rinse away the grime and salt of New England from the Subaru’s exterior. That important task being complete, we took a leisurely drive to Madison, considered to be the prettiest town in Georgia. As we already knew from a previous trip, it did not disappoint. Madison’s courthouse was the scene for the courthouse of Hazzard County in the iconic TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard." Madison is nothing like the fictitious Hazzard county, and I spent some quality time behind the lens of my Nikon, recording antebellum architecture by the megabyte. Were we in Vermont, that photo shoot would have been hurried and possibly blurry from chattering teeth. It got up to 78 in Madison that day.

The change of scenery has done us a great deal of good. I have a much better appreciation for why people want to head south in winter, and I’ll relate a bit more of it next week.

Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.


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