Barreling down the open highway, Sally leaned over and cranked up the volume on the 8 track stereo. It hung precariously, half-bolted under the bottom of the dashboard, with our collection of 8 track tapes piled between us on the seats. Hotel California was blasting through the speakers as we made our way towards the US border. The two of us were in high gear, excited and ready for an experience of a lifetime. We were like the early version of ‘Thelma and Louise’ and there was no stopping us. The back seat of the car was full; bulging overstuffed kit bags of summer clothing, and everything else imaginable for a cross-country trek.
My new 69 Camero was just freshly painted from a dark dingy green colour to a bright new flashy white. Light blue frosting adorned the hood, which gave my car a uniqueness all its’ own. Before our trip, a friend loaned me his four shiny chrome mags. The car looked fabulous. Being my first vehicle as a ‘so-called adult’, I took pride in how it looked. Sally and I first met while working as car jockeys – detailers, for a paint shop during that winter. We instantly became great friends and decided to get an apartment together close to our jobs. It wasn’t long after that, when the decision was made for a road trip. The first place that came to our minds was Florida for ‘spring break’.
The 70’s was a care-free time. Back-packing and traveling the world seemed the logical thing to do. Jobs were a dime-a-dozen, so if you lost one, there was always another one around the corner. Heading to the sunny coast of Florida was something we had both dreamed about. We had visions of driving along the white sands of Daytona Beach; hanging out on the strip in Miami; and of course, sunbathing and meeting cute male co-eds in Fort Lauderdale. We heard stories of all-night beach parties, as well as early morning bar-hopping along the strip of over-packed bars, bursting at the seams with inebriated co-eds. This was about to become our reality. Another cold, harsh Canadian winter had already dumped many feet of snow, but it was almost the month of March and our bags were already packed by the door. It wouldn’t be long before we would be in the land of sun, surf, and long sought after dreams.
We were making good time on the first part of the long road trip, chatting non-stop about what we would do exactly when we first arrived. At the same time, the car starting making a weird ticking noise. It seemed to be coming from the engine, just as the red light came on. The sound was unfamiliar to me, but in a matter of minutes the steam was rising from under the hood. We slowed down to a snail’s pace and pulled over to the side of the road. The steam poured out from under all three sides of the hood as we both sat staring out the front window. The hissing noise was becoming louder and louder. We nervously looked at each other, shrugging our shoulders and realizing that neither of us was the least bit mechanically inclined. I looked back over at Sally and said, “I think the car is overheating, which was a more than obvious statement. Realistically, we were just two, somewhat naïve twenty year-olds, with no car knowledge what-so-ever. We weaved our way up the shoulder of the road to the nearest gas station which luckily was only a few yards away. The car was now hissing louder than ever, sputtering and making some ungodly sounds.
Stepping out of the car, we both noticed the middle-aged gas attendant standing at the front entrance of the small building smoking a cigarette. He seemed to be smirking at us and shaking his head. He yelled over, “You ladies seem to have a problem.” He flicked his cigarette towards the ground, sauntered forward grinding the lit butt into the pavement with the heel of his boot. He shoved his dirty hands into the pockets of his greasy work overalls and headed towards the car. The hood of the car was too hot to open, but he asked, “Did you know that your radiator is bone-dry?” We quickly glanced at each other not letting on that we didn’t really know anything about radiators. He suggested we let the engine cool before filling it up again. Realizing it was a good time for a restroom break, we got some drinks and munchies before crossing the border. We gassed up, filled the radiator and he checked the oil before we got back on the road. Finally, we paid the attendant and we were back in business. He pulled out another cigarette, tucked it behind his ear and winked at us. He smiled again with that same familiar smirk and said, “You ladies have a good time in Florida now.” We both smiled back, thanking him profusely, but giving each other that look as we quickly headed for the car.
Whew… that was a close call I thought; but this was only a small hiccup in our trek south. The car was now road-worthy again. The journey had only begun as Sally and I both laughed, more that happy to be back on the road. In unison we high-fived, slapping each others hands and saying…
“Florida…here we come”.
Sally did the navigating while I did most of the driving. She studied the map, giving the directions as we crossed state after state. We noticed the grass becoming greener as we got farther south and the excitement was building. It wasn’t long before we got our first glimpse of palm trees and we looked over at each other thinking, “Let’s get this party started!” We were both clad in blue-jean overalls, and before long our pant legs were rolled up revealing our stark white calves, glaring from the sunlight’s reflection. Our construction boots and socks remained in tact. This was the last part of the trip and before we knew it, we had crossed over into the state of Florida! Stevie Wonder was playing in the 8 track as I cranked up the volume. Sally and I rolled down the windows of the car as we sang in unison at the top of our lungs to, “You are the sunshine of my Life”. We sat while waiting for a lift-bridge to go up, and the line of cars extended forever. I jumped out and ran over to the median, snapping a picture of Sally beaming from the front of my Camero.
The first order of business was to find a beach where we could sit on the sand and feel the warmth of the sun’s rays. We headed for the nearest store, picked up a 6 pack of beer, some peanuts and chips, and drove down the highway to find the nearest beach. It wasn’t long before we found a small secluded beach, not really having a clue where we were. We parked the car, jumped out and headed for the sand. There wasn’t a soul in sight, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We grabbed our beers and bag of munchies, a couple of towels and plunked ourselves on the sand. The view was glorious but the air was a bit cool, even though the sun was hot. We snapped open our first can of beer, clinking them together as a sign that ‘we had arrived’, and opened the bag of peanuts. In a matter of minutes a number of seagulls joined us, circling above our heads. It seemed a bit strange, but we were just happy to be here. Just then the first seagull dive-bombed towards us and we soon realized they were after the peanuts. The next one almost landed on Sally’s head as she screamed and said, “I’m out of here” jumping up and running for the car. I was right behind here. We left our towels and the nuts on the sand, slammed the car doors shut and watched in disbelief. There were now at least 20 or more seagulls circling and swooping down to pick at the small bag of nuts on the towel. They attacked like hungry vultures. All we could do was wait and watch, hoping that it would soon be over so we could collect our towels. We cracked open another beer and laughed hysterically at what had just happened, thinking to ourselves “Welcome to Florida!”
It wasn’t long before the seagulls finally flew out across the water. We quickly picked up our stuff and again we were off in search of another hot spot to enjoy the sun. We drove around the streets for a bit before finding an empty baseball field. We carted our brown paper bags to the bleachers and finally relaxed after our long journey. We had our own little party, brown- paper bagging it and sitting on the long wooden planks of the bleachers, one above the other. The rest of the afternoon was spent laughing, drinking and eating munchies…without a seagull in sight.
We had indeed arrived!