Happy New Year from Florida. Yes, I am one of the thousands of people from the tri-state region who have headed south to escape winter’s wrath at home.
Unlike many snowbirds who have a Florida destination they return to each year, I tend to wander to rekindle favorite memories from past years as well as find new interests.
I not only like to revisit the same cities, but stay in the same hotels. After a few years it’s good to renew acquaintances with staff members. You may even get a hug or two, which is nice when you are traveling alone.
This time I did not drive, but instead took advantage of Allegiant Airlines’ schedule at Toledo Express Airport. The Toledo terminal is such a sweet facility that it makes you remember the ease that air travel used to be. Price too is a factor for people who book early and online. A family with four children who were on the flight drove from their home in Cleveland to take the 10:40 a.m. flight because of price and the Sanford-Orlando destination that is near Disneyworld.
Extra costs add up for passengers who want an assigned seat or even water in flight, but the privilege of traveling from the Toledo terminal makes it worth it, at least for me.
The two-hour flight was also advantageous for me to get to Daytona Beach, my first week-long stop to visit my cousin in a rest home.
Although I traveled to Florida by plane, I probably will drive home. Henry, my 2003 Grand Marquis, was shipped to Florida from Toledo by transport truck. In the meantime a rental car was necessary. To somewhat alleviate Florida’s high rental prices, I followed a tip from the Enterprise agent to pick up the car outside the airport to avoid airport taxes. The taxi from the Sanford airport to the Enterprise office was $22, but it saved about $100 in airport taxes.
I said goodbye to Henry at Piasecki’s Automotive Service on Dorr Street in Toledo. Piasecki’s, which has been in business since 1936, is the local pick up place for Dependable Auto Shippers, a Dallas company that charged $617 to haul the car to Ocoee, about 20 miles west of Orlando. Cars are also delivered to Jacksonville and Tampa, but Ocoee was more workable for my schedule.
From Daytona Beach, the Lakeview Hotel in Mount Dora was a must stop, as it always is when I am in the area. And from there it was less than an hour to Ocoee.
The shipping cost may sound like big money, but compared to rental cars for a month or two, it made sense to me.
Besides, I like having my own car that I am used to, is fully insured, and already has several bruises.
The shippers’ rules include that the car that is being hauled must be thoroughly inspected and the dents and scratches be marked on a chart so that the owner can’t blame them. When examining Henry, Kevin Piasecki noted several bad places and he also wrote in his report that the car was dirty inside and out. Cleaning the car was just one of several things I didn’t get done before leaving Dec. 19, but to be reminded was embarrassing.
Ironically, Henry had more company than I did on Christmas Eve, when he was picked up at Piasecki’s to head south. He was one of eight cars on the huge transport while I was alone on the balcony at the Plaza Ocean Club hotel at Daytona Beach.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I took my cousin Joyce out for lunch every day and we had Christmas dinner together at the rest home. After dinner she played favorite songs on the organ that her sons bought for her private room. She has been a master at the keyboard since we were children.
The private concert brought tears as I thought of our many years of closeness. Family is precious, no matter what the circumstances are.
And now I am heading to Aiken, S.C., where I plan to stay a few weeks if I don’t get too homesick.
But on the way I plan to stop at Fernandina Beach in north Florida and Jekyll Island in southern Georgia to revist places remembered from past visits.
I feel certain 2014 is going to be a good year.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org