Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Year's Day Road Trips - Part I: The Plan

I love road trips.  It's the idea of going somewhere I'm not.  The open road, changing scenery, the mystery of what's around the next bend.  Anywhere is fine.  The destination is unimportant as long as I can get in the car and go.  I've long admired/envied Peter Egan, who writes for Road and Track.  Long before I could drive, he was writing about road trips in interesting cars, including Austin Healeys, MGs, a Porsche 356, Ford Model A, and a couple of old Cadillacs.  Given the chance, a reliable mode of transportation, and the right music, I'll take a road trip at the drop of of a hat.  Over the years, I've made half a dozen runs to and from Florida, a pilgrimage to Dyersville, Iowa to see the Field of Dreams, and wandered across northeast Oklahoma along Route 66.  Unlike Peter Egan, my most interesting steeds were a LeBaron convertible, a rented Hertz yellow Mustang, and a Penske truck.  But given the keys and the time, I'll drive anything anywhere.

Which is how I found myself taking back to back road trips around New Year's Day.

The first trip was a run from Kansas City, Missouri to Palm Harbor, Florida in thirty-one hours.  There was no Smoky, no Snowman driving a truck full of Coors beer, and no black Trans-Am.  Instead, it was my in-laws' Kia Sedona mini-van and their gentle-giant golden retriever named Sunny.  They had driven up for the holidays and decided to fly back rather than drive.  At about this same time, my wife and I were car shopping and found a 2008 Saturn Outlook for sale just a few miles from their house.  The plan was for me to drive the Kia to Florida, buy the Saturn Outlook, and drive it home in four days, stopping just long enough to sleep, eat, and grab some quick beach time in nearby Dunedin.

Dunedin is a town of about thirty-five thousand people, just north of Clearwater and south of Palm Harbor on the Gulf Coast.  It's known for three things, Scottish heritage, the home of the Blue Jays spring training camp, and some of the best white sand beaches in the U.S.  Any day I could walk or bike along the Dunedin Causeway or watch the sunset from Caledesi island while my kids play on the beach to the sound track of laughter and gentle waves lapping the shore, is a day well spent.

Since my in-laws were flying back in a few days, we packed most of their luggage in the van.  The Kia's rear seats fold flat into the floor and the middle captain's chairs can be folded or removed.  It's amazing, the amount of space in a modern mini-van.  You could almost park an original, 1984 Plymouth Voyager inside the back of the Kia and have room to spare.  I'm also impressed with Kia's 3.8 V6.  I don't know if it's the same engine Hyundai puts in the Genesis, but it's buttery smooth and powerful.  No question it would outrun my old Infiniti, or just about any muscle car made before 1990.  Plus it burns regular gas and gets around 22 MPG on the highway, fully loaded, with a motorized wheelchair and lift on the back.

I spent Thursday morning, December 29 running errands to get ready for my trip.  I lined up financing at my credit union, called my insurance agent, and stock up on Diet Dr. Pepper.  By 12:30 the Kia was loaded and I was heading towards St. Louis.

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