And so begins the Disney Adventure, 2014.  

Bill and I had discussed many options for getting to Orlando for our Disney Extravaganza 2014, and in the end, we decided to go the old fashioned way.  Jacksonville, the home of Bill's bestie, is only seven hours away by car, and that seemed like a manageable drive.  But my shift at the Borg Call Center is noon to 8, and that meant leaving for Jacksonville (known as Jax, for those who are COOL) at 8 p.m.

The Borg Collective encourages its employees to leave the late shift together, to keep everyone safe walking to their cars.  On the Friday night we were leaving, there were three other people here, and I sat, with my mouse hovering over the "log out" option on my PC, and at eight-o'clock-ON-THE-DOT, I logged out, jumped up, and ran to the waiting car.  My Borg colleagues had agreed to walk themselves safely to their cars without me, and as I stepped out the door, Bill was beeping the car horn and yelling "Disney!!!  Disney!!!  Disney!!!"  My Borg friends stood at the door and waved me on my way.  DISNEY!!!!  DISNEY!!!!  DISNEY!!!!

And off we went.  Darkness came fairly soon after we set off, and along the way there were potty breaks and digging into the packed snacks.  The highways past Raleigh thinned out, and soon enough we were on 95, passing the signs for South of the Border and Pedro begging us to check out his collection of fireworks and souvenirs.  By the time we crossed into South Carolina, it was fully dark, and South of the Border was lit up like a mini-Vegas, an oasis of life in the middle of darkening highways.  

We would be driving through the night, with an ETA in Jax for 4 a.m.  I had anticipated a feeling of loneliness on the highways.  That the roads would empty as the night wore on.  Or perhaps we would be surrounded entirely by 18-wheelers, maximizing the road-hours that had the fewest travelers.  I had assumed there would be a noticeable difference driving through the night.  I was wrong.

Throughout South Carolina, Georgia, and the northern parts of Florida, traffic flowed steadily, with no discernible drop.  Bill drove cheerfully on.  We were going to Disney, after all!!!  I, however, slept through South Carolina. The mileage signs along 95 point to Florence, SC, about 40 miles into the state from the north.  After that, there are no landmarks.  I had assumed I had slept through any landmarks in SC, but on the return trip I learned otherwise.  There's a whole lot of nuthin along the I-95 corridor in South Carolina.  Wow.

One thing we did notice as we traveled further south was how the road-kill changed.  Possums and coons on the side of the road gave way to armadillos and snakes.  It is so weird to see the landscape change.  Later, when we were in Florida, we noticed the proliferation of palm trees everywhere--no surprise. We even passed a cow pasture, grass of course, but lined with palm trees.  Now that's something you don't see in North Carolina!!

Georgia was more fun, and blessedly brief.  We debated pulling over in Savannah and grabbing a cheap motel, but decided to push on through, and I'm so glad we did.  By 3:30 or so we were pulling into Tom's driveway, and by 3:50 we had hugged our hellos and fallen into the guest bed.  Zzzzzzzz...

Saturday was a relaxing day. Bill got up early and went to work with Tom, while I slept in. But they were back early, and we got the tour of the lovely home Tom shares with his mother and her friend Michelle.  We decided to cook out, so we all traipsed to Costco for provisions, and I met Tom's sister and her children.  Costco is known to me, and as you can probably guess, all Costcos are the same.  Except for the clientele.  Florida, being the nation's largest retirement community, is full of old people, and as I watched the elderly gentleman stumble frailly into the seat of his SUV, I realized I was not in North Carolina any more.  You need to be in vacation mode when everyone around you is retired.  Sue Ellen later said driving in Florida is like snails on a track.  No one is in a hurry.  No one can see above their steering wheel.  And their reflexes aren't what they used to be.  Hence we shuffled through Costco at the retiree pace, and emerged 19 hours later with steak, potatoes, and an eight-gallon pack of milk.  But we were together, and Tom and his family are absolutely delightful, so life was good.

Tom also has a lovely motorcycle.  When we got back from our sojourn into elderland, he threw me on the back of his varoom varoom and off we went!!  For the first time ever, I thought I might slide off the back, as he bolted out from complete stops, the seat shooting forward while I remained, inert.  Visions of Wile E. Coyote suspended above his Acme rocket smoke trail in the moments before his fall danced in my head.  I held on tight!!!

Sunday morning dawned bright, and we headed to St. Augustine, where Tom patiently waited outside every single store in town, and Bill and I beheld the wonders that are this historic town.  There was a bar, some beer, a little ice cream, and lots of souvenirs from the city founded in 1565.  History oozes from every corner, and I was in a sunny, sandalled Heaven.  

We eventually left Tom with big hugs and kisses, and then headed for Orlando and checked in to the hotel Sue Ellen arranged for us all.  Sue Ellen and Mark would be arriving at 1 a.m., so we found the Miller's Ale House, enjoyed a delicious steak salad (me) and fish tacos (Bill), as well as a few fruity adult beverages.  Soon enough the Mark/Sue Ellen/Jenny/Bill foursome was reunited, and we were excitedly planning our next day, our first Disney day.  Whoop whoop!!!