WHITE


      There is always a story...
      I've always thought I look like the average upscale beach bum. I'm moderately well dressed (preppie casual), well-spoken, and well-WASPish. So why would I be picked to be the random terrorist for a "4S" random security scan? Maybe it was the fact that I was traveling alone, traveling one way and had checked a 50-pound IBM computer box, hmm?
      The two double-gloved security officers had to open (not just scan) the IBM box. I pack very carefully. The box contained two coolers (the big one for the trunk and the little one for the front seat. Some loose stuff. My shoes. About a dozen carefully trimmed foam blocks to keep stuff from rattling around. Both coolers were loaded, One with cheese and ice, the other with important and needed stuff for a road trip. Books. Pills. One jar of peanuts that my friend "Bob" demolished. Radar detector. Tools to install the Radar detector. And socks and stuff to keep the goodies from shifting. One of the two double-gloved security officers took the coolers out and unpacked the bigger one. This was worse than the NY Statie finding the plastic daisy in the engineer's boot in the trunk of a college buddy's Spitfire.
      24 or 36 sniffer slips later, they had to try to repack the (red) cooler, the (blue) cooler, and the box. They failed but were good natured when I told them how everything fit. They used a lot of duct tape.
      Now we know where all the duct tape went.
      At Gate 1, my wedding ring, belt buckle, and the spare car key in my wallet set off the wand. Good thing I didn't have to power up the laptop: with a dead battery and nekkid girls on the wallpaper, it would have been a sight.
      JetBlue had a full bus leaving Burlington. All of the ramp rats and other ground workers lined up outside the terminal to wave as we taxied away. And we had beautiful Harper blue skies with white cloud heads all the way to New York.
      I arrived with moments to spare at JFK and figured I had better use them to best advantage. Since Anne was the random terrorist on her last trip, and since she was strip searched at each connecting leg, I showed my 4 "S" boarding pass to the new gate person.
      "Do I need to go through it again?" I asked.
      She blanched. Now we know where the peanuts come from. "How did you get here?"
      "From Gate 9," I said pointing to the adjacent waiting area.
      "Oh." As a connecting passenger, airport security didn't require me to take off my shoes again. Of course, I took them off in the airplane--drowns out the garlic and onion mixed with the tuna fish in my lunch, innit.
      The bus was at best 2/3 full from NY to Orlando. I had an entire empty row as did the person behind me. As I was loading the laptop bag overhead, the woman in the row behind me said, "Hi, Dick." Women do that. I wonder how they know. Oh. OK, it turned out to be a friend from South Puffin who moved to Florida a couple of years ago.
      Jetblue served snacks (blue chips, blanched peanuts, or mixed pretzelly-dorito-cornchip thingies) to most of us, but the pilot offered ham or chicken cordon bleue to those in the reserved seats abaft row 27.
      We flew mostly above the big thunderstorms/tornado clouds to our west around Atlanta and western South Carolina. In cloud at 507 mph at 36,887 ft most of the way; we did hit 571 mph as we started our descent. That's faster than any Blivet and slightly faster than most Camaros.

      In case it isn't becoming obvious yet I found a (white) Camaro convertible with just 16,000 miles in Florida via an eBay auction. It was offered by a Florida new car dealer as an estate sale. The actual seller was the dealer's brother-in-law.
      The car deal went without a hitch, although the owner's son was just a little bit over the top. He said he was indicted once in Vermont for something to do with his business. The US Marshal came and got him. I didn't mention that the US Marshal for Vermont is an old friend. I bought the (white) car anyway. It came with a GM warranty. And a tanning salon. And a set of Florida plates registered to a dead guy.


      I arrived in Miami by mid-evening and stayed with my friend "Bob" at the Riviera Court Motel. That was where we saw the Radioactive Riviera Roach in the bathroom. It was about 1.25" long with two tentacles, four or more legs, a slightly scoliotic and perhaps slug-soft body, and two fluorescent green headlights for eyes. We turned the lights out in the bathroom (the roach's eyes blazed twin headlight beams in the dark) and closed the door.
      I helped "Bob" move the first load of his daughter's stuff from her UMiami dorm to the UHaul storage facility. He stayed on to finish up and I popped the top down on the (white) car and headed for the Keys.
      Traffic stopped on the 18 mile stretch of Route 1, a long, two-lane causeway across mangrove swamps and small waterways with few passing zones between Homestead and Key Largo. A Florida state cop drove up on the shoulder to the Road Construction Ahead sign beside me as I was sitting in the sun with the car turned off and stopped cars as far as I could see ahead and behind. He moved sign out of the way so he could keep going up the shoulder. And I asked the obvious question
      "The bridge needs regular rewelding," he said as he climbed back into his own Camaro. His had a hard top and a lightbar, though.
      "At least you get cool wheels," I said.
      "Hard to get in and out of but comfortable."
      I love the 18-mile stretch. Florida DOT posts signs to keep us in line: Patience Pays--Only Three Minutes to Passing Zone. Every car speeds up to 70 or 75 or 100 as soon as the lanes widen, even with no other traffic. I was keeping my end up at 80 or so when a pickup truck blasted by me on the right. It swung in front in the last inches of the zone and nailed the brakes to drop back to the limit. I love the 18-mile stretch.
      "Bob" drove down later, so we argued about the state of the world, tried to figure out what stars were which as the clouds scudded through, and killed a couple of pounders. He was gone by the time we got up the next morning.
      My dad and I went off the rock to the big city of Marathon in search of some sundries and Sav-A-Tan. He doesn't like getting in an out of the (white) car either. I found some of the sundries, although I still need a fatter narrow-bottomed cup for the cup holder in the (white) car. Only Key West Aloe manufactures and sells the (aloe-based) skin goop; their sole franchisee in Marathon closed her doors the day before and was packing up the store when we got there. We came back to the house and I mowed the lawn. Had to refill the string trimmer string twice.
      Miami's murder and mayhem evening news channel showed miles of snarl on I-95 because a Dade County sheriff's RMP and a cube van were angled across the four southbound lanes blocking traffic while the sheriff's deputy escorted a befuddled mama duck and several ducklings across the four lanes and shoulders between the high concrete walls.
      Lightning struck Miami during one of the great afternoon storms that rolled across Southern Florida that same day. The same murder and mayhem evening news channel showed it struck about a block away from their skycam.
      One of the Key Largo gas stations was barely open for business. The panicked Hispanic operator was sitting outside the main building in a temporary booth with bullet proof glass and a safety money tray in front and the door behind him wide open. When I stopped to get gas, the pump said my card receipt printed in the booth, so I joined the queue waiting for change and charge slips. We waited and waited and waited because he couldn't get his electronic cash register to open. He tried every key on the key pad. He tried variations on the keys. He tried the same keys over and over. He tried combinations of keys I never would have thought of. The drawer stayed firmly shut. It apparently didn't occur to him to use the key dangling from the cash drawer lock.
      It's pretty cool to see the canals beside the road, canals that carry most of South Florida's water supply, full to the banks at the beginning of rainy season. On the west side of Big Cypress National Park, the canals were if not dry, not very full.
      After crawling for a few miles at 5 to 10 mph Northbound on I-75, I came upon an SUV wheels up in the median. It wasn't blocking traffic. It wasn't burning. It wasn't even a memorable color. Emergency workers had responded. The southbound ambulance was completely off the pavement. The two fire trucks, one northbound, one southbound, were completely off the pavement. The state police RMP, also northbound was completely off the pavement. Everybody had to stop and gawp. Maybe the driver needed to use the Porta-Potty.
      I passed a new model F150, extended cab pickup with SC license plates. The driver's window was open. I guess Florida's 90 temps weren't hot enough for that good old boy to turn on his AC. I turned mine up another notch.
      The Ocala Living Waters worship center is, I think, a TV studio. It is, however, across the street from the Ocala Baptist Church. Living Waters has a nice campus of large industrial-type buildings with plenty of parking.
      I was wearing shorts, no shoes, and a knit shirt. I'm tan. I was driving a (white) convertible. And I was briefly in South Carolina. I'm sure that has something to with the sign I saw:
Bridge Ices
Before Road Surface

      The JR Junk Shop franchise has billboards all along 77, too. One billboard advertised World's Largest Cigarettes. I wonder how one puts the world's largest cigarette in one's mouth.
      Big flashing light traffic sign on I81
Caution
Accident Ahead
Right Lane Closed

Must be one hell of an accident if they have to roll out a generator powered construction sign. And when I got there, there was no road blockage. I guess Virginia drivers don't know to stop and gawk the way Florida drivers do.
      NASCAR teams are right about how much time you lose in the pits. I passed a Porsche 911 in tow coming out of the southernmost NY Thruway toll booths. The car was a rolling chassis, four wheels with no motor, no rear deck lid, no front bumper assembly and a barren interior, all stiff-hitched behind a slightly rusty Ford pickup. I made a rest area stop south of Lake George. He kept going. I passed him again before Schroon Lake. Then I stopped again for a power nap at Schroon Lake. I passed him again as he sat on the shoulder of the road.
      I'm glad to report that I did miss the deer carcass on the passing lane shoulder of the Thruway northbound as well as the suicidal rabbit that hopped across the Northway near the Peru exit.

(WHITE) CAR NOTES: This car has daytime running lights. The front turn signal bulbs light up during the day, but a light sensor changes to full power headlights with the ability to raise and lower the high beams at night. Good way to run without taillights. I'd better stock up on turn signal bulbs. They probably use the same circuit in the Firebird and Corvette which both have retractable headlights. GM stylists would not want the eyes open in the daytime to illuminate the daytime running lights.
      In the current PetSmart radio commercial, "Mommy" calls her answering machine so that "Daisy" can bark as she hears Mommy tell her that they are going to PetSmart when Mommy gets home. The (white) car radio has a steering wheel mounted mute button. This is a good feature.
      A number of cars travel the same way we do: no suitcases, just a rack of clothes hanging in the back seat. Of course I can't hang a rack of clothes in the back seat unless I invent a folding rack that fits under the convertible top and drops down to keep the clothes in the car when the top is down.
      An older guy driving a Mercury Grand Marquis looked over and took in my graying hair and the ragtop and he sighed for his own lost youth. Heh heh.
      When it rains, water runs up the side windows and along the top line. It refracts the light from overhead streetlamps. That moving light feels like someone is dive bombing.

MISC.ROAD.NOTES: The Keys Outback franchise has an orange Hummer. The Homestead police live in what looks like a converted movie theater. [krrrrrrrshhshhhshhhhkrrrrkrrrrrshhh] The (white) car is very noisy in the rain. Collier County posted a 60 mph speed limit on the Tamiami Trail and added frost heaves to the road. Despite his vanity plate, I really do not think "NEO GOD" drives a newish Dodge Intrepid. The magnificent Sunshine Bridge linking St Petersburg to the mainland across Tampa Bay has cadmium yellow suspension cables stretched up in the median of the roadway. I passed CAT Computer Sales and Service in Ocala. Didn't know Cat like computers that much. The Virginia Highway Department mowing crews use weedwackers, too. The Beatles 1 album has so much bass, the Monsoon powered windows and top in the (white) car vibrate. Particularly in Gettysburg, but in a lot of the towns from Waynesboro on, it seems that every other house has single electric candles in every window. Upstate NY Public Radio reported a freeze warning in counties from Saratoga northward 48 hours after I left the 90 days of Florida.

MAKING THE NECESSARY STOPS: I've managed to hit each of the dirtiest rest rooms between Florida and Vermont. In the first, in a Spanish-speaking gas and lunch bar-food emporium, fire-hose equipped patrons provided the floor washing material. (OK, the patrons only want us to believe they were fire-hose equipped.) Another, at a fresh fruit stand near the western end of the Tamiami had a Porta-potty complete with flies. Lots and lots and lots of flies. Even dead flies down in the blue tinged drying detritus. There was also an upright Porta-Potty in the I-75 median. I didn't stop to check out its cleanliness, although abrupt stops in the middle of Florida's interstates are accepted practice.
      Schroon Lake in NY is a nice rest area with a clean toilet building, parking spaces, and views. I stopped there for my usual 15 minute power nap with the PDA alarm set to awaken me. Except I was awakened by BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP in my ear only minutes after I closed my eyes. It sounded more like the Camaro horn alarm than my Palm. Sure enough, the car owner in the adjacent parking space had tripped his alarm.

      And finally, Cigarette has a new 46-footer, ready to show off excessive speeds to a new generation of go-fast boaters. The Cigarette Rider 46 XP reaches more than 100 mph in about 40 seconds and burns 170 gallons of high test gas in the hour it takes to travel those 100 miles offshore. Somewhere under the gold, red, and blue graphics, the hull is (white). The (white) car reaches 100 mph much faster and burns about 4 gallons of regular to travel the same distance. The (white) car probably doesn't float, though.

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