All these rainy days triggered a memory that was alarming at the time but very funny now. I’m sure everyone has a funny travel story but this one happened on my honeymoon. Come with me while I take you back in time to 2001 when a young husband took his wife on a trip she will never forget (cue going back in time music).
Having planned and executed my own outdoor wedding, I was so rattled that I decided traveling out of the country for a honeymoon was just too much. So, my new hubby and I chose Clearwater, Florida for our destination. He was born and raised in Florida so he asked to go someplace he had not been and we settled on that tourist area. It was lovely albeit full of retirees and older couples which I personally did not mind at all.
I made the assumption that since he was a Floridiot – I mean Floridian – he would know his way around and I could relax. I had only been to Orlando and I was not an apt geography student so my idea of what Florida was like was very limited. I put travel plans in his hands as “the native” and we enjoyed the usual water excursions and other attractions in the immediate vicinity.
One day, at our resort, he noticed a brochure for Billie Swamp Safari. https://www.billieswamp.com It looked like a fun few hours doing a Swamp Buggy Eco-Tour, an Everglades Airboat Ride, animal exhibits and a restaurant that boasted food of the Seminole Indians. Knowing I loved learning about other cultures he thought this would be a great day trip for us. He said it wasn’t very far and maybe I will see some alligators on the way. I was all in.
If you know Florida you have already figured out that it is at least a 4 hour drive from the Tampa area to the destination. I did not know that. My young, confident hubby assumed it was just an hour or two away. This was all before we had iPhones and GPS guiding our way. Of course he didn’t plan. He thought he had it under control.
The first hour of the trip was great! We were in love, the September weather was perfect, we had rented a convertible, we were smiling and looking like an advertisement for the VISIT FLORIDA – ADVENTURE AWAITS campaign. The road we were on went on and on and stretched for miles. Having seen not one alligator I started getting bored near the second hour. I asked if we were lost. I took out the brochure and looked at the “map” and noted we were on the right road.
When I mentioned some of the towns we were passing, he suddenly realized the error of his judgement. We made the fatal “but we are already half way there”mistake and trudged on. Did I mention we did not leave early in the morning? We left after lunch thinking it was a quick trip. As weather will on a peninsula, it changed to rain and began to pour. The last 2 hours on this straight boring ass road became mundane. We finally spotted signs telling us we were getting close.
We had been traveling at a pretty fast clip — within the law, officers! Suddenly there were signs telling us to slow down to 25 miles per hour. We were on Seminole Reservation and the road was a paved winding path more than anything. The last 10-15 miles took an eternity and we finally made our way to the gates only to be told that the last swamp buggy ride leaves at 5pm. It was 4:45. However, because of the rain, it was up to the driver if we went out at all as the terrain has changed. We glanced over at the burly, stern looking Native American and realized there would be NO ride today. Hungry, we made our way to the “cafe” which turned out to be more like a snack shack. It was closed for the day. All the animal exhibits were outside – in the rain. We looked around the gift shop and decided that everyone seemed ready to close for the day and we were just in their way.
I am sure it was because we were hungry, disappointed, tired and wet but we did not feel warm and fuzzies from anyone. We decided to head back which meant another 4 hour drive getting us back to our resort after 9pm. What in the hell were we thinking? We were not, obviously – and that had been the problem. It took over an hour before we saw a town big enough to sport a fast food restaurant with a drive through. We got our next meal rather late and drove in the rain – in the dark for the rest of the way. The beautiful big skies of Florida is rather daunting when it is dark, cloudy and lightning is striking around you.
The good news is we did not fight. I was not amused and he was embarrassed for his lack of good judgement and forgetting just how big Florida really was. It’s not like he had traveled all over it either. LOL Once we got to the resort I took a nice hot bath and we had a good night’s rest. We of course had a great story to tell and we have told it over and over to anyone that wanted to listen. We may have embellished a bit here and there but it became a cautionary tale for young travelers to always check the distance before they set off for adventure. Just because the resort has a brochure in the lobby does not mean it is very close by.