Through the magic of television, we were recently two places at once. Just before we left home, I got an email from a local TV station asking us if we would like to come on their morning show and talk a little about Vascular Ehlers-Danlos, our upcoming trip and, presumably, how we intend to maintain our sanity on the road with two kids.
When we arrived at the “green room” of WFLA we struck up a conversation with an author and were surprised to learn from her publicist that the show we were about to tape was syndicated in over 100 markets reaching 300 cities. Indeed, Daytime, hosted by Cyndi Edwards and Jerry Penacoli (you might know him from working the red carpet for Extra) is not just for captive car dealership and doctors’ waiting room audiences.
It was a one-of-a-kind experience, and the hosts could not have been more warm and engaging off camera. After we were done taping, but still sitting on the couch, Jerry Penacoli turned to me and said, “I had an aortic dissection.” He hadn’t mentioned it on camera because he didn’t want to make our story about him. Not only did he have surgery similar to mine (his was scheduled, not emergency) – he had it six days before mine, at the same hospital, and – get this – was in the ICU at the same time I was. Check out his story:
While our segment aired, we repacked the van to leave Jacksonville where we spent Memorial Day experiencing American culture in its highest order. A yacht club:
Top left: First, organizers remove all children from the pool, then Monica and her brother join other adults in preparing to dive for free beer. Top right: The melee is on. Now, Monica doesn’t drink beer, but she’s competitive and she returned with a beer for me. Some men, who might have drowned retrieving free carrots or kale, suddenly swam like Michael Phelps, emerging with 10 or more beers. Bottom middle: My brother-in-law came in second in the ‘biggest splash’ competition before Tropical Storm Alberto put an end to the fun.
It didn’t feel like our trip had really started until we left the family and the State of Florida. I was excited to cue up one of several regional playlists I’ve made for the drive, hoping the children will absorb some knowledge of regional American music. They fell fast asleep. First came music by artists from, or songs about the State of Georgia. REM, the B-52s, Charlie Daniels Band, Ray Charles (from Florida, but had Georgia on his mind), the Indigo Girls (had to throw Monica a bone) and Outkast serenaded us as we clipped the coast of the peach state.
Soon we entered the Low Country of South Carolina. To our son, road trips mean boiled peanuts. Boiled peanuts are found at roadside stands and gas stations, and they are a delicious, salty southern delicacy that you must try. Recipe at the end of this post.
While our son may relish regional gas station fare, we have a lot of road to cover, and spending $10 every 200 miles on chips and candy is not good for the budget – or the waistline. Monica’s famous yogurt parfait makes its second blog appearance, this time in the middle of nowhere. We parked the van next to a little green pickup truck with a camper shell built for a bigger rig. The thing was covered in those shiny silhouettes of naked women that usually adorn the mud-flaps of a Peterbilt, catchy phrases pertaining to his vast wealth, and stickers and flags from the National Hot Rod Association. His trailer carried his surplus belongings, including an equally pimped out bicycle. Based on the vehicle alone, there should be a documentary about the guy driving it.
Top left: Monica declared this to be the perfect travel outfit – ‘no bra, no buttons.’ At least one passing trucker agreed with a pull on his air horn. Top right: Her family feigns sadness over our departure. Bottom left: Yogurt, fresh fruit and granola, all within a stone’s throw of a green overlanding work of art and engineering.
Road trip tips:
- We use a Coleman 12 volt cooler to keep our food and drinks cold. It plugs into the cigarette lighter in the van and we have an adapter so we can plug it in to an outlet in a hotel or campsite. It’s lightweight, way cheaper than a fridge, and it really works (I’ve had ice form in it). We have no connection to Coleman.
- If you haven’t tried boiled peanuts, and don’t live in proximity of a southern gas station, here’s a simple recipe:
- Get some raw peanuts. (This might be the hard part.)
- Fill a crockpot 3/4 full with peanuts. Add water to 1″ below the top, they should float a little.
- Pour in 2/3 cup of salt. (More if it’s a large crock pot.)
- Turn it on low and leave it 6-8 hours. The shells should get soft and the peanuts will have the consistency of a cooked bean.
- Enjoy. In my house, they get eaten before they cool off (don’t eat the shell). They’ll keep in the fridge, just microwave them to warm them up.
- Spring is love bug season in the South. Love bugs are little black flies that cloud the air, attached to their mates in maternal bliss – until they explode in an ugly streak on the front of your car. Wash them off. Their guts will etch your paint if you don’t.
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“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Check out Jon’s periodic column, “So How’s That New Book Coming?” at Creative Loafing – Tampa. His 2014 thriller, The Grandfather Clock, is available free for Kindle on Amazon.com and other eReaders at Smashwords. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Monica is a freelance grant writer, non-profit consultant, tour guide, and connoisseur of 70s rock lyrics.