[Fred enjoying Dunkin' Donuts][1]
Fred enjoying Dunkin' Donuts

Yeni and I started early — very early — Saturday morning. After loading the truck and topping off the tank, we hit I-94 somewhere around 4 am. It was BEYOND cold with the truck showing outside temperatures ranging from 10 – 15 degrees. Normally, I make as few stops as humanly possible; combing fuel stops with rest breaks (and yes, “rest breaks” means exactly what it sounds like). I learned quickly, that while traveling with someone else (aka Yeni) brings great joy, it also requires more frequent “rest breaks.”

Our first break was near Dayton, OH. Finding a Dunkin’ Donuts, we stopped for “rest,” coffee, and an egg bagel. Mmmm, egg bagel. After topping off the tank, we heading back on the highway hitting a major traffic jam in Cincinnati, OH. After staying in place for the better part of an hour, we were able to cross the bridge, enter Kentucky, and put Ohio behind us.

When we reached Lexington, KY, we got off the main road and visited a college friend of Yeni’s (Maria Fernanda and her husband Diego). After a nice visit and a great breakfast, we dropped Mafe at the Univeristy of Kentucky and continued south. I’d never been to the University, and it’s always nice to visit a place where the Gators have dominated (this year we destroyed Kentucky, but that was a home game).

My favorite part of driving to/from Michigan is the leg from Lexington, KY to Knoxville, TN. The trip takes you through the Cumberland Mountains (southeastern section of the Appalachian Mountains) and provides beautiful climbs, views, and scenery. Although best experienced riding on a Harley, the trip is still enjoyable from the truck.

[Little Lil puts a smile on Fred's face][6]
Little Lil puts a smile on Fred's face

After reaching Knoxville, we called my good friend Patrick and met with him, his daughter, and wife (Jessi) at a local Italian restaurant. It was great to see their family and playing with lil’ Lil put a big smile on my face. After eating some pasta, rolls, and cannoli , we were back on the road — this time with Yeni at the wheel.

Chattanooga is only a few miles north of Georgia, and the drive through Georgia is long; very long. Did we mention construction? Georgia’s I-75 passage can be described in three words: Pecans, Outlets, Construction. Despite being on the road for more than 20 hours, Yeni was determined to drive through Georgia by herself. She made creative efforts to stay alert, such as talking to the GPS device, counting Juanes songs, and singing.

We reached Florida around 2am and I took over the wheel. When we arrived to the house in Gainesville, Yeni wisely suggested we inflate the bed, grab some shuteye, and rest for a few hours. We rested until around 7 am, loaded Grandma’s chandelier into the truck, grabbed breakfast at DD, and hit the road. Yeni had never seen Florida’s west coast or the Everglades, so I decided to take I-75 straight through to Fort Lauderdale.

[Spider-bear at the Gulf of Mexico][9]
Spider-bear at the Gulf of Mexico

When we reached Tampa, we took I-275 to visit the Tampa Bay and see the ocean. I-275 takes you over the Sunshine Skyway bridge (the world’s longest cable bridge) and the ocean view provides a great contrast to the snow we woke up to on the previous morning. Yeni seemed to enjoy the ocean, and Spider-bear was excited to play on the rocks (during one of the “rest” stops).

We continued driving (well, I drove while Yeni napped), and after crossing the Everglades reached the Casa de Parientes. I cannot wait for the rest of the family to arrive and celebrate my favorite holiday.

[Yeni sleeps in the Everglades][11]
Yeni sleeps in the Everglades