I hustled down to the Buffalo Airport yesterday morning for my 8:42am flight to Orlando. Direct flight, JetBlue, nice comfy plane with about a hundred passengers in it ready for a two hour jump to sunny Central Florida, let's do this. Looks like a bunch of young families headed for a summer vacation at Disney World, the mousey ears and pajama bottoms offering a dead give-away. Captain comes out to greet passengers...weird... but part of company policy and marketing I suppose, making captain seem accessible and cool. Then the coffin...I mean cabin door closes and he slips in the ominous statement of the day..."oh, by the way, we are expecting a slight bit of turbulence for part of the ride today so it may be a little bumpy at times, but we'll do our best to keep you comfortable." Translation: Hold on to your shit, try not to puke or have a heart attack and I hope you aren't thirsty because there's no fucking way we are letting the stewardesses up to serve you drinks! Within a few minutes of being airborne we were rocking and rolling in the sky like a tin can getting tossed down a street at 500 mph. Woman across from me is crying and clutching her 2 year old son. Admittedly it is a bit obnoxious, but she wasn't the only one and the concerned looks and noises coming from every other passenger onboard on was slightly unnerving.
Myself, being the slightly neourotic air passenger that I am, crank up the volume on my old school hip hop mix and pretend I'm in a bouncing night club instead of a metal tube destined for a 5 mile free fall. Meanwhile I'm watching every detail of the plane's altitude and whereabouts so I can switch on my cell phone and tell mom I love her one last time before we splat. The captain did try his best, climbing to over 40,000 feet in our small jet, flying this way and that to avoid the worst of it, but it wasn't much use. Lets just say there were a lot of people running to the bathroom to change clothes after the flight. Sad captain came out of the cabin again after the flight and had a look on his face that almost said, "I hate my job and I am sorry that I took you through that awful experience, but I needed the paycheck." My brain then replied, "I need a stiff drink."
Safe on the ground, I link up with Sarah who arrives an hour later with a big smile on her face and her entourage of luggage... guess we are going to Alaska huh! We pile ourselves and our luggage into a taxi and head over to the vehicle processing station, where Sarah picks up her 2003 Ford Escape. I walk around the vehicle and look it over a few times, first admiring the kevlar reinforced tires that will be carrying us on our 5300 mile trek across this great continent, then the stark blue paint job that looks like it hasn't been challenged by weather at all...oh yeah, it's coming from Puerto Rico, where she barely ever drove it!
We phone Cousin Tom and head north on 441 through some serious thunderstorms, ending up at the Larivey homestead an hour later in Leesburg Lakes. He's been taking care of Aunt Marie (his mother) for the past 6 months due to a long drawn out battle with cancer, and he is thrilled to be seeing us off on our voyage. When we show up, I am in for a surprise. His sister Janet, whom I've either never met or haven't seen since I was a baby, is there and we get the party started. Burgers, beer, a variety of salads and some good conversation create a bit of a scene in this sleepy little golf/retirement village and the neighbors start showing up. Gene, the big 'ole southern boy who served time in a fighter plane in WW2 is telling jokes and stories about his travels and his time in the war. Peggy shows up with Babe, the cutest little dog you ever saw, and now the party is jumping. We drink more and more beer, tell more and more stories and Tom cooks up some killer T bone steaks for dinner. Sarah looks like she's on vacation... laid back, relaxed and enjoying the moment. After killing a copious amount of alcohol we take a golf cart ride through the retirement community looking for the big gator Tom likes to visit in the evening when he's hitting a round. We never saw the gator, but we did enjoy beautiful orange hues of sunset on the glassy swamps near the course. It was a gorgeous evening and Sarah couldn't believe that the sky was still lit up at 9pm, being that she had just spent three years on the island where it is always dark by 7pm. I realize how much I miss living with my cousin. We finished up the party about 10pm and hit the sack to get a fresh start on the road in the morning.