I’m sure most of you remember Gilligan’s Island, or you’ve at least heard the fateful line from the jingle…a three hour tour. *snort*
It started out quite normal. I was supposed to drive to Tampa to have lunch with my fellow Loopies, Virginia Henley and Sherri Erwin Browning. Sherri had started the ball rolling when she told us she and her hubby would be in town for the weekend and did we want to meet up. Virginia’s two sons, Adam and Sean were here as well so we made it a groupie lunch, getting to meet and greet everyone. I had met one of Virginia’s sons before about 30 years ago, so he’d changed a little LOL, but I’d never met Sherri’s hubby, so that was kinda cool. Turns out we share bad knees.
Anyway, the adventure started when I drove out of the park. It’s a busy week at Disney, so I expected SOME traffic near the entrance to Downtown Disney, but…it was overcast and threatening rain, so a lot of vacationers apparently decided to hit the outlet malls as well. A trip from my driveway to the I-4 usually takes about three minutes. After 23 minutes I hadn’t even reached the corner yet, so with the veins popping in my temples, I turned around and backtracked to take the alternate route to the on-ramp about a mile before the DIsney exit.
Strike one averted. Clever me gave the one finger salute as I breezed by the congested ramp, figuring I would still have been waiting to get across the intersection.
A pause here for another small vein-popping vent. LEFT TURN LANES ARE FOR LEFT TURNS, people!!!!! They are NOT for making U-turns!!!!!! Every second car in any left hand turn lane in charming Orlando is usually some putz making a U turn, which slows up the whole process of getting across or through an intersection, because if you miss the advance green for a left turn, you sit there like a turnip and grow roots in the seat until your turn comes around again.
Okay, so I”m breezing along the I-4 feeling quite chuffy with myself, trusting my trusty GPS to take me to the hotel where Sherri and her hubby were hosting lunch. Backtracking a wee bit, both Sherri and Virginia had sent me the address for the hotel…501 Fifth Avenue in St Petersburg, which I dutifully typed into Mr. GPS. I got two initial results…one of which was in New York, so I figured, cleverly, that that was the wrong one. Now, I know the route between Orlando and Tampa and St Pete’s fairly well, having crossed it frequently in the 40 years I’ve been coming to Florida, but St. Petersburg is a different animal, known only as a reference on a map and an exit point along the I-4, so I had to rely on Mr. GPS to get me to the right place. I felt somewhat suspicious of Mr GPS’s motives when he had me exit a little too early, but I thought hey, he knows where he’s taking me and we’re heading south and west so it must all be good. Perhaps a shortcut! Yes, that must be it! Lunch was set for 1:00. I had left a bit early and allowed extra time for traffic, but that had already been eaten up by the Disney/Outlet maniacs, so I was sort of on target for exactly 1:00.
Winding, winding, ever winding roads but I could see that I was only a short distance from my goal. Uh huh. Turns out there’s a very nice trailer park with a Fifth Avenue and an address of 501.
Resisting the urge to hurl Mr. GPS out the window, I tried looking up the hotel itself rather than the address. Mr GPS never heard of it. Great. I recalled it had “and golf resort” in the official name, so I tried the sports category>golf…and there it was: Vinoy Golf resort. Eureka. I set off again, grumbling to myself that I had jokingly told Virginia I had no cell phone so if I wasn’t there by 3:00 to start without me.
Back on a relatively busy road that went in the right direction, Mr GPS confidently told me to take exit whatever and get onto the 618 expressway. Perfect. There was the turn…made it…there was the on ramp…blocked. Big orange barrels and two cop cars.
Around I go again, turning…get back onto the main road…Mr. GPS sullenly tells me to take the next left to the next on ramp…perfect…make the turn…see the ramp…blocked. Apparently the damned road is under construction and the next four ramps are blocked off. Thank you officer.
Back onto the main road, ignoring Mr GPS now…keep heading west…looking for the alternate route suggested by a human. Hah. What the human didn’t mention was that the alternate route could only be reached by basically driving through downtown Tampa in all it’s glorious traffic and traffic lights and idiot drivers making U turns at every left turn light. DId I mention it was now 1:05? And I’m the kind of person who HATES being late for any appointments, especially a lunch date. Mr GPS has been babbling away all this time, but I just crank up the music and ignore him. Making matters even more fun, it starts to rain. Not just rain, but RAIN. Great heaving bucketfuls falling hard and fast and making it difficult to see more than a car length ahead. Through the haze I see a great hulking cruise ship ahead of me and realize I’ve come to the harbour. Yay. Find a place to turn that doesn’t involve docks or fish, and head north this time until I”m ready to trust Mr. GPS again. He instructs me to take the ramp onto the expressway…the same one named by the aforementioned officer at the barricade…so I fly up the ramp and breathe a sigh of relief that I may actually be heading in the right direction. TWENTY minutes later, after another windy path through a very lovely subdivision I come to: Vinoy Golf and Country Club! Victory is mine! I’m only 33 minutes late, so I’ve missed the salad course. I can live with that. I find a place to park…dart from tree to tree to get into the resort and….no restaurant in sight. I ask a passing employee if I’m in the right vicinity and she points to a green gate and a patio. But it’s pouring rain. I ask again, and she says yes, the “restrooms” are down there.
If a tree had been close, I would have thumped my head on it a few times…or thumped hers…but I calmly mimic eating and she says ohhhhhhh….up there, up there.
I go “up there” and it’s a bar. Two men, golfers I presume, sulking because it’s raining. I ask the bartender if this is the Vinoy and he says yes. I ask if this is the only restaurant….and he says ohhhhh you probably want the hotel.
No shit, batman.
Calmly, I look at one of six doors: “Which way is the hotel?”
Well, you go back down the road you came in on until you reach the bridge, turn left and follow it around to Fifth Avenue. Can’t miss it. Big pink hotel.
I taste blood from biting my tongue.
Out into the rain again, though it has slowed to a light drizzle now…shlep back to the parking lot, find the car, clench the steering wheel in both fists….and drive out again. Find the road, find the bridge, drive around to the end passing 19th Ave…18th Ave….all the way down to 9th Ave…and find a park. It’s a lovely park, though it would be lovelier in the sunshine. I have a choice now to turn left or right so I yank the connection and kill Mr GPS who is still babbling and take a chance and turn left to circle around the park. Voila. I pick up 8th Ave, then 7th…6th…zoom right past 5th and into the parking garage of a big pink hotel. Hmm. only 54 minutes late. But wait. It’s a big honkin hotel and we never did establish a place to meet.
I give it one shot. One only. Feeling like Sean Connery in the Hunt for Red October. One ping. One ping only. I follow the labyrinth of hallways to the lobby, which seems only reasonable to me and there, up ahead, I catch a glimpse of Sherri who has emerged from the restaurant on what is likely her tenth or twentieth trip to see if I am wandering hopelessly in search of life.
I must say I hugged her as if she was a long lost relative. And yes, they had started without me, which was fine, because it was a brunch and brunches usually end at a certain time. Still, after hugs all around and a very soothing glass of wine, I could almost laugh at my Gilligan Island tour of Tampa. Two and a half hours to make a trip that usually takes about an hour and 15 min….which was exactly how long it took me to make the return trip home!!!!
And in the end, we had a great Loopie Lunch! Next reunion, hopefully with more Loopies attending, will be the NINC conference in St Pete’s Beach next October, and I KNOW how to get there!!!!!