Clark Griswold stamped into our minds what the great American road trip could be. What it is and what it becomes is unique to you and your fellow passengers. I have had some of the best days of my life riding in a car for too long with my favorite people. I used to have handwritten directions to Destin in the glove box of my first car, a Volkswagen Bug. Now we plug addresses into our phones. Getting lost and getting found is a thing of the past. I used to pull over at gas stations and ask for help.

I am currently sitting in the back of my Jeep, listening to Outlaw Country, typing this on my way to 30A for a girls’ trip. I haven’t been on an airplane in almost two years. The funny thing is I haven’t really cared about going anywhere too far because Florida has been just enough. John and I like sunshine, pulling our boat with us and finding a great dive bar for a beer and oysters. The older I get, the less makeup I want to wear in my off time. I like going places where shoes are optional. At the end of the day, a water view and a sunset suffice this old soul.

Orange Beach, Steinhatchee, Fort Lauderdale, Destin and the Keys are a few spots I have visited. St. Augustine was our halfway spot to the Keys last January, and what a cool old town. I highly recommend spending a night there if you haven’t. There was a great bar that kept Christmas decor up all year. It was the perfect kind of tacky.

Southern people, once they hit the highway, are quite particular. I think we could all summon up a list of oddities that live within the car because we just never know what we might need. I always have a toolbox and a mallet with me. They are mostly for work, but also because I never know what kind of pickle I might get into out on the road.

I don’t remember how it started, but somewhere in our 20s, we got into a habit of stopping to buy one Lotto ticket and a tallboy once we crossed the Florida line. 

In recent years, John and I have also made a habit of finding a great BBQ joint for lunch on the ride home. It makes heading home from the beach less of a bummer, and we have passed that tradition off to several people. What’s the point in getting in such a hurry to go home? 

We hit South Florida a lot these days to see family, and a stop at Mark’s Melon Patch is a must. So for everyone headed south to Disney this year, it will be on your way and on the right.

The road trips of my youth to the Florida panhandle were usually in a minivan. My parents were in the front seat with a concrete block between them, covered by a white towel, with a small VHS TV balanced on top of it. The beach was about a three-movie drive. 

Dad would always stop at a gas station to get a bottled Coke and peanuts. Then he would make a display of putting the peanuts in the Coke. He also would complain that Budweiser tasted different in the can if you bought it in Florida; and then, he would pack his own, along with a full-sized shovel to dig holes with on the beach and his own frying pan. As for my brother and me, we would play the car color game. We would pick a color, say white, for example, and count how many white cars we passed. The first one to 20, or whatever number was specified, won. 

My favorite pockets in Florida are the ones you stumble upon that are ‘Old Florida,’ the kind in grandparents’ polaroid pictures; the low-slung cinder block buildings that look like my own house – painted in bright pinks and turquoise, edged by palm trees. Those places still exist, and my favorite is Apalachicola. It could be today or 1970 down there. No high rises exist. 

I’m rambling on because getting in the car feels like taking a break, and I think everyone deserves a break sometimes. We locals work our tails off all summer here at Lake Martin, and as we slip into fall, I say cheers to slowing down and heading south. 

And when you pass a good-looking BBQ place, drop me a pin. 

~ Lacey Howell is a recovering English major from Auburn who now lives on Lake Martin, sells real estate, rides horses and loves good wine. Follow her on Instagram @ LaceyHowell and on her Facebook page.