palm tree on road in florida
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Surviving the Road Trip from Jersey to Florida

I can now officially say that I have survived my exams! With the semester finally over, we are sinking into the heart of a New Jersey winter. Most of the time I imagine winter to be scenic and romantic, with towns blanketed in snow and quaint lights lining the street – you know, the typical Hallmark scene. But then December and January roll around and quickly remind me that it’s a lot more bare trees and layers of sweaters than I remember.

This year my family and I decided to opt out of December for a week and head down to Florida the good old fashioned way, via road trip! We skedaddled out of Jersey as quickly as the Cape May-Lewis ferry would take us, Christmas music filling the car and images of palm trees in our minds. As you can see, I quickly made myself at home as the rocking of the boat knocked me out.

I think that the idea of road tripping is always so idealized. We imagine that it will be so fun to sing along to music, have deep life conversations, and stop off at fun landmarks along the way. Heck, that’s what I always thought it would be like. It all started out innocent enough: relaxing on the ferry in the afternoon, singing along to some oldies in the evening. We even stopped at Cracker Barrel along the way for dinner. If you’re driving down south, this is an absolute MUST. Their dumplings are to die for.

Then, after the music died off and we started settling in for the night, trying to get comfortable, I began to realize what I had gotten myself into. All I wanted to do was lay down for a snooze, but there was hardly enough room for me to stretch my legs. Not to mention, my sister was snoring up a storm next to me. All I wanted was some fresh air, but it just felt like the walls were turning into a prison cell. It was at the 10 hour mark that I started contemplating jumping out of the car. I couldn’t fathom having to drive for another 7 hours. Yep, it’s a whopping 17 hours from south Jersey to where we were heading in Florida, and that’s after taking the two hour ferry ride.

Since sleeping wasn’t working out too well for me, I decided to pick up the graveyard shift, driving around 2am. Strangely enough, this was the part that I enjoyed the most. The roads were empty, the car was quiet, and I found myself using this time to just let my mind wander and do some thinking. The hum of the engine and the soft lights in the car were enough to lull my thoughts away from the haphazard months of this semester at school and finally begin to relax. I’ve never been a huge fan of driving, especially for extended periods of time, but before I knew it three hours had flown by and the sun was peeking its nose over the horizon. Maybe road tripping isn’t all that bad.

As everyone around me slowly began to wake up, I pulled into Wawa for a morning pick me up. We were officially in Florida, and I don’t know how I would have survived if Wawa hadn’t been there to rejuvenate my soul and cramped legs. Once everyone had had their morning snack, excited chatter filled the car as bare branches turned into palm trees and jeans turned into shorts.

We had successfully escaped the Jersey winter, and I decided not to jump out of the car after all. If this experience taught me anything about long drives, it’s to time it out. Start in the early afternoon, break for dinner, and then drive through the night when the roads are quiet. Even though certain parts of the trip can be painful, the conversations and memories you make will last a lifetime.

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