|Saturday, July 21, 2018: We left Murfreesboro extremely early and propped up our exhausted faces with large Diet Cokes and breakfast from McDonald's.
|Hey, it's a palindrome! Mighty Septimus' mileage was 31013. Septimus got his name because he is the seventh vehicle we have purchased during our marriage.
|We started seeing barns with Rock City painted on their roofs. We didn't get photos of these but not to worry, there were lots of billboards too.
|There were lots of Ruby Falls billboards too.
|A Moon Pie store? If only we had more time to visit Chattanooga!
|There were more Rock City signs ...
|... and more Ruby Falls signs.
|This was probably our favorite sign of the day: the first of many Test Message signs we saw.
|This was a stretch of road that had very steep grade, which was too bad for the trucks but great for us because it provides these beautiful views.
|Here's another lovely view with a pretty rainbow.
|Here's our last Ruby Falls sign ...
|... and our last Rock City barn.
|Here's scenic Nickajack Lake just a few minutes from the first time we crossed ...
|... the Georgia state line.
|Here's the Tennessee River leading up to Chattanooga.
|We have a fairly recent marital rule that says that when we visit the South, we have to eat a meal at a barbecue place with someone's name in the title. Sugar's Ribs here is a contender if we ever spend time in Chattanooga.
|We were fortunate to drive through Atlanta on a weekend instead of a weekday, so the traffic was only somewhat unpleasant, not miserable.
|We passed this flame thingy, whose official name is the Olympic Torch Tower.
|Here's angle one of downtown Atlanta, ...
|... and here is angle two.
|Did you know that Sprite is a Coca-Cola product?
|This water tower-perched penguin invites visitors to see the Georgia Aquarium. (We've been there!)
|With a rocket launch scheduled for 1:50 AM the next day, we watched the weather closely. Would our amazing weather luck come through for us once again?
|Here's a classic Georgia combo: overgrown kudzu and a billboard advertising peaches.
|We had lunch at the South's version of White Castle, Krystal.
|The fries aren't crinkle cut and the hamburgers have mustard on them by default, but other than that, it's basically the same food.
|We continued our drive toward Florida and saw this Museum of Aviation billboard. Debbie added it to the endless list of air and space museums we have to get to someday. We learned that it is the second-largest aviation museum of the United States Air Force, after the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.
|More peach-themed signs. Georgia does love her peaches.
|What's this random rocket doing here? Our Roadside America app identified this as the Confederate Nuclear Missile. Yeah.
|Welcome to Ashburn! Aside from the town having the same name as a friend of ours, we were here to visit the Rite-Aid.
|A search for Country Time Lemonade in cans led us to believe that it would be stocked at this store.
|This turned out to be untrue. A search for Coca-Cola Georgia Peach in glass bottles also failed.
|But hey, if you're over 50, the Shingrix vaccine is available here. Unfortunately, it was about a week too late for Debbie's mild case of shingles.
|While we were in town, we had to get a photo of Keith-A-Que, one of the more innovative barbecue-restaurant-with-a-person's-name-in-the-title. This place had a drive-thru around back too.
|We hadn't given up on Country Time Lemonade so we stopped at Piggly Wiggly.
|Their soda selection was vast and impressive.
|Even their own store brand of soda came in at least 10 different flavors. But there was no Country Time and no Georgia Peach Coca-Cola. We couldn't resist the many flavors and ended up buying Watermelon Punch Fanta and Peach Crush.
|This giant peanut calls attention to Caroll's Sausage and Country Store behind it.
|It's time for a little on-the-road snack of yogurt.
|"Behold the biscuits." Our friends Audrey and Dean told us that McDonald's biscuits are better in the South, so we wanted to try them, but every time we stopped for breakfast at McDonald's, we remembered that neither of us really like biscuits anyway.
|This sign was the last of many billboards pleading with us to stop at Magnolia Plantation.
|We did not comply.
|The rain was coming down when we passed this sign telling us to "Beach more. Worry less!" Yes, we're trying, thanks.
|The I-75 Welcome Center welcomed us just south of the Florida border.
|So did this little dolphin statue, replacing the one that stood in this exact spot five years earlier.
|We were in the middle of a thunderstorm and we watched the rader obsessively. We don't mind driving in rain, but we really needed it to be dry after midnight.
|Continuing our fairly new tradition of eating at a barbecue restaurant with a person's name in the title, we went to David's Real Pit BBQ in Gainesville for dinner.
|Fried okra! Corn bread! Beans for Tom! The portions were so large that we had plenty of leftovers to take with us and eat over the next several days.
|Gainesville is a lovely town from what little we saw of it.
|It turns out that FDOT also has test messages for passing motorists.
|This lovely scenery is Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.
|This airboat was one of the items for sale at the sporting goods establishment across the street from a gas station we visited.
|They also sell gator meat, so shopping there is a real time saver.
|Do you dream of space? Follow us (and the billboards) to Titusville. Well, not really, because we were headed just a bit further south than Titusville this time.
|What's this? Clearing skies?
|Here's a billboard for Disney Springs, where we'd be visiting the next weekend.
|Sometimes the billboards are pretty.
|Sometimes the scenery is too.
|We got to use our brand new SunPass, acquired specifically for this trip. Over the next week, we grew increasingly baffled as the system never once charged us any tolls despite checking and double-checking that our account was set up correctly. We later learned that the system was heavily backlogged. Our charges eventually went through two weeks later.
|The sound barriers in Orlando are decorated with bird silhouettes.
|Speaking of Orlando, here's a view down I-4 toward Universal's Volcano Bay water park.
|We reached Merritt Island and went to check out the place we planned to use to view the rocket launch later.
|On our way, we passed a pretty horrific accident which shut down that side of the highway for hours.
|We found our spot looking north across the Banana River, at the base of the second bridge over the water on SR 528.
|If we zoomed in really carefully with our little camera's 40x optical zoom, we could see the Vehicle Assembly Building.
|Here's how you get from the dirt road that circles the end of the bridge base back onto the highway.
|We drove through Merritt Island, avoiding the shut-down portion of the highway, ...
|... to Aladdin Motel.
|It is an inexpensive little motel, with sound-proof cinderblock walls and a full-size fridge and powerful freezer that froze water bottles quickly for our cooler the next day.
|With a middle-of-the-night launch and four hours to wait until it was time to leave, Tom took a nap while Debbie stayed awake, ate some leftover ribs, ...
... and continued to obsessively watched the weather.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy