The time by my watch was exactly 7.30 a.m. and there we were all ready with our bags, boxes and bottles of drinking water. It was a nice sunny day, just right for the much-awaited 700 mile long journey towards Orlando in Florida from our friend’s place in Baton Rouge. Louisiana. Our FLEET consisted of two cars, one a Ford and the other a Toyota, which took the Interstate, or simply I-10 as our destination was Disney World!
We would be traveling for approximately 9 hours and 53 minutes minus the stops. Driving along the I-10 was quite an experience. If you are moving at about 60-70 miles per hour, other cars and Harleys will just zoom past you like bullets from a high-powered rifle. Long-distance driving, needless to say, is a pleasure in the U.S. No pot holes, almost no honking, no heavy traffic and definitely no jay walkers. Moreover, there are numerous signs all along the highway to guide a traveler. One crosses points where big, glowing boards providing information about gas stations, motels, washrooms etc. greet passers-by. You are even asked to remove your sunglasses when there is a tunnel ahead. It is thus impossible for a tourist to feel lost. All you need to know is the English language.
Our first stop was at a Texaco gas station for some tit bits. The five Bengalis in the cars were more than excited at the sight of a nearby giant sign board with the words “Red Lobster”, one of the best places for excellent sea food. However, we had to fight the temptation of indulging in such a luxury and move on since time was precious.
An interesting halt was at Mobile, Alabama and we all chorused, “I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee.” The experience of crossing a bridge overlooking the Polecat and the Mobile bays along the I-10 (known as Jubilee Parkway and lovingly called “Bayway”) itself was a wonderful one. But we had no idea that something rather ancient that would soon take our breath away.
Battleship Park. We had to stop at this place, a site beside the Mobile Bay for retired/obsolete war machines of yesteryears. I just stared at the battleship USS Alabama, the submarine USS Drum, no longer in use, but once ruthless instruments of destruction. The forward-deck guns of the USS Alabama, now just objects on display, looked menacing. Just imagine what happened when they actually targeted and boomed!!! Several other planes and bombers like a B-52 and a P-51 Mustang were enough to leave one gaping open-mouthed. Just as I was about to turn, I saw a M4 Sherman tank which seemed to say, ‘Welcome to our world’!
I could have gazed on, but had to get into the car as we would have to make it to Florida by 10 P.M. Finally, after crossing the state of Mississippi, we entered Florida or the “Orange State”. On the way, we had driven past Pensacola, a famous fighter plane station, but did not halt. We reserved it for our journey back home. The last stop before reaching our destination was at a point near Lake City in Florida, where the I-10 runs into I-75, then into I-4. After re-fueling and grabbing a bite from KFC, we drove on.
It was about 9.30 p.m. when we reached Polo Park, our condominium at Orlando near the Disney parks. A fully-furnished flat with all modern amenities awaited us, much to our excitement. Naturally, by then we were all quite tired and needed a nice, sound sleep. Immediately after dinner, I flopped into bed like the rest but the excitement of walking into the world famous Disney World the next day for the first time in my life kept me awake well past midnight!
The time by my watch was exactly 7.30 a.m. and there we were all ready with our bags, boxes and bottles of drinking water. It was a nice sunny day, just right for the much-awaited 700 mile long journey towards Orlando in Florida from our friend’s place in Baton Rouge. Louisiana. Our FLEET consisted of two cars, one