Friday March 1st 2019
It was a long travel day. I was up early to prepare for an early departure. Still, it wasn’t until 9:30AM that I pulled out of Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park. With one stop for gas along the way, I was on the road for seven hours. This was one of the worst travel days I’ve had on the Rambling Road Trip.
Traffic was very heavy along the entire 350 mile journey. Getting through the Ocala area was the first slow down, but it was minor compared to the congestion ahead. Just north of Tampa the traffic slowed down and got heavier. It didn’t let up much south of town. Just before the interstate 275 beltway returns to Interstate 75 north of Bradenton, traffic transitioned into stop and go mode. I didn’t track the mileage, but it took well over an hour to travel to the south side of Sarasota. Previous trips through this area as recently as January usually took less than thirty minutes. Other than two exits in Bradenton under construction, I could find no reason for the congestion other than the volume of traffic.
The next major slow down was only a four mile stretch in the Punta Gorda area for an accident. It took half an hour to get past the scene. All that remained when I passed was the hazardous waste clean up crew. After driving in heavy traffic through Fort Meyers I had to slow down for another accident. This one was a box truck that drove off the road into a tree. It didn’t look like it was very bad, but it did slow my speed down to a ten mile an hour or so average. Once I was south of Naples it was a steady sixty mile an hour drive on the one lane in each direction Tamiami trail across the state.
My destination was halfway across the state at the Midway Campground in the Big Cypress National Preserve. I arrived at 4:30PM and got setup before the threatening clouds to the east arrived. I saw plenty of lightening in the clouds, but they didn’t produce any rain in this area. This campground has about twenty five sites around a small pond. They warn you when you arrive and with many signs that alligators are the natives in the pond and bears in the woods. So far I’ve seen a gator on the band of the pond across from my site. If I see a bear, I hope it’s further away.