Friday, February 13, 2015

Floridays 1990 Flashback: A Rough Start

Today we step into the Wayback Machine and celebrate Flashback Friday with a look back at the inauspicious first day of our second trip from Springfield Friends Meeting to Walt Disney World, June 9-15, 1990. Over 60 youth and adults caravaned together in five vehicles. Included in this adventure was our friend Jeff Byrd (that's Jeff in the glasses, with Rich Hughes at The Florida Mall ), the youth dude at Archdale Friends Meeting, and around 10 of his group. The trip had tripled in size since our first WDW outing only three years before, and there was great excitement. We were staying at the Gold Key Inn, once again out on Orange Blossom Trail (OBT) in Orlando. We would have four days at the Disney parks, including the brand new Disney/MGM Studios. We couldn't wait to get there.

Getting there turned out to be a bit of an issue, however. One of the Suburbans we were using for transportation, owned by Judy Rees and driven for most of the trip by Robin Thomas, took the wrong exit at one point. This was before the days of cell phones, but we did have some walkie-talkie type radios, and we were able to correct the mistake with minor damage to our trip time. We discovered later those radios didn't have much range. 

We made it into the Orlando area and were cruising down I-4 looking for the OBT exit, all of our vehicles together in single file formation. I was driving the lead vehicle and keeping us in the center lane of traffic when I came to the exit and realized a bit too late that we would be exiting to the left, not the right as one would suppose. I signaled and pulled over, and Butch Moran and my wife Marilyn did the same, blocking the lane and allowing our other vehicles to move over as well. We took the left exit and headed for the motel, thinking all was well. We were wrong! Somehow (and to this day I don't know how) the Archdale van driven by Jeff Byrd did not take the exit with us. They had been in the middle of the caravan, but somehow had continued on down I-4! We tried the radios, but could not reach them. We continued on to the Gold Key Inn, confident that Jeff had the address of the motel and would find it. We should have been more worried. In the years that have followed I have lived in central Florida and spent much time in Orlando, and I have NEVER been able to figure out exactly where Jeff went after we lost him. Apparently he exited on to a toll road (the Florida  Turnpike or the East-West?) and then could not get anyplace he wanted to go. He traveled up and down the highway until finally figuring something out and making his way to the motel, a good hour after the rest of us had checked in. It was a joyful reunion.

After checking-in and unpacking we were all really hungry and ready to hit the food court at The Florida Mall and end this first, very long day. We prepared to cram back into our vehicles when we encountered a slight delay. It seemed that someone (Robin Thomas got all the blame at the time!) had locked the keys in Judy Rees' Suburban. The spare key was safe and secure- in North Carolina! We wandered around the motel and explored out motel while we waited for a locksmith, who eventually showed up and rescued the keys. We were now more ready than ever to make the short drive to the mall, so we once again gathered the troops and loaded up the vehicles. We had a standard operating procedure for making sure we had everyone. Each person was to ride in the same vehicle everywhere we went that week. Each vehicle would count their own passengers, and then I would go from van to van and total our numbers. It was a very safe system- usually.

On this particular night, as I began to go from vehicle to vehicle to make the final count, Jill Gilbreth (that's her in the stripes, at Archdale Friends Meeting at a pre-trip car wash! Behind her are Emily Beggs, Mary Mercadante, Dana Oxendine, Stacy Gilbreth Beth Brown.) left her vehicle AFTER I had already made sure everyone in it was accounted for. When I finished my rounds, we had the right numbers. Jill, however, was still in the motel getting her money for dinner. Her driver (I don't remember who) didn't realize she was gone, and her friends somehow failed to mention this to anyone. I guess they were just that hungry! So off we went. We arrived at the food court and were sitting down eating, when suddenly Jillybean came running up to our table, looking rather panicked. She told us the story of how she had been left behind at the motel.  She had gone inside, freaked out and crying, and told the motel employees that her group had left her. She must have appeared to be totally panicked, because the motel gave her a ride to the mall AND gave her $5 for supper. She forgave us- sometime around 1993!  And we never failed to remind her that the Gold Key Inn was so anxious to be rid of her that they paid her off!

It's so hard to believe we are coming up on the 25th anniversary of this great trip. Floridays 1990 began with us losing a van, keys, and Jill all on the first day. The next day we would make it to Walt Disney World and things would improve greatly. It was a wonderful trip full of memories. But that first day was a doozy...

Because of Jesus,

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