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Florida Guide > Travelling

Driving Down the Florida Turnpike to Fort Lauderdale

Some say the Florida Turnpike is boring – well maybe I have an above-average threshold of boredom, because I love it. Perhaps it’s knowing that another stage of our holiday is about to commence, or maybe it’s just the familiarity of it all, but I can always feel the excitement bubbling up inside me as we head towards the Florida Turnpike.

We have often used this great toll road, both driving up from Miami to Orlando, and driving down from Orlando to Miami. I have to admit that when we are on our way to Miami airport, and home, there is a sense of sadness at leaving our much loved home, Tropical Dream Villa in Davenport, but today there is sheer anticipation. We are on our way to Fort Lauderdale to pick up a cruise, so we are naturally excited. What can be more glorious than a soaring azure blue Floridian sky, the sun beaming down, and a powerful new hire car with less than 20 miles on the clock, which literally eats up the miles? As I lean back in my comfortable leather seat, the warm sun seeps through the windscreen, lifting my spirits and warming my heart. Yes, I am sad to wave goodbye to our beautiful villa, but I know we will be back, so that sadness is tinged with a sense of expectancy.

The car cruises noiselessly along, and we wave goodbye to the 192 as we speed down the Turnpike. A hawk soars high overhead, hovering, barely moving, before swooping swiftly down to catch its unsuspecting prey. The first of the toll booths at Three Lakes comes into view, and it is here we collect the ticket which will take us through to Mile Post 88, at the Lantana Toll Plaza. We barely slow down, and are handed a ticket which will enable us to drive for 148 miles without stopping to pay tolls. The radio is on and Phil Collins is crooning, ‘Take a Look at Me Now’ on ‘Magic. ’ All around us is the Florida countryside, which although flat, has a variety of landscapes. Here there are pine forests on each side, many of the trees leaning over, remnants of previous hurricanes.

We pass Fort Drum service area at Mile Post 184, but decide to press on, and before we know it we are at Mile Post 175. At mile intervals there are markers which tell you exactly where you are, and this helps to make the journey pass more quickly. The landscape changes, and there are expanses of water on each side of the road, typical Everglades scenery. A sand crane walks majestically along the banks of the water, and pylons, like giant metal men, stalk across the flatlands. A fisherman waits patiently for a bite, as he stands on the banks, edged by tall golden grasses. An armadillo, like a little armoured piglet, scuttles across the road in front of us, and we miss it by a whisker. Sadly, many are not so lucky, and it is common to see one of these fascinating creatures lying dead at the side of the road. We change channels on the radio, from ‘Magic’ to ‘Breeze’ on 93. 7, and again, Phil Collins comes over the airwaves.

At Mile Post 163 there are orange groves, something which is, sadly, becoming a rarer sight. The scent of orange blossom wafts through the open window, and a grey bird rises up above trees bent by the prevailing winds. The countryside changes, yet again, and becomes more industrialised as we pass marker 148. There are construction materials piled up, and outside Port St Lucie there are new houses, built close to the road. We have watched them being built on our many journeys up and down the turnpike, but now most seem completed and occupied. It seems a strange place to build houses, directly facing the busy Turnpike, when there is so much empty land around. We drive across the new Thomas B Manuel Bridge at Mile Post 130, but there are road works around Mile Post 127, and the road surface is poor, so we have to slow down.

We both agree its time for a break. We have made good time, whilst keeping to the speed limit. West Palm Beach Service Station at Mile Post 94 comes into view, and we pull off the road and onto the service area. We park up, driving past the huge lorries with their distinctive and very old fashioned cabs. Little black birds hop about, eagerly searching for crumbs from picnickers. This is one of the best service areas to stop at as it has Burger King, Nathan’s, Arthur Treacher’s, Freshens, Miami Grill and of course, Starbucks. It is great to stretch our legs, and the sun is hot on our faces as we walk to the entrance. It is busy but immaculately clean.

We decide on a quick snack and a drink, and make our way into the centre. It is busy but cool, and we queue up to make our choice. Starbucks has my favourite cake – Key Lime Crumb Cake. It’s a tangy and crumbly, and not too sweet, and I buy one for each of us to eat with a cup of tea. We sit and watch the world go by as we munch on our delicious cakes. I am always fascinated to watch the people at the service areas. There are families excitedly making their way to Orlando, teenagers queuing for their burgers, lorry drivers taking a break. All too soon it is time to make a move and we clear our table and make our way back to the car. It’s boiling hot, but we switch on the air con and within a couple of minutes the car is cool again. We head for the exit and are on our way again.

We are nearing the end of the ticket system and as we approach Mile Post 88 we see the Lantana Toll Plaza. We hand in our ticket and pay the $13. 70 toll. This time we are only going as far as Fort Lauderdale, and from here the road gets busier. We are very familiar with this area as our daughter spent a year in Boca Raton, as part of her degree course, and rented an apartment near Glades Rd, at Mile Post 76. It feels oh so familiar as we pass Boynton Beach and Delray Beach. We almost take the exit at Glades, but remember in time that she is no longer there. From here the road signs become more familiar, Sawgrass Expressway – no time to visit this huge mall today - Sample Rd, Coconut Creek, Atlantic Boulevard, Pompano Beach. We must look out for our exit, at Mile Post 54, Ft Lauderdale South, signposted to the airport. The sign appears and we move over to the right hand side, and off the Turnpike. We are nearly there, just a few more minutes to the hotel where we will stay overnight before boarding our ship tomorrow.

It’s been a good drive, the road is straight and easy to drive on, and we have made good time. Now we can relax before we make our way to Port Everglades tomorrow morning.

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Page added on: 30 October 2007
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