|Naples Pier at Sunset|
|US 1 Overseas Highway |
to Key West
As much as we enjoy living in the midwest, there are times in the winter when it becomes a challenge. So now that we’re retired, my wife and I have traveled to Naples, Fl. until spring to escape the cold. We both enjoyed our first taste of Florida in the 60’s during spring breaks, but really didn't appreciate the area until, as a newly hired engineer at Ford, I was assigned to do hot weather testing in Florida during the winter. My wife would sometimes accompany me on the trips, which allowed her to enjoy the beach, shop and sightsee while I was working. One such trip was to Naples, where Ford had a nearby test track. We stayed at a hotel along the beach and came to really enjoy the area, but concluded everyone was pretty old at this place. Fast forward 40+ years and now I blend right in (not yet for my wife), so here we are enjoying 80 degree weather in sunny Naples.
Those Ford test trips usually entailed driving instrumented test cars to Key West along US 1 from Miami. We would have to soak the cars in the hot sun until the interiors were 140 degrees, then get in and start driving to measure how fast the vehicle cooled down. The soak time took a couple hours, so during those downtimes, we’d plan fun activities like enjoying the unusual sights, sounds and cuisine of Key West. On the return, we do another soak on Marathon Key, where our neighbor from Dearborn happened to spent the winters. On one trip, he was kind enough to take us bone fishing on the Gulf. It was a calm, sunny day and the Gulf was so clear we could see the bone fish hit the bait 40 feet down. After we enjoyed the fishing and performed the cool down tests, we headed back to Miami, where one evening after a run to Key West, we went to the Orange Bowl to see the Bengals play the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Speaking of Miami, city driving tests to simulate stop and go traffic was always on the agenda. Our favorite city traffic route was in Miami Beach along A1A where bikini-clad girls would be walking the streets. It was hard to concentrate on our test instruments while running that route!
During one test trip, we drove across Alligator Alley on a high speed run. Alligator Alley is an 80 mile straight shot, 4 lane highway built in 1968 across the Everglades between Ft. Lauderdale and Naples. We made arrangements with the Florida Highway Patrol to escort us across as our speeds were about 100 mph. I remember them driving Mustang police vehicles like shown on the right. The state troopers were ahead of and behind us, with lights a flashing, which made the trip more fun than driving on the autobahn in Germany with no speed limits. And yes, I was getting paid to perform these grueling tasks! Heck of a lot different than the farm work I was used to!
Stay warm, my friends!