Blog: Road trip to the Sunshine State

After 13 hours of driving, Alyssa and Chuck made it to Destin, Florida.

DESTIN, Fla. (WTHR) - The big day! I woke up at 3 a.m. (an hour LATER than usual) to set sail on my first trip with WTHR. We began the 730-mile trek to Destin, Florida around 6:35 a.m. With Chuck Lofton behind the wheel of the big white Yukon from Ray Skillman, I knew I'd be in good hands. Not even a minute after Chuck pulled out of the WTHR parking lot, National Treasure and Photojournalist Steve Rhodes uttered those words: "Are we there yet?!" All four of us busted out laughing. I thought, "Oh, this is going to be real fun!"

A lot of people were asking us what kind of music we were going to listen to on the drive down to Florida. Truthfully, we didn't listen to any music. Instead, we listened to each other. Chuck talked a little bit about the last trip Sunrise took to Florida in 1996. Steve mentioned that he tried to grow a mullet ten years ago but couldn't! Our producer Cyndee informed me that there's always at least one mullet story on a WTHR trip. The stories made the first hour and a half fly by. Around 8:00 a.m., we stopped for the first time in Glendale, Kentucky and topped off the Yukon at $2.09 a gallon.

An hour later, our next stop brought us face-to-face with some sleek and sexy machinery. We spent about 30 minutes oohing and ahhing inside the lobby of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I spent a couple minutes talking with a man who works there. His name was John. I asked him: "How much for the black 'Vette?" He told me $150,000, and you might get a few dollars back." He informed me that the average age of a new corvette owner is 70. We also found out that there's a new exhibit coming to the museum in April 2019. Besides posing next to some pretty sweet car candy, we snapped a picture with Kyle Petty!

(Side note: My mom's first car was a Corvette. I texted her to ask her what kind, and she replied, "a fast one.")

We got back on the road around 9:30 a.m. No traffic issues at this point besides some pretty big potholes. We crossed into Tennessee a little before 10 a.m. We stopped for another bathroom break at the Love's in Columbia, Tennessee. On February 8, gas was $1.99 a gallon. The temperature was 35 degrees compared to 14 in West Lafayette. I know this random piece of information because a man named Chris Young tweeted me a picture of the temperature.

Speaking of temperature, by the time we crossed into Alabama, the temperature jumped up to a balmy 45 degrees. Warmer, but not quite where I'd like it to be. Something else worth noting as you drive into Alabama (if you're driving straight down I-65 to Florida) keep your eyes peeled for the huge Saturn 1B Rocket. It's on the right. You can't miss it! ;)

We decided to stop for a quick lunch around 12 p.m. We picked the Ruby Tuesday in Athens, Alabama. After we finished eating and fueling the Yukon back to full ($1.89 a gallon), it was back on the road with about five-and-a-half hours to go. We hit our first traffic backup around 1:40 p.m. At that point, we had just driven by Falkville, Alabama and had about 300 miles left on our trip. The slow down lasted about 12 minutes. If you're wondering what caused the backup...a construction crew picking up cones!

Golden Flake makes Chuck's favorite southern snacks.

So we're driving along and along and along in Alabama when all of a sudden Chuck directs our attention to the left on top of a hill. He pointed out "Vulcan statue," the largest cast iron statue in the world! It sits on Red Mountain and overlooks Birmingham, Alabama. Then we pass through Montgomery ($1.89 a gallon - cheapest gas we saw) and FINALLY into Florida ($2.34 - most expensive gas we saw). At this point, we've switched to Central Time, and the sun is rapidly setting. And then, BANG! Thirteen-ish hours, five bathroom breaks and countless Chuck stories later, we arrived at the Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village in Destin, Florida!!!!!!!

I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but we ordered pizza and wings and fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow!

"Sometimes it's not about the destination but about the journey itself."

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Three Fun Facts I Learned From Chuck Today:

1. Tom Thumb down here is equivalent to Kroger.
2. The busiest outlet mall is in Orlando and it has an Indiana connection since it's owned by the Simon Family.
3. One of the oldest original truck stops east of the Mississippi is called the Tennessean.

Three Things I learned About Chuck Today:

1. Chuck and "The Senator" (Chuck's dog) went for a one-mile walk before we left for Florida Friday morning.
2. Chuck's first car was a pink '61 Rambler American. (Confession...I had to Google "What does three on the tree mean?")
3. Chuck's favorite southern snack is Golden Flake Potato Chips.