In the days before GPS or Google Maps, known to some wild at hearts as the 1970s, you loaded up on free road maps from the service stations before you left Portland, Maine or Pawtucket, Rhode Island or Clark, New Jersey for that summer road trip vacation to Florida. But these weren’t just boring old maps. There were South of the Border Mileage Charts and fun promotional materials such as this beauty courtesy of Gulf Oil.
From Maine to Walt Disney World was your vertical guide to the I-95 corridor. Unlike, those traditional maps that unfolded to the size of the Wall Street Journal and inevitably ripped, or hit your brother in the face, this paper accordion fit in a teenager’s hands. For the time being, I-95 Backseat Navigator would do just fine.
I had remembered that Gulf had some deal with Holiday Inn whereby you invariably found a good Gulf Station near a roadside Holiday Inn. Just look for the Gulf Orange Disc.
What I didn’t recall was that you could charge your room and meals to your Gulf credit card! What’s in my wallet? A friggin’ Gulf Credit Card, that’s what; set me up in the Holiday Inn Executive Suite and keep the Prime Rib coming. No bag of pork rinds from the Lance Machine for me.
Being from New Jersey, things got more interesting around the Carolinas. That included the fact that I-95 was not complete all the way through (you can see the dotted lines on the map). They usually detoured us onto U.S. Highway 301, where the forgotten gems sat, now unpolished, due to the fancy Superhighway bypass. Those solitaires did anything and everything to lure you off the Superhighway, often down a lonely two-lane road four or five miles to the center of town.
JARRATT RESTAURANT. EXIT IN 4 MILES.
OUR CHEF WEIGHS OVER 300 LBS! THE FOOD MUST BE GOOD!
Forget refrigerated air, the Steven Kent Quality Inn lured you with ping pong, shuffle board, and a pub.
Sadly, we were in a hurry, had to make it to Vero Beach or Tarpon Springs or Fort Lauderdale in record time. Maybe on the way back, we thought, and picked up speed as we sang Purdy Little Love Song out open windows because we thought those were the words to Heard it in a Love Song (by the Marshall Tucker Band). Or, There’s a bathroom on the right from Bad Moon Rising.
Singing those same lyrics years later makes me wonder what else we got wrong.