My partner coordinated a November road trip to Florida to assess damage to our homes after Hurricane Ian. His road mates were two men in their mid-80s: my father and uncle.

The drive by Anne Vaillancourt’s partner, father and uncle to southwest Florida to assess the damage that Ian had done to their homes resulted in directional disputes that were settled by paper roadmaps. Nick Beer/

It was a stressful trip, to say the least! There was absolute destruction to the southwest Florida community because of the Category 4 storm and when they arrived, the neighborhood looked like a bomb had gone off and they were at war! The streets were filled with debris, including nails that littered the roadways, rendering some inaccessible.

It was extremely hot and muggy with no electricity and limited resources, and the survivors in that community were dour, with little spirit left. The travelers were exhausted from driving straight through, ill-prepared for the three days of work ahead of them, emotionally drained from what they had seen.  Surprisingly, my partner remembers this trip fondly.

In preparation for the journey south, several roadmaps made their way on board to guide them. My partner recalled the conversation on whether to take Route 81 out of Connecticut to just south of Virginia. The rationale for this direction was to avoid the congestion on Route 95 from the traveling snowbirds. They discussed which exits were coming up and how far it was to the next major city.  With each reference check, it brought up their years of travel to the South. Each time a directional decision was in dispute, out came the maps and a new travel strategy. Uncle has hearing aids but doesn’t always wear them, and his older brother keeps talking so he doesn’t have to respond to any questions. This interaction was continuous and painfully funny.

All the travelers did have some version of a cellphone; however, none utilized the map application and deferred to his chosen paper map method. There were a few accidents witnessed along the way that could have been avoided had the technology been utilized, but those stories from the road may have been different. Now they tell a harrowing tale of a tractor-trailer truck that jackknifed right in front of them and another accident that, sadly, appeared to have been fatal. In retrospective, the drive straight through might have been too much for them at their age, but they would never admit to it.

My partner, now in his 60s, was grateful to experience this journey with these men he loves despite its difficulties. MapQuest and/or Google Maps were not invited on the trip this time, and it was a welcome break. His childhood road trips would entail lively conversation about geography, state capitals, elevations, national parks, etc., and wonderment of places. No iPhones were available to distract the passengers then. In a time where we now wonder what Google has to say at every whimsy, he felt it was nice to go back to a time where conversation was created simply over a roadmap. Our Florida community survived, and the travelers have fond memories and survival stories from the road.

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