I think Mike and I learned an important lesson on this journey – do not ever exit the freeway into a city where you were not planning to stop. Cities are big and confusing. They have detours, closed roads, and strange characters.
Our first experience was Birmingham, Alabama. Instead of waiting for a clearly labeled stop with a McDonald’s and a Shell, somewhere within viewing distance of the interstate, someone (read: Mike) decided to exit in the middle of downtown Birmingham. Let me tell you, downtown was EMPTY. It was practically a ghost town. Nothing was open. There was no gas station. Roads were blocked. It was scary. Luckily, we finally found our way back to the expressway and headed on past downtown to stop at an IHOP in a truck-stop-type area.
Our second experience getting lost was in downtown West Tampa. We were about to get on the long bridge going over the water to St. Petersberg and were warned to make sure we had enough gas. So we pull over, again in a downtown area of West Tampa, and get gas. Sure enough, getting back on the freeway was not as easy as you’d think, considering we were a block away and could clearly see it. After a few u-turns, a little arguing, a detour and several confusing street signs, we finally got back on the freeway.
After that, we did not exit into any more downtown areas. We stayed on the freeway and listened to Mike’s iPhone directions.