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You knew it was coming: The road trip from Florida

As we all knew I would, I flew out last week to Florida to drive back with my youngest girl, who'd been gone all summer long. While I was very anxious about her driving back alone, the truth is I also didn't want to go another day without seeing her. And somewhere along the way, she got on board for me to go along for the ride.

Actually, that moment occurred when she said "Mom, there are some cute little towns I'd like you to see … we could really have fun driving through them on the way home." Translation: fun = shopping, which admittedly is one of our favorite activities. So I went.

Travel is always interesting, to say the least. Airports are absolutely the best people-watching in the world. I love the hum of an airport, though sometimes it's more of a frantic roar. As it was early Thursday morning at 4:30, when there should have been NO line to check in, but instead the line was a mile long due to a computer problem that caused hundreds of flights to be delayed or canceled the day before.

I dodged the bullet when I pulled out my phone, checked in online and threw away a can of hairspray I had in my suitcase and opted to carry on my bag rather than check it. I grabbed a free Ziploc bag at security and watched as the lady carefully pulled all my liquids out of my makeup bag one by one and put them in the bag for me.

These are different times, they are.

Landing in Dallas with a three-hour layover, I had pizza for breakfast, got a good cup of coffee and sat at the gate to read my book. An hour later I got a text that my plane was late and would depart from gate 17, not gate 4, which was the original plan. I hauled all the way to the other end of the terminal, only to realize that was false information and I had been at the right gate all along. Must have been that computer glitch everyone was talking about.

I hauled myself back, then melded with the crowd and we collectively waited in relative peace … took off, landed and got to hug my girl. Real tears were shed.

Leaving Panama City Beach, we drove about 30 miles up the coast first to Rosemary, then Seaside, then Watercolor. All beautiful towns, crazy crowded, full of tourists but packed with all sorts of things that tourists like us like to buy. Especially girls … it was a lovely girls' afternoon out.

Then came the interstate, and we got serious. After an overnight stop outside of New Orleans to say hello and goodbye to family, we detoured to San Antonio for a quick check-in with parents and grandparents.

True to form, it was, as we used to call it, a "flying visit." So we barreled west on Interstate 10 at 80 mph, and everyone was flying past us like we were driving a golf cart.

The ride between New Orleans and Baton Rouge was surprisingly nice, and Baton Rouge was much prettier than I thought it would be. After Baton Rouge there was a swampy stretch with a bridge that spanned a good 20 miles, and it was all I could do to stay between the lines while I peeked down at what was happening on a Saturday morning down on the bayou.

Billboards competed for attention from every sector, with the casinos and the lawyers taking the lead, but the adult entertainment store and the Christians were a close second.

The July sun hammered down and I drove the whole nine hours while the girl slept, then woke up and entertained me for a minute until it was time for her next nap. I fought with the radio to find local rock; we stopped for coffee, then kept on going.

After Baton Rouge, then Lake Charles, the terrain slowly turned into Texas, and from Beaumont to Houston it was greenish-brown fields that were yielding crops, cattle and oil. Houston traffic was no surprise, then more of the same all the way to San Antone.

I dearly love those road trips. It was rushed, but it was fun. You just have to take it how you can get it. But all around, it's been a different summer. Both my kids have been gone all summer long; now they'll be home for a few days only, then they'll move back to college.

Oh, and one more development … They're not kids anymore.

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