March to Miami: Driving to the Super Bowl

By Rick Williams

FLORIDA'S TURNPIKE (WALB) - If you drive to Miami for the Super Bowl, you will likely traverse Florida's Turnpike, a toll road connecting central Florida to the Greater Miami area.

Right off the bat, drivers pay $2.50 to enter the pay highway. There is an immediate reward. Drivers get to see their toll dollars at work, since the northern end of the toll road is under construction. Fortunately on Monday, traffic moved smoothly through the construction zones.

More toll dollars are also at work paying for planted palm trees and 2x4 boards. The 2x4s, probably spruce or pine, are used to prop up the palm trees since they apparently don't grow wild along the route motorists paid to travel. About every mile or so, more toll dollars at work, call boxes, for those few who break down and don't have a cell phone.

The interlopers from other states all drive to the pay cash toll booths, while most everybody with a Florida auto tag passes through the "Sun Pass" booth, not handing over any cash. According to their web site, those cars have some sort of prepaid device from which credit is extracted every time the car passes through the toll booth.

On the turnpike, you are never more than 45 minutes from a service plaza, an oasis built in the middle of the divided highway, so you always exit to the left to go to a plaza. Plazas, like Turkey Lake Plaza, host travelers seeking the respite of a restroom break, food, drink, souvenirs, and even fresh fruit. Regular gas at Turkey Lake was $2.69.9 Monday.

Kay Senters pedals Florida's famous oranges, grapefruit, and other fruit for Nature's Harvest at one of the plazas. Senters is counting on Saints and Colts fans to double her sales this Super Bowl Week. A quarter bushel goes from $10.95 to $14.95 depending on the variety.

Signs at each plaza promote nighttime security for late night drivers. Another sign indicates a "wildlife alert." No alligators were crossing the road Monday. The only wildlife was the same sort of small animal road kill you might see along an Indiana, Mississippi, or Louisiana highway.

As drivers near Miami, they fork over another $13.70. Not far down the highway, another toll booth, and one more dollar. It costs a lot more to get off Florida's Turnpike than it does to get on it.

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