Me and a Florida Pelican, 1993

Flying to Florida alone when I was eleven

It was finally my turn to get to do a trip alone with my grandparents. Both my sisters had had their chance, which involved flying to Scotland on separate occasions to see my cousins who lived there. When it would have been my turn, they moved back. So I never got the chance to go to Europe with my grandparents. But I got to go somewhere, which at the time seemed just as cool, if not cooler… Disney World!

Now, I had been to Disney World once before when I was six. Here’s that story if you missed it: The Christmas I unwrapped Mickey Mouse. This time, I had just turned eleven. I had loved going with my family so much the first time that the chance to go again was, as I remember it, like a dream come true.

My grandparents lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but pretty much every year would head south and stay somewhere warm for a few months in the winter. This time they were in Fort Myers and the plan was for me to meet them there over my winter break. They had driven down a couple months before and were staying in a condo they rented. We’d be driving in their car up to Orlando to see the sites at Disney world after a few days of exploring where they were first.

Madison to Detroit, Detroit to…
Getting down there did not go as planned though, and is the main story I’d like to share tonight. It’s all inspired by a journal and bunch of photos I kept from that trip, when I flew to Florida alone when I was only eleven.

1993 Florida Trip Scrapbook and Journal
My 1993 Florida Trip Scrapbook and Journal

Now normally, I write from only what I remember. But reading through my journal I have jotted down a ton of stuff I either do not remember or had forgotten about. So, I’ll use quotes when I’m taking words directly from my journal, okay?

One quick note: I lived in Madison, Wisconsin at this time. So, my trip started out at the Madison airport.

March, 1993 fog and flight troubles

“First Day Coming Down to Florida 3/25/1993
Got up at 4:30 AM. Off to the airport by 5:30 AM. When we got to the airport we found out my flight to Detroit was cancelled because of fog. I then found out that I could fly out at 5:05 PM. Wow, was I upset! I went home and watched a movie until Dad came home. Dad, Sarah and I went to the airport and I took off to Detroit.”

Now reading this, I guess I didn’t remember any of that. I didn’t remember that I had to switch flights either! And to top that, I was only eleven! What?! I guess things were different then. My parents did have an option to sort of hire a chaperone to keep an eye on me, but from what I can remember it was just like a flight attendant that sort of knew I was flying alone. I don’t remember much contact with anyone really watching over me. I also don’t remember being all that unsure or scared at all. I do remember feeling totally confident and safe the whole time.

No runway landing lights, what?

“I had to sit and wait one hour before going on the next plane after I landed in Detroit. Then at 8:40 PM, their time, I took off for Fort Myers. After three long hours on the plane we were just about to land when we found out that the lights in Fort Myers did not work on the run-way. So if they didn’t turn on in ten minutes we would head for Orlando. No other airport around was big enough for our airplane to land in so we flew to Orlando.”

Okay, this is the part I remember well. I was sitting between two people on the right side of the plane. The closest window was to my right. I remember the plane tilting to the right as we circled the airport for those ten minutes. I don’t remember being all that scared or anything like that, but I do remember wondering if we couldn’t land how I would get to my grandparents who were waiting for me below. I also remember the guy next to me talking to me and his breath being the most awful thing I had ever smelled in my life! Between the tilting and the smell, I’m sure that’s why I remember all this so well.

Using the phone inside the Orlando flight tower

“After I landed I called my Grandparents and my Mom and Dad. They were all very disappointed, so was I. I then took a bus down to Fort Myers which was a three and a half hour drive. Boy was I tired when I met my Grandparents at 4:45 in the morning. What a long day. Got to bed by 6:00.”

So I also really remember this part. When we landed in Florida I was escorted outside the plane almost on the runway really. I entered something like a flight tower where there were all sorts of computers and lights and basically the stuff they use to control the planes on the ground. Having wanted to be a pilot when I was a little girl, I’m sure I thought this was pretty cool, but it’s the next part that sticks in my mind most.

I was simply given a phone and told to call my contacts. This phone had a cord folks! No cellphones then.

I don’t remember calling my grandparents at all, but I do remember calling my parents. I remember my mom being hysterical. Literally bawling and being really loud on the phone. I remember almost having to cover the phone because I didn’t want the couple of people around me to worry. I think I felt fine, other than being tired. But I was sorry for making my mom worry so much and I wanted her to know I was okay.

My Dad still reminds me how completely “pitiful,” as he has put it, she was that night. Understandable, for sure. I guess more than anything this ordeal would have been hard for anyone. But the fact that I was only eleven makes it just a bit, well a lot more, crazy when I look back on it. All this being said, I also think it was character building for me at its very finest.

Busing it to Orlando with the pilot!

I have an image in my mind that I’ll never forget, it’s of the male pilot who was supposed to escort me on the bus we took back to Fort Myers. We sat towards the back. I was not right next to him. He was in the very last row, in the middle seat where there are three or four seats across, next to the toilet. I was a couple rows up on the right of the bus, on the aisle. He had a pilot hat on and button down uniform just like you’d expect. I couldn’t believe after having wanted to be a pilot all those years growing up that I was on a bus with a pilot! I remember him closing his eyes in the dark and me sitting there in the dark just looking at him.

Here’s a few pictures from my arrival in Fort Myers, Florida:

Fort Myers Florida 1993

It was more typical for people to dress up on flights then. This was 1993. As you can see I’m in a dress. Grandma always loved that purse.

Fort Myers Florida 1993, Red Buick

Oh, yeah… I remember that red car they had with the white roof. I think it’s a Buick. You can see it in the background there. I have a pink scrunchie, as we called them, in my hair too.

1993 Cow pajamas

I remember my mom treating me to these new cow pajamas. Being from Wisconsin, I guess that makes sense I’d like them. Wisconsin is the dairy state after all, if you didn’t know. I also remember the reason my hand is behind my back is because I have some sort of retainer, or mouth guard as I believe we called it, in my hand. I didn’t want Grandpa to photograph it!

1993 Bedspread in Fort Myers, Florida

My Grandpa captured it all, including my Grandma turning down the sheets for me to sleep! Nice bedspread, right?

Well, there we have it. I’d love to write more about the rest of my trip because that’s really only the start of a ten day adventure I had with them. I think I’ll continue this story for my next post. There are just so many memories that I uncovered this time around. I can’t wait to share them with you here.


What’s the craziest trip mishap or detour you’ve ever had?
I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below.

 

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