Road Warriors

Cartoon from MacGregor collection.

I live in a rural area just north of a small city in northwest Florida, nestled along the white-sand beaches of The Emerald Coast.  Our area has two locations—in town, and on the beach.  In order to go from town to the beach (or vice versa), there’s a bridge to cross. 

I have to chuckle when folks complain about having to go from one location to the other. 

“You mean it’s across the bridge?” 

“Yes.” 

“Oh, no.  I don’t go across the bridge.” 

I guess we get used to our little routines and well-traveled routes.  But sometimes I think it’s good to venture beyond our normal day-to-day boundaries. 

Case in point, a friend of mine in a local volunteer organization we’re both involved with recently was invited to speak about our mentoring program, down in a southeast Florida booming metropolis.  She wanted me to come along for moral support, but only one flight would be paid for…hers.  So I figured it would cost the south Florida folks the same if we both just drove down…all 500 miles down. 

Five hundred miles?  Piece of cake.  That’s only ten hours, and I’m usually good for a 12-hour day of driving.  With an early start, we could be there in the evening, with time to enjoy the hotel. 

In a perfect world…right?  We were cruising down the interstate, more than half-way to our destination, when traffic came to a halting stop.  We turned the radio on and scanned for some news. 

“…an accident on the interstate, up around 200, so you may want to avoid that.  Extended delays are expected in both northbound and southbound lanes…” 

Time for a silent prayer…and a good audiobook.  We inched along for an hour and a half.  With traffic, gas, and meal stops, we finally arrived at the hotel after 12 or 13 hours. 

A good friend sure helps the time fly, however.  Wasn’t bad at all. 

The speaking engagements went all right, and in three days it was time to return home.  We took another route, and got to see Lake Okeechobee…and the lovebugs.  They came in droves, splattering against the windshield to the sound of a driving rain.  It was a mass slaughter. 

“I wonder how much of a dent we’re making in their population.” 

We got a close-up look at a pair of lovebugs coupling on the windshield. 

“Get a room!  At the rate they’re going at it, I don’t think we’re making any difference in their population or demise at all.” 

I never heard of lovebugs till I moved to Florida back in the 80’s.  As with all things little understood, they’ve been great fodder for urban legends.  The story goes that scientists imported the bugs to control mosquitoes, but they had no natural enemies here, and soon got out of control.

Scientists?  Experiment gone wrong?  Trying to mess with Mother Nature again, eh?  

It seems like these kinds of stories are so readily believed, probably because of our primordial need to have an explanation for everything.  And if it involves scientists messing with Mother Nature, it’s all the more believable.

It turns out these pesky little flies with black wings and red thoraxes were discovered in Louisiana back in the 1920’s.  Since then, they’ve moved eastward, invading us with their shamelessly open, in-flight promiscuity twice a year, around May and September. 

Surprisingly, lovebugs play a beneficial role in helping plants grow.  Their larvae feed on plant material, converting it into organic matter.  

But that’s no comfort to all the road warrior motorists out there.  If left on your car for more than a day or so, the fatty tissue from the dead, splattered bodies of these little guys will eat away at your car’s finish like acid.  They’ll also clog up your radiator and make your car overheat. 

As soon as we got far enough north where the lovebugs hadn’t yet invaded, we pulled into a car wash.  Five dollars to wash the car, and five dollars to wash off the bugs…plus a tip, which the bug washer guy definitely earned.  At the beginning of the wash, he sprayed the front surfaces of the car with soap, let it soak, then scrubbed all the dead bodies with a brush.  After that, he got the power washer and blasted the windshield clean.  We could actually see through it again! 

The University of Florida EDIS web site (Electronic Data Information Source) says that motorists can ease the chore of removing lovebugs by keeping their cars waxed.  Some folks even spread a thin film of baby oil over all the front surfaces of their cars when the bugs are really thick. 

The site also offers a solution for motorists, to lessen the problems lovebugs cause motorists.  Drive at night, since lovebugs only fly (while “doing it”) during daylight hours, above 68 degrees.  

Gee, thanks for the tip.  Sounds like a scientific solution.  Now if we can only get businesses to operate during the nighttime hours in May and September in Florida. 

Other than the traffic pile-up and the lovebugs, our road-warrior trip went without a hitch.  Nothing a good audiobook and a few bags of sunflower seeds couldn’t handle.  

I can hear my dentist now.  

Have you been chewing on rocks? 

Peace, and love at high speed, from the lovebugs.

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6 Responses to “Road Warriors”

  1. Tony Says:

    I don’t care what good things the lovebugs pay the “experts” to say about them LOL They number in the trillions every May and September. They clearly assume we like being inconvenienced by having to drive at night. Off with their heads I say!
    Great travel story by the way, Judy 🙂

  2. Robyn Says:

    Ditto! Off with their heads! Nasty pests and once again, Southerns come up with a pretty name for something icky! Next they will think of a lovey-dovey name for gators.

  3. Margaret Tidmore Says:

    What an exciting trip we had together. The meetings with very important people from around the state focusing on children’s issues was informative and exciting. I was so pleased to meet the immigrants and their families from Haiti. They were very friendly and kind people who appeared to be very dedicated to their children and their education. Meeting other Floridians in the Palm Beach area, enjoying the parks, beach, and the wonderful food in various restaurants was a nice experience. However, I have never seen so many love bugs! They were a real problem, but Judy and the car wash took care of that!
    Not only is Judy a very good chauffeur and navigator, but a very nice and fun friend to travel with.

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