Column: The Road Trip From Hell

Ever drive into a hurricane by accident? One of our writer’s 700-mile trek to dodge the storm and return home.


A sign for the Woodlake Villas leans damaged by the Hurricane. Some areas in the city received downed trees and power lines, while others faced little or no problems. Ryan Lynch | Business Manager

Ryan Lynch, Business Manager

Waking up to a call from FAU police isn’t usually a good thing. And waking up to a call from FAU police the night before one of the largest storms in American history hits is even worse.

“Hello Mr. Lynch,” the deputy said. “We noticed the window on your Kia Sorento was cracked open and it may be good for you to close it. There is a fair amount of rain in the forecast today.”

Shit, I thought as I sprinted to the back residential lot of IVA North. Looking for the neon bumper sticker on the back of my car, I finally get to it in the back lot to find … all the windows were closed. They mistook my black 2006 Spektra for another car and I had been too tired to recognize that they said, “Sorento.”

That was when I knew this would be a weird weekend.

Irma would be the first major hurricane I had experienced, as I grew up in New York and my only brushes with major weather were Matthew as a college junior and Sandy and Irene while in high school.

And there are a lot of things you come to realize before and after a hurricane hits.

You recognize how much we rely on gas and get familiar with the panic that sets in when your gas light comes on just as you roll into Tampa at 1 a.m.

You find that putting up metal hurricane shutters isn’t as tiresome as you’d heard because of the view from a roof and “at least it’s not as goddamn hot as Boca.”

You also realize that driving to Tampa puts you in the direct path of the hurricane and that you’ll have to get back in your car and drive across the state for a second time to family friends in the area.

Gas pumps are wrapped in plastic at a Sunoco station in Tampa. Most had that wrapping or plastic bags, which I called the “yellow plastic bags of death.” Ryan Lynch | Business Manager

And then there’s the feeling of isolation sitting in a chinese buffet in Kissimmee, wondering what the hell you’re doing in this part of the state as you chow down on lo mein. There’s the feeling of being utterly lost after a fight with your parent, trying to figure out if you have to move again because of the storm’s path.

But it’s not all bad. Nothing will beat the cake batter milkshake you devour after finally getting the hurricane shutters on the Tampa house, or the ice cold beer that was waiting for you in Orlando. On top of that, the beds you sleep in are miles comfier than the ones back in Boca.

The night of the storm, through the front window of the Orlando house. Irma howled and dropped some rain too, but did not damage the house too bad. Ryan Lynch | Business Manager

You won’t be scared, but you will fear for your friends and family’s safety. The fact that they can reach out to you despite the chaos makes things easier.

“I wouldn’t put a hooker through that,” Chelsea Handler said to Amy Schumer in her interview on the TV’s Youtube receiver the day before the storm hit in Orlando. But by that point I couldn’t tell if she was talking about her delusional father or the fact that the hurricane was coming.

Both seemed like valid answers.

My room in Orlando. The corner next to where I was standing had a bit of water damage, but otherwise the house only lost some roof shingles. Ryan Lynch | Business Manager

The storm beared down on Orlando on Sunday, bringing rain and wind the likes of which I’d never seen. Water then starts to come in under the door, prompting me to ask the stupid five-beers-in question, “Does this room get water often?”

You avoid major damage and end up trying to enjoy the next few days without electricity. From finally not having any excuses to avoid reading, to enjoying some of Orlando’s best eats and cafes, life after a hurricane is better than I expected.

The 700-mile drive wasn’t exactly easy, but without support from Tara and Jeff Miller as well as John Phillips and Mike Condello, I probably wouldn’t be able to write this. Hell, I’d probably be submerged somewhere past Federal Highway if it wasn’t for their hospitality and good company.

As I rolled back into Boca on Wednesday and parked my car, a sense of relief washed over me. I survived the storm and finally didn’t have to worry about not being able to get gas or any other problems that arise from a storm like this.

All in all, despite the distance and pains, I enjoyed this terrible, horrible, no good road trip.

With all that had happened, there was only one thing left to do. I closed my windows, and trudged back into the building.

Ryan Lynch is the business manager of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @RyanLynchwriter.