Snowbird checklist: Stop by a AAA office before migration

Generally, Snowbirds returning from the Southeast wind up making their way north along two flyways—Rte. 95 or Rte. 81.

ON THE GO: Theresa Perez, manager of AAA’s Naples, FL, branch, is busy sending Snowbirds on their journey north with a full array of travel aides.
ON THE GO: Theresa Perez, manager of AAA’s Naples, FL, branch, is busy sending Snowbirds on their journey north with a full array of travel aides. –Bill Griffith

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Migratory birds instinctively know their way to and from their summer and winter habitats. The same goes for our local species, the North American Snowbird, which currently is making its journey north.

Generally, Snowbirds returning from the Southeast wind up making their way north along two flyways—Rte. 95 or Rte. 81—routes they’ve traveled so often that they have regular places to stop for the night without need for maps.

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A GPS and maybe a smartphone traffic app such as Waze usually are all they need.

After all, south to north is pretty much a straight shot.

If you pick Rte. 95, the Eastern route, you face traffic at the big cities along the way. Go inland and take Rte. 81 and you deal with a few extra miles, more truck traffic, and two-lane roads.

Sometimes though, folks get the urge to spend some time on the road and see part of the country.

Such was the case with us this year.

We headed first for Gainesville, GA, to attend a Bethel Music worship night, then drove to Nashville (via a stop at Lookout Mountain) to attend the Grand Ole Opry Saturday night radio show.

We next visited the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY, and stayed the night in Georgetown, KY, where former Globe journalists Michael Blowen and Diane White have founded and run Old Friends Farm, a 136-acre thoroughbred racehorse retirement home.

I’m sure our navigation system would have gotten us from point to point, but before we set out I wanted a map to have as a backup.

Then a friend said, “Why not swing by AAA and get a map? You ARE a member, aren’t you?”

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Certainly, continuously since 1979.

So we stopped at the front desk of the AAA office in Naples, FL.

The receptionist started to hand us maps, then said, “Why not let one of our advisors map out your route with you?”

So we did. In a world of Google Maps, TripAdvisor, and navigation systems, we’d forgotten a basic resource: AAA maps, road atlas, TripTik, ratings, and tour books.

We sat down with Robin Goldie, who coincidentally was sitting next to Robyn Randolph. Neither plans to migrate north but “Robyn will be driving the Blue Ridge Parkway,” says Theresa Perez, who has managed the Naples AAA branch for 31 years. “We pay them to go.”

“The first thing we have to do is get you around Atlanta,” Robin said. “I’m sure you heard about the fire that’s buckled I-85. But now a second interstate (I-20) is closed.”

So she did. One stop rolled into another, including a tour of Toyota’s largest manufacturing plant (also in Georgetown, KY); then to West Virginia’s Cass Mountain, the Grand Canyon of the East (Pennsylvania version); the Corning Glass Museum in Corning, NY; and finally the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

When done, Robin printed out our TripTik, AAA’s signature page-by-page individual travel itinerary.

Before leaving, Mrs. G. and I browsed some of AAA’s available merchandise, leaving with a neat spring-loaded clip that allowed us to mount a smartphone to our vehicle’s air vents. We were also tempted by Bluetooth chips you can use to quickly locate often-misplaced items like keys, phones, pocketbooks, and backpacks.

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We also spotted a battery tender, international chargers, a combination flashlight and device recharger, a small luggage scale to help avoid overweight bag charges, travel pillows, pill containers, a cupholder organizer, waterproof ponchos, a pop-up travel trash bin, backseat clothes-hanging pole, seatbelt pads, baggage bungees, and a seatback organizer that swings around the seat.

There have been times when we’ve needed each of them.

“We are a full-service travel store,” says Perez, “with approximately 25 employees who aided more than 3,000 people in the first three months of this year.”

And that’s how we almost missed the first—and perhaps most important—stop on our trip North: AAA.

Bill Griffith can be reached at wgriff@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrAutoWriter.