Cross Country Driver
Originally appearing in the Naples Daily News (February 2015)
Written by John Osborne
For the past 15 years, Rita and Jim Ronan of Shrewsbury, N.J. have migrated south to Marco Island and Naples around this time of year to escape the bitter chill of the winter months on the Eastern Seaboard.
Like so many others, the Ronans’ annual trek usually has meant navigating treacherous highway conditions and spending way more time on the road than is comfortable for anyone rolling on fewer than 18 wheels and not outfitted with a CB radio.
This year, however, the Ronans decided to ditch the drive and do what one suspects should come naturally to snowbirds:
They decided to fly.
“Avoiding the drive was one consideration, but another one was that we had been renting cars, and that’s expensive,” said Rita Ronan, who arrived with her husband at Southwest Florida International Airport on Feb. 15 to find their car waiting for them, courtesy of Mark Duda, owner of a New Jersey-based vehicle-transportation service called www.DriveCarToFlorida.com. “It’s just the perfect solution if you don’t want to drive and you want your own car in Florida.”
It works like this: for around $1,000, plus gas, tolls and other related expenses, Duda will drive your vehicle from the New York-New Jersey area to Florida. Or vice-versa. He’ll also guarantee a delivery time within 24 hours.
“That’s door-to-door, and the cost is the same no matter what I’m driving, whether it’s a compact car or an RV,” said Duda, who was inspired to start his business about five years ago after helping out some of his neighbors with a move. “I’ve taken U-Hauls towing vehicles, SUVs, minivans — just about anything you can imagine. Basically, if it’s drivable, I’m getting it there.”
With the assistance of four retired policeman, Duda said his service undertakes about 40 trips from the New York-New Jersey area to Florida and back again each year. The 43-year-old son of a retired truck driver said he personally does the driving on more than half of those.
“I don’t mind driving — I really don’t,” Duda said. “To tell you the truth, it doesn’t even feel like driving anymore. I’ve done so much of it that I’m numb to it now.”
Brian Conklin and his partner, Tom O’Toole, who have also used Duda’s service, weren’t numb in their feelings when relating their experience with www.DriveCarToFlorida.com.
“We used to live between New York City, the Hamptons and Fort Myers, although we relocated back east in October 2013,” Conklin said. “Once, we needed someone to drive our car back to New York City from Fort Myers because my partner is older and in poor health. The service from Mark was excellent, and we highly recommend him as efficient and trustworthy.”
That sort of glowing report is music to Duda’s ears, especially considering the clientele in that instance.
“For seniors, I really like that my service is convenient for them,” he said. “I recently drove a car for a 93-year-old man and his 87-year-old wife, who have been married for 60 years. The husband had gotten sick, so they called me and invited me into their home and we had a cup of coffee while talking things over. I was thrilled by it. It makes me feel great to make things easier for seniors.”
The Ronans said Duda also made things easier for them. In addition to avoiding the drive, Rita Ronan said another factor went into her family’s decision to engage Duda’s services.
“My husband owns his own business, so it’s better to not take two days driving if we can avoid it,” she said. “And Mark was very easy to deal with, very punctual in getting back to me whenever I had questions. He even gave us the choice to meet him at the airport or our home, so he’s been very accommodating the entire time.”
And when you love your job, it doesn’t really feel like work at all, Duda said.
“I just enjoy the drive,” he said. “I just enjoy the open road, because you never know what’s going to happen or what you’re going to see.”
For more information, call (888) 406-1985 or see www.DriveCarToFlorida.com.
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