In January I was going to a fan convention in Jacksonville, Florida. I decided to drive there via two stops — Savannah, Georgia and Miami Beach, Florida. Coming from northern New Jersey, Day 1 — the day I traveled to Savannah — was going to be long — and it was! While New Jersey is not a big state by any stretch of the imagination it does take about two hours to drive from north to south. I won’t focus a lot on the travel to and from, but wanted to show a few places along the way as the road trip was significant. My last NJ stop was the Clara Barton rest stop on the NJ Turnpike — the NJ arm of Route 95.
Between New Jersey and Savannah, Georgia — 800 miles +
Okay — that’s a lot of driving and I was doing all the driving. But I was up for it. As I went to college in Washington, D.C. the trip was pretty routine to me so I didn’t think too much about it. I will say after this whole trip though, Washington D.C. is pretty close to New Jersey — 5 hours is practically the blink of an eye!
Anyone who has made the trip — and clearly there are a lot on the east coast — know it’s traditional highway driving — some tolls, some bridges and some tunnels. But the most interesting tunnel you take heading to D.C. is the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel because it means you’re close. I snapped a quick picture of the area surrounding the tunnel. Not particularly attractive but it’s the industrial section and frankly that means commerce and jobs so to me — not pretty but working and I like that. Clearly there is a lot more to Baltimore (not talking about the most recent riots) and having lived in D.C. during school I did go there periodically. Another trip for that though. Needless to say, the tunnel is kind of ‘fun.’ Note that when you go on a long trip like this — these kinds of distractions are extremely welcome so I suggest you take them as often as you can.
On to D.C.. It was a bit difficult to snap pictures through D.C. because I was on the highway, but was able to take a quick one of the Pentagon. Washington D.C. is another trip — but for those who have never seen the Pentagon — you can see it very clearly from the highway. it is right on the side of the highway, it’s absolutely huge — more than 6 million square feet of floor space and one of the largest office buildings in the world. I didn’t know this but construction on the Pentagon began on September 11, 1941. Needless to say that was an eventual date.
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Now on to Virginia and the Carolinas — the pretty sizable chunk of the trip. Washington D.C. marks about 5+ hours into the trip — which ultimately ended up taking about 14 hours. Need to realize you have to stop for breaks — bathroom, gas for the car, grabbing something to drink or eat and just walking a bit. There are a lot of rest stop along the way — both without restaurants and with. Only suggestion is to ensure there are a lot of cars if it’s later in day. I always prefer a busy rest stop than an empty one.
On the very positive side of this long stretch — no tolls and the speed limit had crept up from the NJ-Washington D.C. arm. For a long trip — this seems to make you feel like you’re making better time. I don’t know why.
The site most people see or look for when taking this trip is “South of the Border” — a hotel, motel, amusement, rest stop. You begin to see signs for it – probably about 100 miles before you reach it. Literally, probably 100 miles before. It’s a trip unto itself. I didn’t stop but perhaps next time. This may be the new stopping point on this kind of a trip. Everyone who has made this trip knows it — you absolutely can’t miss it.
As you travel these long distances you look forward to seeing the Visitor’s Centers and the state “Welcome” signs. You even begin to compare them and so far South Carolina was probably the nicest. It’s what you do on a long trip.
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Savannah in about 1.5 hours
Divided by Squares — The Jewels of the City.
I so wish I had more time in Savannah. What I saw of it was beautiful and I have a lot of photos to share. Challenge is that I really had only a little over an hour after driving in the night before — in the dark. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Savannah. For me, it was a great location as it was downtown — in a nice area — and the walk around it was great.
Savannah — downtown at least — has beautiful architecture, trolley cars and lanterns, beautiful trees, quaint cobblestone streets and a wonderful riverbank area. It’s divided into 22 squares. I think I probably only saw about 3 (including Franklin and Ellis) but very easy to get around just walking. The following are just some of the photos I’ve taken to provide a sense of the overall city and the feeling you get.
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The weather in January was absolutely fine — a little chilly as I think it was probably in the 40s or 50s — but my assumption is that it gets hot and humid so if you travel there, note the weather. But while I was there it was great. The River front was wonderful and quiet.
Also, a lot of construction which again I think is good as it means investment in the city. To get to the waterfront, you had to walk down to it (pretty good size “down”) so if you have trouble walking or need a wheelchair or walker, you would need to find a safe way to get down. Also, the cobblestone streets are beautiful but — as you can imagine — can be challenging. But again, it’s beautiful and I loved the bricks, the lanterns, the view — all absolutely lovely.
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Also saw a lot of antique stores — which I didn’t get a chance to visit but imagine they are terrific. Plus, several small gardens.
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On to Miami Beach, Florida — one long state
I really only had about 1.5 hours in Savannah and I’m very sorry about that. But off to Miami Beach. From Savannah to Miami Beach (actually I stayed in Coral Gables) is about 8 hours. Long, long drive particularly after the previous 14 hours. I don’t recommend two long drive days in a row if you’re the only driver. While the weather was fine and no issues — long drive and starts to wear you down.
Coral Gables — 1,320 miles — a blink of an eye before Miami Beach
I really only stayed overnight in Coral Gables at a motel called the Chateaubleau Hotel. They call it a hotel, it’s really an old motel with a pool and absolutely great air conditioning. And it’s in a residential area. It needs a lot of updating — but — I was looking for clean and safe. And I got that. Did I mention air conditioning — it was excellent as is often the case in older places. They also had a very nice Greek restaurant. I had the same meal I get at the local diner (coming from NJ there are diners all over). While the food was good – the diner by me is actually better. But, it was just overnight and I was off to Miami Beach to see my friend Dr. Sally Church. And that was so much fun!
What to say about Miami Beach. Well, it really is beautiful. And apparently I picked the right time to go because it wasn’t too hot or humid. And it was pretty quiet. I met Sally at Joe’s Stone Crab for breakfast. How many different ways can I saw wonderful? I had turkey bacon, eggs, toast and COFFEE. It was a great place. So fresh! From there, she and I walked to the beach and was one of the nicest mornings I’ve spent in a while.
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She lives near where the cruise ships come in — to see them all lined up is pretty fascinating. Saw several feral cats which are fairly well fed from the local restaurants. There was a couple of photo shoots going on, but we walked around for a while, just literally enjoying beautiful weather and watching the waves. Saw a man dragging some coconuts down a path followed by his dog who treated at least one of the coconuts as a ball. Came up to me once to see if I would play as well but the coconut rolled further down the hill and he was off.
Saw a lot of folks walking around the area, riding bikes, some riding golf carts. Was totally relaxing and enjoyable — but as was told to me — oftentimes the weather is hot and humid and I picked a particularly nice day. But it was absolutely beautiful.
Another thing I found interesting was the architect. If I were anywhere else I would say it looks old — retro 50s, but in Miami it definitely looks “Miami” and works. I guess it’s called a Miami architecture.
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Off to Jacksonville, Florida…and home
Well later that morning I took off to Jacksonville — took about 5 hours. Overall a nice day. To be fair, I saw very little of Jacksonville as I was at a convention and rarely went outside. It looked like nice weather but I really didn’t get to enjoy much of it. The one day I went out I was caught in a massive rain storm. Working in NYC I learned to walk close to buildings, walk in and out of buildings to keep as dry as possible if you don’t have a coat. I did get a little wet but I was pretty warm so it was okay. I was at the Hyatt Regency Riverside Jacksonville, A nice hotel and a parking garage was adjacent with a connection. So it was very easy to get in and out. And it was on the water so that in particular was nice.
I don’t have much to offer about Jacksonville — even though this was the main reason for the trip — as I didn’t get out. I will definitely try to do better next time. What I do know is that there are some challenging areas to Jacksonville and before I would encourage anyone to visit — would either like to see it again and/or ask for feedback from anyone who knows it better.
I took off on a Monday around 6:30 am from my hotel. Of course my car battery was dead — but the parking garage had a portable battery charger and it took only a few minutes before I was off. A few interesting things along the road — one was an odd car being towed — have no idea what it is. Also caught a glimpse of a car from Alaska.
I won’t bore you with the rest of the 16+ hour drive from Jacksonville Florida to Northern New Jersey, other than to say I walked in my door just shy of 11 pm. A very very long day. Now off to prepare for the next trip — Nashville, TN!!!!
Jacksonville Trip by the Numbers
I want to provide some statistics for those at all interested in these kinds of road adventures so here they are:
Total Distance: 2,620 miles
Total Tolls: $60.80. I paid tolls in NJ, Delaware, Maryland and Florida.
Maryland tolls: $16; Delaware tolls: $12; Florida tolls: $15.30; NJ tolls: $17.50. So my home state pretty much won in the toll arena even though it’s pretty much one of the smallest.
Gas: At least $170. I paid cash for some and didn’t keep a receipt but that’s about what I would guess.
What did I listen to: Pandora, ipod, local radio stations, books on audio tape
Wished: I could have more easily found the news stations. After a while, you just want to hear news. In some of these areas there was more religious broadcasting — but some had news so that was helpful. Also, in the Raleigh-Durham area — which has a significant research focus — there is a radio station focused on activities pertaining to the research