Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Road Tripping to Georgia

The winters in Vermont are harsh. Not only are they very cold, windy and full of snow, but they are dark. The days are short and cloudy. Other than the Great Northwest, the Champlain Valley area where I live, is the most cloudy area in the United States. Because of this, I try to get away each year to some place sunny and warm. Last year we visited Hawaii, but I can't always afford such a large trip. I also like to drive during these vacations so that I can take my dogs. The Georgia coast is one of our favorite destinations, it is usually warm but lacks the traffic, attitude and general craziness of Florida. It is also very dog friendly. My dogs are geriatric now so I don't like to leave them with a sitter.

The route we take from our home in Vermont is not a direct one. Some huge cities stand between us and Tybee Island. We have found a great route that avoids New York City, all of New Jersey and Philadelphia. It may add a couple hours to the trip, but considering the congestion in these areas, maybe not. Also, when we stop half way, the lodging is much cheaper in Hazelton Pennsylvania than anywhere off the Jersey Pike. This year's trip was similar to others. It takes a long time to get to the New York interstates from our home because not only are there no east/west interstates in northern New England but there is a huge lake, Champlain, in our way. We like to take the ferry over the lake but in February or March, the lake is frozen so this is not an option. We have to take a bridge which is a longer drive and not as fun. It takes about three hours of small highways to get to interstate 87.  For this, good weather is essential because about half of this is driving through the Adirondack Mountains. It is lovely but treacherous in bad weather.

New York: We take 87 south to the Albany area where we connect with Interstate 90 for about eight miles to Interstate 88 southwest down to Binghamton which is near the Pennsylvania border. NY interstates are usually fairly bumpy, one lanes always rumbles more than another. This year it was worse than ever. I am guessing there are some fiscal problems in NY State because we noticed a lot of other problems with the Interstate. The reflectors on the road signs weren't there half the time making them difficult to read in the evening. Also, most of the rest rooms at the rest areas were closed. I think we noticed one rest area that had working rest rooms. On 87, I couldn't wait, so I went behind one of the buildings (one of the advantages of being male). Apparently, I wasn't alone because it smelled of urine and I noticed a small amount of toilet paper on the ground as well.  This was gross and unsanitary. Traveling through NY state is usually much more pleasant.

Pennsylvania: At Binghamton NY, we changed to Interstate 81 and headed southeast shortly crossing the PA border north of Scranton. On 81, in between Wilkes-Barre and the state capital Harrisburg, we found a dog friendly Best Western motel that had reasonable rates. We stayed there on both legs of our trip. In Harrisburg, we headed south through York into Maryland. My complaint about PA is always the same. The amount of billboards in this state is atrocious. I have a headache after driving through it.  Perhaps my perception is jilted by the fact that I live in a state without billboards. It is too bad because this is a beautiful state. They don't show it off opting to cover it in advertising. Usually,  I can't wait to get out of there. This trip was no exception.

Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina: These states do seem to have their act together, at least when it comes to their interstates. Other than the traffic on the beltway around DC, it would be flawless. I don't know how people live with this kind of traffic. On the way home it was around 6pm on a Saturday, bumper to bumper traffic ... no accident causing it, no bad weather, just too many people on the road. If you don't think there are too many people on this planet, take a drive through a major city on a Saturday night some day. You might change your mind. I can understand traffic jams during rush hour on a weekday, but Saturdays! That shouldn't be happening. We need to find a route around DC that doesn't involve the beltway. After the beltway, we took Interstate 95 south for several hours.

South Carolina: Like NC, SC is gorgeous. That is until you get off the Interstate. Our route took us to one of the last exits on 95. The litter in rural SC is horrendous. The gutters along the roads are like mini-land fills. I don't think I have ever seen litter like this in a rural area before. My experience is not good in SC. I spent a week in Myrtle Beach once which I didn't like at all. Conservation doesn't seem to be a thing in SC. Every mile or so of Myrtle Beach was a new mini-golf cluttered near t-shirt shops and crap stores. They even charged a dollar to walk on the boardwalk. The problem with the litter seemed to go away once we crossed the line into Georgia which is near a fairly large city, Savannah. So you would expect the litter to be worse there but this is not so. SC won't be getting any more of my tourist dollars if I can help it.

Georgia: We stayed on Tybee Island which is a short drive from Savannah. It used to be named Savannah Beach which is what it actually is. There is not much on the island other than a bunch of homes, a few restaurants and three beaches. It is a lovely place. Unfortunately, we had only a day and half of good weather. It was sunny Sunday and the morning of Monday with 70 degree F until the rain came. Then the temperature dropped into the 40's. It was still about 30 degrees warmer than home but it still wasn't pleasant. We rented a home from the Homeaway web site.  The owner, Mark, has five bulldogs so he lets vacationers take their dogs. This place was perfect for us. It was a short walk to the beach and to a great breakfast place, the Breakfast Club, that is owned by Cubs fans. We ate there three times playing cribbage and tanking up on a lot of coffee. What is nice about renting the home, rather than a room, is that it comes with a kitchen with everything you would need to cook. We shopped at Whole Foods and stocked the kitchen for the week. This kept financing of our vacation down.

Savannah is a lovely city. Due to the bad weather, we spent more time in the city than we had planned. We did several walking tours around town. We did some shopping, took in a movie and visited some historic sites. The Spanish moss working in tandem with the Southern architecture makes for a gorgeous walk. People are friendly and very accepting of dogs. You see dog bowls on the sidewalks in front of businesses and you are allowed to bring your dog into many of them. This is why we pick Georgia when we go south. I was in a personal quandary about visiting Georgia this year because of the anti-gay discrimination bill that they were considering. Luckily they came to their senses and have tabled the bill so we didn't have to reschedule our visit. I am not gay. I just don't want to support anywhere that discriminates against their citizens ... particularly if they do so for religious reasons.

Obviously we would have preferred good weather. Here are two surprises that we found that we enjoyed very much that we may not have discovered if not for the rain:

The Wormsloe Historic Site was a surprise. We were just looking for a nice place to walk during a cold and breezy day with a drizzle. The appeal of this walk were the oaks creating a blanket over the walkway which would be good cover on a rainy day. It is only eight miles outside of Savannah on the Isle of Hope.
It is an historic site of the second settlement in Georgia. It was the home of Noble Jones, who like Roger Williams, left the original settlement in bad terms. I plan to blog about him in the future. The grounds have the ruins of the original house's foundation as well as replicas of some of the original buildings. It is a nice spot to spend an afternoon.

The other pleasant surprise was the StopOver Music Festival in Savannah. The reason why it is called Stopover is because a lot of musicians stop in Savannah on their way to the more famous and larger South By Southwest Festival (aka SXSW) in Austin, TX. Savannah is at the intersection of Interstate 16 (that leads to Atlanta and connects with 20 West into Texas) and Interstate 95 (which leads down the entire east coast). It makes for a good stopover for any band on the east coast heading to Austin. While SXSW is 27 years old and isn't just for emerging artists anymore, Stopover is only four years old and has only lesser known artists.

We went Thursday night, the first band we saw was called Good Graeff and they were my favorite of the night. They are fronted by twins sisters from Sarasota FL, one on guitar and vocals, the other on cello and vocals. I've had never seen the cello rock before. I bought a CD and I am listening right now. I love it.

After them came, St. Paul and the Broken Bones from Birmingham, AL. They could really rock and the lead singer was quite a performer, but not quite as soulful as he seemed to think he was. He reminded me more of a Southern preacher than a rock and roll singer.
We walked across town to another venue and caught The Silver Palms. These guys are so young, I couldn't believe they were allowed in a bar. They hail from Camden, GA, but sounded like a New York band. They had a Velvet Underground or Feelies sound which I enjoyed very much.

Last up, before this old guy needed to get back to bed, was The Black Cadillacs, a damn good garage band from Knoxville TN. These guys were tight and they could jam.

We ended up leaving Georgia a day early. The weather report wasn't good for Friday but Saturday was beautiful, so we drove on the bad weather day. We visited Charlottesville VA to see Thomas Jefferson's Monticello which is again, a subject for another blog post because this one is getting too long.

We made it home on Sunday in time to see Cosmos.

1 comment:

Olga said...

Someday i will share with you Mike's travel route that will get you to Savannah but will avoid Washington, Richmond, and a great deal of I95.
Sounds like a crazy winter weather-wise all over--except here in Florida.