This is the second part of a two-part series. The first part can be read here.
After a good night’s sleep at the Howard Johnson’s in Tallahassee, we took off at about 9:30 in the morning.
For many miles the scenery along remained much the same as before Tallahassee, rolling and mostly wooded.
Before coming into Pensacola, we crossed the Escambia Bay Bridge, which became known for its structural damage during Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Storm surge dislodged numerous pieces of deck from the bridge. The new, current bridge opened to traffic in 2007.
The City of Pensacola is in the western Florida panhandle, not far from the Alabama border. Pensacola is known as “The City of Five Flags,” as it has been ruled by five different nations in its history.
Pensacola was first settled in the year 1559.
A strong, longtime Navy town, Pensacola is the home to Naval Air Station Pensacola, known as the Cradle of Naval Aviation.
Entering the State of Alabama
Not long after leaving Pensacola, we drove over the Alabama state line and into the Baldwin Welcome Center.
Just up the road is the City of Mobile. The scenery was mostly flat along the Gulf coast area of Alabama.
Before coming into Mobile, we crossed a long bridge covering Mobile Bay, some tributaries, and even an interchange with US Highway 98 completely over water.
After the long bridge and a short trip through the area of the Port of Mobile, we entered the George Wallace Tunnel. After the half-mile of darkness, we emerged back into the light, and in the middle of downtown Mobile.
The City of Mobile is Alabama’s oldest, as well as Alabama’s 3rd most populated. It was founded in 1702 by French colonists.
After a few more miles on Interstate 10, and a short jog north on Interstate 65, we exited on westbound US Highway 98 in the west side of Mobile.
Onward on US 98
We ended up on 98 in an industrial part of the city, the roads being of poor quality.
Eventually we left Mobile and its surrounding communities and ended up in the countryside. The landscape was somewhat like northern Florida with its rolling hills and pine trees.
Just 15 miles northwest of Mobile is the city of Semmes. Long an unincorporated community in Mobile County, it became an incorporated city in 2010.
The Rest of Alabama
The remaining 12 miles of Alabama is a very rural stretch with monotonous scenery.
The town of Wilmer was the only area of civilization for the rest of Alabama.
The state line between Alabama and the next state, Mississippi, is at the crossing of the Escatawpa River.
US Highway 98 continues a rural feel with very little in the way of business or residential. The road appeared to be fairly recently built, avoiding most towns by a mile or two, and limited access overpasses and ramps at major roads.
The first city along this route is Lucedale, which sits almost two miles to the south of Highway 98.
Before reaching the outskirts of the towns of McLain and Beaumont, Highway 98 crosses the Leaf and Chickasawhay rivers.
The first town in Mississippi that Highway 98 passes directly through is New Augusta.
Soon after New Augusta is a large interchange with US Highway 49.
Just a few miles north of the interchange we began to enter the city of Hattiesburg.
Hattiesburg, aka H-Burg
Back Along The Road
Leaving Hattiesburg, the landscape becomes more of typical southern Mississippi.
Due to a lack of interstate highways in the area, US Highways were simply streamlined around towns for the benefit of truck drivers.
Florence is a slightly larger town of about 4,000 people, and hosts a series of gas stations and restaurants right on Highway 49.
Additionally, Richland is a town just seven miles to the north, with more amenities.
With a population of about 170,000, Jackson is Mississippi’s largest city. The namesake of the city is Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States.
The Rest of Mississippi and The Mighty Mississippi
Interstate 20 was a pretty uneventful drive leaving Jackson and for the next 50 miles to Vicksburg.
After Vicksburg we crossed the muddy waters of the Mighty Mississippi River
Louisiana was the land of nothingness throughout the entire delta region of the state. Miles and miles of endless low-lying crops. Despite the boring scenery, the nutrient-rich soil produces a number of crops such as corn and sugarcane.
Ready for dinner and with daylight starting to get short, we stopped at a Sonic Drive-In in Delhi. There was only one way in and one way out, which made usage of the drive-thru interesting to say the least.
The first fairly good-sized town we drove through was Monroe.
It was Friday night, and practically every station on the radio broadcast high school football.
Shreveport and Bossier City
When driving through Shreveport, we were met with a ton of bright lights, casinos, and other attractions. I’d never realized that Shreveport is a pretty significant casino town. Harrah’s is Shreveport’s tenth largest employer with over 1,800 employees including a casino and a horse track in Bossier City, just across the Red River.
Shreveport is Louisiana’s third largest city, with a population of nearly 195,000 people.
With Shreveport being in the northwestern corner of Louisiana, it wasn’t long before crossing into Texas.
The final state along the journey to Dallas was the State of Texas.
The scenery in Texas became more open with fewer trees, but with plenty of rolling hills.
Marshall, Longview, and Tyler were the first three towns that were near Interstate 20. There’s not a lot to see other than the usual fast food places, gas stations, and motels. The interstate passes 5-7 miles either south or north of the town centers.
It was also our first time visiting a Buc-ee’s store! Think of Buc-ee’s as a travel stop where you can get just about anything, can get a fantastic brisket sandwich, and use an ultra clean restroom.
Coming into Dallas–And a Detour
Our route was to originally come through downtown Dallas into the suburb of Irving where we’d be staying for the next few nights.
We ended up on Interstate 635, following the advice of Google Maps. This was due to an accident somewhere near downtown Dallas which would have taken more time to sit in than to just drive around.
I was just following the GPS somewhat blindly until I realized we were in the Galleria area of north Dallas. I knew then we were in the suburbs and that we’d not be going through downtown Dallas.
Oh well. We’d been on the road for 14 hours, and all I wanted to go was get to the hotel. The quicker, the merrier. We eventually arrived at our hotel, a (Days Inn) near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Irving.
How about the room?
First of all, the clerk had charged the card we put on file about 15 minutes before our arrival. We had wanted to use a newer card for the actual room. We made the reservation a month prior.
Parking was a pain as well. The hotel charges non-hotel guests a (too) low daily rate to park at the hotel and take a bus over to the airport, which puts a very heavy strain on parking for actual hotel guests.
The room was nice and the decor was fairly new. The vaulted ceilings on our top floor room were an interesting feature.
The continental breakfast was decent. A Texas-shaped waffle was the highlight. The coffee was bad, to the point where we walked to an adjacent Valero store for coffee.
Well, what about Dallas
That will be coming up in our next article. Our two big attractions, along with some other observations. Stay tuned!