Roadtrippin’ — Day One

In a six-part series, Take The Highway takes to the highway on a six day roadtrip through the southeast, mid-Atlantic, and northeastern United States.

After taking care of a few errands, dotting an I here and crossing a T there, we set off mid-morning on this adventure.

We headed up Interstate 75, and its on-again, off-again construction from Tampa’s northern suburbs to Sumter County.

We left Tampa with about a third of a tank of gas.  Our first gas stop was in Belleview, Florida.  The Pilot truck stop off of Exit No. 341 was by far the cheapest gas around.  As expected by that, open pumps were hard to come by.

Our normal route to Jacksonville consists of existing Interstate 75 onto State Road 326.  Due to a traffic jam on the off-ramp, I made the executive decision to go up one more exit to cut over to US Highway 301.

The next exit, County Road 318, passes the Ocala Jai-Alai fronton before crossing US 441, then US 301 in the town of Citra.  Citra, being home of the popular Orange Shop, is the northernmost point in Florida where Citrus grows.

301 to Jacksonville

The 64 mile route from Citra to Interstate 10 is four lanes in its entirety.  It has become more travel-friendly in recent years with modern full-service truck stops in the cities of Waldo and Hawthorne.

The City of Waldo, located in Alachua County, was a notorious speed trap.  Its police department was since shut down and taken over by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.

Famed speed trap, Waldo. #roadtrip #travel

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We noticed a lot of construction just north and just south of the City of Starke.  Turns out a bypass is being built around the west side of town.  Bad news for Starke businesses, but good news for travelers wishing to avoid the constant congestion of downtown Starke.

Jacksonville

The temperatures were heating up as we approached northeastern Florida, getting into the mid-90s.

The fire danger levels are still elevated in this part of the state, with a long period of little to no rain.

Parts of Interstate 295, the bypass around northwest Jacksonville, were rather smoky.

Hazy/smoky in Jacksonville today. #nofilter #roadtrip

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Georgia on my Mind

Once on Interstate 95 headed north, we were soon greeted at the Florida-Georgia state line.

We stopped at the Georgia welcome station and signed the visitor’s log and walked around in the furnace-hot heat, which was nearing 100° with the strong west wind.

As hot as it was, we did have an advantage in that we were upwind of the paper mills in Brunswick!

South Carolina

Our first stop was at the South Carolina Welcome Center in Hardeeville.  This one was much nicer than Georgia’s.  It had a more modern feel with charging stations for smartphones and tablets.  Counters and tables throughout both served as work stations.  The visitor’s log consisted of a kiosk with a tablet, rather than old-fashioned pen and paper.

Sign-in kiosk at South Carolina Welcome Center in Hardeeville, SC.
Main entry vestibule.

Taking off from Hardeeville, we advanced northbound through more South Carolina low country, and along mostly four-lane interstate highway.

The typical view along South Carolina’s I-95.

Many of the medians contain trees.  I noticed the trees are way closer to the inside lane than the outside lane.

We stopped for the night in Florence, South Carolina, and arrived with about two hours of daylight left.  Part of the fun of traveling is getting a great bang-for-the-buck on a hotel room.

We stayed at the Days Inn of Florence on the northwest side of town.  The hotel was clean, fairly modern, beds were comfy, and the people were friendly and efficient.  Most of the fellow guests were construction workers at a nearby project, but they were quiet, and they were long gone by 7:00 AM.

For Shoney’s fans, there is a Shoney’s next to the Days Inn of Florence.  We stopped by for dinner, and it was breakfast night on the buffet.  Shoney’s can be hit-or-miss, depending on location, but this location was fantastic.  Fresh food was swiftly brought out to the buffet.

All in all, a good first day of travel, with only one slowdown in traffic.

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