May132014

Road tripping Highway 17 St. Augustine to Savannah, Georgia

Linear storytelling is not my style, but in this case of writing a description of my road trip from St. Augustine to Norfolk, Virginia there is logic in stepping back in time from digital imagery where any location in the story is instantly accessible. I’ll try and follow the linear roads of travel that took me south to north along the southeast Atlantic coast region.

Google Maps St Augustine

St. Augustine, Florida to Savannah Georgia is 180 miles on I-95.

This segment of my road trip took me south from Jacksonville to St. Augustine, Florida on I-95. My original plan was to drive along the Florida beaches into Georgia. That plan changed once I realized that a cloudless Sunday in the 90s meant one million other road trippers had the same idea.

A1A St Augustine

A1A and bridge traffic from old town St. Augustine to the beaches.

Sitting in traffic was not my desire, so I headed inland.

My new plan was to drive along the St. Johns River on U.S. Route 17, an indirect alternative road to I-95 in northern Florida. The interstate highway I-95 could have taken me 180 miles from St. Augustine to Savannah in less than three hours. I spent about six hours making a slower drive on Route 17 and other back roads in Florida and Georgia. The towns and people along the way are what made this journey an adventure and that made all the difference.

And I ain’t got no worries
‘Cause I ain’t in no hurry at all

Doobie Brothers – Black Water (YouTube)

One of the features of driving a rental car through the south was finding a large number of Classic Rock radio stations along the way. Jacksonville’s The Eagle 96.9 carried me most of the first day to Savannah. I was surprised to hear The Eagle radio station several days later when driving the Outer Banks of North Carolina about 500 miles farther north.

This is no lie. I heard the Doobie Brothers Black Water every single day of my road trip in every state from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. That is one popular song in the south. The song is about the Mississippi River. The Doobie Brothers band started their career playing clubs around my area of northern California in the early 70s.

St Johns River-1

From US Route 1 in St. Augustine, I drove west on rural roads 16 to 13 to U.S. Route 17. About 30 minutes after leaving St. Augustine the image of green trees reflecting off the water from a bridge called me off the road to get next to the water’s edge.

Trout Creek was the first occurrence of talking with fishermen along the road. With the exception of some Latinos fishing on the St. Johns River and one white guy fishing with several black guys near St. Simons Island in Georgia, all the fishermen I encountered on the docks along my trip in the south were black men, from young guys in their teens and twenties to old retired men.

Trout Creek Florida

Heading into the forest waterway by small boat at Trout Creek, Florida.

The fisherman I met at Trout Creek was a Californian who went to college in Miami and stayed in Florida building condominiums. He looked the size of a linebacker.

He suggested I stop a few miles down the road before crossing the bridge into Clay County for scenic views of the St. Johns River.

St Johns River

St. Johns River, Florida is the same river that runs through Jacksonville. At this point Shands bridge crosses the St. Johns River. I read an article from the year 2000 about another bridge project to cross the mile wide length of the St. Johns River between Clay and St, Johns County and relieve traffic congestion, however, there was opposition to bringing traffic on route 13 in St. Johns where the two-lane road is covered by a canopy of centuries old live oaks. I see from Google maps that bridge was never built.

route 16 Shands Bridge

Fishing St. Johns River at the foot of Shands Bridge on Route 16 in St. Johns County, Florida. Looking north, the St. Johns River is a mile wide and no bridge in sight. Interstate 295 bridges the St. Johns about 12 miles or so to the north at Plummers Cove.

About a dozen men and women were fishing at this spot and during the five minutes I was there, several fish were pulled out of the river. A great egret flew by over the tree tops.

Metropolitan Jacksonville was an obstacle of three million residents to cross through and I did hop on the interstate to get through the city.

After less than 24 hours in Florida I was on U.S. Route 17 crossing into Georgia. And that is when I really felt the road trip adventure through the south begin for me as just me and my car were traveling the back roads.

Georgia State Line

Florida-Georgia State Line at St. Marys River on US Route 17.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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