One week ago I took off from Orlando, Florida on a six day ‘Drive out of Florida’ one way car rental at $11.00 per day all-in from Costco. I covered just over 1,100 miles by the time I turned in the rental car at Knoxville TYS Airport on Tuesday afternoon. Over the next few weeks I will post stories about many of the places I visited in what was mostly an #OutdoorsUSA solo adventure.
My route hugged the Atlantic coast for three days. From Orlando I drove to Daytona Beach, Florida where I learned about the history of auto racing and discovered a famed biker destination.
Staying at a Best Western Hotel in Brunswick, Georgia provided proximity to Jekyll Island, one of Georgia’s Golden Isles and a century ago, one of the most exclusive island country clubs in the USA with members like J.P. Morgan. Today, Jekyll Island is a Georgia State Park open to the public for a $6 island entry fee. The island park offers bicycle paths and beaches, boat tours and wildlife, historical museums, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and the historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel. A new Westin Hotel opened this year and a Holiday Inn Resort and Quality Inn on the beach side of the island offer lower priced lodging. This public park still retains somewhat of a country club island feel.
In Savannah, Georgia I attended a riverfront blues festival and I was invited to stay at the DeSoto Beach Hotel on Tybee Island, Georgia, the beach island for Savannah area residents and tourists. That was a free night arranged by VisitTybee. The island was a family oriented place of friendly people, and also where I met Frank, a local man who rides around on his bicycle each day feeding about 30 feral island cats around the Tybee Lighthouse.
Driving across the Savannah River and inland across the South Carolina lowlands included a stop for a hike in Congaree National Park, outside Columbia. This forest area was owned by a timber company until an environmental conservation movement in the 1970s established a park to save the largest remaining tract of eastern floodplain swampland forest. Congaree National Park holds the largest trees in the eastern USA and many of the largest trees in the world for several species. These wetlands are popular for canoe and kayak wilderness excursions.
Into the highlands of the Appalachian foothills of Asheville, North Carolina revealed one of the most vibrant art scenes in the USA. With creativity and free-spirit comes bohemians and vagabonds, making Asheville the kind of town where a visitor never knows what to expect. A day at Asheville’s Biltmore Estate, the largest private residence in the USA with over 250 rooms, is a landmark of America’s Gilded Age, a name coined by Mark Twain to describe an era when men with massive fortunes acquired immense tracts of land and lived like royalty, while the masses suffered from generally poor social living conditions. Biltmore Estate was also a press pass, admission free experience.
The highlight of my road trip was driving west from Asheville, North Carolina through Transylvania County, land of waterfalls, then along the mountain tops of the Blue Ridge Parkway and into Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. Waterfalls, raptors and scenic vistas of mountains beyond mountains through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains National Park revealed the largest area of undeveloped land east of the Mississippi River with old growth forest that has existed for centuries.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, western gateway for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is where I was invited to stay with a complimentary hotel night at the Park Vista, DoubleTree and a Hatfield and McCoys dinner show experience in Pigeon Forge. There is no lack of entertainment activities in the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area with dinner shows, attractions and theme parks reminiscent of a trip to Orlando or Anaheim with a bit of Las Vegas too. Gatlinburg borders Great Smoky Mountains National Park and wilderness hiking is only minutes from this small town with big tourist attractions.
Over the next couple of weeks I will post stories describing in detail many of these southeastern USA locations. Several of the places I visited only for an hour or two can be all-day or all-week vacation destinations.
Here is an outline of destination articles I plan to write and hopefully complete over the next few weeks before my July trip to Europe. And these do not even include several articles about Orlando hotels and theme parks I visited the week before my road trip. Altogether, there will probably be around 25 articles for these southeastern USA locations.
Loyalty Traveler Road Trip Orlando to Knoxville June 4-9, 2015
- Daytona Beach, Florida – Babes, Bikes and Speed at Daytona Beach
- Jekyll Island, Georgia from historic country club to State Park (this article was accidentally published when I had only described the Jekyll Island Causeway. Rather than delete it, I left it posted and the story of the transformation of Jekyll Island from historic country club to Georgia State park continues in the post below.
- Jekyll Island, Georgia History and Jekyll Island Club Hotel
- Best Western paid me $11 for my Georgia hotel night
- Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Jekyll Island, Georgia
- Westin Jekyll Island, Holiday Inn Resort and Quality Inn Jekyll Island
- Savannah, Georgia Historic Downtown and Riverfront
- The Brice, Savannah, a Kimpton Hotel
- Tybee Island, Georgia beach and lighthouse
- Fort Pulaski National Monument and Civil War history in Savannah region
- Congaree National Park, South Carolina
- Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
- Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina
- The Inn at Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina
- Asheville Vibrant Craft Beer Scene
- Waterfalls trails in DuPont State Forest, North Carolina
- Brevard, North Carolina – white squirrels and Pisgah National Forest
- Blue Ridge Parkway Motor Road, North Carolina
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee