US Road Trip Travelog: 25th February 2005

Some things just aren't meant to be, and my staying in Savannah is obviously one of those things. Shame, because it looks like a really nice place. In the morning I get a head start on the cockroaches and clear out of my room, and Savannah, as soon as I can.

The plan now is to follow Highway 17 down south. Before leaving the UK I'd bought a National Geographic Scenic Routes map, not for the routes themselves but because it's a relatively small laminated map of the whole country and I've been using it to get an idea of relative distances. Anyway, one of their 20 or so routes is Highway 17 south of Savannah.

It's not overly impressive - most of the road looks like the picture on the previous page, and you can't see the coast itself. After a while I divert west onto Highway 99, but still with no luck. Then I see a few fluttering Union Jacks by the side of the road and have to stop for a look.

Fort King George
Fort King George.

It's a recreation of a British fort than existed here in the early 1700's. Either that or it's weathered really really well. It's only $5 to get in and the guy on the desk looks so grateful to see me that I can't refuse. Historical sites aren't really my thing but this one is good fun for an hour or so, especially when there's no one else there.

Reclaiming the fort
Of course, subterfuge is my middle name. I'm actually here on a quiet day to reclaim the fort for Queen and Country. Send reinforcements immediately, as I don't know how long I can hold out by myself. Or how long it'll be before anyone notices.

Highway 99 then rejoins Highway 17 heading south. My best bet to see the Atlantic, and find somewhere to stay nearby, seems to be St Simons Island so I take another diversion off the highway over a few huge bridges.

Atlantic Riviera
Atlantic Riviera.

St Simons Island is clogged with traffic and not my kind of place at all - the town centre is all cute and over-restored and full of 'craft' shops. You know the sort of thing, hand-made and over-priced and of no use whatsoever. Worse than that, the waterfront is all private properties. The photo above was taken in one of the few public car parks I found. There must have been room for, oh, three cars in there. I know where I don't belong so head (slowly, due to the traffic) back to Highway 17.

Next best bet is Fernandina Beach, over the border in Florida. I can't tell you if it's better or worse than St Simons Island as to me it looks exactly the same. More roads and more traffic, maybe, but basically the same. The weather is worse now, as well. All day long it's been cold and windy but now it's getting misty and the rain is getting worse.

This is all very dispiriting. I was about to settle for a motel room on the outskirts of Jacksonville when I noticed that there's a beach to the east of there as well. Third time lucky? Well, it's worth a shot. To get there means leaving Highway 17 and joining I-275 over a spectacular bridge and onto Atlantic Boulevard, which seems to be a huge road lined with just shops and malls. Following the plan than worked in St Simon I just keep heading straight ahead towards where I know the Atlantic is, regardless of what the road signs say. It has to be said that this plan didn't work too well in Fernandina Beach when I ended up in the port area where the trucks unload.

The Sea Horse Oceanfront Inn
The Sea Horse Oceanfront Inn.

Doesn't look too impressive, but it does say 'oceanfront' in the name so I give it a go. I was trying to decide, in the heavy shopping traffic on Atlantic Boulevard, how much I'd be prepared to pay for a room with a view of the sea. I'd settled on $150, so when I was told $99 plus tax for a room at the Sea Horse I decided to go for it.

Sea Horse motel room view
The view from the balcony of my motel room at the Sea Horse.

And I'm really glad I did. Not only is the view one you could look at all day but the room itself is absolutely enormous with a separate kitchen area complete with fridge, microwave etc. The room has obviously just been refurbished and everything works just as you'd hope. Quite a contrast to last night.

I'd assumed as I drove up that this whole area would be tourist-orientated. The first clue that I may be wrong was the sight of an organic food shop next door to (cripes!) a bookshop. And the talk in the place I went for a late lunch was obviously local people. It seems that there's actually a whole community here and the motel is on the fringe between the local and tourist areas. That's a bonus I wasn't expecting.

The area, it turns out, is called Neptune Beach. The local nightlife seems to be very lively but I'm hooked on standing on the balcony of my rooom and listening to the waves pounding the shore. The rain has died off but the wind is still quite strong and it's just a fantastic sound. This is exactly what I was hoping to find when I first set off this morning.

US Road Trip Travelog: 26th February 2005 >