Friday, June 21 to Monday, June 24 ~ FL-GA (496 miles)
Jacksonville, FL; Savannah, GA; Tybee Island, GA
Every trip has its ups and downs…
The trip from Pensacola to Savannah is a bit of a downer. Neither of us want to leave Pensacola yet. It is a special place for our family, full of happy memories, a beach escape from the vast fields of Illinois corn. But we have made a plan to also visit Savannah and Charleston. Mom is determined to stick to that plan, despite the two days we are short on travel due to our late start and early return.
We travel the interstate through the Florida panhandle, far from the coast and surrounded by thick green forest. We get to Tallahassee and mom announces she “wants to eat somewhere where they have tuna fish on tap.” And the search for the seafood restaurant marks the beginning of Lorraine’s bad behavior.
I drove this car through the Rocky Mountains in 2017 but the combination of red light, steep hill, humid heat, and air conditioning made Lorraine refuse to move. Stuck on a hill with a green light, A/C off, and a car behind me, I could not get her to roll forward. Once again, panic about car trouble… but she eventually moved.
I pull over into a gas station to fill up and calm down. Lorraine had the last say. From that moment on, her automatic door locks open and close rapidly and randomly (electrical short). Turns, leaning on the door, breathing funny- all of this upsets her and she twitches her locks to tell us to stop.
Once we arrive in Jacksonville, it is difficult to find a hotel along the highway and mom doesn’t know how to use GPS to locate one. We end up by the airport where there are many overpriced hotels and book a room at what turns out to be the biggest dog of our trip. One king-sized bed we must share, expensive, and smelling of moldy cigar ashtray, I was grateful to be not driving. It turns out that the hotels in the area are frequently booked due to cruise ships departing the Atlantic coast. Travelers fly in, stay the night, and leave by boat the next day. These hotels can charge whatever they want.
In the morning, we cross the Georgia border and stop at the welcome center where two unrelated people were tended to by separate paramedic units. The free sample of pralines lure mom in and suddenly we have to stop at Georgia Peach World at exit 58. She obtains her free Georgia state highway map and…
Oh, Georgia… why did you have to design your map that way…
Mom: “Well, that’s it. I can’t find where we are going. This is the shittiest map I’ve ever seen!”
Me: “It’s the free one from the welcome center.”
Mom: “I had to sign my name for it!”
I drove I-95 north out of Jacksonville, I-16 east into Savannah, then Hwy 80 to Tybee Island
Here are some highlights along the route:
The rest area just west of Live Oak, FL is filled with- you guessed it- oak trees. Spanish moss  hangs from these oaks and sways in the breeze which makes them look more like willow trees. Spanish moss, which is actually a flowering plant not moss at all, flourishes in subtropical climates like the southeastern United States. Because it is prolific in the south, it is deeply embedded in the culture and esthetic of the region.
Georgia Peach World  is a tourist trap to the max and totally worth stopping. It started as a fruit stand with goods produced by local farmers in order to provide summer job opportunities to college students. It was so successful, the fruit stand expanded to provide a wide variety of locally sourced products. It is a place for small businesses to sell their goods to tourists. I bought peach wine, pralines, ice cream, and pecan oil (what!).
Operating since 1979, Old Savannah Trolley Tours  provide a wealth of information about the sites in the historic district of Savannah. The tour is designed to allow visitors to hop on/ hop off the trolley and spend more time in each area as they wish. Each stop has a historical reenactor that highlights many of the important people and events that are associated with the long history of the city.
The Squares of Savannah  are part of the original city plan developed in 1733. The layout had four open squares (parks), each surrounded by four residential blocks and four civic blocks. Each of these sets of blocks are called wards and the city eventually built twenty-four of them. Twenty-two remain and now provide this thriving city with an incredible amount of public green space and sculpture.
A National Historic Landmark, Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters  is a museum that provides a stunning example of pre-civil war mansions. The associated carriage house was used as a stable and slave quarters. The tour of the house begins in the slave quarters, the back half of the carriage house where roughly a dozen people were expected to live in a couple of rooms. The ceiling of the quarters still bares the haint blue paint, used to deter evil spirits from entering the home. The mansion by contrast is stunning English Regency architecture filled with period furniture, textiles, and household goods.
Catholics were originally prohibited from settling in Savannah due to the English rivalry with the Spanish in Florida. But a French catholic congregation appeared from Haiti after the revolutionary war and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist  was built 100 years later. We had a late start to the day and I spent some time looking for parking after I dropped mom off at the church. Once I went inside, I was informed I had five minutes before we had to leave because mass was going to start. *sigh* Had I known, I would have waited to photograph the exterior…
Fort Pulaski National Monument  is part of a system of coastal fortifications ordered by President Madison to protect the United States against foreign invasion. This fort was designed to protect the port of Savannah and is located on Cockspur Island at the mouth of the Savannah River. Mom could not walk the fort and at her urging, I left her in the car, fighting with her crossword puzzle, in the air conditioning like a dog. She had been able to enjoy Fort Pickens in Pensacola. It was my turn to enjoy Fort Pulaski in Savannah.
As we depart Georgia for South Carolina, some final thoughts from mom:
“I’m a map reader from 60 years ago! That was the shittiest map I’ve ever seen! Cheap construction!”
-Copyright C.M. Mounts, August 2019
Reference materials for this blog post: