• James Island (Charleston) to Huntington Beach (Pawley’s Island)

    The is just a little short bleep about the drive up the coast. I was never here in the past so I can only imagine how it was; what I imagine and see the occasional ruins of is so far different from the here and now that it might be a different planet. So it goes.

    The first trick is getting across the peninsula. Take Folly Road to US-17, hang a right and stay on it. If you have a good GPS it’ll help but otherwise the turns and ramps are clearly marked well in advance. You’re going to be on city streets and expressways. The bridge over the Ashley River is just a preliminary; the Ravenel Bridge is plain spectacular. It’s probably good that it was misty and rainy otherwise Mom would’ve had four cats and two cows. It’s that high.

    Down off the bridge and a few blocks further and we come to Houston Northcutt Boulevard, where we find Melvin’s Legendary and pig out.

    Fortified, we waddle back onto US-17 whereupon we enjoy traffic and traffic lights for another 12 miles. It’s not heavy traffic at noon and the traffic lights don’t catch us too often, but it does exist and our average speed was around 40 mph.

    Once into the Francis Marion National Forest it’s smooth sailing for 30+ miles. We’re on a US highway and there’s no traffic. Eventually we come to Georgetown, which is an unremarkable little mill town boasting a paper mill and a steel mill and we don’t care that it dates to 1734, we just want to get across the Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers and get out of town.

    And all of a sudden we’re onto Pawley’s Island and plowing through housing development after housing development, strip mall after strip mall. The good side is that there’s a grocery store, liquor store, Walgreens and CVS on every corner; the bad side  is that there’s a grocery store, liquor store, Walgreens and CVS on every corner. For miles. These developments are all “The Something or Other Plantation” and they’re all just beachfont and coastal McMansions.

    Chirrens, the Grand Strand ain’t so grand any more. Nothing that a Hugo-level hurricane wouldn’t fix.

    Editorial aside, we passed out of purgatory into Huntington Beach SP land. For about two miles on one side of the road is the state park and on the other side is Brookgreen Gardens. Peace!

     

     

  • South Bay to St. Lucie South COE

    We were sitting there at South Bay CG trying to figure out where to go next when we scored a four-day stay at St. Lucie South COE CG and then, wonder of wonders, another four-day reservation at Long Point Park at Sebastian Inlet. This is in late January while everyone’s Polar Vortexing and snow and sleet are falling in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend. So we’re heading east.

    We headed out on US 27 and SR 80 through the cane fields and soon came to Belle Glade. This isn’t a particularly high-income area of the state and it’s packed with migrant field workers; se habla Espanol. That said, Belle Glade contains the largest and most well-stocked Winn Dixie supermarket that I’ve ever been in.

    Continuing northward on US 441 along the lake with miles and miles of cane fields to the east we eventually came to Pahokee; I mentioned that while you might think Pahokee has had better days the fact is that Pahokee has never had better days. It’s a rugged sad-looking place but I suppose the people who live and work there consider it to be far better than where they came from.

    We continued alongside the lake and more cane fields until heading eastward on SR 76 at Port Mayaca, paralleling the St. Lucie Canal. Quickly the complexion of the land changed; the muck farms around the lake gave way to pine and oak uplands, sod farms and ranches.

    Suddenly we encountered a convenience store, a huge self-storage facility, a few houses and a mile or two later we were at the turnoff for St. Lucie Lock; the Florida Turnpick was only one-third mile away, I-95 was only two-thirds mile away and civilization was upon us.

    Although these are two-lane roads past Belle Glade there was no real traffic to speak of. Since there’s not much in the way of shoulders and it would be mighty dark I probably wouldn’t want to do it after dark but the roads are fine in the daytime. Note that January, February and March are times of very dense morning fog in central and south Florida; bazillion-car pileups on the interstates are legendary.

  • Polk City to Ochopee

    We boogied on south from Polk City on the Polk Parkway. It’s a toll road and there was no traffic at all. It’s amazing to think that someone would go through incredible traffic to save $1.25. Idiots and good for them; leave the road for me. We got off toward Bartow and had a couple of stops, the grocery store and THE LIQUOR STORE. Notice the level of importance.

    Out of Bartow, fortified by Burger King, the grocery store and THE LIQUOR STORE!

    We got to Zolfo Springs where we were tentatively staying the night at Pioneer Park. Pioneer Park appeared ok for  a night or two but since it was only 2 in the aftermoon we really needed to push on.

    So we go down US 98..and down US 98..and keep going. Eventually we get to SR 29 where we can turn right..and go..and go..

    It’s amazing  how long these roads in south Florida are. On the map it’s just a little ways while in fact it’s endless..endless..

    Eventually, endlessly, we arrive at Tamiami Trail and turned east, passing the Ochopee post office and arriving at the Skunk Ape place. And that’s another story.