Our recent road trip to Florida for a wedding (congratulations to Vanessa & Christopher – love you guys!) was a perfect example of how one’s reaction to a situation makes all the difference in the world. Ordeal or Adventure – it’s all up to you.
The story unfolds on a cloudy Sunday morning, somewhere north of Jacksonville. We had just finished a great breakfast at a roadside Cracker Barrel; no, seriously, it was actually quite good – grits, eggs over easy, sausage links, fresh biscuits with jam & lots of hot, black coffee and had resumed our trip heading North on I-95, when I start to hear an odd sound. It’s rather rhythmic, so at first, I think it’s simply the section of pavement we’re currently on… expansion joints, what have you and think nothing of it. However, as we continue on, the sound doesn’t stop and I start to pick up a bit of a vibration as well. OK, something is not right… I shift over to the righthand lane and slow it down a notch. Sure enough, within seconds, it all goes to hell in a handbasket – massive, tire shredding blowout! Fortunately, it was the rear, passenger side, so I didn’t really lose control, but no fun, especially when the brakes go nuts trying to compensate for the loss of traction… anyway, I finally wrestle the beast to the side of the road, put on my hazards and get out to look… what a mess!
Well, time to get to work; I pull out the jack & lug wrench and take the spare off the back; gotta love a full-size spare! I crawl under the beast to position the jack properly and I’m instantly assaulted by flying debris kicked up by the mass of air created by each passing vehicle! Gee, this is fun! If that wasn’t enough, we’re sitting on an overpass that feels like it’s going to crumble every time a rig thunders by and to top it all off, the gosh-darn tire will not come off! Now would be a good time to assume the lotus position and start chanting, but we have to get the heck off the side of the road.
OK, plan “B”; I get on the phone to AAA… what do you mean they canceled my contract?
I’m sitting on the side of the road with death flying by a mere foot away, so No, Thank you, I don’t want to talk with the people in the NJ office!
OK, plan “C”; I call the highway patrol and they, in turn, call a local service company… actually, not bad; shows up within the expected 30 minutes, but no jack? No tools?
OK, plan “D”; Haul the darn thing up onto the flatbed and drive us to the nearest Pep Boys… I see, so you don’t carry ANY brand of 255/65 R16s & you’re about to close?
OK, plan… Screw it, can I at least borrow a floor jack and a 2×4? Oh and by any chance do you have some PB Blaster I can steal a few squirts from? Perfect!
After a few sprays of PB Blaster, quite a bit of effort and the help of one of the “kids” working there, I managed to pry the wheel off the axle – he would turn the wheel a quarter turn while I used the 2×4 against the frame to nudge the wheel off the drum. It wasn’t easy, but bit by bit we managed to work it loose. I put my spare on, mounted the dead tire on the back and we’re ready to go!
OK, no way in hell we’re making our midway point tonight and the spare seemed a bit dodgy (manufactured in 2001), so two options – bitch & moan or… Yep, SIDE TRIP!
St. Marys, Georgia
We had been considering stopping by St. Marys, Georgia on our sail south and since we were more or less, in the area, we decided it would make a nice little side trip & we should be able to get the tire replaced first thing in the morning and continue our trip north. We got to St. Marys somewhere around 6ish and drove down to the historic district looking for a hotel we spotted what looked to be a nice motor lodge, rented a room and parked around back. Opened the door, took one whiff, closed the door, got back in the car and went to the front desk for a refund. Interestingly enough, they understood and even recommended a couple of places back the way we had come… got a room at the next place and it was much, much better; not that it took much to clear the previous bar!
First thing in the morning I called the local tire place and while they also didn’t have said size, they could get it for us by 3:00 pm. OK, looks like we’ll be spending the day sightseeing – but first, Breakfast!
We decided to simply have breakfast at the hotel; We went into the “dining room” and found; Are you sitting down? An Automated pancake machine! No, seriously! You press a button and about 2 minutes later, out come two, not so awful, pancakes on a little conveyer belt and plop onto your plate. We finish our “breakfast”, including a couple of cups of coffee & a way too sweet fruit cup.
Reasonably satiated, we head out to the waterfront to check out the town and more importantly the docks for a potential future visit on our way south. St. Marys is certainly a nice little town, with a great waterfront park, a bunch of restaurants, a general store, ferry service to Cumberland Island & much more. Unfortunately, the docks were a mess – destroyed by hurricane Irma, with no indication of when they’ll be up and running again. That said, we spoke with some nice folks at the Visitors Center and they told us that they were working on getting some temporary dingy docks in place by late November. Guess we’ll have to wait and see how the overall restoration goes.
Looks like St. Mary’s is off our list to visit for this year, but it will definitely stay on our list of places to visit!
Jekyll Island, Georgia
With a few more hours to kill, we decide to check out one of our favorite stops on the ICW; Jekyll Island. Sure enough, it was right there where we left it! But wow, what a difference 10 years make! The amount of development is unbelievable… I’m sure it’s great for the local economy and a few individuals, heck lots of folks will love all the shops & hotels, but not exactly our cup of tea. So, looks like Jekyll Island is off our list as well, at least for any kind of lengthy stay… That said, we had a really great lunch at The Wharf and can definitely recommend it if you happen to be in the area.
While enjoying said lunch, we got a call that our tire was in, so we headed back to St. Marys and got that taken care of – new tire mounted & old spare back where it belongs. It’s now pretty late in the afternoon, no way we can make it back to Rocinante, what to do… heck, might as well take another side trip!
We had missed Savannah on our last trip south, so decided to treat this side trip as a reconnaissance mission – we would check out the city docks along with various marinas & anchorages.
The trip was a bit over 100 miles from St. Marys and by the time we got there, the Savannah Visitor’s Center was closing and the folks working there were not exactly happy campers. But, I showed them a little empathy, went along with their jokes and before long we were best buds! Ok, perhaps not best buds, but at least the guy had a smile on his face. Anyway, we got a few maps, a few brochures & he pointed us in the right direction for the hotels and off we went!
We bypassed the first few hotels (fairly dodgy area) and kept going until we found one that looked pretty good – The Cotton Sail Hotel; a nice little, boutique hotel on Savannah’s riverfront. It was late, I was tired and not really interested in looking for parking, so I sprung for the Valet Parking – $27/night Holy Mackerel! Lazy gets expensive fast! Anyway, after our last experience, I had them show me the room before checking in and it was quite nice; King bed, desk, chaise lounge and a nice view of the Savannah River – perfect!
We checked in, washed up and had a nice dinner down on River Street at the River House Seafood (while it seems they are not associated, it’s in the same building as the hotel) we both had a couple of Happy Hour cocktails, the soup and salad (crab bisque) and, of course, Pecan pie for dessert… nice!
After dinner, we decided to go for a walk along River Street and check on the City Docks… as in St. Marys, they were in bad shape and closed indefinitely, ditto for the Hyatt’s docks – things were not looking good! The Westin’s Dock & Marina, on the other side of the river, seemed to be operational, but they were mighty expensive at about $3/ft/night. Now in all fairness, you get a lot for your money; Weight room, showers, sauna and steam room are included in your dockage fees, as is use of the resort’s driving range and putting greens, and the riverside oasis featuring a heated swimming pool, expanded spa Jacuzzi, water service, cable, direct phone and room service are all available without leaving the dock plus, a ferry/shuttle to take you to Savannah. They also offer discounted weekender packages at $2/ft & $1/ft if you get a room for the night – might have to consider it if we decide to splurge a little!
After a successful, although disappointing initial recon, we headed back to The Cotton Sail Hotel and called it a night.
Exploring Savannah in 10,000 Steps
Tuesday morning found us heading out for breakfast and then the 10,000 step tour of Historic Savannah – what a great way to explore the city! Coincidently, we were staying almost exactly at the “Start Here” point, so we simply followed the map. OK, OK, perhaps I insisted on some detours down questionable alleyways and other “unsanctioned” paths, but we mostly followed the map and had a great day exploring this great little section of Savannah, working our way through the city while enjoying the unseasonably cool weather!
And of course, no post about Savannah would be complete without a photo of the iconic Forsyth Park Fountain.
So there you have it folks – a massive blowout on I-95 turns into an awesome side trip through Southern Georgia; Ordeal or Adventure – it’s all up to you.
Till next time,
Carlos & Maria