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Off The Beaten Path

This Week on the Road - January 11th-17th

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This Week on the Road - January 11th-17th

It’s been a sunny and wonderful week here on the road in Florida. While the locals are wearing their winter coats, I’m enjoying the sunny, breezy 70 degree days and cool, perfect nights. I stalled for a bit in West Palm Beach, finding some great little spots to hide out and taking a bit of a break from moving around. Many of the things I want to see in the far south of the state are in National Parks, and with the government closed I want to try and wait the shutdown out. As you know if you are a constant reader, I try and stay away from politics whenever possible, but closing our National Parks over a partisan dispute is a disgrace. People travel from all over the world to see our amazing parks, and there is simply no excuse to close them down. There are many other sides to that story, but I will leave it at that. Despite thinking about politics too much this week, I had a wonderful stay in West Palm Beach and everywhere I else I visited this week. It’s been a quiet but fantastic week in east-central Florida.

I spent Thursday slowly making my way down the coast from Vero Beach. I stopped in Fort Pierce at the Bluewater Beach Grill for a delicious ahi tuna poke bowl, which I ate looking out at the inlet from the wonderful waterfront park there. I continued down the A1A to Stuart which had one of the most treacherous intersections I’ve ever seen, and I’ve driven in a lot of places in the world. It was like a roundabout, but there were weird (and dangerous) inlets and outlets at strange angles. I have no doubt they see their fair share of accidents there. Thankfully I made it through in one piece. I thought about turning around and trying it again because it was so crazy, and then thought I wouldn’t push my luck so I continued down to Jupiter, just north of West Palm Beach…

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This Week on the Road - January 1st-10th

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This Week on the Road - January 1st-10th

Hello and Happy New Year! It is great to be moving into 2019 with a full year on the road stretching out ahead of me. 2018 was an amazing year full of new places and new people and 2019 is poised to be even better. I’m starting this year in the great state of Florida, The Orange State, and a good start it has been.

I rang in the new year with my old friend Peter and his family in Largo, Florida, between Tampa and Clearwater. Peter’s uncle had a party for the occasion full of food, friends and music. There was a campfire by the canal and fireworks throughout the night. It was a great way to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019.

On New Years Day, I had the wonderful opportunity to cheer on my Penn State Nittany Lions against the Kentucky Wildcats in the Citrus Bowl right there in Orlando. It was my first bowl game, and I really enjoyed it. The weather was beautiful, the stadium was pleasant enough, and it was great to be watching football in the Florida sun..

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Down the Georgia Coast

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Down the Georgia Coast

The last week or so that I spent in Georgia, I spent exploring the coast and barrier islands of the state also called the Golden Isles. This was such a great experience and each island was so different and diverse that I thought I would share a little more about the trip, and maybe give some pointers on how to see as much as possible if you choose to journey to the Golden Isles.

Savannah is definitely a must-see part of any trip up or down the Georgia Coast. Located in the far northeast corner of the state, Savannah’s beautiful oak-lined streets, public squares and beautiful homes make it one of America’s most beautiful cities. Even if you just stop in for lunch at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, have a late afternoon into early evening stroll around the historic district and end the day with a quiet cocktail in the basement of The Olde Pink House, you won’t regret stopping in this charming southern town. The longer you stay, though, the more you’re going to love it here so don’t be afraid to save a couple of days at the beginning or end of your trip for Savannah.

Just east of Savannah along the coast is the beach community of Tybee Island. The Tybee Island Light Station is definitely worth a visit, and the beach is really pretty as well. The fishing pier is a great way to get out over the water and get some good views…

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This week on the Road - December 13th-20th

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This week on the Road - December 13th-20th

Hello everyone. I hope y’all have had as good a week as I have. This week, I had a great time finishing out my visit to Georgia traveling to Jekyll Island, the Okefenokee Swamp and Cumberland Island National Seashore. From there, I crossed the border into Florida and have spent a wonderful few days in The Sunshine State, mostly just chilling out and hanging out with one of my best friends. I’m headed home to Washington D.C. for the holidays, and really looking forward to a few days off the road. It’s time to recharge my batteries, fill up on Christmas cookies and good cheer and catch up with my family and friends for a few days. I haven’t always been able to make it home for Christmas over the years, so I’m grateful to have that opportunity this year.

After we met last week, I spent Thursday on beautiful Jekyll Island, just south of Brunswick. One of my very good friends who I used to work with on St. Thomas, had lived and worked on Jekyll for a while, and gave me all kinds of great places to visit while I was there. I started with a walk out to somewhere she referred to as “bird pond”, although I don’t think it actually had a name. There were a ton of pretty birds there though, so I can see why she would call it that. The area I parked in to make the walk was beautiful as well, with amazing oak trees draped in Spanish moss. From there I made my way out to Driftwood Beach, stopping to see some cool old tabby ruins from some of the island’s earliest settlers on the way. Driftwood Beach was a beautiful beach on the north side of the island which was covered by massive dead trees and, obviously, driftwood. It was awesome and I had a wonderful walk up and down the beach, spotting tons of birds along the way…

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Snapshots: Cumberland Island

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Snapshots: Cumberland Island

I first went to Cumberland Island National Seashore now almost 30 years ago. We went on our 8th Grade class trip on a tour that included Charleston and Savannah, and perhaps our favorite at the time, Kings Dominion amusement park near Richmond. I’ve often thought about Cumberland Island and how much I wanted to go back. Since I was there, I’ve visited 320 or so units of the National Park Service, but Cumberland Island has eluded me. Because you have to get there and back by ferry, it takes more than a few hours of commitment and at least enough planning ahead time to make a ferry reservation. But finally I made it back to the wild island off the coast of Georgia, and it was spectacular. One of my friends asked if it was as beautiful as she remembered and I told her one of the most beautiful things about a National Park site is that it doesn’t change much - that is, in fact, the whole idea! So while I am older and bigger and perhaps a touch wiser, Cumberland Island is much the same…

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Snapshots: Okefenokee Swamp

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Snapshots: Okefenokee Swamp

Covering 400,000 acres in southeast Georgia, the Okefenokee Swamp is the largest blackwater swamp in the country. The vegetation leaches out into the water making it the color of strong tea or weak coffee and it’s really beautiful. The Okefenokee Swamp is a National Natural Landmark and much of it is a designated wilderness area. It’s home to 600 species of plants, 400 vertebrates, 60 reptiles and 200 birds. There are 120 miles of water trails in the park, and getting out on the water is essential. I chose a kayak for my adventure because it was a beautiful day and allowed me to really get out into the swamp and experience it. It was so quiet out there, and by quiet I mean the absence of human noise. The sounds of the birds and the wind through the grass and the frogs and insects was amazing. I’m sure the bugs and heat are terrible in the summer, but when I was there, it couldn’t have been better. This was one of the best days I’ve had in Georgia. I hope you enjoy my photos from the Okefenokee Swamp!

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This Week on the Road - December 6th-12th

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This Week on the Road - December 6th-12th

Hello everyone and Happy Holidays to you all. I know I’ve had quite a few people subscribe this week, so if you’re new to this newsletter, welcome! My Week on the Road posts are basically my digital journal entries for the week just past. I do try my best to do one every week, but sometimes life has other plans. You can click on any of my photos to see a full-screen view, and most places I mention have links attached if you click on the name.

This week has been spent on beaches, near lighthouses and under Spanish moss as I made my way down the Georgia coast from Savannah to Brunswick. The scenery has been magnificent, and the people have been great as well and it has been wonderful to get some good seafood again. Brunswick has been my base of operations these last few days as I explored the coastal barrier islands of South Georgia. It’s been a busy week, as usual, but a good one. The days have been short, but the weather has been good. I’ve been in shorts and a T-shirt while North Carolina has been blasted with snow. I did get my Canon camera off to the repair shop for a new shutter, and it will be waiting for me at home in D.C. when I get there for Christmas. I have been using my old Olympus E510 this week which is pretty outdated at this point in time, but it’s been chugging along and I’m very grateful to have it. I apologize that my photos aren’t quite up to par this week, but they’ll be back on track in the new year. It’s been a fast month here in Georgia, as I have had to keep the pace up to make my flight home from Orlando next week, and I’ll admit I’m pretty tired. I’ve been going seven days a week all month, and I am definitely looking forward to a break. This last week was my last full week in the Peach State, and it has been a really good and fascinating week and month…

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Savannah For Morons

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Savannah For Morons

Having spent most of my life either working in travel and tourism or traveling myself, I have grown tired of organized city tours and rarely go on them. There are plenty of resources available in cities and I can usually sift through what I want to see and do pretty easily. Enlisting the help of the staff at the Visitors Center, the brochure racks around town, old standbys like Yelp and TripAdvisor, and maybe an outlier like Thrillist or Atlas Obscura, I can find the best that a city has to offer, custom tailored to my personal likes and dislikes. I don’t like the standard cramped bus tour and I’ve done enough ghost tours that they have started to sound the same to me. Unless it is an in-depth tour on a specific subject I’m interested in or it provides access to something I want to see but can’t unless I’m on a guided tour, I usually give them a miss. But every now and then something will catch my eye which I simply must try.

And so it was that I stumbled across a tour which I couldn’t leave without checking out: Savannah For Morons. Savannah For Morons is an irreverent look at Savannah history and culture hosted by the Moron Twins, Johnny and Danny Moron (actually John Brennan and Dan Gilbert of the local Front Porch Improv Group).

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This Week on the Road - November 29th-December 5th

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This Week on the Road - November 29th-December 5th

The days are getting real short out here in east Georgia, but the weather has warmed up and the sun has reemerged, so at least that is something. This week has had its challenges, but a challenging week from time to time is to be expected. I’m pretty used to going with the flow and rolling with the punches, but this week has had a few more punches thrown in than usual. Not being able to find someone local to fix my camera, it is off to the Canon repair shop, so it will be a few weeks before I get it back. Not to worry, my spare is on its way from DC, and I should have it by the time you are actually reading this. This week’s post may not have the best photos with it, but fear not, this will all get sorted out in a few weeks. On a more positive note, I finally got the chance to check out one of my photos which went into Atlanta Magazine last month of the amazing Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, Mississippi. It made me feel proud that my work is being appreciated in such a great publication (see the article HERE).

When I signed off last week, I made my way down to Albany, a city of about 75,000 on the Flint River. When I arrived, I went straight to the Albany Civil Rights Movement Museum at the old Mount Zion Church. This is a wonderful little museum which details the role Albany played in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. My visit began with a short video showing the conditions in Southwest Georgia in the lead-up to the demonstrations there and also how the demonstrations played out. After the video, I had a very short guided tour of the museum and Mount Zion church, one of the local churches which hosted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he visited Albany. When my tour was over, I spent some time looking a little more closely at the exhibits, and listening to the voices of the people who were there…

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Iconic Columbus

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Iconic Columbus

Columbus, Georgia was a city that surprised me. Much like Greenville, South Carolina and Cincinnati, Ohio, I came in with limited expectations and found myself falling more in love with it around every turn. The city has obvious industrial roots, but they have re-purposed many of the old industrial buildings and turned the once gritty downtown into a modern, walkable, very enjoyable town. Columbus is the third largest city in the state with a population of just under 200,000, and their economy relies heavily on nearby Fort Benning. It is also the home of Aflac Insurance and Columbus State University. Beyond these major employers though, Columbus is making major strides in attracting tourism, and from my perspective they are well on their way.

And so it was that I found myself in their wonderful Visitor’s Center trying to find a way to spend my day. It was a beautiful Georgia fall day with clear skies and a very agreeable temperature, and I wanted to spend the day outside taking photos of the city. My question for the people working at the Visitor’s Center was simple: what are the most iconic locations in Columbus? What are the places that someone born and raised there would recognize instantly, no matter how long they had been gone for? This is a seemingly simple question, but probably not one they receive every day. The three of us discussed it for some time, and put together a fairly extensive list. They had incredible resources ton hand to work with from a driving tour of the lovely Midtown neighborhood to an African American History Walking Tour pamphlet of downtown. After about a half-hour of discussing the most recognizable places in town, I set off to take the photos you’ll find below…

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This Week on the Road - November 23rd-29th

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This Week on the Road - November 23rd-29th

It’s been an interesting week out here on the road. The weather has been clear and sunny, and very cool for Georgia. I started the week in Athens, made my way through Atlanta for Thanksgiving and then headed towards the southwest of the state. Columbus was a wonderful surprise, and I found some great places to take photos along the back roads as well. The holiday threw a loop into my work schedule, but it was nice to take a bit of a breather for a change as well. I’ve booked a flight home for Christmas from Orlando, so I’m on more of a schedule than I normally am, but I’m making good progress to and through Georgia and enjoying every mile of it.

After I left you last week, I went for a burger at Georgia’s iconic Varsity and then headed out in downtown Athens for a few drinks. Athens definitely has some cool bars to explore, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to go out there. I really liked the dark, cool vibe of the Manhattan Cafe where I could sip on a bourbon and sit on the couch and just relax for a minute. They had a great selection of drinks with some special winter favorites like hot buttered rum, and a very chill atmosphere. I also liked the funky, arty, unorthodox Sister Louisa’s Church, which reminded me of some of my favorite weird bars at home and in New Orleans…

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Atlanta's Creepy Doll's Head Trail

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Atlanta's Creepy Doll's Head Trail

The Doll’s Head Trail in Atlanta is definitely different. While this post would probably have been better around Halloween, I visited the day after Thanksgiving when many things around the city were closed. The trail got its start when a local resident was out picking up trash in Constitution Lakes Park, where the trail is located, and ended up finding a lot of broken toys. He started creating this macabre outdoor art exhibit some time later, and its popularity has grown since then. It was definitely something different to see in Atlanta, and worth a look if you are looking for something free, close and outdoors. I wouldn’t visit on a full moon if I were you though.

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