It’s nice to get an early start for the year on county collecting trips when the opportunity presents. The trick is finding somewhere warm enough while also avoiding winter-related travel delays. I managed both with a weekend in southern Georgia to kick of my 2020 road trips. One challenge in visiting all the county seats in the USA is that sometimes there isn’t much to see. This turned out to one of those times. When the scenery consists of swamps, cotton fields, and peanut farms, finding interesting spots along the way can be downright difficult.
When I first made the decision to visit Georgia in mid-January, I seriously considered trying to visit the remaining 48 counties over a three-day weekend. While possible, it would have required some seriously long days on the road. As I delved deeper into the planning, I chose instead to limit this trip to 31 counties, all in the southern part of the state, leaving the last 17 for later. All the stops I planned on making were closer to Florida than they were to Atlanta, I opted to fly to Jacksonville and drive from there.
Getting to JAX turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. For reasons that were never fully explained, our inbound aircraft was over 2 hours late. Add to that another delay on the tarmac of about 45 minutes (allegedly due to problems related to the flight computer), by the time I reach ATL, my connecting flight to JAX was long gone. I was rebooked on a flight later that night giving me roughly 3 additional hours in the airport. Lucky for me, there was a flight due to depart in less than an hour, so I zipped over to the gate and snagged one of the last standby seats putting me in JAX at 9pm instead 11pm (My original flight was supposed to arrive around 6:30pm). No matter. I made it safely and picked up my car and headed to the Aloft near Jacksonville Airport. I’m really getting to like the Aloft brand.
Saturday morning I was up early and heading north along the Georgia coast. Well, visiting the counties that bordered the Atlantic Ocean. About the closest I got to the beach was the turnoff to Jekyll Island just south of Brunswick. Speaking of Brunswick, this city in Georgia claims to be the home of Brunswick stew. I seem to recall the city of Brunswick, Virginia makes the same claim. Georgia has ‘proof’ of their claim in the form of the original stewpot from 1898, proudly displayed near the Brunswick farmers’ market a couple blocks from the county courthouse. That’s good enough for me. Brunswick, VA doesn’t have a pot to... cook in. At least not one on display like this.
The rest of the trip consisted of more cotton fields, peanut farms, and the occasional swamp. I visited the relatively new SHS in Tifton, GA. Despite being right off I-75, it’s tucked behind a few restaurants so that navigating your way to the property is slightly challenging. One nice perk they offered me as a Titanium elite was a voucher for a free beer or glass of wine at the small hotel bar. In the words of brightlybob, “hic, don’t mind if I do.” My third night was at the FFI in Valdosta, an unremarkable, though comfortable hotel. I’d probably recommend the CY one exit up the freeway as there are far more restaurants in that area. Having stayed there last time I passed through this way, I figured I’d give the FFI a try.
By Monday afternoon, I was back at JAX for the flights home. Far better result than the inbound trip. On time departure, short layover, and on time arrival at CMH. One surprising thing that happened was the lead flight attendant stopped by my seat before takeoff to inquire how my flight delay on the way to JAX affected my trip. I had filled out a survey a day earlier indicating the lack of details on the delay were a sore point. Delta wants to make sure I’ll continue to fly with them and had the FA check that all was okay. I was duly impressed. I usually fill out those survey requests. This was the first time I got any sort of indication someone reads them. Good job, Delta.
So, how did I do with the counties? Over the course of the three days, I visited 31 county seats and added about 1,300 miles to my brand new rental car (the odometer only had 2,094 miles when I stared). I’m really glad I decided to scale back my ambition. The days were plenty long visiting roughly 10 counties a day. Trying for 16 per day would have been too much. Here are the before and after maps showing my progress.
Up next is another three-day weekend trip in mid-February. I’ll be heading to northwest Louisiana (Shreveport area) and into southwest Arkansas (Texarkana). I’ll be in the corner of Texas too as all of the Marriott properties in Texarkana are on the Texas side of the border. I have hope there will be more interesting sights that this last trip. Wish me luck.