Wednesday, June 8, 2016

PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA!

Our third road trip of the year found us flying into Atlanta. Our goal was to knock off a bunch of counties in the tri-state area of Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Before we left we knew that this was going to be a trip that took us to some very rural areas of the country. So unfortunately there wasn’t an abundance of fun sights to see as the majority of cities we traveled through were extremely small. Nonetheless we set off, anxious to see places we’d never seen before. We were pretty much alone though. Our flight to Atlanta was nearly empty!



After picking up our rental car at the airport (a 2016 Chevy Malibu) we traveled several miles west to the Chattahoochee River and entered Douglas County, our first new county of the trip. From there we hooked up with HWY 5 going south and got into Carroll County. Once we got to the city of Roopville (population 218) we turned down HWY 27, drove two miles and crossed the border into Heard County. From there we turned around back to Roopville, stopped at the Dollar General and bought a few snacks to tide us over.


We continued west on HWY 5 and headed toward the Alabama border. As we neared the state line we got onto HWY 48, then veered off to the north to cross over into Cleburne County. We then crossed back into Georgia, got back onto HWY 48 and crossed back into Alabama – but this time into Randolph County.



We continued south and west picking up Clay and Coosa Counties on the way. We stopped in the city of Lineville to pick up some subs at Subway. Then we were off to the city of Goodwater - where we headed east onto some back roads, attempting to enter Tallapoosa County. But the dirt side road we followed ended with a road block and a “road closed” sign. Based on our maps we were probably within five minutes walking distance to the border. But just to be sure we instead drove a few miles south and crossed into the county on a real road.



From there we went south, and entered the Montgomery area. We ended up driving through two counties we’d already been to on a previous trip. But once we got south of the city we entered Pike, Crenshaw and Covington Counties. After leaving the oddly-named city of Opp, we headed southeast on HWY 52 and crossed into both Coffee and Geneva Counties.



Near the Florida/Alabama border we passed through the aptly-named city of Florala, where we stopped for gas next to Lake Jackson. We also saw an interesting painted semi trailer.


With a full tank of gas we crossed the state line into Walton County, Florida. A few miles later we headed west on HWY 85 and crossed into Okaloosa County. After turning around we headed toward the city of Defuniak Springs. From there we went east on HWY 90, crossed into Holmes County, and briefly drove through the city of Ponce De Leon.



At this point we were able to put our hotel into the GPS. And the straight shot took us into Washington and Bay Counties. We spent the night at the County Inn & Suites by Carson, in Panama City. After checking in we ventured out to find a place to eat. The most popular restaurant in town is Hunt’s Oyster Bar. We decided to check it out. But the lines were way too long. Instead we crossed the street and ate at the Shrimp Boat. And we were seated immediately. I recommend the seafood platter. The portions were large. And they were tasty as well. Ask for Mikey!



The next morning we went south on HWY 98, driving along the ocean for as long as the road would allow. The area is surprisingly not touristy, save for a few towns – such as Mexico Beach. But for the most part this drive through Florida’s panhandle (and both Gulf and Franklin counties) is pretty remote.







As we turned away from the ocean for the last time, we put the city of Fanning Springs into the GPS. Over the next couple of hours we drove through Wakulla, Jefferson, Taylor, Lafayette, Dixie, Levy and Gilchrist Counties. The only sticking point was Lafayette County. We again had to take an alternate route when the road that Google Maps wanted us to take was a private road.




After turning around in Fanning Springs we headed back northwest towards the general direction of Tallahassee. About 15 miles past Perry we briefly crossed into Madison County before heading back into Jefferson County, which we had entered earlier in the day.

A few minutes later we found ourselves on I-10 – the first time on this trip that we got onto an actual interstate. But it didn’t last long. Eight miles later we got off and headed north into Leon County. At this point the roads got a little dicey. We went north through the small town of Miccosukee. And although Google Maps had showed several roads that would get us where we needed to be, nearly all of them were private roads with gates. We needed to get to Old Centerville Rd, which allegedly crossed into Alabama. Our GPS wanted us to go way around and add about 30 minutes of drive time. But we were determined to find a way though. We wormed our way through Moccasin Gap Rd. And thankfully it led us right to Old Centerville Rd. We still weren’t convinced though, as we had to drive about seven miles north. The paved road became dirt, then red clay. It looked like the road had been dug out of the ground without anyone maintaining it. That was later confirmed by several signs stating that Leon County did not maintain them. Nonetheless it was quite scenic as the live oak trees created a canopy effect. We drove through these roads for maybe 15 miles, never once going over 30 MPH. I believe we saw one other car the entire time. But we managed to cross the border into Thomas County, Alabama. Then after a brief turn onto Sunny Hill Rd., we crossed into Grady County, AL. No counties left behind!






We hugged the state line border for several miles, crossing into Gadsden County, FL then Decatur County, AL. We then put Blountstown, FL into the GPS and headed southwest, crossing into Liberty and Calhoun Counties.


After Blountstown we headed north into Jackson County. We passed through the tiny community of Two Egg. We saw no egg, let alone two. From there we hooked up with HWY 2, crossed the Chattahoochee River into Georgia and Seminole County. We headed into the city of Donalsonville and picked up the bonus county of Miller about two miles north.




At this point we were able to put our hotel into the GPS. The direct route took us through Early County, GA, then back into Alabama where our hotel waited for us in Houston County. We spent the night at The Country Inn & Suites by Carlson in the city of Dothan. By this time it was around 7:00. And we were ready for supper. We chose a Mexican restaurant because it was the #1 rated place in town. And it did not disappoint. Two super burritos cost me $15.00. The salsa for their free salsa and chips was fantastic. If you’re ever in Dothan be sure to visit La Parrilla. It’s well worth the lofty rating!




The next morning we had a leisurely drive back to the Atlanta Airport. We went north on HWY 431 out of Dothan. A few miles later we entered Henry County. Near the city of Abbeville we went northwest on HWY 10 and crossed into Barbour County. Right after crossing we turned south onto HWY 105 and took a one-mile side trip to the Dale County border. We also passed by the former home of Rosa Parks.





From here it was virtually a straight shot back to Atlanta. Along the way we picked up Bullock, Macon, Russell, Lee and Chambers Counties in Alabama, as well as Harris, Troup, Meriwether and Coweta Counties in Georgia. The last 90 miles found us on I-85. So in a trip of over 1100 miles traveled, only about 100 of them were spent on the interstate. The rest of the time was rural, rural, rural. The sights in this tri-state area were interesting. We saw many burned-out trailers, some of which were virtually next door to small mansions with pillars. It was quite the cross section.


All in all we visited 52 new counties – not bad for a three-day weekend. So what’s next? We have a pretty ambitious trip planned for the 4th of July weekend that will take us to Virginia and North Carolina. Stay tuned!



                                                NEW COUNTIES - 52
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2016 - 133
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1398

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