Drive East to Hilton Head Island
Four weeks ago, Cathy and I left Toronto for Utah and California. Now we are driving east, from Mission Beach, San Diego to the Hilton Head Beaches near Savannah, Georgia. We are taking 5 days to drive the 2500 mile distance. This is part of our Coast to Coast USA series.
Day 1 – San Diego, California to Casa Grande, Arizona
Our first day drive gets started late because of a misadventure. Our e-bikes were stolen overnight and so we had some police and insurance things to work through.
Today is all I-8 driving with 75 mph speed limits and easy traffic. The sand dunes just west of Yuma remind us of our camping trip in the Sahara, absent the camels.
We take a short detour off the interstate and into the Sonoran Desert to take a closer look at the spectacular flowering desert plants. Even though it is spring, it’s hot in the desert – we hit a high of 97 degrees F, or 36 degrees C.
Day 2 – Casa Grande to Pecos, Texas
Today’s drive is across New Mexico and western Texas. One stop is at Las Cruces. It is a nice valley town with a fun road-runner statue on an overlooking hill. Previous years we have taken secondary highways from here into White Sands Missile Testing Range, and to the Carlsbad Caverns. This time we stay on I-10 heading east. On this day, our destination is Pecos. It’s an oil and railway town in West Texas.
Day 3 – Pecos, Texas to Marshall, Texas
Everyone says Texas is a big state. Cathy and I can now vouch for this as we drive all day at the posted 80 mph, and finally get to Marshall. West Texas is all about gas and oil, and if you need to mess up an area with a lot of fracking, then this is a good place to do it. The only other things we see in this wind swept and arid landscape are a few range cattle and hundreds of windmills.
We hit one construction back-up, and watch Texan initiative as many pickup drivers bail off the interstate over the grass embankment and onto the service road. If we still had our F150 4WD, that would have been us.
The wild flowers along the roadway are beautiful, and it brings back memories of time I spent in Dallas some 30 years ago.
Tonight we have a good feed at Porky’s, a local restaurant in Marshall – the catfish is excellent.
Day 4 – Marshall, Texas to Montgomery, Alabama
After weeks of travel in deserts, plains and arid mountains, we are now driving through the lush forests and bayous of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama .
We cross the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Vicksburg has a notable history. The Siege of Vicksburg ended with surrender to the Union forces one day after General Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg. These two events were the turning point in the American Civil War.
We detour through Selma, Alabama, to check out the Edmond Pettus Bridge across the Alabama River. This is the sight of the 1965 ‘Bloody Sunday’. Hundreds set out to march from Selma to Montgomery in protest of black voter suppression. There was a violent and bloody confrontation with police. Intervention by the federal government allowed Martin Luther King Jr. to lead the march to Montgomery a few weeks later. For Cathy and me, today’s Selma is a disappointment, with a hollowed out downtown core and many deserted stores and boarded up buildings.
Day 5 – Montgomery to Hilton Head, South Carolina
Today Cathy and I are crossing Georgia south of Atlanta, on secondary roads. It’s a Sunday morning so the roads are empty and the many rural churches are full. The Georgia country side is filled with peach and almond orchards. After 4 nights on the road, we are excited about getting to Hilton Head and spending the next week at our time-share condo. We notice that the Spanish Moss is growing back on the trees, after all being swept away in last year’s hurricane winds. Plans include some kayaking in the bay, some golf at the Golden Bear Golf Course, and some biking on the beach.
Two travel hints for driving across the USA
Buying gas with your credit card – When you insert your credit card into the card reader on the gas pump, it will ask for your ZIP code. As a Canadian, put in the three numbers of your postal code followed by zero, zero. It will verify your card, and you don’t need to go inside to the counter for pre-verification.
Time zones – In April, California is on Pacific Daylight Savings Time, and Arizona stays on Mountain Standard Time, so no clock changes for us on Day 1. For Day 2, we lose 2 hours, as Texas in on Central Daylight Savings Time. We stay on Central Daylight Savings Time for Days 3 and 4. On Day 5 we lose 1 hour, as we enter Eastern Daylight Savings Time in Georgia.