Updated: Jan 30, 2022
By Bob Deakin
I didn’t think I could do it, but I did. But I don’t want to do it again.
The trick is getting through New York and Baltimore as quickly as possible. On a weekday, that means you clear Baltimore by 8 am. On the weekend, it’s going to be busy but unpredictable. Back to the original premise of getting through Baltimore by 8 am is always a good idea.
There’s a specific energy and disgust driving through New York City, even just the upper, upper west side at the George Washington Bridge. At 4 am, it’s tame, and I think, “it’s not that bad around here.” Then I look at cars parked probably a mile from their apartments and hope they don’t have to walk their kids through this.
New York’s a place people get stuck living in, even though there are many better places to live. Yeah, it’s great you can find the best pizza, Asian food, jazz, getting in fights on street corners, whatever you’re into. But how often do you do that? Every night?
How often would you like to take your child for a bike ride or take a walk around the block without feeling your life is in danger?
Once I get on the GWB, it’s I95 (Okay, I’ll call it the Garden State Parkway or the New Jersey Turnpike) through Jersey and all ugly. Sorry Giants/Jets fans who get off at Exit 16. This place is technically a meadow, I’ll give you that, but it looks more like a marsh in the few undeveloped areas where there aren’t factories, power plants, dead bodies, or sports venues.
It’s interesting to look at while I drive but at the same time I can’t wait to reach Delaware, so I can reach Mayland, so I can pass through Baltimore, then Washington DC, then get through Richmond, Virginia without a hassle.
It seems like a long way but done at the right time, you’re through in five hours.
Think you’re ahead of schedule and that you’re going to get to Florida in 14 hours? Think again. It’s 400 miles (6 hours at average speed and times) from southern Connecticut to Richmond, Virginia.
Richmond to Orlando is about 750 miles but two lanes through South Carolina where anything might stop you on the highway. Anything includes a trooper parked along the highway or an accident, which may stop traffic for hours. There is no way out.
Did I mention South of the Border? No, not the Mexican border, but sort of a fake version of it. I’m talking about the border of North and South Carolina.
There is a place that still exists that travelers have driven by for decades, with all the billboards along I95 telling you how far away you are. The billboards are heavy on humor - light on cultural awareness - but dogged in their appearance hundreds of times through North and South Carolina.
According to the South of the Border website, there used to be 250 signs between Philadelphia and Dayton Beach, all with a little joke and a countdown of how many miles away you are.
Once you get there, you see a vast expanse of classic 1970s tourism: gift shops, a motel, gas station, restaurants, and the 200 foot-tall Sombrero Observation Tower.
The tower is closed for maintenance. I’ve stopped here more than a dozen times over the years, and I’ve never climbed it, nor can I remember seeing anyone up there. The tower is just one of those things that always brings two questions to mind: “Why did they build it? Is it safe?”
Would you climb this tower?
It’s conveniently located along I95 at the northern tip of South Carolina. Great real estate, and to the founders of South of the Border, job well done! You ruled the 70s, were still significant in the 80s, and you’ve enjoyed a comfortable (I hope) wind-down from there on.
Time to move on.
South Carolina on I95 is, as it is on every stretch of I95, a work in progress. It’s normally an uneventful, mostly-rural route, two lanes north or south, with a nice divider of trees for most of the ride. However, if anything goes wrong, such as a cow wandering too close to the highway, you may face a two-hour delay if things don’t go well.
Aside from that, it’s a nice ride south from there. Georgia is easy on I95, and only Jacksonville, Florida, may hold you up until West Palm Beach.
So pack your water, caffeinated beverages, and some form of audio entertainment. It’s 19 hours from CT to FL. Maybe 18 if you average 85 the whole way. You’re not going to get there any quicker. No way. No how.
Enjoy the ride!