Thursday was the third riding day in a row. Maureen opted to take the day off and help Mom with the navigation and laundry. We knew it would be a late start, as we were packing up camp and getting dropped off a few towns up the route. Our start point goal was the town of Callahan, Florida. We would then pick up the Okefenokee Alternate to the main route and head into Georgia.
Before we got that far, we stopped at an incredible gathering of birds we’d seen the day before just south of Amelia Island.
Then we had a late morning stop at Panera Bread in Yulee, FL for a snack, some caffeine, and wifi. Wifi access while camping has been an ongoing issue, so we find it where we can. We also verified that there was indeed a laundromat in Callahan. Mom and Maureen dropped us off around lunchtime outside of Callahan and we started to ride. It was already quite warm. The road was smooth, but well-traveled. A shoulder was available, but the road was safer. In general, drivers were quite courteous. We did have a bit of a headwind. By the time we got into Georgia, Dad had had enough. We phoned our support vehicle and settled in to lunch at the stone picnic tables outside the First Baptist Church in St. George, GA. Luckily, said tables were also in the shade.
Once we were picked up, we drove up the road about twenty miles to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It was already past 4 pm, so the visitor center was closed. We were directed into the concessionaire’s office to pay an entrance fee, but they advised us that entry was free after 4 pm. The main attraction for a quick visit to the Refuge is the Swamp Island Drive, an 8-mile loop through the swamp. The interpretive information for the drive is contained in this PDF. Sadly, we didn’t see any alligators. I found it interesting that the white-banded trees were marked for protection, because they are over 60-year-old long leaf pines that provide homes for endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers. The older trees (like many older humans) have heart disease, which allows the birds to be able to “drill” into living trees for their nests.
One of the highlights of the drive is the Chesser Island Homestead. This “island” in the swamp shows how settlers lived in this area. While the homestead is well-equipped and relatively attractive, we all wondered what would possess someone to live in the middle of a huge swamp (what with snakes and alligators and MOSQUITOS).
The gourds in the third photo below are bird houses for purple martins, which are desirable because they eat lots of flying insects, though there is some debate about whether this includes mosquitos.
After the drive, we headed to our hotel in Waycross, Georgia. While not much to write home about, it was a nice respite from camping.
TripAdvisor advised us that Hog-n-Bones was the top restaurant in town, and we called just in time to get take-out before they closed. The “smoke” chicken was great, and Dad reports that the ribs were even better. For sides, the baked beans and cole slaw both earned the thumbs-up rating. Vegetarians should eat elsewhere–there are no meat-free options (except cole slaw and fries).
We decided not to ride the next day, and instead slept in and took the scenic route to our next campground–Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park in Reidsville, Georgia. Our first Georgia state park was very nice, though the camping, golf, and fishing/picnicking areas were not well separated from one another. The sunset and moonrise were beautiful.