TUESDAY TRAVELER - Road Trip - December 2012 - Florida to Georgia to North Carolina

Welcome to my first US “road trip” blog.  I haven’t been blogging about my US trips but hey, I may have something to share that could be of help to another traveler.  So if you’re so inclined, let me know what you think.

After returning from Costa Rica in November several friends asked where I would be spending Christmas, and since two of my daughters planned on meeting in North Carolina, I decided to take a road trip.

Danielle, my oldest daughter, and her family live in North Carolina (NC) and my middle daughter Amanda along with her family live in North Dakota (ND).  My home is in Florida (FL) and the drive from FL to NC takes about 12 hours but I’ve got a good friend that lives about half way and their place is always welcoming.  I’ve also got to make a trip to Orlando FL to drop off a Christmas gift to a friend of mine that is returning to his home in the Dominican Republic. 

Here’s a quick summary of how the trip should go.  Day one, stop in Orlando FL (two hours from my home) to see Dave who is home for the holidays from Afghanistan and drop off a package.  Day two, make my way north about four hours to Savannah Georgia (GA) and visit Jimmy G and his family for a couple days.  And my last travel day will take me to the Greensboro NC area which is about a six hour ride.  I’ll hang out there until I get ready to head home, which is still an undetermined amount of time.  Hey, I’m retired, what’s the rush.

Travel Day One: Clearwater to Orlando Florida

Okay the road trip has started.  I departed about 1130 and with me living in FL long pants and warm winter clothes are not part my wardrobe so I had to make a stop to get some long pants.  Considering the time of day, the drive from Clearwater to Tampa went very smooth with little traffic.  Once I got on I275 north the traffic picked up a lot but was moving between 65 and 70 mph, so I just got in line and rolled with the crowd.  The traffic was heavy for the remainder of my drive to the Orlando International Airport (airport code MCO) where Dave was staying at the Hyatt.

After finding the hotel parking area, I entered the Hyatt through the airport terminal.  The lobby of the hotel is close to a couple of TSA screening areas and what a mess those were.  I know it’s getting close to Christmas but the number of people in line to clear TSA screening was just crazy.
After talking to Dave for a while we headed to the hotel I was staying at to check out the battery operated motorcycle for his son in the Dominican Republic.  We unpacked and measured the motorcycle to see if he could take it as checked baggage; short answer is no.  The bag cannot exceed 62 inches by combining the length + width + height and the boxed motorcycle measured about 88 inches.  We partially disassembled and found a suitcase that would fit the biggest part of the motorcycle and packed the other pieces in his other checked bags.  He did end up with three checked but I’m not sure if the airlines charged him an additional bag fee. 

Dave headed back to the Hyatt about 1800 to pack and pre-check his baggage and I returned to my hotel (La Quinta Inn Orlando Airport West).  The La Quinta Inn was a good place to stay and the price was right at $49 for the night; as with many hotels, it included a continental breakfast.  It was actually cheaper for me to include the stop and stay in Orlando than it would have been driving back to the Tampa area and passing by the hotel as I left for NC.

Travel Day Two:  Orlando FL to Savannah GA.

I started the second portion of my road trip about 0830 with the fog thick throughout central FL.  Being a Saturday, there was very little routine work traffic leaving mainly holiday travelers on the highway and the speed quickly ramped up to about 70 mph.  Nothing spectacular to mention during the drive and I made it to Jimmy G’s house in Savannah GA about 1330.

When I got to Jimmy G’s house he was finalizing his preparations for the office Christmas party which was still 4 hours away.  He wasn’t personally getting dressed to go, but as the party organizer, he was working on the gift exchange and a raffle, so I probably shouldn’t bust his chops too much.  Before I’d departed Fl, Jimmy and his wife Cathy had invited me to go with them.   When I arrived and found out it wasn’t a “company” party, just the people that worked with Jimmy, I decided to go. 
The party was located at “Billy’s Place”, a nice restaurant which is on the second floor of McDonough’s Restaurant and Lounge.  As well as Billy’s Place being collocated with the restaurant and lounge, Billy has a small bed and breakfast called “The inn at McDonough’s”.   Billy has a crew that are lead by Butch the manager, and Janice the concierge who make sure all their guests are taken care of by their professional staff.  While I’ve read some negative reviews my personal experience was great.

Now let me take a minute and tell you about the rooms in the Inn; the most impressive thing is they are completely soundproof.  Another thing the Inn has is a private secured entrance so you can come and go as you please.  Even though they are right next to the Billy’s fine dining and on a main Savannah street, you can’t hear anything outside your room.  The windows are two pieces of thick glass separated by dead air space.  The walls surrounding your room are about 12 inches thick, constructed with twice as much sheetrock and insulation found in a normal hotel.  When I went inside a room, traffic was heavy on the street below and happy hour for the party had already started; after closing the door the only thing I heard was Janice (the concierge) talking.  The rooms are spacious, comfortable, and elegant and the breakfast that’s included is made to order.  Depending on the season and days you stay the room rates range from $99 to $199.

As I said earlier, the Billy’s Place restaurant and McDonough’s Restaurant and Lounge are staffed with the same professionalism as the Inn.  The atmosphere at Billy’s is that of a martini bar and is more romantic than the restaurant and lounge on the first level complete with Nancy Webb playing the piano and singing.  The lounge on the first floor feature nightly karaoke starting around 10pm and the place starts filling up around 9, so get there early.  This is a place I recommend stopping for dinner and drinks if you’re ever in Savannah Georgia.

The Christmas party went really well with friendly service, great food and drinks from Billy’s staff.  After dinner, Bobbie, a co-worker of Jimmy’s, took the stage as master of ceremonies to handle the gift exchange and other festivities.  Her naturally bubbly personality brought smiles, laughter, and sometimes shocked expressions from the guests as she called them to select their gift and told everybody what it was.  The Chinese gift exchange was hilarious both with the types of gifts people brought and the swapping of the guests to get their gift of choice.

With the Christmas party done, the only thing I still wanted to do was visit the Milan Day Spa, which I did.  Jimmy and his wife Cathy (Cat) are the owners of the spa and Cat worked me in for a back waxing.  Almost every time I stop in Savannah I make it a point to call Cat and get a waxing or massage.  As I’ve mentioned in other blogs and on Trip Advisor reviews, Milan Day Spa is a touch of heaven in downtown Savannah.  This is a place I highly recommend patronizing anytime you’re in Savannah. 

After Cat working me in at the spa, I spent Sunday with Jimmy and his family before getting ready for the final push to my daughters house in NC.  Now mind you, even though this will be the longest leg of my drive, it’s still only going to be a six hour ride.  If I were to drive straight from my house in FL, the entire trip would have taken about 12 hours.

Travel Day Three:  Savannah, GA to Greensboro, NC

The trip started out with a little fog and as I entered South Carolina on I-95 it started raining; it was light but continued the entire day.  I arrived at about 1:30pm which made the normally 12 hour drive a 74 hour journey.  But since being retired, not having a time schedule controlling my life, and always having fun, the trip was well worth it.  Yes I visited old friends, made new friends, and found new locations to visit. 

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