Yesterday, I set out on another motorcycle journey up US-301. As I previously mentioned, I thought that writing a follow up to my first 301 photo post would be a good way start off after having fixed the site.
Since that first post, I’ve received a number of comments from people who remember traveling the route years ago, before the opening of I-95 lead to route becoming largely unused. Also, Georgia Public Broadcasting also did a piece about 2 years ago about 301. In the accompanying video, they show a picture of Robertson’s (which you’ll remember as the enclave of the K9 posse), and they highlight the Pineview Motel with a vintage postcard and a shot of the overgrown sign. There are a lot of abandoned service stations and motels on the road, so I was surprised to see the same two in their video.
At any rate, it’s been three years since that first trip, let’s see what has changed. Here we go–another trip up US-301:
First off, let me assure you, the K9 Posse’s hang out is still standing and still housing that killer wardrobe. Despite the complete lack of security, no one has dared to steal these high class threads from the dreaded K9 Posse:
Now that we have that out of the way, we can really get down to business. I decided that one focus of this trip would be to catalog some of the great old signs along the road. There are a number of large, neon signs that have long since lost their glass tubing. Rather than being bright, colorful nighttime beacons, they’re now mostly rusting hulks with faded paint.
This sign for the Paradise Restaurant is located in Cooperville in Screven County, just over the Bulloch County border. It’s a town that so small or abandoned that it’s not even mentioned in the Screven County Wikipedia article. There’s an old motel right next to it, and if I had to guess, I’d say that this place was a Howard Johnson’s at some point. HoJo’s loved that terrible blue and orange motif.
While this isn’t operating as a restaurant any longer, it appears to be functioning as some sort of flea market location. Assorted stuff is on display in the windows, and the sign said that it was open. I declined to enter.
A bit farther north, in Sylvania, I encountered this building. I can only assume that it was in the business of selling pyramids to the citizens of the greater Screven County area. Naturally, it follows that Pyramid Realty went out of business for a lack of Pharaohs seeking entombment. Still, you have to admire the bold vision of the proprietor.
Here is the sign for the Dreamland Motel. It must have been pretty impressive when lit up. All yellow letters and a giant arrow. While it looks pretty run down, the Dreamland itself is still operating. There were cars out front, and the motel even received a relatively positive review on Trip Advisor this past February.
I also decided I would try to check out any historical markers I passed on this trip. These markers are inconveniently placed set of five that I mentioned in my last post (though I mistakenly thought there were only 3, at the time). They are located at the northern intersection of US-301 and GA-24. Each of the 5 markers were placed at different times in the 1950s, when this was probably a very busy junction.
The southern most marker, placed in 1958, honors “The 14th Corps” of the Union Army. The XIV Corps was led by Jefferson C. Davis and stopped here in Jacksonboro (which we will learn more about shortly) after some fighting in Waynesboro. The marker has helpful little flags so the reader won’t be confused about who’s who.
Let’s learn about the Goodall House… oh look, it’s just west of here. Is it, really? Sure is:
Anyway, as that marker, placed in 1953, tells us, this house was the home to the only good man in the former town of Jacksonboro, GA. See, a crazy wandering preacher named Dow came into town and made the local drunks angry. Goodall was outraged by this behavior and took Dow in. The next day, though, the drunks drove him out of town, and Dow used the well known power of Methodist ministers to call down God’s fury and curse the town. God complied, and focused on bringing fires, floods, and heavy winds to the accursed community over the next 20 years.
Quite an overreaction, if you ask me. That damned interventionist God can be such a dick sometimes.
Anyway, you can read more about the story on Screven & Jenkins County library system’s site. This site claims that Sherman camped at the house. The historical marker left that part out, but it’s certainly possible; Sherman did travel with the Left Wing of his army.
You can also read this archived story from the Augusta Chronicle published in 1964. Just for good measure, the article engages some casual racism when the author felt the need to point out that the house “is occupied today by a Negro family.” Way to go, Augusta Chronicle!
Two other items of note:
1. The marker and the Augusta Chronicle refer to Dow as “Lorenza”. Everyone else in the world calls him Lorenzo.
2. Dow was born in Coventry, CT. The next town over from Vernon, where I grew up. Practically neighbors!
The next marker, also placed in 1953, belongs to class that is a staple of historical markers: The “Washington Was Here” marker. These exist everywhere on the East coast. They include stuff like where Washington did important stuff related to the Revolutionary War, places he slept, etc. One of my favorite ridiculous Washington markers is this one: “Washington Paused Here“. Really, Greenwich? That’s marker worthy?
So anyway, this marker appears to be pretty typical of the Washingon Marker. Georgie passed by here on his way to breakfast. Fantastic.
This 1952 marker tells us about Jacksonboro. Placed one year before the Goodall house marker, it doesn’t tell us anything about crazy preachers or holy curses.
We have just one marker left. What do you think it will be about? A glorious event of the Civil War? Something about a historic road? President Jefferson Davis once mentioned this place?
No, no, how about “World Famous Entomologist”. Wait, what?
Let’s talk about John Abbot (marker placed in 1955), collector of Lepidoptera (that’s moths and butterflies to you and me). Apparently this guy is legit. When botanists are chatting and then mention Abbot, it’s this guy. Check out that picture in the Wikipedia article; it’s a self portrait. Anyway. this is totally where Abbot hung out to collect butterflies. And to draw butterflies. And to draw himself.
Wait, what’s that last bit at the end of the marker?
“It is thought that his unmarked grave is not many feet west of this marker.” Wait, could i have accidentally walked on the revered Mr. Abbot’s grave?
Could this be it?
Or maybe it’s over there across the street? I totally just saw a butterfly over there a second ago.
What a weird way to end the historical marker. After checking out these markers, I decided to go get a closer look at the Goodall house. The dirt road down to the house is the driest, dustiest road over which I’ve ridden the motorcycle, and I almost went down a few times. The Shadow is NOT a dirt bike.
The house is surrounded by a locked fence, topped with barbed wire. It was purchased and renovated in the 1960s by the Daughters of the American Revolution. You can apparently call them and make an appointment for a free tour.
The DAR was very thourough, they even renovated the outhouse!
There is also this rusty locomotive-looking thing. Is it some sort of steam powered tractor? Actually, I’m guessing that’s exactly what it is.
After getting back on the road and passing the border into South Carolina, I stopped back into the shutdown welcome center and home to the Lower Savannah River Alliance. The inside of the center has been renovated, and they’ve added a fitness trail. This group has also worked on a conversion of the abandoned 301 stretch into a greenway that stretches to the old swing bridge. I walked this trail on my way back down to Statesboro; you’ll see the evidence of that a little further down.
The South Carolina Welcomes You sign is still tucked away at the back of parking lot, but over the last 3 years the two state seals have been pried off. Here’s a little secret: there are two more intact seals on the back side, in case you’re really certain you need one.
The Cresent Motel is in Allendale, SC and appears to be shut down. Perhaps it has waned into it’s new moon phase. At some point the owners thought spending money on a big metal neon sign was a good idea. You’d think they’d check their spelling before putting in the order.
The Lobster House is also in Allendale, and it’s apparently still a going concern. It’s a bar and grill now; I’m not sure if they still sell lobster. There were 4 or 5 bikers out front who were looking at me funny as I snapped this picture. I decided not to say hello.
Also in Allendale, is this “Hat Motel”. The sign is just a skeleton and the motel is fenced off. It’s actually being redeveloped into something, which is nice. Most of these old motels are just rotting on the side of the road.
Here we are a the Interstate truck stop. This is just north of Allendale in Ulmer, SC, on a stretch where 301 runs concurrently with US-321. It appears that it was once a pretty sizable truck stop. Given how busy 301 used to be, and that 321 overlaps 301 here, the place must have done pretty swift business in it’s heyday.
Now, though, I’m not sure you’d get that great of a view from the dining room:
Where 301 and 321 diverge there’s another historical marker site. As it’s going to be the last marker I show in this article, how could it not be about the Civil War?
Apparently this is the site of a bridge that was burned to prevent the advance of the XV corps late in the Civil war. While the picture of them did not come out (though you can see a picture of them on this page), this site is marked by 3 separate flags: the first national flag of the Confederacy, the Confederate naval jack (known popularly as the “Confederate Flag”), and the third national flag of the Confederacy.
Additionally there was a memorial marker (you can see it on the marker page linked above) for a Confederate officer who died in 1862. The marker was put in place in 2005, and there were fresh flowers on it when I stopped by.
The site is maintained by these folks. They’re dedicated to preserving Confederate history, and as it appears that they refresh the memorial site daily, they seem to be a pretty dedicated group.
After visiting this site, I turned around and decided to check out that greenway I mentioned. In my last entry I wrote about this abandoned stretch of 301 and how the woods around it were slowly enveloping the overpasses. Before I reached the greenway, though, I ran into this little girl:
I first saw her on the grass median between the north and south bound portions of the highway. I could see a rope or chain trailing behind her, so she had obviously gotten free from somewhere. I swung back around to try to catch her and see if she had any tags on her.
By the time I got back to where she had been, she had already run across to the other side of the road. She came right away when I called her, though, and was super friendly. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a collar on. All she had was a piece of relatively light gauge chain hooked around her neck with a broken link at the other end. It was about 90 degrees outside and she was very clearly thirsty. I really wished I had been carrying a bottle of water so I could have given her some.
All of this just made me angry. People do this around here. They have dogs that they keep almost exclusively outside, without collars or tags, and they get loose and run around on busy roads. If you’re going to treat an animal with such disregard, why even bother to have one?
With no indication of where she may live, and with no houses in the area, there wasn’t really anything I could do for her. I said goodbye and got ready to leave. She actually went up to my bike and put her head on the seat, which was super sad. I was able to get her to give me enough space to leave, and I took this shot of her after she had already run off to the side of the road towards the woods.
About 10 miles down the road, I reached the greenway.
Point 1 is where I parked and started out on the trail. This is about 2/3 of the way down the trail to the bridge from where the trail actually starts. The trail actually begins where I started out last time.
Point 3 is where there is access from 301 to the dirt road that leads underneath the overpasses. You’ll remember my pictures from that area from my first post, of course (since you’ve certainly read and reread that, memorizing each and every photo).
Point 4 is the bridge, and the end of the trail. The distance from 1 to 4 is just over 1.1 miles. Let me say something that should be obvious, folks: setting out for a 2.2 mile walk, in 90+ degree weather, while wearing jeans and boots, without any water is a bad idea. I survived, but I was stupidly thirsty by the end.
It’s interesting to note that Google maps still marks this as a road, even though it isn’t designated with a name. There must be hundreds of stretches like this across the country that are still shown as roads on our maps, but have been swallowed up by the woods or desert or whatever.
While the improvements haven’t fully converted the space into a multi-use trail—there are still trees eating the overpasses, the path is not suitable for road bicycles, and the road surface has given way to plant life in many places—it’s still very nice to walk along, as you can see above.
Around point two on the map above, the path reaches it’s farthest point away from the present day 301. When you’re on this part of the trail, all you can see on either sides are the trees. If it weren’t for the distant sound of a car passing about once every 5 minutes, you could really mistake this for some sort post zombie apocalypse setting. Or nuclear apocalypse, as I’ve been playing a little too much of Fallout: New Vegas lately.
Benches such as these are one of the improvements that the LSRA people did to convert the stretch into a trail. They also secured the entrances to make it difficult for ATVs to gain access, posted information at the trail heads, paved small portions, added barriers to the end of the swing bridge, and posted mile markers along the way.
This tree, which has grown around/into the concrete rail of the overpass, is typical of many trees along the span. What’s really amazing to note is that these bridges are 20-30 feet off of the swampy ground below. The tree in this picture extends a good 20-30 feet above the bridge.
I also came across a few trees that had grown up in the middle of the road. This is on a stretch of the path that is on solid ground, rather than being a bridge of the swamp. This tree is probably about 30 feet tall.
Seeing this got me to thinking again about how long this stretch of road had been disused. As I mentioned in the first 301 post, I have confirmation from a former co-worker that it wasn’t being used in the late 70s. The LRSA site, which I read before taking this trip, and the GPB article state the bridge opened in 1938 (a depression era project. As a side note, I’ve just found this article, which is from an SC newspaper in 1933 discussing the proposal for the bridge).
The earliest this span could have closed (assuming that the road wasn’t ever closed down) would have been when the new bridge span was constructed. At this point in my trip, I had no information about when the new span was constructed, so we’re working with a time frame between 1938 and 1978.
Don’t worry, we’ll get back to all of this fascinating minutiae of highway history a bit later.
This sign is on the deck near the beginning of the final elevated section of the road. You can see the rusted cable to which it is attached. This cable is threaded through the concrete rails on either side of the bridge. Rather than remove this obstacle, the folks who have restored this path simply slackened the cable enough for it to sit on the ground so that it is a fantastic hazard for runners and cyclists.
As you can see, this has been out here for a while. It’s been blasted with a shotgun at least once. The color has completely drained from the paint, and the message of the sign can be seen by only a slight difference in darkness. I’m betting it was the original one placed when the span finally closed to traffic. How long does it take for a street sign to go completely pale? If we knew, we’d be closer to an answer about when this road lost its purpose.
We’re almost at the swing bridge. This is the gate that was in place to stop people from driving to their deaths when the swing bridge was open. As you can see, the wood of the gate is still attached to the mechanism. There’s no wood on the deck of the bridge. I’d love to know if this was still in place until they converted this span into greenway, or if the wood broke off long ago. This is painted the same green as the metal parts of the bridge.
Here we are at the end of the line. You can see the bright and shiny fences that have been recently added by the LRSA folks. A couple of benches have been added, as well. Right there, dead center, you can see what I’ve dubbed “the Swing Hut”. I really really want to get into that swing hut. I want to sit in there and see the view of the river. I want to see what sort of controls are there for the bridge. Anyone game to somehow scale the the structure to check it out? Warning: this would certainly involve climbing gear, getting wet, and possibly falling to your death.
I still want to do it though.
Check out how this thing worked. Everything is on this giant concrete column, rising out of the river. Look closely to the right of the pillar underneath the bridge span. That rusty cog would grab onto the teeth that ring the column, pulling the bridge around. Those green steel wheels would pivot and allow the bridge to turn smoothly. Fantastic! How can you not love this giant cantilevered structure? I don’t know how! Are you excited, because I am!
Here’s a view from the bridge to the north. The non-swing portion of the bridge reaches almost half way across the river. Augusta is 60 or so miles up the river from here.
You can see the wooden channel guides for boats and ships going past the bridge. Look at how these guides perfectly pass the current Burton’s Ferry bridge and flair out after that’s bridge’s piers.
The wood all appears to be of a similar vintage. I doubt that they would have extended these guides that far past the swing bridge if there wasn’t another crossing there. These guides were built, or expanded, after the construction of the modern bridge. Does this mean these structures experienced a period of concurrent activity?
Here’s a very tranquil-looking view of the river to the South. It’s probably another 90 or so miles down river to Savannah. I think it’d be fun to travel from Savannah to Augusta by boat. Anyone want to buy or rent me a boat so we could try? I promise, I’ll let you be the XO and refer to you as Commander So-and-so.
Anyway, after spending a 10 or so minutes checking out the river it was time to head back. As I previously mentioned, I hadn’t brought any water, and I wasn’t really dressed for a 90 degree hike, so I wanted to get back on the road. In other circumstances, I think this would be a great place to sit and read a book.
As I approached the trail head and parking lot I snapped this picture:
You can see the new pavement that has been added by the LSRA folks, but that’s not the important part of this picture. What’s the important part? It’s just a decaying road with some flaking paint, right?
Well, check out that paint! That’s a yellow line at the border of this road. As all of you good drivers know, you don’t get yellow paint on the side of a two way road.. it can only happen on a divided highway, as yellow lines denote the boundary of a lane from a lane of on coming traffic.
That means that in it’s last configuration, this road carried US-301 Northbound. There was at least some period of overlap when this span operated in tandem with the modern day 301.
Small mysteries of the roadways aside, by this point I was supes thursto (Yes, I just wrote that. Deal with it). It was time to hop on the bike, and I planned to stop at the Georgia Welcome Center.
The picture above is borrowed from my last 301 post. I didn’t bother to grab a photograph, even though my visit to the stop was vastly different this time.
My last visit was on a Sunday, and this center is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Since this trip was on a Saturday, the center was open. Out front were 2 45′ RVs, each with a full, enclosed car trailer. There was also a flat bed truck parked here carrying a giant, 17 foot tall tank (which I later found out was bound for a power plant in Tennessee).
Inside of the welcome center, I met Anne, the helpful State of Georgia employee who was staffing the outpost. The bathrooms weren’t working (plumbing problem) but they had a working soda fountain (complementary coke products!) and, thankfully, a working water fountain.
As I relaxed in the air conditioned environment and downed at least a dozen cups of cool water from the fountain, I talked with Anne about the route I had taken. Yes, the center was built in 1960, Anne said. The vaulted ceilings of the center were original. The aluminum fixtures outside were original to the building. The welcome center was built in this design, Anne says, to attract visitors with the futuristic design. Anne told me that it was Statesboro architect that designed the center. Several other centers were built with the exact same design, but this center is the last remaining of that group, Anne said. There was a special ceremony commemorating this center last week, Anne said. This center is the oldest continuously operating welcome center in the country, according to Anne and various web sources.
According to Anne, the greenway trail had opened within this last year. In addition she told me about the old caretaker’s house for the swing bridge. Apparently it was a two story house, built into the Georgia side embankment that received the bridge. She had been inside the house while growing up, and the floors were not accessible to each other from the inside; you had to use an exterior stair case to go up or down. She told me it was demolished by the state in the 90s as they were concerned about folks hanging out there and using drugs. That’s sad, as it seems like a great place for them to have restored a building to provide an attraction for boaters going up and down the river.
I asked Anne about the history of the abandoned span, and she told me that the modern branch was constructed in 1965 and the old branch was shut down. 1965, now we have a ‘earliest date’ for the closing of the old branch, but I’m not convinced the change over was immediate. Those road marking almost prove the roads were working as a ‘team’ at some point. Given that there are many portions of 301 that still function as divided highways, it seems like the road would have been kept in this arrangement until someone, most likely on the SC side, decided that maintaining the older stretch of the road was not worthwhile.
After chatting with Anne for a while, the owners of the RVs came in. As it turned out the owners were brothers, one of whom lives in Shelton, CT from May through October. Both families make a seasonal trip down to Florida in the winter to live side by side. US-301 is their preferred route, and they travel it each way, even though it is not the quickest way.
Both of the brothers were formerly truck drivers and were able to tell me of the time before the ubiquity of the interstate system. They travel 301 as it was their route back in their working days. They each told me that they preferred the scenery, slower pace, and variety provided by the secondary road.
I can’t disagree with them on any of these points. When I’m on the motorcycle, I try to travel on roads such as this exclusively. When I’m riding, it’s not about getting somewhere; I’m riding to have an experience. That experience is much more pleasant when the traffic is light-to-non-existent and the scenery constantly varies.
Unfortunately, this attitude doesn’t carry over to my travels in the car. If I’m heading somewhere in the Saturn, I’m usually trying to get from one place to another. That’s not because I dislike my car; I love my little SL2, and I do as much of the maintenance & repair with my own two hands as possible. I just can’t get myself to slow down as much when I’m fully encased by steel and glass.
Anyway, the RV brothers and I left the stop at the same time. Anne encouraged me to stop back again, and I think that I will definitely do so. As much as it drives my dear, dear Holly nuts, I really love talking to strangers sometimes. I mounted the Shadow, and didn’t get off until I stopped for gas in Statesboro, after a 5 hour journey up and down 301.
But wait, I hear your protests. What of the Pineview Motel, highlighted at the end of your last 301 journey? Well, I kept my eyes open for the Pineview both on the trip up and down 301, but I didn’t find it.
Looking back at the original, unedited, photos from my first 301 post, I think that the Pineview used to be here:
I’d have to go back up and compare the street sighs a bit more closely to be sure. Since I didn’t take note of the Pineview’s location before I left, I wasn’t looking super closely for it. Given that it was such an obvious target for my first venture and that I didn’t see it at all this time, despite specifically looking for it, I think it’s reasonable to say that it has been demolished.
That, in and of itself, is interesting, though. Such a project would take money. The Google aerial view shows a plot that has clearly been razed, but no construction going on. I didn’t notice any new projects in this area on my ride.
Who killed the Pineview, and what are their nefarious plans? I don’t know. You don’t know either. Maybe we’ll find out if we’re patient enough, and I remember to continue to visit the site.
All I know is that I should have nabbed that picture of the ship while I had a chance.
So that’s US-301, go around number 2. Even after 2 entries, there are many sites on this stretch I haven’t highlighted, and hundreds more outside of the Ulmer, SC -> Statesboro, GA corridor of US-301.
What is the next photo-documented ride for me? I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that I’m glad to be writing again, and to be sharing with all of you.