The Southeast Trip Begins: Leaving Tampa, Northbound


This trip is a bit unusual.  Instead of flying, renting a car, and driving, I decided to pack up the old Hyundai Santa Fe (and I do mean old: the trip started with 94,000 on the odometer!) and drive as far as I could in one week.  Leaving from home had its advantages. I was able to pack my bicycle, and I didn’t have to worry about fitting all my possessions into just one or two suitcases.

This is also the first trip on which I tried something new.  I devised a plan to record video of every mile I drove.  Such an idea would have been expensive or impossible just a few years ago, but now, it only required an investment of about $200.  I purchased a Kodak Zx1 Hi-Def mini camcorder, a 16 gigabyte memory chip, and a cigarette-lighter power supply.  Whenever I started driving, I pressed record.  When I parked, I stopped the recording.  Except for a couple of forgetful moments, I managed to record all of the 3,379.9 miles of this trip.  I’ve broken many of the segments down into watchable, high-speed clips, and included them on this page.  Here’s an example that starts in my driveway, and ends at the northern end of the Suncoast Parkway (Florida Road 589).

SR 589 ends at US 98, which just happened to be the highway I needed to carry me all the way up the Florida peninsula, and over the panhandle, towards my first night’s stop in Mobile, Alabama.  Between Tampa and Perry, Florida, I only made one stop…

… when I spotted these old US highway signs north of Chiefland, Florida.  You can’t actually see them from US 19/98 — they’re on a side road.  But, I remembered seeing them several years ago, and I had always wanted a picture of them.

Florida used to color-code its US highway signs.  State officials thought the color schemes would make the highways easier for tourists to follow.  The feds didn’t like the idea — they thought all US highway shields should be black and white.  Since states have to follow the federal standards, or risk losing money, Florida reluctantly fell in line.  You can learn more about the colored highway shields here.

You’d be crazy to fly into Tampa, just to follow my exact route.  Atlanta, Birmingham, New Orleans, or Memphis would all make better starting points.  But, just in case you happen to live in Tampa, here’s the directions: Take the Veterans Expressway/Suncoast Parkway north to US 98 west.  US 98 will join US 19, and later, US 27, and take you off the Florida peninsula.

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