Day 4: To Darien, GA - Atlantic Coast 2017 - CycleBlaze

April 19, 2017

Day 4: To Darien, GA

I feel better today. Only blew my nose twice overnight. I had a scenic ocean-view breakfast at the Days Inn restaurant. Today will be part tourist day and part travel day.

After breakfast I walked the concrete beach boardwalk north to its end. Past several luxury hotels including a 4-star Westin resort. One section is a big park, in the area that had the largest expanse of dunes between the boardwalk and beach.

Carpeted path through the dunes.
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The boardwalk ends at a big restaurant called Tortuga Jack's. Jekyll Island is a popular place to watch hatching sea turtles (tortugas in Spanish) but I'm a few weeks too early for that.

Dunes at Jekyll Island.
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I walked back to the motel mostly on the beach. The sun already seemed hot to me, so it was nice to be closer to the water. My first chance so far to really experience the Atlantic ocean waves, seashells, and wet sand.

Jekyll Island.
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The southeast U.S. Atlantic coast has long sections where it's quite difficult for a cyclist to get to a beach. The coast is so swampy that the main highway is always miles inland. There are beaches, but you have to go miles down a dead end road to get to them. The beach on Jekyll Island is 9 miles from US 17.

Back at the hotel I packed up and pedaled 3 miles north to the Jekyll Island Historic District on the bay side of the island. It has a large number of historic structures built in the 1880's and 1890's. Jekyll Island Club was a winter playground for the ultra-rich. At first the main activity was hunting stocked game. Later golf became the main activity.

Rockefeller cottage in the Jekyll Island Historic District.
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The typical guest traveled to Brunswick on a private luxury rail coach (19th century equivalent of a private jet), then chartered a 110-foot steamer to the island. There was no road access until the causeway was completed in 1954.

Jekyll Island Historic District.
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Jekyll Island Club operated from 1886 until 1942. The state of Georgia purchased the property in 1947 to create a state park and operated the lodge until 1971. The lodge reopened in 1985 and is still operating now.

The main Jekyll Island Club lodge.
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The Jekyll Island Club has a very different atmosphere from the beach resorts on the opposite side of the island. Here it's less windy and there is shade from a canopy of mature live oak trees. With no modern development nearby, it's very calm and genteel.

Perhaps the most charming cottage.
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The historic district has many interpretive signs, sidewalks, and bike trails but very little visitor parking. They obviously want the beach visitors to arrive by bike if possible.

Jekyll Island historic district has sprawling live oak trees and many bike paths, probably paid for by the $6/day automobile toll.
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After leaving the shady historic district I ventured out into the sun again. First across the bridge to the mainland. Then the 8 mile causeway, this time with a strong tailwind. Then the 2 mile long Sidney Lanier bridge which crosses the Brunswick river to my next tourist stop, the city of Brunswick.

Crossing the bridge back to the mainland.
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The roadway climbs 200 feet above the water, the first of two major summits during this tour. Both summits are bridges. Nothing on land comes close-the highest land elevation on my route is only 80 feet!

The Sidney Lanier bridge crosses the Brunswick river. First of two major summits of the tour.
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I enjoyed the view from the top of the bridge. On the east coast it's a rare treat to get above the treetops.

Mouth of the Brunswick river in the distance. Saint Simon's island lighthouse barely visible on the left.
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Coming off the bridge I promptly enter the city of Brunswick. Population 16,000. It's not much of a tourist attraction but it has a very large historic district.

Brunswick historic district.
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No crowds of tourists in Brunswick. I enjoyed wandering around the many blocks of historic homes. There is a wide variety of architecture.

Brunswick historic district.
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Brunswick has the biggest, most sprawling live oak trees that I saw during this tour. The elderly trees must have survived multiple hurricanes.

Brunswick historic district. Not all of the houses have traditional southern architecture.
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Brunswick was founded as a British colony in 1738 as a buffer to the Spanish colony of Florida. The city has only 16,000 people but the metro area is 110,000 people. The port is the nation's 3rd busiest roll-on/roll-off port. The major export facility for Ford and General Motors, and the major import facility for most European car manufacturers.

Brunswick historic district.
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I wandered through the downtown area which is close to the river. Downtown is doing reasonably well, not many vacant buildings. But not trendy either. Still seemingly undiscovered by tourists and hipsters. I had a very good hummus wrap for lunch at a sidewalk cafe in the middle of downtown.

It was nice to leisurely wander around town, but I still need to pedal 20 miles to Darien.

Downtown Brunswick, Georgia.
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Traffic was heavier between Brunswick and Darien but the shoulder is still usable. Nearly continuous rural development.

It might still be occupied.
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I saw relatively few Confederate battle flags on display. That particular flag was Georgia's state flag from 1956-2001.
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I turned into downtown Darien to look around. It was founded in 1736 but has few remaining historic buildings. But there are many interesting ruins of 18th century warehouses along the river.

Ruins of 18th century port facilities in Darien, Georgia.
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Darien seems to be mostly a commercial fishing port, not a cargo port.

Port in Darien.
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Downtown Darien has a couple of upscale Bed and Breakfasts but no motel. I pedaled 2 miles north of downtown, then 2 miles west of US 17 to a $80 Days Inn near an I-95 exit. The area is quite dreary, dominated by a huge bankrupt outlet mall.

Nativity of Our Lady Catholic church in Darien.
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I arrived at 4:30, took a 1.5 hour nap, then walked to Ruby Tuesday for dinner. It's a shame to eat at a chain restaurant because I passed restaurants in Darien that feature local seafood. But they are too far away from my I-95 exit.

I'm still sick but definitely on the upswing now. Energy level is still low and I still have a terrible cough, but the sinus congestion is mostly gone.

I like days that are part travel, part touring. Level terrain and a tailwind made the traveling fast and easy. The Jekyll Island and Brunswick historic districts were fantastic diversions, well worth the time and trouble.

Today had the usual southeast wind and a high temperature of only 83F. Slightly cooler than the previous days but still extremely humid. The typical pattern in the sky is cloudless morning, partly cloudy afternoon, then cloudless again in the evening.

My next destination is Savannah which is a major tourist destination. I made hotel reservations for Thursday and Friday nights in midtown Savannah, 5 miles from the tourist district. Thursday night will cost $59 plus tax. The same room on Friday night will cost $155 plus tax.

Distance: 37.5 mi. (60 km)
Climbing: 539 ft. (163 m)
Average Speed: 9.3 mph (14.9 km/h)

Today's ride: 38 miles (61 km)
Total: 115 miles (185 km)

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