Part of the fun in planning our next road trip for me is mapping it out. Even if it’s the same route we usually take I look at the map tons of times before we go. What time should we leave? If we drive 5 hours how far will we get? Are there any decent hotels to stop at? Lucky for me Panama City Beach is in the pan handle of Florida and there are options.
I have an uncle that lives in Florida and one that spends the winter there. They both swear by the road less traveled. So instead of taking the recommended route this time I convinced my husband that we should try their way. They make the trip even more than we do so they must be on to something, right?
So even though Google, Garmin, Apple maps and AAA all said the best route would be I65 through Indianapolis we took I57 through Illinois. We left after work and hoped to get to Champaign, Il. One traffic back up around Chicago and a lot of construction later we were almost there. However once you are out of Chicago there are very few hotels on the highway (or restaurants or gas stations), most are several miles off the highway closer to the city itself. At 11:00 PM that is not an option for us so we ended up at one of the two we did find.
We stay at a lot of hotels, some nice and some ok. I don’t think I would have classified this one as either. Old, dirty, stinky and the free breakfast table reminded me of the 80’s- a loaf a bread, some prepackaged muffins, a couple of oranges and an over ripe banana. Thankfully there was coffee. The saying you get what you pay for played over and over in my head. On the plus side it was late and the kids couldn’t really see what they were walking into.
We headed out the next morning and took the more traveled path once reaching Nashville. That being said it is still a lesser traveled road from Montgomery to Panama City Beach than we would take to Orlando. They kids asked more than once if we were going up north. Lots of two lane highways that were lined with trees. We even ended up behind a tractor at one point. Very pretty scenery but not a freeway and not necessarily where you want to stop for a bathroom break- but it was only a 3 hour drive that morning so we didn’t have to stop. Oh and country highways lead to even more options. Do we take this way or that. One friend texted and said do not take the way we took, another said the same thing. So what did we do? Ignored the Garmin telling us to turn around and google maps telling us to turn here and pulled out the map. Yes the map, a real paper map that I had to fold so I could hold in my hand and focus on the small part that we were traveling through. We took the highway that the billboard we past said was the fasted route to the beach. So just like Kermit and Fozzie Bear we drove by map.
Montgomery, AL does also have a lot more hotel options that were on our route. We stayed at a very nice LaQuinta just outside of Montgomery in Prattville, www.laquintaprattville.com.
We got to the resort early and the rooms were not ready because of the high number of check ins that day- but that’s a story for another day…I’m glad we tried the new route, since I have wanted to for quite some time. But from now on I believe that we will stay on the recommended path.