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Sixth sense finds a faster route

Most people have heard that old line that was immortalized by the late great Lewis Grizzard. "Dang, brother, I don't believe I'd told that!"

Except Lewis didn't say "dang," did he?

Well, I had one of those moments last week, and I know I shouldn't, but I am going to admit it anyway.

There we were, my family and me, tooling down the highway toward Jekyll Island. Georgia was playing Florida on Saturday, and my kids were both home from college for the first time since August - for some strange reason, the University of Georgia schedules their mid-semester fall break to coincide with the annual blood-letting between the Georgia and Florida football teams that is held on the banks of the St. John's River every autumn - and we decided to make a long weekend out of the trip to the game.

We love Jekyll Island and had packed up our bicycles and our play clothes, and were going to mix in a little riding and putt-putt golf and seafood-eating with the football festivities. And, by staying on Jekyll Island, we could do all those things without spending a dime in the state of Florida - another plus.

So, as I said, there we were, early on a Thursday morning, tooling down the road, ostensibly toward Brunswick and the Golden Isles.

But then conversation turned to football games past, and I began to relive, as I am want to do, memories of faded glory and the Florida games of my youth. I think everybody else in the car was sound asleep, but I was having a good time.

I was so involved in my own thoughts that I didn't even notice the "We Bare All" signs as we approached the Café Risque near Byron, and I barely glimpsed at the State Agriculture Center at Perry.

I did a double-take, however, when I saw the sign proclaiming that Unadilla was the next exit. (This is the "wouldn't have told that" part of the story.) I had completely forgotten where I was going. I took the 475 route north of Macon and missed I-16 altogether.

Hoping my lovely wife, Lisa, wouldn't wake up and lambaste me for being so stupid, I tried to ease off the road and head east.

It didn't work.

She peeked at the exit sign through one half-closed eye and all of a sudden she was Magellan, Balboa, John C. Fremont and every other great explorer rolled into one.

Big sigh here. You'd think I'd be used to it after 25 years, but I'm really not.

The story had a happy ending, though, because we wound up taking U.S. 280 straight across the state, and it was one of the most pleasant drives I have experienced in a long, long time.

Gov. Joe Frank Harris once claimed that there aren't two Georgias. No offense to the former governor, but Joe Frank was wrong, because the Georgia we traveled through on the way to Jekyll Island isn't anything like the Georgia I live in every day.

We saw some of the prettiest cotton fields you have ever seen, stark white against the clear blue sky. And we saw pecan groves with trees that seemed to be overloaded. In fact, a wind gust came up and as we drove past one grove and it looked like it was raining pecans.

We drove through small towns with names like Rochelle, Abbeville and Milan - and even passed through Eugene Talmadge territory in Telfair County. There wasn't a billboard or transfer truck in sight - and very few cars if the truth were known.

We hit U.S. 341 in McRae, and the road was even better - four lanes for the most part and the traffic was still just as light.

We followed the Norfolk Southern Railroad through Graham and Baxley, where we did have to slow down just a touch, and straight through Jesup (home of Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!) and straight into Brunswick and over the causeway to Jekyll.

The time? Less than five hours. Now understand, we travel to the coast at least twice a year, and we never make it in less than five hours. And don't tell the Georgia State Patrol, but that counted stopping for lunch.

The distance? Three-hundred twenty miles - 10 miles shorter than our normal route.

I reckon I wasn't quite as dumb as I seemed, and the best part was that the kids didn't figure out that I hadn't done it on purpose. They all liked the "new route" better than the old. So, I learned a new trick, and if I ever get to go back to the coast will use it again.

But please don't tell anybody my secret. I like having the road to myself.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.