Twelve miles north of I-16, Statesboro (pop. 31,419) was also one of Sherman’s stops on his notorious March to the Sea. Here in 1864 his troops torched the courthouse; today’s historic courthouse dates from the late-19th century. Georgia Southern University, with an enrollment of more than 19,000, dominates the town, especially during the fall football season. In Statesboro, Main Street runs in four different directions: north, east, south, and west. In the late 1920s, the town inspired Georgia-born Blind Willie McTell to write “Statesboro Blues,” a blues classic that was later recorded by Taj Mahal and the Allman Brothers.
For barbecue, head over to Vandy’s Barbecue (22 W. Vine St., 912/764-2444, Mon.-Sat.), a white-painted breezeblock local landmark a block south from the center of Statesboro on that omnidirectional Main Street, then a block west.
Ten miles south of I-16 at the intersection of US-280 and US-301, the town of Claxton (pop. 2,297) bills itself as the “Fruitcake Capital of the World.” In the fall fruitcake-making season, the Claxton Bakery (800/841-4211 or 912/739-3441), right along the railroad tracks in the center of town, offers free samples of the 3,000 tons of fruitcake it pounds out each year.