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.
Old US-80 Across Savannah
Old US-80 comes into Savannah on Louisville Road, past the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport on the northwest edge of town. The old road turns into Bay Street for the final approach, then runs south across the historic downtown area before turning east onto Victory Drive, which runs along the southern foot of Savannah, then across to the barrier islands. If you’d rather save Savannah for another day, you can follow I-16 and Victory Drive around the south side of downtown.
The drive east from Savannah to the Atlantic Ocean passes by the beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery, a stately Civil War fort, and a number of picturesque fishing villages on its way across the serene marshlands, where a maze of small rivers and creeks weaves through the tall green reeds. Fishing boats bob along the tidal waters as they head off to harvest shrimp and oysters.