Our road trip to Tybee Island, Georgia, in 2021 took a couple of detours to hike, drink beer and explore a bit of history.
Road Trip to Tybee Island
Big birthdays come with traditions, like picking an epic trip. Angie celebrated a birthday in May 2021 that qualified as a big birthday. She wanted the sun and a beach; she picked Tybee Island. We agreed to meet them on Tybee Island at the end of May.
The nearly 14-hour road trip to Tybee Island from Michigan felt daunting, so we added a few detours to break up the drive. Since we have family in Kentucky and North Carolina who were willing to host us for a couple of nights, we charted a road trip with that in mind.
Road Trip Itinerary
- Bardstown, Kentucky, for bourbon, hiking, and a touch of history
- Asheville, North Carolina, for a quick beer tour
- Wormsloe State Historic Site to search armadillos under 400-year-old live oaks
- Tybee Island, Georgia, soak up the sun, eat delicious food, and do paddleboard yoga.
- Savannah, Georgia, for a history tour, food, and paddle boat ride
- Durham, North Carolina, for a quick hike to the top of Pilot Mountain
Our first stop was Bardstown, Kentucky. Unfortunately, the quickest route is through Cincinnati, Ohio. I will be candid; the traffic in Cincinnati sucked, as did the Audible book we picked for the road trip. We were hopeful the book would be a delicious mystery set in Detroit. It is a mystery why the New York Times recommended it.
Thankfully our dinner at Scout & Scholar Brewing was delicious. When finished, butter, cheese, and naked corn cobs littered our table. Our waitress warned us about their German potato salad, but my heart was set on it. We must have a different recipe in Michigan for German potato salad. Recipes vary by region, but I’ve never had cold potato wedges dressed up and called German potato salad. It was good, just not what I was expecting. The house-made sausages and corn on the cob got five stars.
During our stop in Bardstown, we hiked in the Bernheim Forest to see the Forest Giants.
Afterward, we spun through the Jim Beam compound. Unfortunately, it was closed, but I was intrigued. We are putting it on the list to explore during our next visit. (Pro tip: You need reservations for any bourbon tastings!) Needing refreshments after our hike, we stopped at The Forest Edge Winery, which isn’t far from Bernheim Forest, and bought Hop Wine and slushies.
We refueled with greasy food for lunch. The ladies made excellent food selections, BLTs piled high with bacon on Texas-style bread. The guys were full of regret when their food arrived. They were excited about ordering pizza rolls, but they were not the Totino’s pizza rolls they remembered as teenagers.
After lunch, we toured the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. (AKA as the Bourbon Museum).
A few fun facts:
- Admission is free! Donations are optional.
- Whiskey (with an E) versus Whisky (no E) – If made in Scotland, Canada, or Japan, you drop the “E,” but if made in the United States or Ireland, you spell it with an E.
- Carrie Nation was the queen of prohibition.
- And just like with medical marijuana, they were writing prescriptions for alcohol.
Since we were on a history kick, we also visited the Civil War Museum in Bardstown. It had a Michigan connection with an exhibit on the 8th Michigan Infantry.
As we were leaving Kentucky, we drove by “Reds Hair Repair.” Parked in front of the building was an old hearse. Not sure what happens inside, but it sparked a lively discussion. Further down the road, as we neared Springfield, a billboard reminded us that Kentucky was the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. His actual birthplace is in Hodgenville, KY, not Springfield. In Springfield, he practiced law and lived with his wife, Mary Todd. We didn’t slow down for either; we were anxious to reach Asheville to begin a beer tour.
Asheville, North Carolina Beer Tour
The first order of business was lunch at MayFel’s and a taste of the local street music, a trio playing Gospel and Southern songs. People watching continues to be one of my favorite past-time and the people watching in Asheville is great.
Our first two stops on our beer tour were Greenman Brewing and Eurisko Beer Company. But we were denied at Wicked Weed Funkatorium and Asheville Brewing as they were closing. It was Sunday, after all. But Hi-Wire was open. On our way back to our hotel, we stumbled upon Asheville’s only basement brewery, One World Brewing. We played Swedish Shuffle Board and enjoyed a beer before heading back to the hotel to chill on the patio.
On the Road Again
When you say “On the road again,” is it in Willie Nelson’s voice? Yeah, me too.
Our Trip from Asheville to Savannah, Georgia, was sprinkled with text messages to Angie with updates about traffic and stuff I noticed from my car window:
- A plethora of large shipping containers clogged the road. (I’m always looking for a way to work the word plethora into a sentence.)
- Countless trucks were moving manufactured homes to new locations. (Seriously, I’ve never seen so many.)
- Billboards announcing Jesus is saving my soul. (Surely, they don’t know if that is even possible.)
We found a new book, “Empire of Wild” by Cherie Dimaline. Excellent narration and the dialogue was superb. That day, the best line – “The heavy metal music sounded like a bagpipe stuck in a hay bailer.” I laughed out loud. Chuck did not.
Wormsloe State Historic Site
After the 5-hour car ride from Asheville to Wormsloe State Historic Site in Savannah, Georgia, it felt good to stretch our legs. The four hundred oaks lining the drive made for an impressive sight,
The gift store had an alligator warning sign hanging above the clerk running the cash register. I desperately wanted to take a picture of it, but a man wearing a baseball cap and name patch over his heart was glaring at me. He was standing near the front of the store selecting an ice cream from an ancient ice cooler and was between me and the alligator sign. My face mask, I’m assuming, had offended him.
Opting to not create a scene by pointing my iPhone above his head to snap a picture of the alligator sign, I instead purchased a patch for a jacket I am making modeled on the one I gave my daughter, Izzi. It was a one-of-a-kind work of art – a green, wool army jacket covered with patches from places like Boblo Island, the Grand Canyon, and Cape Canaveral. That jacket was beautiful. It reminded me of the back of a travel trailer covered with stickers documenting all the places it had traveled. She gave the jacket to a friend. It makes my heart hurt just a little, thinking her friend has the jacket.
A plaque mentioned armadillos, so we both dug through our memory banks for a memory of seeing one. We found nothing. Neither of us could remember ever seeing a live armadillo. We hiked from one end of the historic site to the other and didn’t see an armadillo or an alligator. If you’ve seen either, please share your stories and secret locations for finding them.
As we were leaving, a nice couple in a very large Ford Dually Truck pulled up alongside us and rolled down their window; my heart skipped a beat. I thought, oh no, it’s the ice cream man. It wasn’t. We smiled at the very sweet couple who handed Chuck their phone and asked if he’d take their picture. This should surprise me. It doesn’t. It happens all the time. Maybe they are impressed by the large camera strapped to him. Or perhaps they see the gray beard and think, there is the guy from ZZ Top. Often they want their picture with him, so I end up taking the picture.
We quickly discovered Tybee Island is a sit-and-chill kind of place. The days start with drinking our coffee on the veranda and admiring the beautiful live oak tree dripping with Spanish moss. It stood like a statue in the courtyard, almost like a guard keeping an eye on the Tybee Island Inn’s guests.
The beach was full of surprises! We nearly stepped on a “Conch,” you know, a large, curled shell. A sea creature was still using it as a home. The jellyfish weren’t a surprise. We carefully avoided both the living and dead ones. My sister Dianne sent an article about thousands of dead jellyfish washing up on Tybee’s beach right after arriving, which I read after our first day on the beach. We only saw two dead jellyfish. I think my sister was a little disappointed.
Seeing large container ships the size of a small town float by silently was shocking. You’d have thought they’d be noisy; something like a large jumbo jet flying over or a gravel hauler pumping their air brakes. Nope. From our spot on the beach, they were silent, like giant elephants tip-toeing out of the room.
Our dolphin sighting was a gift. Leaping along the shore about 100 yards out, we spotted four. Sadly I can’t watch dolphins and not think about the weird book I tried to read, “Made for Love” by Alissa Nutting. One of the characters has a near-death experience in the ocean. Afterward, he is only sexually aroused by dolphins. I tried to finish the book because my friend, who I respect, recommended it. Now I can’t look at a dolphin without thinking about that book.
Searching for John Mellencamp
After sunburning on the beach, we toured the island looking for John Mellencamp’s house. (John Mellencamp is an American songwriter who Angie and I are a little enamored.) Angie found an internet link with a picture of a house on Tybee Island described as belonging to John Mellencamp. Based on the picture, we deduced it was near the salt flats. Tybee Island is only 2.5 miles wide by .75 miles wide. It’s not big, and the house we were looking for was very distinctive. We found the house, but we didn’t see John.
To quench our thirst after stalking John Mellencamp, we stopped a Huc-a-Poos. The festive environment and cold beer were a perfect balm for our sunburns.
When we got back to the Inn, we told Lee, the Innkeeper, we’d found John’s house. She was nonchalant, “Yeah, it’s two houses down from here, the large yellow one. His ex-wife owns it now.” “No,” we said, “we drove past it on the other side of the island on the salt flats.” Lee, an Island resident, corrected us. “No, the country singer Billy Currington owns that house.”
I’m not sure who was more annoyed. Us because just spent 2 hours looking for John’s house and it was right next door. Or Lee because we were acting like tourists.
The next day we found the house John’s ex-wife now owns. I wanted to take a picture, but everyone poo-pooed the idea. Now they were suddenly shy; the day before, they were willing to drive on a private road with the hopes of finding his house and maybe taking a picture.
Paddleboard with KT
We saved the yoga and paddleboard with KT on Lazaretto Creek for our last full day on the island. Waiting for our paddle, we toured the Tybee Island Light Station & Museum. Our tickets included the Fort Screven, across the street from the Light Station.
Our last meal was also our best meal. Salt Island Fish and Beer didn’t disappoint. Buffalo Wings and Shrimp Bruschetta as an appetizer with Fisherman’s’ Stew and Kalua Pig for our main course.
Tybee Island links to attractions we didn’t visit:
- Bernie’s Oyster House
- Captain Mike’s Dolphin Watching Tours
- Tybee Island Tous – Unique Adventures
- Tybee Jet Ski & Watersports
- Tipsy Turtle – Vacation Rental on the Tybee Island
Hot Hot Hot, that is how I will remember Savannah.
We’d booked the “Forty Acres and a Mule” city tour. Fritz, our guide, was engaging and looked a little like my dad, which was slightly distracting. The tour’s website described the tour as “This is the story of Savannah and its significant role in promoting slavery throughout the South and it’s the story of the triumph over slavery through faith, culminating in a historic meeting in which the aspirations of four million African Americans became distilled in a single phrase: ‘40 Acres and a Mule.’” Fritz is a great storyteller and brought to life the people of Savannah. We highly recommend the tour and Fritz.
We hurried to a tavern as soon as the tour was over, seeking air conditioning and liquid. The beer went down way too easily.
On Fritz’s recommendation, we found dinner at the Shrimp Factory. The experience was good and evil. We ordered shrimp cocktail, crab cakes, and Pine Park Stew — a southern bouillabaisse. Delicious. That was the good part of the dinner. Angie and Jeff ordered crab-stuffed flounder. A fly landed on Angie’s fish as she was about to take a bite, spoiling the meal for her. Jeff’s order got lost, but he got his soup for free. So this was the evil part of the experience.
After dinner, we found the dock where the paddle boat for the sunset cruise on the Savannah River was waiting for us. Loads of fun and dancing. The flower moon was full for the drive back to Tybee.
Our last adventure during our road trip to Tybee Island was a quick stop in Durham, North Carolina, to the top of Pilot Mountain. Described as an “iconic geologic knob,” others in our group had more R-Rated descriptions.
We opted to take the shuttle to the top and hiked back to the visitor’s center located at the bottom in the principal area for parking. There is also parking at the top.
The day we visited the park was busy, and they were restricting cars traveling to the top. After hiking around the pinnacles on Jomeokee Trail, we took the Grindstone Trail back to the parking lot.
It was a 5-mile hike and perfect for most fitness and hiking levels. We gave our tickets for the return shuttle to a father-son hiking duo. The son was so cute; he ran back and thanked us after he realized he had a ride back to their car.
We’ve got a lot more photos of our Tybee Island Road Trip in our gallery. Take a peek and be sure to let us know what you think by leaving a comment. Better yet, share this post with family and friends.
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