Drive guide promises smooth trek to Florida

Following the tips in the updated Along Interstate 75 guide will ensure a smooth drive to the...

Following the tips in the updated Along Interstate 75 guide will ensure a smooth drive to the beaches of Florida. (Courtesy VISIT FLORIDA)

DOUG ENGLISH, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:36 PM ET

The newest version of Along Interstate-75 arrived the other day and was on its way to Florida the following week.

Not with me, unfortunately, but with one of the friends and family members who've been borrowing this Canadian-produced driving guide since it first appeared in 1992.

It's the brainchild of Dave Hunter, a computer and technologies expert before becoming a travel author, who lives near Toronto.

Along Interstate-75 starts in Detroit and ends 1,500 km later at a Florida state welcome centre just over the border from Georgia. To start the northbound route for the trip home, you flip the book over and turn it upside down. It folds easily because it's spiral bound.

This is a remarkable book -- page after page of coloured strip maps, each covering 25 miles and packed with hard information and entertaining tidbits.

The amount of detail is mind-boggling. Lodging, food and gas facilities at every interchange are listed. People who've road-tested the guide say that's one of its most valuable features. Another is advice on navigating your way through big cities such as Cincinnati and Atlanta.

"It gives you a blow by blow . . . 'move over to the left, move over to the right'," says a snowbird with 10 years of annual drives to Florida under his belt.

If I were using the guide, I'd also pay attention to the Picks and Insider Tips. Hunter and partner Kathy Steers base them on personal visits, some inspired by reader recommendations. (Samples are available at i75online.com).

Everyone seems to enjoy the often strange but always interesting stories connected with I-75's route down through Ohio, Kentucky and Georgia.

Hunter's a history buff, so the new edition mentions three major War of 1812 battle sites.

If that doesn't grab you, how about the item on "the only floating post office in the U.S.A.," or the one on why a millionaire is building a 155-metre-long wooden Ark in a field beside the highway in Kentucky.

A new edition of the guide comes out every two years, which makes you wonder how long it takes to update it.

I asked Hunter about that when I caught up with him earlier this month, just before he and Steers headed south for a break.

He e-mailed back: "Where most people take three days/two nights on the road to Florida, we will take two-three weeks. . . . we go off at most exits to check the facilities for about one mile either side of the interstate.

"We also meet with CVB folk (convention and visitor bureau) . . . as much as possible and then spend time chatting with locals to find out what is really happening in their area. Sometimes, we are able to feed back news to the CVBs!

"On top of all this, we are running at least four GPS units in our car. One for the trip, second for a scrolling map display, two GPS loggers . . . to give us polled and stored satellite information every five seconds of travel (recording time, date, lat(itude)/long(itude), speed, direction and elevation). We also run an HD digital camera of the entire journey so I have video backup as reference, should I need it.

"Most people stop to get fuel each day; we stop to dump data into high capacity digital storage!"

If you'd like to sample Along Interstate-75 before buying, the pages for a 160-km stretch in Kentucky can be downloaded free at i75online.com/Downloads.html. Larger public libraries also have copies of an older edition.

WORTH KNOWING

The 17th edition of Along Interstate-75 costs $29.95. It's available at most bookstores and at all CAA travel offices in Ontario, online at i75online.com and Indigo.ca, or by phoning 1-800-431-1579.


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