Florida Bass Fishing 2024 – February 18, 2024 – Getting There

February 18, 2024. Since Mark and I had both taken I75 to get from Michigan to Florida many times over the years, in 2024 we instead hopped on 96 towards Ann Arbor, M23 towards I75 to 280 in Toledo, 80/90 across northern Ohio to Cleveland, and onto highway 77 which took us through Akron, Ohio and beyond. As we drove through Akron we passed the Football Hall of Fame ,and I remembered being in third grade and seeing the busts of famous football players and wondering why only the heads and shoulders of football players were captured in bronze. As we headed south past Canton and Massillon exits, I recalled moving into an expanding neighborhood, going to a school with a militant-like principle that believed in spanking errant children and making children march down the hall to use bathrooms and go to lunch together. At school I was scolded for adding milk to my tomato soup, and had a teacher named Mrs. Wolford, who spanked more kids than anyone else, and Mrs. Jeffries, who clued me into Newberry Award winning books for kids.

I also recalled the girl next door–Traci Barnes–did not like me, and that the neighbors on the other side of us had a kid named Scott who fell through the chimney opening of a house being built while the rest of us kids leapt over the opening easily. Scott bit off part of his tongue and never spoke clearly again.

When we reached Cambridge, Ohio to get gas, I noticed that the day had warmed enough to melt snow and that the roof over the gas station pumps were super concentrated and it was literally pouring down rain onto the pavement. I drove inward to a more protected gas tank and watched as a young man pulled up in a small car right under the downpour of water, pulled his sweatshirt hood up and went about filling up his gas while getting drenched. Check out this video.

Forty miles later, in Marrietta, Ohio, I was depleted of all energy. W’d started the day dropping the dogs off at the kennel and I had driven ever since, so was very happy to see a Hampton Inn and an Applebees nearby, with pleasant people at both places. The hotel was quiet and I slept went to sleep thinking how much I love traveling.

February 19, 2024. We awoke to frost on the window of the truck. I love frost and the amazing crystals it forms, which in this case were vertical crystals on the driver’s side of the truck and snowflake-shaped crystals on Mark’s side. We took a few photos before turning up the defroster and scraping away nature’s beauty.

After Marietta, Ohio, I77 becomes curvy, hilly, at times mountainous…and it had less traffic, generally, than I75. A couple hours into our trip, we crossed the Kanawha River in Charleston, WV, via the blue portion of the bridge, the other portion being maize, if you’re a U of Michigan fan.

Later, we stopped in Gallagher, WV at a rest area and did a lame selfie. The fact that West Virginia uses a phrase from my favorite singer/songwriter made smile.

We paid $4.25 at three toll booths in WV, and in Rocky Gap, Virginia, drove through one of two tunnels along I77, which alone, makes the drive on I77 more interesting than I75. You’ll perhaps note the lack of cars in this photo. Indeed, there were few cars on the road until we got to north of Charlotte, NC, where we discovered, like everybody.

Charlotte and the surrounding area had numerous lanes of traffic, but not enough to keep a massive number of trucks and cars moving along swiftly. There were two lanes for certain vehicles if you were willing to pay a higher toll by mail, but I wasn’t willing to do that because we had a new roof to put on our house. And well, yeah, it was stupid. But on we went in the slow lanes, wondering why anyone would want to live in Charlotte, SC.

We stopped at the South Carolina welcome center and I had Mark pose by this sign. We like to send photos like this to the kids so they know we’re not just sitting around and like getting old.

At Columbia, SC, we hopped onto I26, and drove to Orangeburg, SC, before Mark wisely suggested we stop. We found another Hampton Inn and walked to the nearest restaurant, a Round Robin. There was a police officer outside for reasons not clear to us, they were short on staff, and the food was not memorable. A mockingbird singing on a lamppost was memorable, though–hitting a range of notes and a creating a long song far more expansive than Buddy, our mynah bird. Mocking birds will go down as one of my favorite birds.

February 20, 2024. After a decent breakfast, we took I95 south to Savannah, I7 to Columbia, then onto I95 which runs perpendicular to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, though there were no views of said ocean. We made it to Deland–and in particular, the Hotoon Resort, by early afternoon. Our room was ready. And I was ready for our room.

In 2018–when we last visited the resort–the building to the left was where the office, gift shop and a fast order breakfast and lunch spot was located. Two hurricanes led to flooding of the building. The office is now to the left of the photo in a small building. Sometime later in 2024, they hope to begin turning this building into a restaurant. It’s right on the St. John’s River.

Rooms at Hontoon were recently upgraded and looked fantastic. They had new beds, new furniture, and pleasing color tones. My favorite part, though was the fact that one door led to a porch with comfy chairs facing the St. John’s River, home of manatees, and, once upon a time, good bass fishing. We had heard the hurricanes had impacted the bass fishery, so looked forward to finding out ourselves.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and playing with a few resident lizards.

This is one and the same lizard. It was green when I first saw it, and after eyeballing me for a bit, it tried hiding in the cracks of the boardwalk and changed colors to blend into its surrounding.

The lizard to the left didn’t change colors and didn’t seem to mind me hanging around with my camera and phone.

I’ll note that the island across from the Hontoon Resort is the Hontoon Island State Park, which is is home to many species of lizards. At the time of our visit in February 2024, the state park was closed and still undergoing cleanup from the most recent hurricane.

I chased a palm warbler around for a few minutes, snapped this photo and then cracked open a Corona to watch the sun go down over the river. Surprisingly, a mosquito found me and, too tired to fight, I wobbled inside for the night.

Scroll to Top