Along The Way - US 1
Starting with the semi-tropical beaches of Key West and the Florida Keys, through the ever expanding cities and towns of the Mid-Atlantic Coast and all the way to the often intemperate cold of Maine, US-1 has lots to see. There are battlefields of the American Revolution and the Civil War, the monuments of Washington DC, impressive skylines and cityscapes, and all of it winds down in the hills of New England.
Most of the way I-95 is within a stones throw of US-1, and it offers an inviting escape from crowded streets and continuous stop and go traffic. The surprise is, especially during rush hours in some larger cities, US-1 riders find a safer and sometimes quicker riding environment.
If you have a interesting story to share about your ride along US-1, send it to us. Please include photos or video.
Key West, FL to Folkston, GAEst 555 miles - 14.3 hours (click here for route map)
Key West to HomesteadSlow, congested, sometimes dangerous, ALWAYS under construction. That's the Florida Overseas Highway in a nutshell. It can also be described as an American roadway adventure unlike any other. Although this description starts with Mile 0, it's impossible to actually start your ride at the southern terminus of US-1, unless you and your motorcycle arrived at Key West by boat or aircraft. The first mile or two is pretty typical of any resort area, full of fast food joints, motels, and lots of places where vehicles of all sorts can jump into the lane ahead without notice and wreck your day. Once outside of the 'city' the route settles down into a curious mix of two lane and three lane highway with an indefinable air. Posted speed limits are rarely above 45 MPH and, unless you are traveling very early in the morning, the highway always has a lot of drivers poking along at 35. Accept it, and enjoy the scenery, just don't forget those tourists do the most unexpected things. That's one of the biggest reasons the fatality rate is so high on this road. If you are looking for a specific address outside the cities of Key West or Marathon, it's a simple process of knowing the last mile marker you passed. The first three, or four, digits denote the approximate mile marker of the location and the last two are the particular address; an even digit denotes an address on the Atlantic Ocean side while an odd digit denotes an address on the Florida Bay/Gulf of Mexico side. That's so logical, and even gives you a clue when booking a motel room - motels with an even number give you an Atlantic Ocean view and the odds overlook the Gulf. You will find fuel and convenience stores all along the way, clustered in the hamlets found upon every key. The larger towns such as Marathon, Key Largo, and Matacumbe, give some opportunity for grocery stores, retail shops and other "normal" places to purchase your needs. In the upper keys there's even a place to rent motorcycles. At Key West you can rent scooters, but the big bikes just aren't there. As you travel northbound the "let it go" attitude of Key West drops off quickly. By Mile Mark 120 you will get slightly faster service at the fast food joints and the sand will be swept from the corners of the dining areas. Enjoy the ride. With stops to gaze at the dolphins playing in the tidal pools, it will take about five hours to run the approximately 145 miles up to Miami. It can take even longer if you have a fishing permit and your tackle. It's possible at several spots to get over to the old bridge system that have been converted to fishing piers!
Homestead to Jupiter
The first leg from Key West is a riders paradise compared to the next northbound section from Miami to Jupiter. I know I usually go overboard when I stress that riders need to be aware and careful, but the admonition here isn't hyperbole.Miami is a big city, with big city traffic problems. If you want to give up the scenic opportunities along US-1 in favor of actually getting somewhere in a reasonable time you should probably consider getting on the Interstate. It's six and eight lanes wide and traffic scoots along at 70 - 80 miles an hour. An adventuresome touring rider will at least try to cope with US-1 for a while. The pace is a frenetic dance of stop, go, and gawk for the next 100 miles. There are few places at which to slowly cruise and enjoy the Atlantic Ocean view, except in the South Beach area of Miami. North of Miami the roadway often gives the feeling of riding in a wide, palm tree lined, cityscape canyon with high rise condos on the ocean side and endless miles of strip malls on the inland side.
There are many opportunities to shop and waste a bit of time. The down side is that you are probably sharing the road with a twit in the Mercedes convertible; that one with a cell phone tucked between her left ear and shoulder, the right hand involved in painting her left toenails as she tries to steer with her right knee. She's clueless and without a second thought will force you out of your lane. When you catch her at the next light and start to bless her out for the careless driving all you get is a meekly offered, "Sorry... I didn't see you."
This one hundred mile stretch can take as little as three hours to complete, but more likely it will chew up an uncomfortable five hours. And each of them will give you enough grief to make you wonder why you ever wanted to take a winter vacation in south Florida.
Jupiter to Daytona Beach
The next 100 miles from Jupiter to Daytona Beach improves somewhat, but not much. Along much of the route the scenery consists of glimpses of the Intra-Coastal Waterway, a sort of US-1 for boats. It's an interesting way to travel, and there will be some point along this stretch of US-1 at which you would gladly trade your motorcycle for even a canoe if it meant getting you off this four lane concrete slab.
The road itself is generally four lanes wide, and sometimes wider. The speed limits run from 35 to 55, but 45 is the normal and don't expect to get close to that during the peak drive times. Plan your average along this section of US-1 at about 40 MPH.
The locals refer to this as Federal Highway and FL-5 co-locates with it from much of distance, and at Hypoluxo FL-805 joins for a while. The Florida East Coast Railway tracks parallel immediately to the west of the highway, and those tracks are usually busy so be careful to obey the crossing gates if you exit US-1 to the west.
You are still sharing the road with a bunch of brainless morons in high priced convertibles, so continue to be aware and careful. Florida is a no-fault insurance state, so if they hit you it's no cause to celebrate, because it's going to be your insurance firm that you battle to get your bike fixed and your hospital bills paid.
At Lake Worth and around Hobe Sound there are several opportunities to move to the east by several hundred yards and run FL-A1A. Do it! It's just as fast as US-1 and offers you that wonderful Atlantic Ocean seaside scenery that you came here to enjoy. Eventually you will be forced back to US-1, where the highway is nearly a mile from the beach. But, you'll also be able to enjoy posted speeds of 55 MPH. Additional chances to follow FL-A1A back to beach exist all along US-1 from here north to Jacksonville.
Once into Indian River county US-1 starts becoming enjoyable, even though it's still pretty much a local road. It runs alongside the Indian River north of Vero Beach through small settlements and larger communities, but they all still retain some of that south Florida flavor they had 60 years ago when living in a semi-tropical paradise still meant a small cottage with a nice front porch from which to enjoy an on shore breeze.
This area is known as Florida's Space Coast. It's full of opportunities to revel in the high tech world of NASA, especially if you budget enough time to visit the Kennedy Space Center and associated museum(s). Great tour and totally worth the admission fee if you have any pride in how America took the world into orbit and beyond.
Are you still having a a good time? Daytona is next and beyond that US-1 picks up a faster pace as it moves through toward the "Bold New City of The South", Jacksonville.
Daytona Beach, FL to Jacksonville, FL
The transition from seaside resort areas to the industrial part of Florida takes US-1 inland about 10 miles as it moves to Bunnell and up to St Augustine.
At St Augustine the route skirts the city to the west as a four lane by-pass. If you have the time, wander the Business Route and go downtown. Sure, it's a tourist trap, but a careful visitor will only spend a few enjoyable hours seeing the historic sights and not a fortune in the souvenir shops.
The preferred alternate along this section is still FL-A1A. Although the population and subsequent housing boom is still going strong, there are still many long sections of the road along which there is nothing between you and the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
The four lane gets busy from St Augustine to Jacksonville. About the only diversion worth considering is the dog track just north of St Augustine. It hosts two or three racing sessions each year and a couple of hours here trying to figure out just what a 'Trifecta' is can be fun, even if you only visit the $2 ticket window.
The south side of Jacksonville can be a bit seedy, and it's not a good idea to wander around here after the sun goes down. The Jacksonville PD are AGGRESSIVE and are prone to stop tourists with an eye toward an invasive search if you are not in a recognized tourism area. I lived on the north side of Jacksonville for a few years and learned very early that the JPD has no sense of humor . . . just be careful.
If you don't want to experience all of the aggravation of big city traffic, noise, and congestion, take the I-295 (West) loop just north of the dog track. On a busy summer day this can easily save 90 minutes of sitting in traffic, wondering why your motorcycle can't be equipped with air conditioning.
Jacksonville, FL to Folkston GAAs US-1 crosses under the I-295 loop the nature of the route changes dramatically from an urban thoroughfare to a rural setting. Numerous dairy farms make themselves known by a noxious odor and the view of cows standing up to their knees in mud and swamp water. The route is four lane divided, and a sharp eyed rider might spot a few decades old tourist traps and roadside motels rotting away in the weeds. The last two towns before the Florida border are Callahan and Hilliard. The first is a crossroad intersecting FL-A1A and US-301. Because of the proximity to a sprawling Jacksonville, Callahan has grown steadily for the last 30 years. A turn to the east takes riders on a quick ride to Yulee and Fernandina Beach along a four lane divided road and the westerly route leads riders into central Florida along US-301. From Jacksonville, US-1 is still co-located with US-23 and at Callahan it also picks up US-301 until it leaves at Folkston, Georgia. The little town of Hilliard remains a little town. The major employer here is the Federal Aviation Air Route Traffic Control Center and except for that, Hilliard has no claim to fame. Just beyond Hilliard is a Florida Agricultural Inspection Station and Florida DOT weigh station. Motorcycles don't have to stop for either, but you should be aware that Florida Highway Patrol units are frequently standing here waiting to give out performance awards to the unwary riders.
Folkston, the county seat of Charlton County is just over a mile away, as the Georgia border is crossed at the Saint Marys River. Folkston offers several fast food restaurants, B&B Inns, and a couple of motels. It's a good idea to be wary of the motels, a consistent reputation for cleanliness isn't enjoyed by any of them.Riders with lots of time to enjoy a nature stop should consider taking GA-121 south from Folkston for a visit to the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge and the Chesser Island Homestead. It's a slow paced glimpse into swamp life in the 19th century. Renting a boat for a two or three hour jaunt into the swamp is a real hoot. In some areas a drifting boat will attract many large gators that have absolutely no fear of humans. They will nudge your boat in the hope that you'll toss them something to snack on. My old friend Lefty did a few years ago. . . after that the Rangers posted a lot of signs asking guests not to feed the animals. If you are a train buff you will love Folkston and "The Funnel." Approximately 55 CSX trains a day run through the middle of town and you'll see train spotters from all over the world setting up to take still photos and video. There's even a platform where you can sit and listen to the Engineers talk with Dispatch. The Roadmasters Inn sits right next to the tracks - historic old railroad buildings and rolling stock set up as rental bungalows for overnight guests.
Folkston, GA to Aiken, SCEst 224 miles - 3.8 hours (click here for route map) The co-location with US-23 continues as a four lane divided highway all the way to Waycross. There is a commercial access to the swamp just south of Waycross, and a campground available nearby at Laura S Walker State Park. Riders that are just "heading north" and want to make really good time should consider GA-121 and GA-57 northbound from Race Pond. It has only a few small town on the route before it meets back on US-1 south of Swainsboro. It isn't heavily patrolled by either county Sheriff's or Georgia State Patrol. I'm not admitting to anything, but just stating that it might be possible to make superhighway speeds for about 75 miles. Just be careful of slow moving log trucks, they can turn a nice triple digit bust into a long hospital stay very quickly. Waycross is an excellent spot for an overnight stay, or to spend a couple of hours resting. There's an excellent park with some well kept rolling stock (Train cars) on display and other diversions to fit most interests.
Waycross to Swainsboro
Nothing changes along this stretch, changing from two lanes to four when crossing GA-98 is a treat, the two lane section can be crowded and slow with lots of large trucks.
Swainsboro to Aiken, SCUnless you are just out on a lookie Lou trip, the preferred alternate to US-1 on this segment is GA-56. It not only saves about 10 miles, it';s much faster by avoiding three larger towns. I'm not advocating any violation of posted speed limits, just pointing out that GA-56 is not highly patrolled and the only thing getting in the way of a really quick run is an occasional logging truck. Augusta can slow you down a lot if you let it. I think an apt description is "Garden Town", with lots of wide boulevards and places to stop and admire a well kept town. AVOID the town during the week of The Masters golf tournament when the number of visitors outnumbers the locals and they are all driving with a gold cart mentality.
Aiken, SC to Rockingham, NCEst 165 miles - 2.7 hours (click here for route map) I've always found the area around Aiken to be populated by friendly people. There isn't much to write home about as far as scenery, but if you seek out some of the state parks in the area you can find a quiet spot to enjoy. The road itself is a calm two lane that benefits from the fact that I-20 is only a few miles east and keeps traffic away from US-1. Around Lexington congestion becomes evident. Unless you want to visit some of the state capitol attraction in downtown Columbia, it might be safer and much quick just to jump on I-20. Run it at least to Exit 82 before going back to US-1, it lies just two miles from the exit. History buffs MUST stop at Camden and plan for at least two or three hours delay. There is a museum of the American Revolution right along the route, and just north of town is the site of the Battle of Camden. It was here that the Continental Army, under the leadership of Major General Gates, suffered a withering defeat to Lord Cornwallis. Only 69 British soldiers died in the battle, while nearly 700 Patriots were killed, among them Baron DeKalb. DeKalb is buried in the churchyard of Bethesda Presbyterian.
McBeeA special warning! This little town has a terrible reputation for tagging anybody that's even 2 mph over the limit. It's gotten better in the last few years, but just be aware it will COST YOU DEARLY to expect any leniency from the local police. At the intersection of SC-151 there are two gas stations and convenience stores. Both are owned by the same company, but one has fuel which is always about four cents less than the other. A block north is a small train depot with library that has a nicely restored caboose. It might be good for a few minutes of rest.
McBee to Rockingham, NC
Immediately east of McBee is the Carolina Sand Hills National Wildlife Area. This is one of those iffy stops - if you like sitting in the heat of a South Carolina day at the edge of a small pond you will find that waiting to catch a glimpse of some water fowl is a good time. If you don't enjoy worrying if your heavy touring bike will get trapped in some of the sandy refuge roads - you probably shouldn't bother stopping.Cheraw and Wallace are ahead, but neither offers much to brag about. The downtown area of Cheraw holds a small monument to home town music celebrity Dizzy Gillespie and makes for a nice photo op and there are one of two convenience stores for some cheap fuel, RC Cola and Moon Pie. When arriving at Rockingham there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Most of the places to eat and sleep are located along US-74, so you'll have to turn east or west at that intersection. The biggest cluster of motels is at the intersection of US-74 and US-220. US-1 passes directly through the middle of the historic business district of Rockingham. The downtown area is comprised of many one way streets and the Route makes several turns because of this. It's very easy to become confused and turn onto a one way, or worse yet, not realize that a two way suddenly turns into a one way. There are a lot of "Plain Jane" police units in this area, many of them are black Chevy Suburbans.
Rockingham, NC to South Hill, VAEst 183 miles - 3.7 hours (click here for route map) This isn't an especially exciting segment of US-1. The first 14 miles are still two lane and the scenery is mildly interesting, but after that the overwhelming growth of the Raleigh metropolitan area becomes evident. The route goes to four lane and then four lane divided and six lanes. During non-peak travel hours it's a quick run without many problems, but the rush hour traffic can be a horror - without any useful alternate route.
Cary to Wake ForestAre you transiting the Raleigh area, or doing the tourist bit? If you have the time, try slowing down and enjoy some of the sites here. With careful planning on what times of day you enter and depart, the Raleigh business district isn't that bad. There are several interesting museums, parks, and historical venues to make an interesting diversion from a long ride, full day or overnight visit. Those just transiting the area should be aware the morning rush hour is from about 7:30 A.M. to about 9:50 A.M. and the evening rush begins about 4 PM and can linger till 7 PM. A wreck on any of the Interstate systems can clog the entire area for hours as everybody scrambles to find an alternate. WARNING! North Carolina on ramps are NOT merge areas. You are in for a big surprise if you are one of those damn Yankees that were taught that traffic on the ramp side lane will move over to let you merger from the ramp. Those folks won't move over even if threatened with dynamite! Be very alert and aware the cager in front of you on the ramp is very likely to come to a dead stop if he can't find a hole in the first lane by the time he reaches the end of the ramp lane. Fortunately most of the ramp lanes in this area have been extended as their own lane for a quarter mile to avoid this problem, but some ramps have not been upgraded and will surprise you. Signs for US-1 will take you onto the I-440 Beltline and drop you back off to the surface road at Capitol Boulevard along with US-401. After a couple of blocks it will diverge from US-401 and once you have crossed under I-540 it remains fairly busy until you have gone beyond Wake Forest.
Wake Forest to South Hill, VaExpect to move along quickly on this next leg, mostly because the route is being upgraded to Interstate standards, or in fact is co-located with I-85. Exit 233 will take you back to a two lane environment and beyond this the route is a busy alternative to I-95.
South Hill, VA to Washington, DCEst 197 miles - 4.1 hours (click here for route map)
Washington, DC to Nottingham, PAEst 88 miles - 2.1 hours (click here for route map)
Nottingham, PA to Penns Neck, NJEst 96 miles - 1.8 hours (click here for route map)
Penns Neck, NJ to Bronx, NYEst 77 miles - 1.9 hours (click here for route map)
This article is incomplete, can you help out your fellow riders by sharing your local knowledge? We are also interested in your stories, ride reports, photos and video ... just send Lee a message. Thanks !