|Tracing a T to Tampa|
Unlike Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, or even the 3-C Highway, Granny's Highway is not a path followed by hordes of travelers over the years. There are no souvenir maps, videos, or historical route markers. The down side is that I had to find my own route. The upside is that it's going to be tough to prove me wrong.
Granny identified places rather than paths. It's quite possible that some paths had no names or at least not names that were documented or known to anyone beyond the immediate area. I know that the state of Ohio did some numbering of inter-county roads prior to 1920 and I assume there were other states that did something similar. But what "standards" did exist were not on signposts but on paper. National numbering was six years away. I suspect that, in large part, road names were not recorded simply because they were not important. They almost certainly did not mean a lot to Granny and they probably didn't mean much more to the local residents. If you lived in town A and wanted to go to town B, you simply took the B-town road.
The place names that Granny mentions, and there are more then 100 of them, were used with computer software to produce a starting route. A couple of names no longer exist, a few were misspelled or have changed, and some others required making a choice from multiple possibilities. The computer could plot a route that included all named points and could even be made to favor back roads but there was no option for using only roads that existed on November 4, 1920. I have tried to compensate for that with some hand tuning. Where I determined it unlikely that the automatically plotted connections even existed in 1920, I forced the route elsewhere. I also tried to identify and correct instances where the computer selected path existed but was just not right.
The result is the product of eighty year old letters, computer automation, visual comparisons, and pure guesswork. The route covers nearly 4200 miles which the computer says should take 125 hours to drive. It heads almost directly south out of Ohio and through Kentucky & Tennessee. In northern Alabama, the route curves east and crosses to Atlanta before returning to a more southerly heading through the rest of Georgia and into Florida. There it angles southeast toward Daytona but shoots up through St Augustine and Jacksonville before heading straight down the coast through Daytona to Miami. Then it's back up the coast to Melbourne and west through St Cloud and Kissimmee to Tampa. After a visit to St Petersburg, the Robbins settled for a while near Lakeland but made an excursion from there to Sarasota over the Christmas holiday. They left Lakeland in the last half of January, and spent close to a month near Daytona before starting north along the same path that they arrived on. Near Macon the route heads north east through the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland and into Washington. From there, it is west through Hagerstown then on to Columbus and home.
I really tried to reconstruct the 1920 path but, even if I caught every anachronism and computer goof, and I'm sure I've missed plenty, there is no way of knowing that my choices were correct. Furthermore, it is a certainty that Granny did not mention every town they passed through. I faithfully incorporated every location she mentions, including the roving near Lakeland and Holly Hill, but it is just not possible to divine every mile of travel or, on the highways of today, to reach every point. With perfection clearly unattainable, I set out to simplify the route by eliminating duplication while retaining every place Granny mentioned. This means that not every movement we make will track precisely with a line in Granny's letters but the savings in time and potential boredom (from too many passes up and down the same stretch of road) should be worth it.
There is noticeable duplication in four areas of the full route. As mentioned, both Lakeland & Holly Hill were "homes" for awhile and a few day trips were made in those areas. The third involves the visits to St Petersburg and Sarasota and the fourth is the return trip through northern Florida. In the case of Lakeland, I simply eliminated extra trips to Haines City and such and combined any additional points from those trips into one west bound and one east bound pass. The Holly Hill treatment was similar although even the shortened route passes through this area twice.
There was no Sunshine Skyway Bridge in 1920. When Frank & Gertrude drove to St Petersburg, they went through Dunedin and towns north of the bay then passed through those same towns getting back. Similarly, they reversed the Lakeland to Sarasota route in returning from that trip. Today, I-275 curves across the mouth of the bay and provides a direct connection between St Petersburg and Sarasota. The "driving route" takes advantage of this bridge to avoid double travel on the roads around the bay. The final "short-cut" occurs when we head out of Florida. Instead of retracing the path through Branford and Madison, we will reduce both miles and hours by traveling I-75 to near the turn toward Macon.
Directions are available below. Due largely to limitations in the software I am using, the route is divided into four segments plus there is the simplified "driving" version of the In Florida portion.
I'll readily admit to doubts that we will precisely follow even the "driving route". I will miss some turns, there will be some forced detours, and we'll probably find plenty of places where the computer, its operator, or both were just plain wrong. But, even though we won't follow Frank and Gertrude's exact path through and between every town, we should at least go through every town they did and that will have to be enough.
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