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Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Florida Welcome Center, Hilliard, FL

I like to think of Route 301 as the East Coast’s Route 66. 66 carried travelers east and west, 301 carried folks north and south.

66 got the cool song and a TV show. 301 did not. 66 became part of movies and Americana. 301 did not. 66 still gets travelers from around the world looking to get some kicks. 301 does not. And I like that.

Full of small towns, abandoned buildings and fading neon, US 301 is a roadside archaeologist’s paradise.

Heading home from Georgia on a family vacation, we crossed into Florida on 301. In the first mile we passed by an old motor court, a former Stuckey’s, and the St. Mary’s Motel. Promoted as “longest motel in the South,” the motel (now a senior center) had one floor, 78 air conditioned rooms and a restaurant.

At one time, the busiest place in Hilliard was just across the street from the St. Mary’s Motel. It was the site of a Florida Welcome Center, where thousands of travelers stopped in for a free Dixie cup of orange juice. Now just a vacant lot, remnants of an old parking lot and curbs are still visible. I can’t help but wonder what a metal detector would turn up.

Today, the Florida Welcome Centers can be found on the Interstates, and yes, you can still get a cuppa OJ.

Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather pick up a bottle of OJ at the roadside stand and discover some cool stuff on an old highway.301864956_5292078194174835_404967700760169606_n302062364_5292078507508137_6230774347231416293_n