South Central Georgia's I-75 Corridor
"Valdosta - Tifton - Cordele - Macon"
I-75 is the major highway linking Florida to Atlanta. Traveling north, the landscape remains primarily rural but changes from relatively flat terrain dotted with pecan and peanut farms in the south to the wooded foothills of the lower Appalachains farther north. Along the way, the road -- which is surprisingly six lanes wide in many stretches -- passes through many small towns before reaching Macon, a medium-sized city located 84 miles south of Atlanta. The most commercially developed of these towns are Valdosta, Tifton, and Cordele.
Not far from the Florida border is the billboard-happy, tourist trappy town of Valdosta. Valdosta's regional claim to fame is that it is the home of Wild Adventures Theme Park. I have never been to Wild Adventures but have seen a lot of commercials for it in Jacksonville. A mix of roller coasters, zoo animals and water park, it looks like an interesting place to visit. From the highway, however, you can't see Wild Adventures. Instead, you see one of the worst cases of billboard blight ever -- mostly catering to people on their way to/from Florida's theme parks -- touting discount Disney tickets, basic motel rooms at cheap rates, outlet shopping and family style restaurants.
The city of Tifton is located about 50 miles north of Valdosta. While only having around 15,000 residents, Tifton gives the impression of someplace larger complete with sound walls lining parts of its six-lane stretch of I-75. Many commercial buildings are also visible from the highway here. According to several signs, Tifton is also home to the Georgia Agrirama. I do not know what this is but the town seems proud to have it.
About 40 miles further up the road is the town of Cordele. It seems to be a requirement in all Southern states that at least one small town proudly proclaim itself as the "watermelon capital of the world." Welcome to Cordele. We stopped for a bathroom break and gas here. That's really all you have to do to learn how proud this town is of its watermelons. They even have banners hanging from the lightposts that line the main drag proclaiming the town's status as "watermelon capital." Cordele is also where the terrain starts to become consistently hilly.
Macon, a city of around 100,000 people, is located about 60 miles north of Cordele. Ordinarily I make a point of driving through the downtowns of any sizable city located along my route, but I, like most drivers, bypassed Macon due to a peculiarity of highway routing (I-75 makes a long semi-circle that loops eastward while I-475 continues on a more direct line toward Atlanta, connecting I-75 southwest of downtown Macon to I-75 northwest of downtown Macon). That said, while I did cross into the city limits of Macon, I only saw its western suburban fringe. I can say though that the terrain gets quite impressively hilly around these parts -- at least by Florida standards!