Friday, August 10, 2012

Apalachicola, Florida

To end summer together my wife and I took off on a trip with Cheyenne and our Ford Fusion sedan. Its not a ride on the Bonneville, that comes later but this week off work was taking us to New Orleans. Via heavy traffic on I-75.

Apalachicola was our first planned stop, twelve hours and 600 miles from Key West. The city is located on Florida's "Big Bend" south of the state capital of Tallahassee and as isolated as an island. To get to Apalachicola forget interstates and plan to drive backroad Florida:

Federal Highway 98 connects the coastal communities around the Big Bend and there are lots of swamps, bays and bridges.

The views are reminiscent of home, if you happen to live in the Keys.

Highway 98 is a two lane road that winds right along the water. There are no pull outs, overlooks or parking areas. Weird.

There are homes between the road and the bay and lots of pine trees effectively blocking lots of views.

The barrier islands are inhabited and are also home to state parks so the re causeways joining them to the mainland.

The bridges are longer than most in the Keys, except perhaps the longest one of all...we had to get to Louisiana to find bridges longer than seven miles.

Apalchicola is an old town, once the biggest cotton exporting port in Dixie, until the Union blockade changed all tha during the Civil War.

It's a quiet place now, lacking the draw of Duval Street, serving a more genteel tourist trade.

With the state capital about 50 miles away i'm guessing there are quite a few commuters here supporting business spouses with steady pay and health insurance.

We took a modest motel room with a chain pharmacy and chain supermarket right next door, as it happens!

Brick buildings are Apalchicola which sits on the edge of the eponymous river, the source of it's 19th century wealth. In those days peninsula Florida was uninhabitable thanks to heat humidity and runaway slaves and rebellious Seminole Indians so northern Florida and Key West were the white people's lands.

Often people wonder why Florida has such a bizarre shape, apparently stealing coastline from Alabama and Georgia but Florida got it's shape from it's history.

Spain used to rule Florida from St Augustine, so when the US took over the shape of the future state was set by the colonial boundaries. That they make no geographic sense today makes no difference.

Spanish moss and classic graves at sunset gave the old cemetery the feel you would expect from this mold town.

Conch shells on a grave seemed an odd touch.

I love back alleys like this:

Especially when they are made from crushed shells. Apalchicola is the land of oysters nowadays, when cotton is no longer king.

Dinner time saw us heading easton a local's suggestion. I love being a tourist and not knowing anything for a change. When I walk around here with a camera I really am a visitor. What shit heads in Key West call "tourons" though I find locals in other cities to be perfectly agreeable to visitors.

We crossed the causeway back to Eastpoint four miles across the water. "You'll like the hut," our guide told us in a thick southern accent which gave the word 'hut' two syllables.

We have to try oysters my wife insisted and when our young server told us she doesn't like seafood (!) we went with the baked shellfish, which swam in butter and was covered in cheese so it went down just fine. Oysters really don't do it for me, especially when I realized that off the shell they are alive...and thanks, but their aphrodisiac qualities are not necessary for me. You have to give oysters some out-of-this-world powers because on taste alone who wants to eat a gob of salty fishy snot? Really.

Then we had fried mullet which was delicious, especially as we had no idea what we were getting. I could have used a craft beer, but this was a no alcohol joint which was a shame.

The next day we decided to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to Famous Florida Beaches so we took the dogbto see Saint George's Island.

The local had two dogs off leash so I released the lumbering tank and she made a beeline for a piece of dead something. Yum!

It was a nice beach, lined with dead seaweed, less pungent than keys seaweed but dead nonetheless.

If you come to Key West for this kind of beach prepare to be disappointed:

I'm not that into beaches and pretty soon I was bored. Cheyenne finished her dead thing and we took off due west through stilt homes and vacationing Texans.

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