Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 30- Dec. 4 crossing N. Florida

It's time for some local color. As you all know, I am a back roads kind of person and today was the exact reason why!!! We were headed from Folkston, GA (outside Okefenokee Swamp) to Panama City Beach, FL.

Enjoy our journey through what you don't normally see, Florida!!

Welcome to the little town of Moniac, FL; a town that doesn't even have a dot on the map. We pulled off the road to check our map and that placed us in Small Town USA, FL at the local gas station. Since we were at about 1/4 tank of gas and who knows how far to the next station, we pulled up to the one and only pump. Now, this isn't just any pump, it is probably one of the first made and had the fuel filter hanging from the hose not far from the handle. There was no auto stop and the machine was full of rust. It clanked and banged as it pumped the gas.

After filling my tank, I went into the station to pay and noticed the bathroom. Oooo, I need to make a quick detour before going back out to my car. I'm so used to gas stations where there are 20 pumps and didn't even think to move the car and come back to use the restroom.

When I exited the store, there was a pick-up truck behind me waiting. The driver was a young, actually good looking, man with his feet up on the dash and arms up behind his head relaxing.

"Oh, jeez, I'm so sorry to block you." I said with an apologetic voice.

"Oh, there just ain't no hurry now, ma'am. You just take your time."

"Sorry, I had to go to the bathroom, I'm moving now."

"Na, we just gettin' our feet up a bit. Yu have a great day now."

Gotta love that!! Anywhere else, they would have been cussing at me. Not here!! Life just moves at the pace it comes.
After leaving the gas station, we rounded a corner and I couldn't help but notice this street sign. All the streets here are named after the people that live there and clearly this is Papa Yonns place.
Welcome home, Papa Yonns...

About 30 miles past the gas station and Papa Yonns, we came across the local restaurant. We just ate or we would have given it a try. I love places like this!! It was a trailer that said BBQ with an old fashioned BBQ behind it cooking some fresh food.

Now, this is the local produce store. They even had roasted peanuts. How cute!!!

As we made our way down the highway, we came across a sign that said Civil War Battlefield. Huh? We didn't know the Civil War came here.

This is the Olustee Battlefield and there were 5000 men that fought here on February 20, 1864. It was the Confederates vs. the Union. This was one of the few battles that the confederates won. The Union lost 2000 men and the confederates lost 1000, of which, most are still buried on the property.
Here is what the men wore.
This is a picture of part of the place. The big stone monument on the left was built in the late 1890's over the mass grave of men and it has been very well kept.

Here is the local Olustee Depot. What was amazing is the battlefield and depot were very nice and the rest of the town was very poor and run down.
Today, we drove through some of the most poverty ridden places I have ever seen in my life. Some of the houses were practically being help up with a tooth pick and I was shocked anyone could live in them. The main industry in north Florida is Prisons. Each was HUGE!!! Most, bigger than the towns that support them. We couldn't believe how many we passed. I think a total of 5 in a spance of 150 miles.
This, my friends, is an estate. Notice the gate with the letter S on it and the car that had no tires on the right and trash cans on the left. They had a lovely golf cart in the front yard too with no seat and rust as decor. As we took this picture, the owner came to the gate and looked at us. We waved and said "HI." She waved back and we went on our way.

Somewhere along the highway, we went through this intersection and came across this little shop...
The sign says, "Breakfast in a cup." LOL :) Would you like eggs on top of the biscuit that is in the bottom of the cup, or sausage? Much of crossing northern Florida requires going through a lot of swamp land. Here is what the views were. I have yet to figure out how they build houses here. You own 10 acres and, I don't know about you, but I'm not really fond of the idea of trooping to the back of my property through the alligator infested land. And placing your house on top of this doesn't seem grand either but many people did.
We made great progress today until I got the grand idea to go against my master navigator's orders and decided to head south so we could get to the beach in time for the sunset. We were headed west on hwy 20 working our way towards Panama City Beach, FL. The day went quickly and it wasn't looking like we would make the sunset if we continued straight. The mileage sign said 45 miles if we went straight and 15 miles if we turned left and headed south.

Well, there is a reason she said to take the 45-mile route and not the 15-mile route.

These birds got a better view of the sunset than us.

After driving what seemed like forever, we rolled down our window to get the attention of the car next to us to find out if we were on the right road and how far we had to go. They said we had 2 miles and 100 yards left. Well.... at 1 mph, that was a LONG 2 miles, 100 yards.

Hmmm... I guess I should have listened to my master navigator.
Oh, well, I always figure these things happen for a reason and we were on the right road for some reason. We arrived safely, even if it did take us 1 hour and 45 minutes to go 15 miles.

Now, enjoy what was left of the sunset when we finally did reach the beach.

I'm home!!! I can't express into words what it feels like to be here in Panama City Beach!! For those that don't know, every summer of my life until my grandparents died, we came here and stayed at the Edgewater Beach Resort in villa 1916. This place has a lot of history for both my aunt and me.
This is my first visit back since my grandparents passed and it feels great to be here. It is weird because I am 31 and yet it is like I am watching a film of myself and my brother at 10-years-old running around here. I can see us playing cards in the living room, sitting out on the patio, playing golf on the course that surrounds the villas, swimming in the cloverleaf pool, playing putt-putt and going to the water park. The same water park that my grandparents were at less than a year before they died. They would hand the lifeguard their walker and get into the inner tube and down they would go. Nothing stopped them from having fun!!

While driving into town, my aunt and I laughed as we shared stories of my grandparents, mostly my grandma. She was such a hoot and had an incredible sense of humor.

-When we pulled into a store parking lot and parked in the handicap parking place, my grandma would tell us, "Oh, honey, don't waste this space. We should save it for someone who needs it." Uh, huh!! (mind you, it took her 10 minutes to get out of the car and 20 minutes just to get from the handicap parking spot to the entrance of the store.) "Oh, Nana, I think we are fine!!"

-When my boyfriend and I needed to go to the grocery store in the evening, she would send my grandpa on his walker to escort us so we would be safe.
-She had a huge red purse that was glued to her and in it you would find tic tacs, lipstick, and mints she took from restaurants for a later date- nothing else.

-One day when I was about 20, we pulled up to the grocery store and as we parked, my grandma said, "Now, dear, if you'll just get me my walker, I'll just zip into the store and zip out. I'll be back in a flash." An hour later, we were just putting the only purchase, orange juice, in the car and her walker in the trunk.

My grandma had trouble bending her legs, so she would often hit her shins on the edge of the car door as she tried to get in. She asked me to take her to the store to get a large package of Maxi pads. Hmmm... "Nana, what do we need Maxi pads for?" "To keep my legs from getting cut." She stuck the Maxi pads all along the edges of the car doors, so as we drove down the road, you could see this white edge around the doors.
Anyway, I could go on and on. Now, I sit in what feels like home!!

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