A (mostly) Fond Florida Farewell
Florida is long, in both directions. But we kept at it. We had a great week near Tampa. We spent another week near Tallahassee in a place called the Suwannee River Valley that was pretty deep woods Florida. Our little resort was sweet. Friendly folk and a lovely pool. But they were clear that any serious disagreements should be resolved with personal firearms and not by calling the police (even though they also “Back the Blue” at the same time, which is a little confusing?).
This was further emphasized right outside the gates where we would attempt to run each morning. Almost every scrubby patch of acreage was patrolled by exceptionally vicious guard dogs. Signs on the gate would read “my dog can make it to the gate in 3 seconds, can you?” We would just be running by, on the public road, and we would get a full-throated charge by pairs of angry Pit Bulls or German Shepherds with the clear intent of a robust disemboweling. They were thwarted only at the last second by, thankfully still intact, fences which they would hurl themselves at in an attempt to reach their prey, which was us. It was fucking terrifying.
I mean no disrespect by this, but we're not exactly talking about what I would call wealthy estates here either. No racehorses or Lamborghinis back there. I’m really not sure why they are so convinced that somebody even wants to be on the other side of their fences? What exactly would you steal? A flatscreen and some beer?
On the plus side, it keeps the runs nice and short. We usually only make it about a quarter mile before retreating in abject fear. And we had to run fast.
Political signs are also common in this part of Florida. One big flag read:
Fuck Your Feelings
Which might be the most inspirational campaign slogan since Lincoln’s “Union, Liberty, Peace” and Roosevelt’s “Happy Days are Here Again”
Wine, Wwoofing, & Soap
On we moved through the Panhandle making short hops each day. We visited several Harvest Hosts doing this. This is the deal where you stay for free at someone’s farm, winery, brewery, church, etc. in exchange for a little patronage. Usually, this involves going into their farm shop and buying soap, honey, jam, cheese, and that sort of thing. We now have about 4 or 5 different types of honey in Stanley. Lavender honey. Mayhaw honey. Tupelo honey (which I thought was a song, not an actual honey). I’ve lost track. Evidentially, someone on board likes honey because I hardly touch the stuff. But I do like a good bar of sheep turd soap. It moisturizes.
At the wineries (yeah, they’ve got wineries in Florida, though one hopes the grapes come from somewhere quite a ways away), you sit through a slightly uncomfortable wine tasting where the host pours you all their various blends. I’m even less of a wine guy than I’m a honey guy, but inevitably you walk out with a bottle that we’re not sure what to do with. So, these stays are only “free” to a point. But the properties are often lovely, and they make good one-night stops.
I also enjoy seeing little slices of forgotten Florida along the highways and byways; like this derelict Greyhound racing track with adjoining motel. The parking lot could hold a thousand cars easy. Kind of hard to picture it now. Are they all at UFC fights?
Our niece Margaret is working her way home from Key Largo to Eastern Washington and presently is Wwoofing at the Golden Acres Ranch in Monticello, Florida – which is also a Harvest Host location. We stopped for a catch up with Margaret, and to lay in some more honey (I wish I was joking about that).
The farm is amazing. It's run by the most vibrant 87-year old woman I've ever met. They do a bit of everything, but one of Margaret's main jobs is to tend to the Tennessee Fainting Goats. Super cute. They don't actually feint, whatever feinting is, but they do have a complicated chemical reaction to being startled that kind of amounts to the same thing. A couple of the goats follow her all over the farm. Margaret had planned to stay just three days. Ten weeks later she is still there. She does need to get on the road again soon. But there is some talk of a couple wee goats being stowaways in her Winnebago, along with her two dogs and two cats. What could possibly go wrong?
Bloated on the Bayou
Our last Harvest Host on our way down to New Orleans was at the semi-legendary Shed BBQ Joint in Ocean Springs, MS. We camped right along the bayou (photo taken from our trailer) and got to get our brisket on just a few yards away.
We might have overdone it on the brisket.
In the morning, knowing that we would be arriving in New Orleans the next day and not making another meal for five days, we cooked up the rest of our groceries for breakfast. It was like a 10,000-calorie meal of which I probably consumed 9,200, give or take. A perfect way to arrive in one of the country’s great food cities.
Next Up: The Big Easy