Notes, thoughts and observations from the road Posted by: McQ
on Friday, October 31, 2008
I had one of those long weeks on the road. Windshield time. And having covered this territory for about 30 years, unless I'm in a hurry to get somewhere, I have a tendency to avoid interstates for the more sedate back roads which, interestingly, seem to have very little traffic. It gives me a lot of time to observe, think and ruminate.
A sign of the times in Destin, FL - a relator's "Space Available" sign next to a Morgan Stanley office.
If yard signs are an indicator of anything, south Georgia, the panhandle of Florida and LA (that's lower Alabama to the uninitiated) are safe McCain Palin territory.
The cheapest gas I saw was in Cairo, GA at a Chevron station - $2.29 for regular unleaded.
If you're ever in Thomasville, GA, stop in at the Sweet Grass Dairy. As they describe themselves on their website:
Sweet Grass Dairy is a 140-acre family owned and operated farm in southern Georgia.
Our award-winning cheeses are made from the milk of our very own goats and Jersey Cows and delivered to you with our exceptional quality.
I can attest to their claim. My favorite cheese is their Green Hill soft ripened cheese. I picked up 6 of them as I went through for transport home. You can shop on line - and no they didn't pay me to do this - they don't even know I do this.
Florida is not my favorite state - I should say, Florida beyond the panhandle. But I do like the panhandle. It has some spectacularly beautiful areas (like the sugar white sand beaches of Destin) and for the most part, still has a southern flavor. I mean that almost literally. It has a liberal sprinkling of the old Mom and Pop eateries which reflect the south and not NY. Catfish, hushpuppies and greens mixed with the chops, steaks and pasta.
Okay, not literally mixed but you get the idea.
If you're ever in the Pensacola/Mobile area and want to take the kids to see something, the battleship Alabama is permanently docked in Mobile and is a worthwhile tour. After going through that big-boy, there's a WWII submarine right behind it whose name I forget that you can tour. The contrast is striking.
Then go over to Pensacola and go to the Naval Air Museum. Its been a few years since I've been to either but I can attest to the fact that my son loved them both and in our time we visited them frequently. We also enjoyed the national park below the Pensacola Naval Air Station which had preserved coastal defense positions from the Civil War on up through WWII.
Columbus GA is and has been an Army town for years. But boy has it cleaned up its act. The downtown area has been revitalized and it has a river walk that is absolutely beautiful.
Back in my day at the height of Viet Nam, that place was all pawn shops, bars, used car dealerships and strip joints (can't find any of my old haunts). Columbus has grown quite a bit since then and developed less of a dependence on Ft. Benning than in the past - but it is still pretty much an Army town.
If you'd like a peek at some well preserved southern architecture, take a little side trip through Eufala, AL - its on Lake Eufala southwest of Columbus and worth the drive.
They are in the middle of the cotton harvest in southern GA and AL. You top hills and look out over hundreds of acres of cotton. It gives you the instant impression of a blanket of snow covering the ground. There are some small towns you pass through that just seem to have been forgotten by time. And, as you come up through southeast Alabama, it seems you can go for miles and miles without seeing anything but acres and acres of trees.
You can see some odd things in some odd places in FL - like coming out of Milton FL, headed north into AL, I passed a doublewide with a jet fighter sitting in the front yard. No kidding. All done up in camo. Full size. I went by too fast to really have a chance to identify it, but it wasn't a US fighter - it looked like a MIG. Why it was in this guy's yard on a little traveled FL state route I couldn't begin to answer, but if I ever can find it again, I am going to stop and ask. I mean think about it. He had to have found it, purposely procured it and transported it to his front yard. I laughed for 10 miles trying to get of glimmer of the "why" in that process.
Yeah, I know there's an election in 4 days - that's why this get away, even though it was on business, was so necessary. Sometimes a road trip can help you come to some realizations about such events. Like no matter who ends up winning, the people who make it all work, and they aren't the politicians despite their claims to the contrary, will continue to make it work. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't fight for what we think is right in terms of politics, but regardless of electoral outcome, people will adjust, adapt and continue on with their lives.
As long as we can continue to find doublewides in the wilderness with MIGs in their front yard, for whatever reason, I hold out hope for the nation. We'll survive our "leaders" - we always have and hopefully the result of this election will be no exception.
Agree with your opinions... Destin beaches are unsurpassed, with the possible exception of those that have white sand AND rocky outcroppings. Local seafood restaurants in Destin cannot be beaten anywhere.
As a Ft. Rucker alum, next time you’re in the area check out what may be the only monument in the world dedicated to an insect... The "Boll Weevil Monument" in downtown Enterprise Alabama. It was erected to thank the Boll Weevil for forcing local farmers to grow peanuts.
The Aviation Museum at Ft. Rucker is okay if you like rotary wing aircraft. (It was better back in the day when the museum was spread out over several wooden structures. Now that they have new/improved facilities they’ve stored several unique aircraft... the Cessna helicopter being one of them. The last time I was there the irreplaceable Lockheed Cheyenne rigid-rotor helicopter was sitting out in the weather rotting.)
Great time of year in the panhandle. Wish I could be there.
I love that part of the country. My grandparents on my father’s side lived in Thomasville GA and I spend many a lazy summer afternoon playing baseball among the towering pine trees of their neighborhood. Every Summer My Grandfather would take all of us kids fishing off a pier just outside of Fort Walton Beach. It was a real kick to see him hook into a small shark once and the excitement of watching him fight that bad boy is a memory I will hold dear the rest of my life. I agree with Greybeard:
Wish I could be there.
And just to get a picture of the Mig parked in front of that double-wide would be worth the trip!
There’s plenty of beauty in Central and South Florida, if you know where to look for it. The central part of the state—centering around Ocala and Gainesville—isn’t that much different from the panhandle, and you’ll find the same sort of people and little places all around. You’ll also find them on the south Gulf coast, below Tampa, and around Cape Canaveral, and beaches to match those in Destin. Somewhere up in that part of the state—near Lake City, I think—there is a town which was developed on the principle of "an airplane in every driveway". Quite literally, every house has a driveway (and possibly a garage/hangar) capable of holding a private plane; and the streets are planned so that the planes can taxi to a central airstrip for takeoffs and landings. I have no idea if the plane you saw might be connected to this.
The legend is that when Patton was commanding 2nd Armored at Fort Benning, he had a "discussion" with the city fathers of Phenix City informing them that if they didn’t restrain some of the more egregious means of fleecing and harassing his troops, the next "live fire" river crossing exercise would have City Hall as its’ objective.....
Supposedly it worked, and I have no trouble believing the story is true, given the history of the area...