Well folks, we are making slow and happy progress along "The Forgotten Coast" of Florida.
Yesterday, we set out from our sweet spot on St. George Island in search of new adventures and sights, stopping in the quaint town of Apalachicola for lunch. Northerners that we are, we chose to sit at a sunny table on the sidewalk outside. Meanwhile, all of the locals ate indoors, making Mary feel a little self-conscious as they stared at us as if we were crazy or from another planet (perhaps we're a little of both!). It couldn't have been more than 45 degrees but the sun was good and warm, and the added benefit was that Tina got to join us for lunch. I indulged in fresh fried oysters and a cup of shrimp Gumbo, whereas Mary went with the good ol' standard fried fish sandwich. A dessert of homemade Key Lime Pie made with real Key Limes was on the house (and eaten in honor of Mary's father, "The Colonel", because it's his favorite dessert). Even the owner came out to say hello and wish us well, and various passersby stopped to chat. Although she said "brrrrr" when she first came out to take our order, the waitress (who called Mary "baby doll") was friendly and seemed to enjoy the fresh air herself.
People in Apalachicola were exceedingly friendly, encouraging us to move to a town hungry for new residents. Apalachicola is relatively thriving in comparison to some of the smaller towns on this stretch of coast prone to storms and hurricanes, and it was heartening to not see any boarded up shops. Tourism is obviously the industry of choice, but fishing also seems to add to the local economy.
Still without cell phone service after almost four days, we cursed T-Mobile for its poor coverage and began looking for payphones from which to make calls and check in with family. Luckily, coverage manifested out of the blue when we reached Port St. Joe and we were thrilled to park by the water, check messages and return calls from friends who had wanted to wish us a Happy New Year.
Moving along the coast, we held our breath (well, Mary actually wore her mask) as we drove through Panama City, Tyndall Air Force Base, and miles and miles of strip malls and stores. It was visually overwhelming after the pristine beauty of St. George Island, and we quietly began to lament leaving our island sanctuary as the sun began to go down and a place to camp for the night seemed further and further afield.
Stopping in one small private campground by the highway (which shall remain nameless), we considered parking for the night but were both spooked by the general shabbiness and untidiness of the place. Remembering what our mobile RV technician had told us a few months ago about poorly maintained RV parks (in terms of rats, mice and other problems), we turned tail and got back on the highway.
One phone call revealed what we already knew about RV resorts in Florida---they charge $60 to $100 a night for sites on the water! But knowing the high quality of state parks here in Florida, we followed the signs to Grayton Beach State Park and were rewarded with a private site on the lake (alligators included), and proceeded to watch a sensational sunset as the temperature plummeted to 29 degrees.
So, here is a video postcard from us to you, uploaded laboriously via our weak MiFi signal. The upload took so long, there was smoke issuing from our laptop's hard drive!
Cheers from Keith