One thing about Florida…it’s flat. If you wish to tell your lover you will swim any ocean or climb any mountain, this is not the state in which to declare such devotion. Yes, there is plenty of ocean, but nary a pimple of a hill. Or so I thought.
I’ve lived in South Florida for some 30 years and I’ve been up and down the eastern coast from the Keys to the Georgia border. And, I’ve been over to the west coast of the state as far up as Sarasota. It’s all flat. This past week, for the first time, I traveled through what is called the “panhandle” of the state and guess what? There are hills! They are modest in height, but they do go up and down as you travel west through the state’s capital, Tallahassee. Our destination was a small resort town called Panama City Beach.
In my younger working years I had a reputation for being a very detail-oriented person. I was especially good at looking ahead and anticipating things that could go wrong and always having a plan “B,” “C” and beyond if needed. Well, that was then and some of those skills have now lost their edge in my retirement. Take the time (just a few weeks ago) when I booked a couple of days to lounge around the sandy shores of Panama City Beach in Florida’s panhandle, right at the tippy top of the Gulf of Mexico.
Did I know that that I booked our stay right in the middle of spring break for some nearby and not-so-nearby major universities? Of course not. Needless to say, Panama City Beach was a happen’n place. From what I saw, I think Rosemarie and I were the most “senior” vacationers on the beach. However, I have to admit, while the streets were crowded, along with every restaurant, the younger visitors were very well behaved and we all got along swimmingly.
This section of Florida is rural for the most part and the highways have been cut through long-existing woodlands where Native Americans once pitched their tents and hunted for deer and less tamer animals to feed their families. It is a vast area that appears quite desolate today and driving through some of the isolated backwoods roadways can be an almost surreal experience. There are acres and acres of ravaged woodlands ripped from the pages of a Stephen King novel. All this is because of Michael…Hurricane Michael, which slammed into the northern beaches of the Gulf of Mexico last October. Little has changed since. Sustaining winds of 155 mph smashed miles inland and along its path, the storm left homes, businesses, signs, fences and just about everything else either bent, broken, or altogether obliterated. Mile after mile of the roadways we drove through were lined on both sides by trees atilt or broken in half like toothpicks.
The only good thing about this frightening experience is that not many people live in these wooded areas so there are no major signs of widespread personal devastation to anyone….except the wildlife. These poor creatures obviously had no awareness of a hurricane coming their way, no forethought to take shelter or develop a Plan B since they had no A either. Nor, I am sure, none of them has ever debated climate change.