Imagine the most beautiful beach that you have ever seen. Can you see it? Hold on to that. Imagine the sand was whiter, softer and finer grained, that it would never heat up even in the blazing sunshine. Imagine the water was clearer, cooler, tinted ever so slightly green. Imagine that it is packed elbow to elbow with rednecks. That is the Emerald Coast.
We had to fight for a small plot of land big enough for us to leave our stuff on, despite the fact that we rented four chairs and some umbrellas from the hotel for a rather steep price. The southern drawl hung over the beach as oppressively as the summer heat. It was like a chorus of trailer trash permeated the place. But by the time we were all settled, we realized just how amazing this place was.
The sand had been refined over the years to pure quartz, so fine that scientists labelled it the “terminal size” of the crystal. It literally squeaked underfoot. The water was absolutely amazing. It was cool and refreshing, completely transparent save for the aforementioned slight green tint that gives the area its name. There was no seaweed, no shells, no rocks or coral or debris or trash. It was perfect.
Well, it was almost perfect. Recall the Jaws movie marathon from Texas? Well, we were fresh from seeing the utterly ridiculous carnage that gargantuan, biologically infeasible sharks were capable of. Also, apparently most Americans have difficulty differentiating between 3 foot fish and 30 foot sharks, in crystal clear water. As my family and I are bobbing neck deep in the refreshing water, we see the entire beach to our left vacate in extreme panic. Our first reaction was to naturally grab a scuba tank and a rifle. Seeing that these objects were in unusually low supply, we scrambled to the beach in manic fear. When we discovered what had happened, we angrily made our way to the poolside bar for angry nachos and fish dip. Grrrr.
Despite this minor hiccup, our day at the beach was one of the nicest parts of the road trip thus far. With heavy hearts, we packed up and went to bed in preparation for tomorrow’s day of driving. We were almost home.
The road was abysmal. The state of the asphalt was enough to make any driving enthusiast cringe. Actually, anyone without a hydraulic shock absorber for a spine would have bad time. The highway was surprisingly well cared for for Florida engineering, but this was no longer the highway. We were on the backstreets of Tallahassee, although you could only tell by the road signs. I was pleasantly surprised to know that Florida receives legislation from a swamp. We drove past shotgun shacks, angry Panhandle residents with banjos and scowls, metric tonnes of spanish moss, several alligators (my brother called the big one Jasper), and a food truck selling homemade animal jerky. Potentially the winner for most creative of the cured, car-splattered carcasses was the “fresh” squirrel meat, but it had some serious competition for the title.
After another 20 minutes of de facto off roading and what I assumed at first to be a herniated disk, we arrived at Florida State University. The whole purpose of this detour was to introduce my brother to the American collegiate system in an attempt to jumpstart his academic interest as he enters high school. In hindsight, this wasn’t the best of decisions. I fear he may never study again.
It’s not so much that FSU is an embarrassment to the educational system at large. It’s more that it didn’t live up to our expectations. For example, I was expecting the school to not be an embarrassment to the educational system at large. My parents were expecting to find a legitimate institution of higher learning, complete with books. My brother was expecting the student body to not be a large herd of animalistic frat boys with only the most basic survival instincts to call higher brain functions. It is at this point that I should discloese in all fairness that we are a family of avid University of Miami fans. Go ‘Canes.
The one gem that Seminole Country offered was a fried chicken fast food chain called Zaxby’s. It did certainly get the rancid taste of ‘Noles out of our mouths. After a quick lunch that included of all things a cake batter milkshake with enough rainbow sprinkles to classify the whole foodstuff as a liquid funfetti cake, we got back on the road for the final leg of our journey.
We drove for hours on end. The miles blended into each other as the boredom made the thought of driving into oncoming traffic became a more and more enticing option. At least we picked up a gratuitous amount of Mello Yello at the grocery store at the grocery store. They don’t stock it in Miami and it is my only true love in this whole world. I am completely surprised that the government doesn’t classify it as a controlled substance. Conveniently, before the Mello Yello became Projectile, Bladder Rupturing Yello, we stopped at a gas station. Apparently, my father had suddenly started to gag on a wasabi pea and needed to pull over. These things are roughly the size of, well a pea, but that must have been a bit too much for him to handle. My mother took wheel as dad slowly retaught himself how to swallow food by trial and error. After one last, long stretch, we finally reached the Miami Dade city limits. We were home.
Over the last couple of weeks, I learned a couple of valuable lessons. For example, the lifespan of my laptop’s battery is precisely long enough to start an entry, but not long enough to save the file. Also, Kickapoo is a place, not a verb. Also, it is wholly acceptable to hold a liberal political ideology in the Deep South, assuming you have great cardio and are always wearing a good pair of running shoes. But above all else, with the right group of people, 10 hours a day in a car can be the most fantastic experience of your life.