Sunday, 16 May 2010


Not a good night’s sleep. Mainly due to the scuzzy nature of the Motel. The linen was clean just that the pillows themselves stank of stale sweat. There were cigarette burns everywhere including on the washbasin and the shower tray. Whoever occupied that room had a bad habit.

Not good. So I lay there tossing and turning, trying to blame it on the turnip greens I had had, along with an excellent steak in Fat Boys BBQ “Pig out” next door.

Americans are endlessly resourceful and will do anything they can in order to make a buck. I have often wondered why we don’t seem to be as good at it. It may be due to the fact there are a lot more of them so there are more people to sell to. So if you have a niche, it may be quite a lucrative niche. More people also makes for more competition so people have to try harder.

I pondered this as I waited for my rare steak and turnip greens, as I sat reading the table.

Yes the table. The furniture was covered in advertising. The trade off was that the company who did the advertising would give the furniture to the restaurant.

I have no idea if it meant that the tables were removed every month to be updated or what.

“Hey come on, I haven’t finished reading mine yet!”

“We can sell him dessert too, he is a slow reader.”

Decided to take the scenic route and was rewarded with a nice causeway over the water and some pretty impressive bridges. Florida is good for ribbons of concrete. As I drove, Pelicans wheeled around in the fairly stiff breeze. They are pretty graceful in the air. It is just on the ground that they look a little ungainly. Also saw Cormorants diving and Gannets too. In case you think I am bucking for a job on one of those TV naturalist type shows, I had to go on the internet to identify what I had seen. Tony Soper can rest easy.

Gradually the road moved closer to the sea shore and also dunes started to appear with remarkably white sand. However, as with many parts of the world with a large population and an eye to the main chance, I felt like I was driving through a combination of Benidorm and Blackpool. I lost count of the number of water parks and pirate-themed commercial outlets. Lot of places selling shells and driftwood. I wonder if perhaps there is a trick being missed here. Why not be a shell and driftwood wholesaler? Who is going to know where you got your dried-out bits of stick from? “All our wood is sourced from sustainable wrecks”. By the way, you can see a map of my travels so far by clicking here.

To most tourists (i.e. me) a shell is pretty much a shell. Can you tell a limpet from a whelk from a conch? OK, so the conch makes a noise when you blow in it. I seen Lord of the Flies (Piggy got the conch, remember, hefore he got his).

Sandwiched in between were hotels and condominiums. Stopped off at Santa Rosa Beach in order to have a paddle.

Decided to follow a “Scenic loop”; this just took me past more condominiums, driftwood shops and the odd housing estate which sported golf carts that the residents were using to get about. Not sure if it was a “Seniors” community, a phrase I loathe mainly because, looking at the menu in a fast food restaurant on my birthday, they gave “Seniors discounts”. A “Senior” was deemed to be 55 or over.

Well I am really going to be rushing back to take up the offer next year now, aren’t I? Its growing dark… that you Mother?

The journey was becoming a little frustrating as, due to the density of the buildings, there were traffic lights every few hundred yards so it became a stop go nightmare.

Condo condo lights. Condo condo driftwood shop lights. Driftwood shop driftwood shop lights. Pirates Water park lights shrimp restaurant boat chandlers lights.

At this rate I was going nowhere pretty fast.

However, past Panama City things began to ease slightly and I also began to enjoy the journey a lot more. Speed limits were mainly around 30 to 45 but I was driving along the shore or in and out of pine forests which reminded me a little of the South West of France.

Somehow Country radio seemed inappropriate so I retuned to “99 Rock” Fort Walton Beach. Aerosmith and Tom Petty provided a better soundtrack.

I was getting pretty hot so when a gap in the Condo’s opened up, I pulled over and went down to the beach.

More paddling ensued and was even tempted to have a swim but could not think of anywhere to safely store my car keys. I am such a "devil may care" character, aren’t I? Still, I had to be careful as there were signs warning of bears. These, however, are rather less dangerous black ones that tend to rummage around in dustbins rather than carrying off over curious tourists.

Following the coast: Mexico Beach, Port St Joe, Apalachicola, Carabelle, then I turned inland via Sopchoppy (honest) to Crawfordville looking for a berth for the night.

I make no secret of the fact that after a hot day in the car I like to settle down in a bar with a copy of the local paper, watch the sports on TV (even though it means nothing go myself), maybe chat with some of the good ol' boys, have a bite to eat and go to bed.

I should have noticed something was up by the huge number of churches there are in this part of the country. I tried to find a likely bar co-sited with a Motel but to no avail. Then I struck gold.

“The Inn at Wildwood. A Nature-based lodge”. This is apparently an eco friendly golf resort.

It is clean and comfortable and has working internet. It has solar panels and low energy bulbs and those notices in the bathroom asking you to use the towels more than once. To help save the planet we are told, although they don’t mention the other spin off: “So we don’t have to spend so much on laundry costs. “Save the planet and the bottom line”.

Parked up at about 5.30pm and noticed a large number of blokes in shorts who had been playing golf. I stayed at a similar place last time I think were the golfers spent much of the evening making sexist remarks to the waitress as Viagra ads played on the Golf channel.

The friendly helpful woman receptionist told me there were in fact two bars and a bistro which she heartily recommended. I joshed with her that as the bar and the bistro were in a different building, wasn’t she sending me to the competition?

“No, we are all part of the same complex" she laughed.

Went and found my room and freshened up and made a Skype call to the Dark Lady.

Back down into the lobby, beamed at the receptionist as I sauntered across the car park to the bar and bistro. They were closed. Oh well, just have to use the hotel bar. Wandered back into reception and said,

“It’s shut”

“Yes, both our bars and the bistro close at 6,” she said brightly.

ICILY POLITE: “I booked in at about 5.40. You recommended the bar and bistro. Why did you not mention they were about to close? Had I known this I would have gone somewhere else.”

Blank stare.

I think there was some energy saving under think going on there.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

If you miss hearing my oh-so English voice, fear not, I have recorded some Audioboos (basically, me talking "on location") and you can listen to them by clicking here. If you are glad of the break from my oh-so English voice but would still like to know what I am upto as and when it happens you can follow me on Twitter by clicking here. Both require the same login details, it's a sort of e-BOGOF.

1 comment:

  1. I've just catched up reading all the blogs over the last week, top work, Dark Lord!

    I have to comment on your post that you like America and Americans, but couldn't live there. It's so true. I'm a home bird, I couldn't picture myself living elsewhere. These places are fine to see once, but you wouldn't necessarily up sticks and go. But maybe I'm one of the lucky ones that don't have to make these decisions to up sticks and leave all that they know far behind and emigrate. I applaud anyone that does that, but it ain't me.