September 28, 2012
Another stunning, blue-skied day. Despite our wish to get on the road early, the days are growing shorter and we often don’t even wake up until after 7:00, we didn’t get going until 9:00 but were at the Gulf of Mexico a mere half an hour later.
The glittering blue Gulf was on our left and the ditches full of floating light-winged butterflies – mistaken at first for blooming bushes – on our right. What a joy to ride on a virtually traffic-free road next to the sparking blue water.
At last Christof’s Vision of Arcadia – unrealized on Long Island – has become reality.
This portion of the Gulf – appropriately called The Forgotten Coast – has been abandoned. The few existing condo complexes were either empty or half finished; the high-risk of developing a hurricane-prone-area leaves only humble, deserted, or burnt-out houses on the waterfront.
Stopping in a small town for a cup of coffee, we chatted with a retired man from Alabama. Why are all the houses along the coast empty, Christof asked?
– There used to be a time I could have gotten a million for my corner lot with a trailer on it, but now ain’t nobody buying houses down here, he answered dolefully.
We crossed over to St. George Island on a four-mile bridge, and rode to the state park at the end of the island, a travel tip from Justin and Marina.
While setting up camp we were instantly covered by a swarm of black mosquitoes that made us regret making the detour. The citronella spray in our bags was useless, but friendly neighbors – who saw us dancing about to shake them off – lent us their strong chemical spray.
The beaches here are splendid and empty. Bathing in the Gulf of Mexico is like taking a warm, relaxing bath.
A spray truck came through the campgrounds twice during the evening instantly ridding the area of mosquitoes. Why on earth don’t they spray in preparation for the weekend before the guests arrive, instead of waiting until the campgrounds are heavily populated – adults cooking over campfires, children playing games that involve wild running – to do this task?
A full-mooned Friday night, and the campground is jumping. Every few minutes a vehicle passes our tent, set up next to the main road leading into camp. Our site had only a tiny patch of grass next to the road, the rest is hard-packed shells, more suitable for RV’s than tents.
I am in the tent writing while Christof is visiting with a fellow from Orlando, here with his wife, her handicapped brother and their seven-year-old son for the weekend. This is a trial run for them, before possibly renting a Rv for a tour of the West next year. They borrowed a RV and are now stuck at the campsite with a flat tire. They have learned that a trailer would have been better, giving them the independence they need and value.
It’s dark now and three vehicles are idling in front of our tent. A huge RV is maneuvering back and forth into the lot next ours. Commotion, loud voices yelling in unfriendly, obnoxious tones; the mother runs off into the dark. Shocked silence. I blend most of this out – in order to concentrate on my writing – but can’t avoid overhearing the father saying to his son:
– You don’t let yourself git beat, heaht back ya hear? Now git the fuck atta here! and banging on the front of the souped-up pick-up for emphasis.
A bit of fatherly wisdom imparted before partying on a Friday evening?
Later Christof told me about his encounter with this neighbor, who was thoroughly inebriated.
He works as a cook in Sodchoppy, in a restaurant that has been in the family for forty years, and just purchased this RV to please his two sons. Tonight was the first time they took it out on the first holiday the family has ever taken.
The son returned an hour later, with his mother in tow. More shouting and nastiness. She disappeared into the RV and wasn’t seen again for the rest of the evening.
The father stayed outside, telling stories to anyone who would listen. When everyone in camp had gone to sleep, he persisted in shouting at the top of his voice, this time on his cell. The generator was running to power the lights, the air conditioning and the enormous flat screened TV built into the side of the vehicle. Long after midnight, he finally turned off the lights, the TV and the generator, and retired to bed.