As promised, here’s another look at one of the stops from the epic roadtrip I took with my family this summer. This is the third installment, following Lessons Learned, a quick recap of lessons from the road, and Hot Summer Nights, an ode to Georgia.
A few stops after Georgia, we landed in Milton, Florida, a small town northeast of Pensacola. Florida, as it turns out, is just as hot as Georgia. Maybe hotter. With even more humidity. Please note, if you wear glasses, as I do, they will fog each and every time you get out of your car. Or step outside your house. Or sometimes spontaneously, just for fun.
Nonetheless, this was one of our favorite stops. Not because we loved Florida so much, though it was lovely, but because we got to spend time with family. The kids got to play with their cousins. Tara and I got to hang with my cousin and her husband. It was good.
While we were there, we took in some of the local flavor. Tara got a new tattoo, script across her left forearm that says Steady Heart, Gypsy Soul. If you ever find yourself in Navarre, Florida, in search of a talented tattoo artist, swing into Inkspot and ask for Jim. Tara has a LOT of tattoos, but this guy had such a great touch. She didn’t bleed at all, the lines are crisp and beautiful, and it never went through that awkward, ugly healing phase. Money well spent here!
One night, because we were in Florida, we ate dinner at a seasonal restaurant called Gators. They don’t have a website, so you’ll have to use your imagination for now. Gators is situated on the bank of a pond that is filled with, yes, gators. That’s not, however, where the place got the name. Gators is named after the original proprietor, a man whose name was Gator. His grandchildren run the business now. None of them are named Gator. Sadly, the menu does not include gator, which seems like a serious oversight, but who am I do judge?
The best part of Gators, beyond the fried shrimp and fried pickles, was a sign. No, not a sign from above signalling some great prophecy. Rather, it was a sign about the gators in the pond, imploring customers to use caution, to not feed the gators, and to please, not molest the gators.
Someone, please tell me under what circumstances would one think it was a good idea to molest a damn alligator? Because, you know someone did it. That’s not a sign you put up just in case.
Another new experience for us came in the form of boiled peanuts, for sale at a gas station near you. This makes total sense. When I think gas, I think boiled peanuts. Conversely, when searching for a new and unique dining experience, my first instinct is to check out the local Tom Thumb (the prevailing gas station in the area).
I’m joking about it now, but that’s not meant to imply that I didn’t try them. I totally did. And, I kinda liked them. So, there’s that.
My family’s favorite stop in Florida, other than the air conditioned house provided to my cousin, and by extension us, by Naval housing, was our trip to the Gulf.
I’m sure you’ve heard about how awesome the Gulf of Mexico is. White sand beaches, like sugar, baby. Warm water that lulls you into a false sense of security. And the relentless hot, hot, HOT sun. It was beautiful. To a Pacific Northwest girl like me, used to dark gray sand and freezing cold water, it was refreshing.Until, that was, the Gulf tried to kill me.
I was standing in water that reached my knees, letting the waves roll over me. Like a person not used to taking a bath in the ocean (because the water is warm like bathwater), I relaxed and enjoyed the moment. I relaxed just a little too much at exactly the wrong moment, and the Gulf of Mexico sent in a wave that reached up and smacked me. And, unlike the weeble-wobbles of my childhood, I fell right down.
Tara and my cousin laughed and laughed and laughed. Because, it’s funny when the ocean fights back, right?
Because I’m always calm and collected, I promptly panicked. Rather than relaxing and riding the wave into shore like a beached whale, I tried to stand up. And the Gulf knocked me down again. I was like a fat girl stuck in a washing machine on the agitate cycle. We continued like this three or four times with me trying to stand and the Gulf laughing at me, before Tara realized that I’m an idiot and stopped laughing long enough to save my dumb ass from the ocean trying to drown me.
She helped me to my feet. I sputtered and pushed my hair out of my face. Lily cried, called Tara mean for laughing, and hugged me hard.
Now, whenever I tell that story, (because it’s funny!) I have to make sure Lily isn’t listening, or that last part, the crying, name calling, and hugging, happens all over again.
The take away lessons from Florida?
- Try the boiled peanuts.
- If you’re looking to try gator, don’t go to Gators. It’s not on the menu.
- For the love of god, don’t molest the gators. Or anyone else. That’s rude.
- When you visit the Gulf, because you will, don’t let it fool you. No matter how warm and happy it makes you on the inside, it’s just waiting to knock you on your ass.