Rounding the Big Bend
Posted in connection with the Sunday Scribblings prompt, "Curves."
Shortly after high noon on May 30, I rounded the curve of Apalachee Bay and headed west on the Florida panhandle. This trip has taken me from my home county of Citrus, up through Levy, Dixie, a very small stretch of Lafayette (I think), Taylor, Jefferson, a small stretch of Wakulla, Franklin, Gulf, and finally Bay counties, down Hwy. 98 almost throughout. The roughly 8-1/2 hour drive is one of the most breathtaking I've taken....
I'm staying in Panama City this weekend, to attend the inaugural year of The Wrath of Con as part of the Aisling Press contingent. Mary gifted me this morning with a sparkling clean windshield that she'd washed inside and out. It's since picked up some splatter courtesy of unfortunate bugs.
After I took off from home, I drove about a block before I decided I should probably get a bumper sticker that reads I BRAKE FOR IBISES. Being behind the wheel and moving (albeit considerably slowed), I didn't take a photo, but the scene looked very much like this shot I took about two years ago:
From there I eventually turned west for about a dozen miles, got onto 98, and swung north. For the first time I drove beyond the Crystal River Mall, and then past the nuke plant (whose cooling towers weren't visible from the road, though in the past I could see them from nearby Fort Island Gulf Beach). Laid out like a straight-edge, the highway ran through long stretches of forest that raised tall walls of pine to either side. Atmospheric effects made the road far up ahead seem to melt into the sky.
I took my first break in Chiefland. This photo, taken in Perry, shows the location of my second break, when I stood in the parking lot of a Burger King. I'd arrived around 11:45 and just beat out the lunch rush, then spent a few minutes stretching before I continued on my way. Perry was a little bit shy of my halfway point and just about at the spot where I rounded the Big Bend and headed west down the panhandle, and where 98 became the aptly-named Big Bend Scenic Highway.
The pine forest (dotted with palms) gave way to marsh land and the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge as I rounded Apalachee Bay. After a stretch through Apalachicola National Forest (which spans two counties), the landscape opened up into a stunning water vista as I drove the long bridge across Ochlockonee Bay, which averages a mile and a half in width. (Part of the bridge shows up in this aerial shot by Ochlockonee Bay resident Bill Catalina.) I searched for an overlook point I could pull into, and found this beach shortly after I passed Lanark Village, whose welcome sign proclaims it "the recycling community." Part of Carrabelle, the beach was once the training ground for troops heading to Normandy for the D-Day Invasion.
After spending about six hours in a hot car (no A/C, but despite five Florida summers and temperatures today in the 90s, it hasn't been a hardship) I had a blast exploring the beach area, breathing the salty breeze, and watching the gulls perform.
And I took a souvenir.
Three years ago this area was devastated by Hurricane Dennis, and some of the erosion still reaches almost up to the road. I drove through several miles of construction work, where 98 reduced from two lanes to one and flaggers stopped traffic going in alternate directions. In addition to bulldozers and other earth-movers, the crane just to the left of the truck in front of me helped shore up a new seawall by dropping pylons into place to buttress the works.
And a close-up:
I took this shot out my window of the intracoastal waterway while I waited to be flagged through:
My iPod saved my sanity during the long drive, and I still hadn't gotten past my "A" composers when I pulled into the EconoLodge lot after 8-1/2 hours. John Adams lasted for 150 miles, Isaac Albeniz for another 100, and William Alwyn and Malcolm Arnold divvied up the rest. I ran my iPod off the cigarette lighter and used a cassette adapter to hear music through the car's speakers. It was heaven.
Covenant, the first volume in the Deviations Series, is available from Aisling Press, and from AbeBooks, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Territory, Borders, Buecher.ch, Buy.com, DEAstore, libreriauniversitaria.it, Libri.de, Loot.co.za, Powell's Books, and Target. The Deviations page has additional details.