After Barry getting his fill of adrenaline infused rides, we left Tampa and made our way up to Florida’s panhandle. Whenever we put an address into our sat-nav, it naturally takes us on the interstate. For this drive I wanted to take a more scenic route, so I changed the sat-nav to take more of a coastal road. Getting off the interstate makes for a much more interesting drive. We get to drive through small towns and surround ourselves with much prettier scenery. Barry hates it as he thinks it means it will take us longer and cost more in petrol, but on this occasion it actually shaved some miles off and cut 15 minutes off the journey time. It did have its downsides though. We had to pay a $3.50 toll for the privilege, a fact that Barry took great pleasure in making sure I was well aware of.
Whilst passing through one of the small towns along the way, we saw some kids holding up signs advertising cheap car washing. No sooner had we seen them, than Barry had turned around and gone back to have our car washed (I know a bargain when I see it! – Bal). The kids were washing cars for a charity called Take Stock in Children. It’s a charity that provides an opportunity for deserving low-income kids, to escape the cycle of poverty through education. The charity offers college scholarships and each child is given a mentor. It was all for a good cause, so we paid our 10 bucks and left with a sparkling clean car. Something we wouldn’t have had if we’d gone via the interstate!
After driving for almost 5 hours, we finally made it to our next stop in a small city called Apalachicola. We headed straight for St George Island where we had to drive over a 4-mile long bridge to reach it. Along the bridge we were surrounded by dozens of butterflies that all seemed to be playing their own version of chicken. They would fly towards us and see how long they could leave it before flying up and missing the windscreen. Most made it, but sadly a couple met an unfortunate end!
Once we reached the island we parked up (for free!) by the beach. St George Island is known for it’s glorious, undeveloped beaches and we could see why. It had soft white sand and clear blue sea. I know we’ve been to loads like this whilst on our journey, but I still love it every time I see one. I immediately dumped my stuff down and ran to the ocean. I just had to dip my toes in, as this was the first ever time I would get to touch the Gulf of Mexico ocean. It wasn’t as warm as when we went dipping in sea off Miami but it was still warmer than that in Brighton!
We lay out and topped up our tans for a while, but after about an hour, Barry complained that he was too hot so we packed up and headed to our hotel. I did have enough time to make a new friend on the beach though. A little boy who decided my name was going to be Pal. He was playing Frisbee a little too close to my head for my liking so I befriended him in the hope that he would aim for Barry and not me. He came close, but Barry managed to escape unscathed.
That night, we went to Papa Joe’s Oyster Bar and Grill for dinner where we both went for the seafood platter. It was filled with oysters, scallops, grouper, clam strips and shrimps. But forgetting that we were in the South, it all came out deep-fried. It was delicious but with all those breadcrumbs smothered on it, it was extremely filling but at least it meant we had lunch covered for tomorrow!
The next morning, it was time to say goodbye to the Best Western in Apalachicola and the state of Florida. Today we were driving to our 41st state – Alabama. Cue singing of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ as we crossed the boarder.
After spending the night in the Microtel, just outside a city called Mobile, we made a visit to Battleship Memorial Park. It was a place filled with tanks, boats, planes, a submarine and a battleship from all the different wars America has participated in. We’d been on a submarine in Pearl Harbour so we were solely interested in exploring the Battleship – USS Alabama, which was used for the film ‘Under Siege’ starring the great action star Steven Seagal.
We paid our entry fee and were given our own tour itinerary to take ourselves around the ship. Naturally I was in charge of the guide and had to navigate us round whilst Barry took the photos.
They had everything on board including a sickbay, quarantine zone, doctors surgery, dentist, butcher shop, vegetable prep room, a store, a darkroom and print shop, laundry and pressing room, tailor shop, barber shop, a brig (military prison) and a blacksmiths. They even had their own post office!
The tour took us all round the ship, which was massive and very hot inside. I don’t know how all those seamen survived months stuck aboard it. I couldn’t have… hats off to them.