Hallelujah, praise Jesus! Gospel music and Radio Selma preaching entertained as I descended that Mountain of Configuration towards the Gulf of Mexico, fabled panhandle beaches of Alabama and Florida (a.k.a. The Redneck Riviera). Quoting the guru, Dr. Beach, this sand savant referred to my destination as: “…the greatest strand of white sand on earth.”
I was heading towards 30A to be specific, an 18-mile stretch of powder snow beaches and glittering emerald water hemmed in between Destin and Panama City. Keeping to the speed limit (those Bama cops are notorious), my goose-egg Fiat couldn’t get there fast enough as I navigated four hours south from my brother’s home – the house where I was raised – outside Birmingham, Alabama.
Zipping past stands peddling green peanuts and Hank William memorabilia, tufts of cotton from a nearby field flitted in the breeze, littering the road that fine afternoon, the third of November. I’ve taken this route dozens of times in my youth; to Destin as a child, and Panama City as a teen, but these towns of yesteryear bear no resemblance to the present. Since my last visit, the past three decades have witnessed hurricanes and oil spills pillaging the once sleepy fishing communities, and as fast as lax zoning laws could say “Go!”, tourists piled into sky-high condominium jungles, built in the blink of an eye, leaving only memories in the rubble. Bless those tight restrictions on high rises and vigilant nature conservation efforts along 30A – this stretch of beach and community remains pristine.
On my three-day hiatus, the plan was to regroup, clear my head and stockpile energy to confront the nightmare of work, and the holiday onslaught awaiting my return to Ann Arbor. Banishing negative thinking and nagging future concerns, at that moment I was having a blast, to the point, alone. Arrivederci husband, adios kids; I was Thelma and Louise wasn’t around to confound my adventure. Here’s my scrapbook:
Neck’s a blazin’ on the Florabama Riviera!