Florida's forgotten coast
Join me on a journey to forgotten Florida
Florida - what does that mean to you? What comes to mind when you hear the word?
The Art Deco hotels of South Beach? The luxurious yachts of Fort Lauderdale? Or maybe the Disney extravaganza?
Then travel with me as I go to a part of Florida that the tourists and visitors have abandoned - the Apalachicola area of Franklin County in the Florida Panhandle.That's what we did recently, armed with our cellphones to take photographs and we were amazed at what we found.
Driving north from Fort Lauderdale, the roads became quieter and what surprised us the most was the discovery that at one time, the area we were traveling through was obviously very popular with tourists. It was almost uncanny.
Now, we saw abandoned motels, bars and businesses. It was spooky, really. Imagine seeing places where happy families had spent their fun vacations - now in ruins. But you don't have to imagine. Join me on our road trip.
Images © BritFlorida (Jackie Jackson) and Andy Royston.
A typical example
This is the sort of thing we saw time and time again. The trailer park was long gone - all that remained was a derelict sign and a tattered United States flag. Over the years,maybe hundreds of people had enjoyed vacations at that trailer park.
Why did they stop going there? Maybe there were people who lived there permanently. Where did they go and why? To me, there is something about abandoned places where people had fun - theaters, funfairs, hotels, swimming pools, circuses - that is almost unbearably sad.
Was this once a tourist bus that took happy vacationers to their motels? We found it, rusted and abandoned, on a piece of waste ground. It probably hasn't moved for twenty years. Can you imagine it filled with families and excited children, just minutes away from their Florida vacation?
They'd have their swimsuits ready, moms would be dressed in 1950s sundresses with white-framed sunglasses and the fathers would be wearing totally unsuitable shorts and sandals. This isn't a derelict vehicle to me; it's full of ghosts. I could almost hear their happy laughter...
An abandoned motel
I really can't remember how many abandoned motels we saw. This is one example. Who has stayed in this room? Newlyweds on honeymoon? Maybe families enjoying a welcome break in the Florida sun. Or perhaps traveling salespeople who were carting their samples from town to town and hoping in vain to get that big order. Some people will have stayed for a couple of weeks,enjoying a Florida vacation.
For others, it was perhaps simply an overnight stop as they traveled from somewhere to nowhere.
Now, only garbage and broken bottles inhabit the rooms and the Florida foliage is trying its best. Note that I took this photograph through the window - there were too many 'ghosts' for me to go inside.
A few more from the motelClick thumbnail to view full-size
My Stephen King moment
You might not recognize what this is. I did and I was completely spooked. This was taken at yet another abandoned motel. There was a rectangular grassed area and I went to investigate. I'm sorry that I did.
This area was the motel's swimming pool that had been filled in - over the years, grass and weeds grew. Now you can probably tell that the photograph shows the tile edging of the pool. Stephen King? Yes, I could almost see and hear the hundreds of people - adults and children - who'd enjoyed the pool.
I would not, absolutely not, walk over the filled-in pool.I imagined that I'd fall through into the abandoned, water-less pool and hear the sounds of children playing and the water splashing. I read too much.
No tourists, no gas stations
In addition to abandoned motels, we wandered around many abandoned gas stations. With no visitor traffic, and no buses taking families to their vacation homes, there was no need for them so they too were derelict. In the hot sunshine, we examined areas like this.
Everything was totally quiet and still. We rarely even heard a vehicle go by on the road. Yet at one time, I could imagine mechanics working at this bench, maybe fixing punctures or repairing starter motors. The strange thing about many of these places is that it seemed as though people had simply walked out of them one day, leaving everything behind and never to return.
And no-one was relocating
No-one was coming on vacation so no haulage was required. No-one was relocating to the area so the moving and storage services weren't needed. So this truck was just left by the side of the road. It was eerily quiet as we explored.
The grass was tall, the sun was hot and all we could hear was the gentle buzz of insects.
Yet at one time, entire households would have been transported in this truck. Maybe furniture that many people wouldn't recognize today - telephone tables with spindly legs, standard lamps with chintz lampshades, Formica dinettes, sunburst wall clocks, record players and radiograms. Was the truck empty? Or did it still contain a family's household goods when it was abandoned? I didn't dare look.
A derelict theme park
If you're like me and find abandoned places of pleasure disturbing, then don't watch this video.
I love learning about the history of our state - knowledge makes travel more meaningful, somehow.But how much of the accepted history is true? After all, we value tourism. Is it in the state's interest to skew our history?
Now, doesn't this pique your interest?
In this book, the author explains how a long road trip can cost no more than living at home.
I love my home but a six month road trip (or even longer) would certainly be a wonderful thing to do for me.