Last stop in our five week tour is Tallahassee. Two dates here, the first an appreciative and large audience (350 or so) the second about half that size but if anything even more enthusiastic, including a standing ovation at the end followed by a nice attack on the Strip the Willow. A fine way to end the tour.
Lynda departed first thing the following morning heading up to Nashville, but the rest of us had a whole day off. Even James was persuaded to leave his lighting plans and show reports and come in the hire car to the charming gulf coast village of Apalachicola, about 90 minutes drive from Tallahassee. We headed southwest through an extraordinary landscape of pines, decrepit trailer homes and highways lined with trash of all sorts, pausing only when Iain claimed to have seen a bear looming out of the forest. It’s possible: they do live in these woods. Eventually we turned west after reaching the coast and after a multiple-mile drive over an endless bride/causeway (which made the Churchill barriers at home look like bath toys) we arrived at our goal.
Apalachicola was, 100 odd years ago, the third biggest port in the gulf, a major departure point for cotton grown in Florida and adjacent states. Changes in markets and transport have lead to it being no more than a ghost of itself – but a charming ghost – with many abandoned or tumbledown buildings testifying to its grand past. The many bars, hotels, cafes and restaurants – and even a great looking 1912 theatre, the Dixie – are not filled with longshoremen and cotton traders as they used to be, but many of them survive to serve the visiting tourists who come to visit the stunning beaches nearby, or else to eat the Apalachicola oysters (best in the US, the locals claim.) We wandered the streets, feet crunching over the oyster shells that were scattered everywhere, we poked around the shops, we ate giant shrimp and grouper and gator sausage in the Owl Cafe. Most of all we looked at the fishing boats – some abandoned, many still in use for shrimp and oyster fishing – and thought of Thomas fishing those wild northern waters 5000 miles away.
Though with the weather being (a particularly poor for Florida) 35F, rain, and squally wind, maybe Thomas would have felt at home in Apalachicola after all.