I want to start by sincerely thanking Mohamad for inviting me to be a guest here. I have moved several times over the years yet have traveled very little. I want to share with everyone the story of the local area where I have spend my time the last 12 years, Small Town, USA.
If you have ever watched The Andy Griffith Show or listened to practically any country song, you have an idea of what a small town is like. Dirt roads, close families, church on Sunday, a place where everybody knows each other. Welcome to my [now] hometown; a real-life Mayberry.
I imagine when most people think of Florida, they immediately daydream of Disney castles or beach vacations. But, not all of Florida is quite this way. I remember the day I moved up as though it was yesterday; I was a teenager who was being moved to an area that was felt completely different from what I was used to filled with people I did not know. I went from a place that the total number of students in my 9th grade class could fill 1/3 of the population of my new hometown. Talk about a culture shock! When I describe to non-local people where I live, I always use the “close to’s”. It saves the guess work and looks of utter perplexity. So, I live about 5 hours from Orlando, in a small town less than 2 hours from Panama City Beach, in the panhandle of Florida.
It is a place that takes Friday Night Lights seriously. Where, no matter how old you are, you still find yourself keeping up with the local high-school’s latest football game highlights, or who is going to the basketball state championship. Where secrets don’t exist. There are churches on nearly every corner. The population of livestock outnumbers that of people…by a large margin. Where farm land and swamp land take up 90% of the surrounding areas. Where the local rodeo is basically considered a holiday – schools & businesses close. A place that has festivals for crops, rodents, and to the legend of a two-toed reptile.
What I did not quite bet on, upon moving here, was how appreciative I would become of living in that same community as an adult. Being in a place where people take you in and make you feel at home. Where people are friendly because it is just in their nature. Where you cannot go anywhere without seeing someone you know. Where you never meet a stranger. Where people come together to help their town & those who reside there. Where the word “community” means something else entirely.
So, I guess I will tell you a little more about our local areas. As I mentioned, we are fairly close to Panama City Beach. While people typically imagine visiting it as Spring Break venue, that is the time I tend to avoid it. I like the idea of spending my beach time more quietly. Enjoying the beauty of the white sand and emerald water of the gulf without the extra noise. The picture on the right is at the marina near Uncle Ernie’s. It is a small restaurant with a large reputation. Filled with the smells of seafood mixed with the salty air, it is the perfect place to spend a nice dinner out on the deck overlooking the bay. Along these beaches and bays, you will find a great number of scattered local shopping areas and tasty dining. Some locals also like to visit other local beaches such as Miramar or Rosemary. Good news is, we are blessed with plenty of local beauties when it comes to getting your dose of Vitamin D while taking a dip in the waves.
We have several local national parks that are truly gems to behold. Ponce de Leon Springs was named after Juan Ponce de Leon, who led the first Spanish exploration in search of The Fountain of Youth and landed in Florida instead. The crystal clear water at Ponce de Leon Springs has you leaving as beautifully blue as it is in that picture. That water is cold! Falling Waters is another local park that is a great place to visit after a little rain has passed through, allowing a small stream to fall 73 feet into the 100-foot deep Falling Waters Sink, creating the highest waterfall in Florida. The Florida Caverns State Park is a great place for fishing, canoeing, hiking, and exploring. Being as there are few parks with dry caves and that this is the only one in Florida that allows public tours, it is a real marvel.
While I enjoyed having everything closer by and the busier life when I was younger, I appreciate the laid back quietness that I am surrounded by as an adult and mother. Although my surroundings are different now than they once were, they remain as beautiful as ever. The beauty is just different. It is once that I enjoy more each day. The beauty of a simple life with natural wonders all around. But please do not mistake me, I still love Disney as much as the next person! 😉
Have a beautiful day!
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