Friday, September 08, 2006

The Road To Nowhere

Somewhere in Dixie County, Florida , there is a road that goes nowhere.
It starts as a perfectly respectable two-lane paved road, complete with double yellow lines in the middle. There is no hint as you sit at the blinking yellow light near Jena that you are on the edge of ...nowhere.

At that light, a left turn will carry you safely back to highway 19/98 and somewhere, but ...if you turn right ...if you do this thing, you will travel into a place about as remote as it gets inside Florida.

Oh sure, there is a small bent "dead end" sign right after the light, but it seems to be out of place as the two-lane asphalt road in front of you stretches on around a distant bend. How could this fine road be a "dead end"?

The kids with you are already asleep after a day spent exploring. There's no one to debate this decision.
You turn right.


(the ponytail is asleep)

You decide the sign must have been for one of the little limerock sideroads, surely not for this fine road, so you push on. The road snakes through woods and for awhile a few new houses. As the miles roll by, you feel reassured in your choice. Who puts a dead end sign miles before a dead end? This road must go somewhere..

Then, after awhile you notice there aren't any more houses, just trees. Is it your imagination or are they closer to the road now and is the pavement a little rougher ... the line paint less distinct?

You breathe a sigh of relief as you cross a bridge over a tidal creek. A truck or two is parked by the wayside and a handfull of canoeists are returning from a day on the marsh. When you stop on the bridge ( there's no traffic) to take a picture ...they don't smile and wave as boat people usually do. The concrete railing of the bridge is covered with spray paint testimonials of love and teen territoriality. It feels odd.

You get back in and go on. It would be a simple thing to turn around here, but the need to know where this road goes is too strong.

The forest is long gone. It quietly faded into endless grass. The road now carries you through a high brown marsh that stretches literally as far as the eye can see. You know the Gulf is out there ... at the edge, but the only real evidence of that are the tidal creeks the road slips over.

Suddenly the pavement ends, but the road continues and so do you ... because, well ...this thing needs to be done. Turning back without knowing is no longer an option. As suddenly as it ended , the pavement is back again, but only for a while, and then it's gone for good, but the road keeps stretching out, a dusty white ribbon through a brown marsh.

Finally it ends.

In front of you, a vast sea of marsh grass stretches to the horizon, unbroken except for a few islands of high ground. The scene beckons you out of the vehicle. There is no sound, but wind in grass.

This side trip wasn't in your plans .No one on earth knows where you are one ...and you can't tell them. Your cell phone lies useless, inert, no bars showing.

The road has taken you to a dead end on the edge of nowhere.

So why do you feel so alive?

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Anonymous said...

Neat, FC. I love roads that go nowhere and take a long time getting there. And I wouldn't even mind being a you-know-what if I had a fine red jeep like that. :-)

Anonymous said...

pssst, don't tell the developers!!!
You never do know who is reading your blog. :)

Deb said...

Sometimes you gotta lose yourself to find yourself.

Great post, FC.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I hope our future grandchildren will still have places like this to explore when they come of age. My Dad used to take us kids out into the boonies, and we would take turns directing him to "turn left" or "turn right" at random crossroads. The goal was to get lost in the hinterlands, and it seems to be harder to accomplish with each year that passes.

benning said...

A drive back in time! What a neat side trip, FC! Must have been nice. :D

amarkonmywall said...

Why, it sounds just like the Dan Ryan Expressway at, say, 4pm Friday afternoon!
(muttering in French). I have dead end envy. Each week I think NEXT week I'll go to Florida and each week I get waylaided here a while longer. I think the construction on the Florida house has been slowed by rain in any case, but soon, soon.

amarkonmywall said...

waylaided? I'm losing it...

Anonymous said...

Hey FC, great post -- it was like old times.

Now, where's that cinnamon roll recipe??

Eagerly waiting,

MinorcanMeteorolgist said...

Great description! One of my favorite things is to take a drive down lonely roads like this...unforunately, they are becoming increasingly hard to find.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm wishing I had a vehicle and a dead-end road to travel. I could use some of that 'alive' you're feeling so much of.

R.Powers said...

It's good to be me when I'm in my Jeep.

A St.Pete developer wants to carve a canal through the Big Bend Seagrass Preserve so he can build a big development not far from here.

How did they miss it?


It's good to be lost,alone, and out of touch. I don't see those as negatives ... more like character builders. I hope we can always do what you described.

This was at the end of a day of side roads. It was unplanned and the most unusual of the day.

muttering in French ...I wish I could mutter in more than one language. We're all wondering how the Bungalow is doing.
Gotta tell ya, I've been trying to visit OutsideIn, but it seems to load forever.

I have the Southern Living magazine right beside me and will begin typing as soon as I visit a few blogs.
My dog ate my recipe.

Hurricane Teen,
Especially where you are. All the secluded roads where my teen crowd used to park and hang out around St. Aug. are now subdivisions.

Mrs. S,
I don't know. The last part of this road was labor inducing washboard.

Anonymous said...

Hi FC, now that you can comment at my place, I am having trouble leaving comments here. Couldn't do it yesterday, so I will try again today.
Those are really wonderful pictures. What amazing tranquility! Surprisingly the flat area with waterways meandering through it reminds me of some of the canoe areas in the Adirondacks. There is that same feeling of expectation of something interesting around the next bend or behind the next cattail.

R.Powers said...

Thanks. You know you are my guinea pig. I'm watching to see what happens to you before I consider the switch to beta.
Seems like the bugs are getting patched, but I'm not jumping yet.

Anonymous said...

Maybe those unfriendly canoeists were smugglers. You know about Florida!

R.Powers said...

It's a common (probably correct) assumption that this road was built as a smuggler's landing strip back in the 70's when Dixie county was a notorious pot smuggling entry point. I have a tale about that too, but it involves a "family" member and I'm not sure enought time has gone by.
I will tell you I was carrying my legally concealed firearm. I don't go remote without it.

LauraHinNJ said...

We have a "road to nowhere" here in NJ - leads out into the middle of the saltmarsh. Great place to look for short-eared owls and harriers in the dead of winter. Brrrr.

R.Powers said...

But don't you love it!

Anonymous said...

Please dont tell the developers about this place. I live where you are talking about and we dont want any more condos in here. It is a part of Gods great old Florida and we love it that way. Now the sand knats will eat you up if you are out there about dusk dark. So tell them to come on and see it they can handle it. Ha Ha.

Anonymous said...

I have been there many times crabbing and shooting our guns at the dead end :-)

Devine308 said...

This has got to be the best blog written, I'm searching for things to do this weekend and this really peaked my interest just by your story! Just wanted to tell you I rather enjoyed it. I'll have to check more out on your blog. *Bookmarked*