My original plan had been to eat breakfast at a place called Another Broken Egg Cafe in Destin, but the Embassy Suites offered a full, hot breakfast as part of the price of my room, so I couldn’t really justify spending the extra money when I didn’t have to. Afterwards, I headed across the street to the beach and into the water, which was icy cold as usual, but I soon adjusted to it and stayed out for about an hour. Then I walked back to the hotel’s whirlpool and got in that for awhile before finally dressing for travel, packing up and checking out of the room.
I stopped at a Winn-Dixie to buy a water float that I could use once I got to Fort Myers, and then I headed down Highway 30-A for old times’ sake, but I found the beaches nearly unrecognizable. Near where Dune Allen had been was now a large shopping village called Gulfplace, where I stopped for a cold drink and took some pictures. There was another similar area called Redfish Village near Blue Mountain Beach, and beyond that, whole new towns had emerged, Seaside, Watercolour, Rosemary Beach. At Grayton Beach, I went back down to the Red Bar Gift Shop, but it wasn’t open yet, so I walked around the little town taking pictures until the shop had opened, and then I purchased compact discs by the Red Bar Jazz Band and the Funkmasters. At the new town of Rosemary Beach, I was quite charmed by the architecture, so I stopped there and parked on the village green, then walked around the area taking photos. South of the highway, Main Street had been designed like a street in a European town, and there was a new Hotel Saba being built nearest the beachfront. On the street were a number of bistros and boutiques, and I walked into an ice-cream parlor to get something to cool off with as I walked back to my car. At Panama City Beach, I drove down the beach road for awhile, but stayed off of Thomas Drive and continued on my way without stopping there, because it was now 2 PM, and I would lose an hour when I crossed into the Eastern Time Zone.
I decided to head north to Youngstown and east on Highway 20 through Blountstown and Bristol, then cutting over to Highway 98 beyond St. Mark’s. Thoroughly tired, I stopped at Cross City for coffee, noticing that the whole town was gathering at the high school for graduation. When I finally arrived in Cedar Key, I couldn’t find a parking place on Dock Street, so I had to park on the bridge and walk down to the Harbour Master Inn and Suites. I was fortunate that the office was still open (it would be closed in the next half hour), and I got checked into my room, the Sunkissed Suite, which was more like a bed-and-breakfast room. The deliciously-comfortable bed was a four-poster, and the room was quite spacious.
Cedar Key was a small town, and could easily be walked. I headed first to Seabreeze on the Dock for dinner, noticing that there was a singer/songwriter performing across the street at the Big Deck Raw Bar. My steak dinner was really good, although delayed by the fact that the entire graduating class of Cedar Key High School (all 15 of them) were having a dinner in celebration of their graduation. The sun was going down as I walked back down Dock Street toward Coconuts, which had been the old Captain’s Table, and they were doing karaoke there. I snapped pictures at intervals, capturing the pinks, greys and purples of the sunset, walking down Second Street to the Gulf Front Motel and further down to the Faraway Inn, where guests were sitting on park benches, talking into the night. I walked back up the main street of the town to the city beach and park, where I sat on a bench, listening to the music from over on Dock Street and the musical bounce of a basketball as neighborhood kids were playing a pick-up game at the courts adjacent to the Cedar Cove condominiums. It was now pitch-dark, but for the lights from the Dock establishments, and I soon walked back across the marina boat slips toward my hotel. The wind was picking up heavily, and I suspected that a storm was coming. I thought of heading to a rap club in Gainesville, but the Gainesville radio station didn’t mention anything going on there, so I hit the bed and fell fast asleep. (May 30, 2008)