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I was driving towards Steinhatchee when I saw a sign outside a small shop that advertised, among other things, “Badonka A Donk.”  The sign made me irrationally happy and I quickly pulled over to take a picture.  What a sense of humor, I thought.  Even given the somber quality of the national mood, some guy with a little bait shack comes up with a way to lighten things up a bit.  What fun, and in the most unexpected place as well!  I could completely see the relationship between bait and badonka-a-donk and I can’t say I’ve been this pleased with a sign since the “potator” sign in La Crosse.

That got me thinking about all the little surprises you find when you run around Florida’s most out-of-the-way places.  There have been cobra shows, gator-tail barbecue, religious herons, and, near Steinhatchee, some awfully good road-names.

Before I went out to Steinhatchee, I’d consulted Bing maps.  I always do this to get a fix on where I’m going.  As I pulled the map up slightly north of Steinhatchee, I noticed roads named Garbage, Boggy, Dip Down, Tractor Bog, Pickle Hole and the incredibly rewarding Smutty But.

Also worthy of note was an unintentionally political pair:  McCain Tower and Palin Hog Pen.

You could tell what kind of an area it was just from the names, a place where tractors got stuck in bogs and a distant relative of the former Governor of Alaska kept a bunch of male pigs.   I had no idea what to make of Smutty But, but I wished it had another “t” on the end of it.

I knew immediately that I had to get pictures of the road signs. I’d been a bit lukewarm about Steinhatchee, but this cinched it.  I set out on a gray afternoon when much of Florida was under a tornado watch.

For reference while driving, I have three map books.  One is a national road atlas and another is a Florida atlas.  The third is the Florida Gazetteer, which shows every roadway in the state.  The Gazetteer is pretty useless, although it makes me feel like a serious explorer.  Not all roads are identified by name, but the book would be great if you were lost while hiking.  Most everything in rural areas is just a black squiggle.  The Florida atlas is easier to read, but it, too, doesn’t list the name of each road.

As soon as I got to Steinhatchee, I turned north out of town looking for the first road sign.  None of the roads was listed in my map books, but I had written out very detailed instructions.  Go north on the 361 and take a right turn on Stephensville Road.  Follow Stephensville Road to McCain Tower Road.  Take a picture.  Turn right on McCain Tower Road and drive to Dip Down Road.  Take another picture.

And so on.

I was eight miles out of Steinhatchee when I realized I’d probably gone too far.  I’d seen only dirt logging roads; Steinhatchee was surrounded by pine trees.  The logging roads were gated off and weren’t anything I’d have driven down alone anyway. For all my research and my maps, I’d forgotten to use the aerial display on the Bing maps.  There was no signage.  No “hang a right on Pickle Hole, go two miles, and we’re the last house on the left of Garbage.  The red one with the pig pen in the front yard.” Well, darn it.  Had I used Bing maps to get a visual fix, I’d have realized this.  I drove back towards Steinhatchee feeling deprived.

Later in the day, after I’d made an end run around a thunderstorm and was back at my computer, I questioned whether the bait shack owner really had the sense of humor I thought he had.  Here is where I save myself from looking completely idiotic:  The guy was selling bait and ammo, so “Badonk A Donk” had to be somehow related.  I googled.  Badonka-A-Donk is a fishing lure.  You can buy your own at fishfreakonline.com.

And what of Smutty But?  The closest I can come is that “but” refers to an outer room of a house, and “smutty” means covered in fungus.

The visual isn’t quite the same, is it.

The ubiquitous smoked mullet dip.  Some are frothy and some are thick as cream cheese.

This is a better weather picture than it is a depiction of Steinhatchee’s marina.  You can see the low-level storm clouds starting to thicken.

Another smoked-mullet emporium.

Not a manatee in sight.  I heard later that they had gone out to the Gulf the week before.

I am coming to the conclusion that pelicans think I am one of them.  It must be the similarity of my hair color to their yellow faces.

A reminder that I was riding just above the tornado watch.