One of things I disliked about living in California was that you could drive for hours and still not be out of the state. Unless you went to Reno, you were in for a good eight or more hours in the car before you crossed the border.
Traveling the same number of hours from North Central Florida can put me in six or seven states; three hours and I’m in Savannah, just over an hour and I’m in Georgia.
I always expect things to be different in another state, and they are, or perhaps I am just finely attuned to slight discrepancies. Geographically, Northern Florida and Southern Georgia are indistinguishable. The big symmetrical pine forests of the lumber industry are a feature of both landscapes, as are swamps and oak hammocks. The climate is the same. Linguistically, there’s a difference in accent, although not to the degree of difference you would find between Florida and Alabama or Mississippi.
One enormous difference is that in Geogia you can buy white Reese’s cups. If you haven’t tried one, they are well worth driving to another state to buy. They are, if this is possible, sweeter than the regular kind and the exterior coating is softer. I’m not sure why these are not available in Florida; test-marketing must have proved that they sell better in the Deep South than they do in the Sunshine State. It’s the Southern sweet tooth, the same craving for sugar that has people putting Pepsi on hams. Florida isn’t really the South except by location, and Georgia is. I hadn’t eaten a white Reese’s since Thanksgiving of 2008, so I drove to Georgia to buy more.
While there, I visited Valdosta.
Valdosta is 90 miles from Gainesville. I expected it to have some traces of antebellum architecture, but I didn’t see any. Valdosta was a new city in 1860 and was considered a “safe haven” during the war because of its location away from Union bombardment. I walked around and took a few photographs, few the operative word because there simply wasn’t all that much to capture. Since I normally am out in the woods, my eye fell flat in a city.
We spent about 45 minutes wandering around downtown Valdosta, noting that there appeared to be two Main Streets. One very distinctly was geared towards African-Americans by the type of apparel, food, and services offered and the other was more generically Middle America.
After I’d taken a few pictures, I looked at my companion and said, Do you realize how close we are to the Okeefenokee Swamp?
The Lowndes County Courthouse and its memorial to fallen Confederate comrades. This was the only trace I found of the Civil War in Valdosta.
Evidence that Valdosta and Gainesville share the same issue with the homeless. Valdosta, however, elects to put it on display. Note the accessorizing–homelessness, it seems, is the fault of booze and tobacco.