If Horseshoe Beach had a funky bar where you could down a Navy Grog, it would be almost perfect. But then it might be Cedar Key and not the Florida equivalent of California’s Bolinas, a town that sends out psychic poxes to keep tourists at bay.
Horseshoe Beach is on the Gulf Coast, midway between Steinhatchee and Cedar Key. For all that coastline there are few towns, making Horseshoe Beach an easy selection for a day trip when you’ve already seen the other two places. The town has a population of just over 200 and it is hard to classify. You might call it a colorfully rundown beach town until you see what appears to be a cluster of industrial storage containers but what is actually a very expensive single-family house. This dwelling, the Roundhouse, appeared on HGTV and it is presently for sale. For $1,500,000., you can drive yourself up a ramp to the deck and make yourself at home in its containers, as if you were something that needed to be stored.
Up the road is a home built to look like a sloop, and around the corner, houses on stilts so high they appear to be tree houses. The sloop looks like an outsized toy, especially when you get close enough to realize it is not built of wood but of something that appears like plastic; it looks as if you could float it in your Gulf bathtub and have pirate adventures galore.
We had a bit of a hard time making our way to Horseshoe Beach. There were two major delays, one of which had me arriving in Horseshoe Beach in my underwear.
The first delay was for a dead snake by the side of the road. This was the first cottonmouth I have seen in Florida and I wanted to get a picture of Mr. B. taking a picture of it. This wasn’t easy to accomplish because of oncoming traffic, but we eventually got one in the can. Then, I decided to use the restroom at a cafe that advertised shrimp burgers. The cafe had no customers, which made Mr. B. feel that in exchange for my using the bathroom he would have to make a small purchase. He browsed the abbreviated candy counter while a very friendly young woman escorted me to the restroom. She knocked on the door and an older woman came out carrying a mop. The woman with the mop said something about being careful about a drain exploding while washing your hands, y’all, but I didn’t really understand her until I got into my car and noticed that the left leg of my pants was wet and had turned bright orange. I’m guessing that the sink was covered in Clorox, and when I’d brushed against it while using the faucet I had come into contact with the bleach. Looking at the damage to my pants, I imagine the sink had been slopped with the stuff.
The bleach filled the car with chemical reek, and then I did what any intrepid traveler should do: I stripped off my pants and drove the rest of the way to Horseshoe Beach in my underwear. As Mr. B. pointed out, the underwear would likely be mistaken for a bathing suit and would hardly be out of place in a beach town.
We were not able to find the beach part of Horseshoe Beach, so I put my pants back on in a seaside parking lot with the wind whipping so hard that I might have taken flight with the seagulls. This stop confirmed that the fantasy beach homes are hulking victims of the economy. “For Sale” signs were so often repeated that they looked like lawn ornaments. The economic disaster was most poignant here, where architectural creativity ran at such a high pitch.
Main Street wasn’t the real Horseshoe Beach. The real town lay behind Main, in weatherbeaten cottages and old trailers. Some of these were also for sale, as were multiple units in an exceedingly unattractive condominium complex with no beachfront real estate. After winding around a few streets, we found a park that allows tent camping for up to a two-week period of time. The rules were that lax that you might also get away with holing up in the back seat of your car for the same amount of time. Fishing and grilling one’s catch seemed to be the main attraction. Other than this, there wasn’t much to do. Mr. B. thought otherwise. Why, he would buy the Roundhouse and on its ample deck write hit Broadway musicals to which I could contribute, except that I would be so doped up on sunshine that I’d do little more than to mumble an overly complicated stage instruction.
If you really want to understand Florida, you must pause to take in concrete trailer pads lined up on a road that bordered a marsh. Here is where you could buy your slice of sunshine real estate without having to worry about hurricane damage and home repair. We cruised by, mindful of not turning into anyone’s “driveway.” In a town that tiny, you are an invader, a foreigner, a tourist. Watchful eyes keen on determining our business followed us as we snooped around town. We made a couple more passes and then we drove out the way we came in, making sure to buy a Powerball ticket on the off chance that we might win and be able to buy a new pair of pants along with the purchase of the Roundhouse.
I should make Mr. B.’s life easy by letting him buy me flowers.
The campground. Just pull in, hook up, and grill.
This “hotel” wasn’t just vacant, it was for sale. The owner wanted to sell “the business” along with the structure.