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Florida Panhandle

Lietuviškai

I am sitting in an air conditioned car and listening to stories about a guy who was involved in one of the largest drug busts in U.S. history. The story revolves around shrimp boats full of cocaine, endless greed and life back and forth between Panama and Florida.

I roll my car window down and breathe in the humid, warm air while my fantasy takes me to a party surrounded by crystal clear water, 70’s yacht rock music and people bullshitting. I am beginning to move my hips in a red bikini with my hands up in the air while the sun is burning everything on the surface of the deck of the yach. Suddenly, Lukas calls me out of my imagination and asks me to hand him the camera. He wants to capture an image of the road, which reminds him of a movie about the Vietnam war.

I saw that movie too, so now while I reach for the camera, I am a little bit frustrated that I need to put my khaki pants and military T-shirt on top of my bikini and jump into the muddy, dangerous and dirty swamp image leaving my yacht party behind. The first shot is of the massive jungle by the road, second - a rusty, abandoned ship we pass, and a couple more that we delete later. Turtles, gators and birds are all around deep within the woods, but most likely we will only spot a cracked bloody turtle or a dislocated bird hit by a car on the side of the road. Yes, that’s how we get to explore the fauna in the areas we visit.

Stopping at the gas station unveils the charm of a town whose name will never be remembered or mentioned in any fancy traveling blog. A city with the smallest police station in the US, which is actually not the original one, because tourists vandalized the real one. Moving on we see a US flag on an abandoned building next to the road, a couple of faded ads and a garage, which promises to fix your tires. And that wraps up most of Florida's Panhandle towns.

Back in the car I begin to wonder about food. I have a strong belief that Florida should have good seafood, but that belief begins to dissolve when we pass one ghostly town after another. Finally we stop at a shabby place by the water and voila - the most delicious shrimp and oysters are now not only in our mouths, but in the freezer too. Don’t get me wrong, we were lucky - it was the only place in the area which did not deep fry everything.

After a little while, finally, my eyes are dazzled by the whiteness of the sand beaten by rhythmic waves. A vast horizon of the beach is full of retired people. Welcome to Florida, baby, I think to myself while my feet sink deep into the sand and the shells. I was never a fan of the beach or the blue shades of the ocean, but Florida finally got me. Not much to explore here besides sitting on the beach and staring at fathers digging holes for their kids with plastic shovels and wrinkles on old beach bodies. It is not the Key West yet, but I have experienced Florida already.