Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Super-Sized Road Trip: Leg 5 to Tallahassee

February 2nd, 2017 · No Comments · Football, NFL, Road trip, Sports Journalism

Day 6 of the series and Leg 5 of the Interstate 10 road trip to 2005 Super Bowl, 383 miles from New Orleans to Tallahassee, Fla., part of the 2,431 miles across Interstate 10 from Ontario, Calif., to Jacksonville, Fla.

From February 4, 2005

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — We Left Coast natives tend to view Florida through the prism of multicultural Miami or sprawling Orlando. Modern. Forward-thinking. Diverse.

Not necessarily. Certainly not in Florida’s panhandle, which we traversed Thursday on Leg 5 of the Road to the Super Bowl.

This is the part of Florida unknown to much of the world. Along Interstate 10, from Pensacola to Tallahassee is one long pine-forested, twangy, rifle-racked, grits-‘n’-hushpuppies stretch of unreconstructed Dixie.

Miles and miles of white-sand beaches extend just a jog south of the I-10, but that bit of seashore is called the Redneck Riviera for a reason. You will not see luminaries from the Cannes Film Festival lounging about.

We may be almost within sight of Jacksonville, home to Super Bowl XXXIX but we feel as if we are in the woods of the Confederate States of America.

“The joke around here is that if you spit over your shoulder it lands in Georgia,” said Laura, a clerk at Barnes & Noble in the Tallahassee Mall. “All of north Florida is more like Georgia and Alabama than it is like Miami or Orlando.”

Cliff, who was working at the customer-service desk as the Sports Authority, said he is from Palm Beach, near Miami. “I had culture shock when I came here,” he said. “It’s like another country.”

We may be a few miles from the steamy Caribbean, but you would not know it from the radio, where your choices are country … or classic country.

Such great lyrics. “I like my women just a little on the trashy side.” “I need a miracle; please, Jesus, would you change her mind?” “Taters never taste good with chicken on the plate.”

Opinion seems divided on whether this slice of Dixie extends clean across the north of the state and to Jacksonville, which also is just south of the Georgia state line. “It’s a beach city and more cosmopolitan,” Laura said of Jacksonville. Countered Cliff: “I have friends from there who say it’s Hicksville.”

Employees at the Sports Authorities and Champs Sports here said they have seen no surge in requests for Patriots or Eagles gear. Actually, the only paraphernalia in either store relevant to Sunday’s game is a Terrell Owens Eagles jersey on sale for $80 at Champs. “And we had that one before the playoffs started,” said William, who was manning the counter.

He said hometown Florida State gear remains the top-seller, here in the state capital. And the NFL teams locals are most interested in are the Jaguars, Dolphins, Falcons and Bucs, probably in that order.

Eagles and Patriots? Not on the radar, even if they are playing just down the road.

“Nobody here feels like the Super Bowl is coming to town,” William said. “May as well be playing it in California.”

“No Florida teams, 150 miles away, no big deal,” Cliff said.

Certainly, we sensed no Super Bowl buzz here, a morning’s drive from Super City 2005. The clerk at the Days Inn front desk guffawed when we asked if her weekend bookings were up. You know, for fans going to the Super Bowl. She asked: “How many rooms you want?”

The local newspaper, The Democrat, had only one Super Bowl story on its front page Thursday. The rest of it was given over to massive coverage of Florida State football signings. Hmmm.

“We’ve got to believe panhandle Floridians will watch the game. This is the South and the Super Bowl is football. But an emotional connection? No.

Leaving New Orleans was tough. Morning beignets (deep-fried dough with powdered sugar), folks promenading in the chill morn, museums opening their doors. Ah, but the road calls.

The Redneck Riviera commences pretty much with the Mississippi border, and we cruised most of its stretch of beach, from Gulfport to Biloxi. It has a reputation for being down-market, but aside from some T-shirt shops and fast-food outlets at the far end, it actually looked classy. Upscale. A place to get some sun — not that we had seen any since Las Cruces.

We hurried through the bit of Alabama that reaches the sea, then into Florida, which droned on and on — along with plaintive songs about “what you done did to me”. Two sets of double lanes bracketed by rows of tall firs.

The wind blew and gray clouds scudded overhead, and the dreary weather seemed aligned to the letdown of leaving New Orleans. But the end of the road is nigh.

Next: To Jacksonville, 163 miles.


0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment