First of all...Happy 4th of July, everyone! Secondly...dear God! It appears that a good chunk of the U.S. population has decided to swarm the Emerald Coast to become gas-guzzling, highway-clogging, beach house-renting, moped-riding, umbrella-toting, seashell-hoarding, ICEE-chugging, swimsuit-squeezing, sunburn-wearing zombies!
The other day I was driving from Destin to Panama City to visit my old college roommate. What should have been a simple hour-long trip turned into two and a half hours of attempting to maneuver around endless vehicles carting wide-eyed tourists as they gawked in awe at the ocean, effectively halting the flow of traffic.
While inching along a particularly congested section of the highway in Panama City, I witnessed a multitude of interesting scenes. I passed by a very rotund man balancing himself rather impressively on a bright pink moped on the opposite lane. Several sets of aggravated parents dragged their screaming spawn across the road in front of my car. Temporarily docile gang members littered the sides of the highway, posing shirtless atop their dilapidated vehicles (I'm not entirely certain what they hoped to achieve by that, but to me it looked like an all-male red light district in broad daylight).
To make matters worse, I realized I'd missed my ex-roommate's street. I blanched at the idea of a U-turn, considering that the opposite lane was now as stuck as mine was and angry tourists were beginning to honk expletives at each other. Sure enough, it took me another half hour to reach a traffic light where I could escape the chaotic scenic route. I took a left at the light and followed the new road to a less busy parallel highway, on which the locals and other remaining sane people drove.
After speaking to my ex-roommate on the phone for back road directions, I finally made it to her house in one piece. Once she opened the door, I believe my greeting to her was, "Do you realize your town is being overrun by horrifying vacationing zombies otherwise known as tourists?"
Apparently, this was a normal occurrence during Independence Day weekend. I imagined Destin to be in a similar situation, and I was just glad I wouldn't be mauled while attempting to find a parking spot at the beach (some of the tourists from landlocked states, such as Kentucky and Utah, seemed to go rabid once they crossed the Florida border).
My ex-roommate and I spent the day catching up, then I ventured back to Destin the next morning. The drive back was notably faster and less eventful, although a Saturn from Texas dared to cut me off, to which I yelled, "Impudent zombie, I will cackle as I drive past your flashing hazard lights when your vehicle breaks down on the side of the road, thereby cutting you off from your uncontrollable thirst for beach-lounging!"
I spent the 4th of July itself on the pier at Okaloosa Island to watch the fireworks show in Fort Walton Beach. The view was excellent, and I could even see fireworks in Navarre and Gulf Breeze in the far distance. My camera is nothing short of crappy at capturing nighttime sequences, but I have a clip of part of the show.
Definitely made up for the sand-and-sun zombie fest!
-J. S. Blancarte