September 12, 2007

Where Florida Begins...

Regionalism, place, and identity--that's the Lawton Chiles story and the theme of so many nostalgic books on Old Florida.

But given that Florida borders Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina (and Cuba, arguably), how do you know where to put the cultural boundary line of the Sunshine State, if not the map-drawn one?

Tough to say.

Of course it depends on what time period you're talking about. I'll say one thing for sure. The red clay country in and around Tallahassee may be the color of South Georgia, but the telltale crop of this soil--cotton--is long gone. I would argue that politics is the new cash crop for the Tallahassee metro area. So is education, thanks to FSU and Florida A&M.

But in Southwest Georgia, you can still get a piece of King Cotton once you get out of town:

This cotton is very close to Plains, Georgia.

Also, I noticed while driving through Thomasville, Georgia--36 miles north of Tally--that the Spanish moss begins around this small town and is a good sign you're getting close to Florida.

If you driving from Georgia back to Florida and bypassing Tally in favor of the Chiles Trail through places like Madison and Perry and Monticello, good luck realizing you're in a different state without a map or the "Welcome to Florida" sign to guide you. Apart from the deep red clay, the frequency of pine sawmills and lumber yards on both sides of the Georgia-Florida border blurs the line especially. So does the frequency of Zaxby's Chicken.

If you arrive in Florida from South Carolina--via I-95--you can't miss Florida in all the billboards and Orlando ads you'll see.

If you arrive from Alabama, I have no idea what can guide you. I haven't been that far west on the Chiles Trail yet.

The Cuba-Miami connection is a subject for several more posts.

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