October 10, 2007

The Road to Jay

After taking in some breakfast and culture in Century, Chiles hit the road for Jay, home of the Jay Peanut Festival each October, a whole mess of cotton fields and long leaf pine, and a brisk wind that'll take you're cap off if you're not ready and cover you in red clay dirt even if you are.

The Walk was a path through history sure. Chiles loved the Panhandle's Old Florida air. But when you're walking you notice practical, basic things, too, as much as the philosophical.

Like hills. Road shoulders. Periodic rain showers stand out more than usual. At the beginning of the walk, when nobody but his family and friends knew what he was doing, he was out there alone. Surely he noticed that his journey was also a travel from Florida's "highlands" to its lowest swamps and hammocks. Britton Hill, in Walton County in the Panhandle, is the highest point in Florida at 345 feet above sea level.

But Jay Hill is pretty steep by Florida standards, too. After he got over it, he'd have nice level ground under his feet all the way to the Keys. He noted it:

We talked with a number of people in Century and had breakfast there. At first they wanted to talk only about the 800-mile plus walk before me, but then everybody started telling me about the Jay hill which lay ahead of me on the way to Jay.

I don't believe it was more than three or four miles but it looked like eight miles when I started up. The word was that if I could make it up the Jay hill, the trip would be coasting the rest of the way to the Keys. I thought I had made it up and stopped to rest. About that time Officer Wood, a highway patrolman who used to be stationed in Lakeland, came by and stopped to see what I was doing there. He broke it to me that I was only halfway up the hill. It was kind of a blow cause I hadn't realized that when the road curved ahead, I'd have another half of the hill to traverse.

Tough to say which was more shocking...a steep hill in Florida or the 900 miles he had to go.

Jay Hill Country

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