Sorry, Florida. This was a short visit, and I didn’t even see your legendary sunshine.
I charged into the panhandle as dusk fell, speeding over a river and beneath a roadsign from Governor Rick Scott helpfully announcing that Florida was “OPEN FOR BUSINESS,” then drove east for an hour as the cloudy darkness gathered and asserted itself into proper night.
I found my way to Lakewood Park, lit by a single dim streetlamp that reflected sulphur-yellow off a number of warnings that the park was open sunrise to sunset. I glanced around, then disobediently shuffled a few yards through the wet freshly-mown grass to the highpoint, marked by a granite monument on a subtle incline. The dew soaked through my pants until they clung to my shins. I had heard there were short nature-walk trails through the nearby grove of trees, and I began a slow circumnavigation of the park grounds to find these paths and maximize my trip.
Just as I ventured into a gap that may have been an entrance to the spooky tree perimeter, stepping over the longer grasses and squinting into the leafy tunnel, a creature (bird? monkey? …chupacabra?) suddenly screamed AH-AH-OOOH directly overhead, and I stumbled backward to the relative safety of the streetlamp’s wan golden haze and contented myself with just a brief visit to the lowest “highpoint” in the country.
About the beer:
Every Floridian I know has been bragging for years about Jai Alai, Cigar City’s flagship American IPA, and a six-pack has been sweating in my rental car’s trunk ever since Pensacola. I crack one open and yeah, this is a curious but boastworthy brew. It’s seriously hoppy and crammed full of tropical citrus like a roadside farmer’s market, grapefruit and mango and juicy sweet tangerines all jumbled together, but it’s surprisingly smooth and refreshing against the balmy heat of a Florida night.