Gulf Coast Demographics

September 10, 2010

After our vacation in Tennessee, theskinnyonbenny family drove due south, and made our way back across the Gulf coast.

This is the only part of this post that I'll devote to the oil spill: as we drove through, we saw quite a bit of cleanup out in the water, but the water and beaches seemed clean. But seeming clean is different than being clean. I seem to be one of few, but oil that is broken into microscopic drops surrounded by chemical dispersant is still oil. It's not out of the Gulf. It's just not in a form where we see it. Is it safe for swimming and eating? I don't think anyone actually knows the answer to that. So I'm pleased that it wasn't worse, but I'm still really concerned.

Now that that's off my chest, I'll get to the point that I came to make: I am now an expert on the different demographics along the coast. There are several distinct regions with their own tourists, locals, personalities, and amenities. I'm pleased to provide the first guide (as far as I know) to the different parts of the Gulf Coast.

gulf coast map

This is a map of the Gulf Cost, with highlights for the distinct geopgraphical and social divisions that I've observed.

The Sportsman's Paradise The part with few to no tourists, and which once upon a time had great fishing. I actually extnd this through the first few miles of Mississippi, which in normal times is nothing but fishing vessels. Casinos Where fat people come from all over the south to smoke cigarettes in detestable casinos, and where there is not one single decent restaurant. Redneck Riviera Hillbillies from Texas to South Carolina flock to the white sand beaches of Alabama and Florida to stay in giant high rises, play miniature golf, eat fattning food, and buy crap at giant tourist trap shops. It's a fine trip if you can sneak over during the school year, but during the summer, it's a place where overly religious SEC fans watch their fat rolls turn from fish belly white to lobster red. I know that description sound comtemptuous, but it's an area that I've visited almost every year since childhood. It's not that bad, and the sand and water is actually very nice. Unspoiled Florida Once you get past the high rises, Florida's coast goes native. Florida's native white trash look and sound a lot different than the tourists who are in and out in the course of a week. They live in crappy little houses, often not even elevated houses despite being right on the hurricane prone ocean. The Florida natives are easy to spot due to their overly tanned and weathered aligator skin. Not aligator skin shoes or jackets -- their physical skin has actually turned to aligator skin. Florida Gators indeed. My experience is that the people are quite nice, which is a shame, since the places to stay are more often than not a category of hotel known as "Shithole." The Forgotten Coast What? Beautiful beaches with no high rises? Nice houses? Tons of land preserved as state park or national forest? There's a little section of coast that is nothing less than lovely, and I've never heard anyone recommend the drive past the Riviera. I'm not sure why. On our trip home, we ended up staying for a couple of days in this little dot. And my pleasant surprise is really worth spending another couple paragraphs on. St. Joe's Peninsula might be the prettiest part of the Gulf coast that I visited. Driving down the road, you see beautiful ocean front on one side and a nice, calm bay on the other. It would be perfect for ocean lovers who still want to get out and enjoy boating on calmer water. The houses that I saw from the road ranged from nice to fantastic looking, and the only drawback seems to be a lack of local restaurants and the fact that a whopper of a hurricane would wash the whole joint out to sea.

Playing on a beach that we have entirely to ourselves.

We stayed in Apalachacola. The downtown area was cool, with lots of places to eat. In fact, the best food that I've ever had in the state of Florida was at an oyster bar on a canal that looked perfectly mundane. But the oysters were fantastic, and I had an aligator burger that was amazing. If you're in the area, check out Up The Creek Raw Bar on Water Street. Similarly, we checked into the Water Street Hotel, expecting a run-of-the-mill room, and we got a huge suite, with a view from a screened porch out over the swamp. The price was super-reasonable. Mosquitoville Many years ago, we went to a sailing school on an island off the coast here. I would tell you all about it, except that on the second day, the mosquitoes kidnapped me. They held me against my will for the rest of the week, occasionally giving me a beating, and raping me twice. Other than the mosquitoes, it seemed a nice place for a visit.