A Storyby Janet Burroway
Jacksonville at dawn sits askew to everybody’s image of Florida: more discount than Deco, more hospital than high-rise, Miami cut off at the knees. But when you leave the ring road and head west on I-10 you are in another country altogether, flanked by eighty-foot pines on either side, driving a gray carpet down a green corridor. This is what the natives call the “other Florida.” It is really Georgia by a different name, rolling red earth, pecans and cattle, a scattering of water oak and sweet gum—though, unlike Georgia, shabbily edged with sea.
Any turn left tracks down the panhandle to the gulf. The main highway is 319, which cuts through the capital in ten minutes, goes two-lane, meets 98 at the coast in a half hour more, curves right again, and, dipping in and out of sea view, follows groves of palmetto, saltwater on the left, swamp on the right, mounds of shucked oyster shell, and the occasional great blue heron balancing on one skinny stilt.