On the Road Again!!! A Geocaching Road Trip Along the Florida Panhandle: Part 1

Getting Back to Normal

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Yes!!!!  We left home; stayed in hotels; ate in restaurants; drank in bars; and shopped in charming new locales.  It was wonderful!!!

What we did and why we did it:

Several weeks ago, after scheduling our final Covid Vaccine shots, we made plans with good friends to join up on a road trip in the Florida Panhandle.  We had all lived in the panhandle at one time or another and have been back often to enjoy the beauty and the beaches and the varied flora of Northern Florida.  We are also Geocachers and looked forward to the fun of caching while exploring new sites.  We decided to stay in Panama City, Apalachicola and Tallahassee while taking day trips to surrounding areas.

Let us tell you about it:

Our first stop was Panama City.  And yes, land developer George West did name it after Panama City, Panama to capitalize on the national interest in the U.S. for the construction of the Panama Canal (1904-1914.)  The history of the area goes back to 1765 when British loyalists came and established a fishing village on St. Andrew Bay.  They grew indigo, developed lumbermills and fisheries, established saltworks and eventually became a shipbuilding center.  The population grew.  By 1909, the villages of Panama City, St. Andrew and Millville had merged to form today’s Panama City.  And then there’s Panama City Beach!!!  Here are some photos: 

   

Downtown Panama City has several parks–quite lovely!!!
A Downtown Panama City park with an intricate wooden carving on display (visible on the left).
Historic St Andrews area with a nice place to just sit and scan the bay.
Downtown Panama City park
Graceful old tree in Downtown Panama City. Isn’t this lovely!!! And right on the bay!!!
St. Andrews Saturday market in the park
The Taproom located in the historic Asbell Building in Historic St. Andrew, Panama City, Fl. Originally built in 1908 as a bank, later (around 1927) enlarged into a “strip mall.” Today, you’ll find the bistro as well as boutiques booming with business.
Backside of the Taproom
In Historic St. Andrews, the first newspaper in Panama City. Now a museum.
Historic St Andrews publishing company.
We spent an entire day roaming through the charming areas of Downtown Panama City and Historic St Andrews.
We were driving, but the local bus service looks quite charming!!! That art Deco building behind the trolley is the Martin Theater.
During the Civil War (1861-1865) the St Andrew saltworks provided not only salt, but also preservative for fish and cattle sent to Southern troops and citizens. The saltworks were subject to frequent attack by Union troops!!!
St Andrew Saltworks
We stopped for lunch at Uncle Ernie’s Bayfront Bar & Grill on the Bay in Historic St. Andrews. Formerly the home of a local fisherman and his family, the building was moved to the waterfront in 1993..
Uncle Ernie’s is a large, multi-level, structure and was crowded during the lunch hour.
No doubt the view from the upper deck of Uncle Ernie’s is an enticing factor!!!
Panama City extends along the Gulf shore to Panama City Beach.
Margaritaville in Pier Park Mall faces the Gulf.
Pier Park Mall is extensive and was quite crowded. It’s a great place to shop, eat, and be entertained. Did you know “ax throwing” is a popular activity?!? There is a place in the mall where you can do this. Why???

As a sidebar:

Before concluding this segment of the Road Trip, just a note about Geocaching.  We enjoy the activity because when traveling, the program called “Adventure Labs” will take us to interesting and renowned and popular “off-the-beaten path” locations for interesting and diverse perspectives on a place.  We like the aspect of a puzzle, a search and hunt, as well as the use of technology (GPS, smart phone, iPad).    If you would like more information, go to geocaching.com for details.  

 

Geocachers who choose to hunt Adventure Labs will find wonderful, off-the-beaten path sites like this Man in the Sea Museum commemorating the SeaLab program of 1964.
SeaLab is on display and open for viewing. Four men lived in this craft, off the coast of Bermuda, under 193 feet of the Atlantic Ocean, for 11 days!!!
The U.S. Navy built SeaLab. It was restored and re-commissioned in 2016.
Cramped quarters!!! Imagine 11 days, under water!!! Are you thinking claustrophobia?!?
And today, the general public can enter the capsule and imagine the effort that went into proving Dr. George Bond’s theory that breathing a “saturated” mixture of helium and oxygen could enable longer and deeper dives.

The bottom line:

Our experience in Panama City was positive and enjoyable.  The biggest issue we faced was crowded restaurants due to a shortage of servers and kitchen staff.  That issue would hold true throughout our trip.  But hotel issues popped up in Apalachicola and Tallahassee.  We’ll review those in the following postings. 

Being out “on the road again” was wonderful!!!  There was this beautiful sense of freedom and liberation knowing that we were protected, mightily, against the Covid virus. Of course, Florida has now opened the vaccine availability to all ages.  But none-the-less, shops restaurants and hotels all have different protocols for safety.  Masks are a major component.  So is limited access into shops and restaurants.  But even though there are limitations, that sense of freedom prevails.  It is a joy to travel again!!!

What’s next:

We will take a nostalgic look at Ft. Walton Beach and Hurlburt Field in the next post.