I started this journey with more uncertainty than anything else I had done before. It also was more difficult because my home base is in Miami - it makes getting to all the other parts of Florida much, much harder. I ended up breaking the trips up into regions. Keys. South-East counties. South-West and Middle. Treasure Coast. Mid-North East. North. Each trip was several days and was optimized for knocking out as many as possible in the most efficient way. I finished just after New Years of 2017.
So what did I learn out there on the road? Florida has a LOT less history than Tennessee. It's super flat until it becomes basically "South Georgia" and "South Alabama", where there's hills and forests. I learned that rural Florida is a whole lot like rural Tennessee. I also learned that tourism dollars are key to a thriving county. There's 32 land-locked counties in Florida, and it seems that they almost always (other than those with Disney money) are behind the times in terms of industry and infrastucture. Everything moves slower, but people are (generally) nicer, and everyone drives a truck. I also visited several places that I'd love to go back to one day.
Some of my most memorable places… top of the list has to be Apalachacola. It's so unlike anywhere else in Florida… it feels more like Mississippi or Louisiana than Gulf-Coast FL. Amelia Island was another amazing place… so isolated, it's like a whole other world. The 30A stretch - especially Grayton Beach - is somewhere I'll probably have to bring the kids to as they grow up. Beautiful beaches and the state forest just to the north. The Keys (especially Key West) are awesome, but are their own thing. There's a reason it's the Conch Republic. Just like Texas, they'd be fine just doing their own thing. Last of note was the tiny city of Mayo. People were nicer here than anywhere else I've been. I truly felt like I was back in my old hometown of Columbia and talking with people I've known for years.
Going from not knowing anything about Florida to now, I feel like the best way to learn more about the country in general will be to do more county seat trips! I'm looking at Delaware (3), Hawaii (5), Rhode Island (5), Connecticut (8), New Hampshire (10), Massachusetts (14), Vermont (14), and Nevada (16) next.