What is the Great Florida Road Trip?

At the end of the road along A1A
At the end of the road along A1A

I have always loved Florida and I’ve always wanted to write, and when I discovered the Florida Studies program at USF St. Petersburg, I beat a path to Dr. Gary Mormino’s door to find out how I could enroll.

It took a few years, but in May of 2011, I walked away with an MLA in Florida Studies. In 2013, I received a book deal with the University Press of Florida. See, during my first semester of grad school – WAAAAAY back in 2007 – one of my professors, Dr. Ray Arsenault, assigned us some reading out of this old book called The Guide to the Southernmost State. I’d never heard of it, and all he handed us were photocopies, but as I was his graduate assistant, I’d made the copies and I’d seen the book.

WPA map of Florida
The Guide to the Southernmost State, circa 1939

My relationship with this book was love at first sight. See, I’ve always enjoyed a road trip and, as a broke-ass writer (yes, that is the technical term), I rarely ventured outside of Florida. That was fine, though, because Florida is my first love. I also love to read, so I was forever searching for the ultimate Florida guidebook. It didn’t exist.

Except here was this old musty book that did exactly what I wanted: It went down all of Florida’s roads, one by one. It showed readers what they’d expect to see along US 1, or alone the coastal route of the panhandle, or down the spine of the state along US 27. What’s more, the people who wrote this book seemed every bit in love with Florida as I was. They could not have hooked me faster if they’d promised me a new puppy and that I could eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight. I had to have this book.

One problem, though: The Guide to the Southernmost State was part of the American Guide Series, a WPA project that was part of an endeavor called Federal One. Federal One published The Guide to the Southernmost State in 1939, and it went out of print in the mid-1950s. This wasn’t a problem insofar as obtaining a copy – I found one on eBay easily enough – but it broke my heart no one had kept up with the changes. I used to paw through my book at night and wonder about the men and women who followed these roads. I wanted to go with them down every road and into every town.

A few years later, I had my chance. For my master’s thesis, I told Dr. Mormino I wanted to retrace the original Guide routes.

I did, and that’s the thrust of my book: What I saw on the greatest Florida road trip ever undertaken. This web site talks about some of my travels as part of my master’s work, but also, I show you things I’ve seen before and since.

Come along with me, won’t you?

If you’re new to the site, start here.


 

Want to get in touch? I’m happy to answer any Florida question you may have. I also speak about Florida to all sorts of groups.