My very tired husband wants to lounge in the hotel for the night so I run next door to Julie's Place for some grub. Turns out this place is rich in Tallahassee history. The gregarious bartender and general manager Troy Kirkingburg explains how they are the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the city. Its website claims the restaurant is, "a Tallahassee Tradition Since 1978."

Troy is busy getting ready for Karaoke night. Everyone in the bar seems to know him by first name. As a man orders two glasses of zinfandel Troy tells me how Tallahassee is a "big city with a small town feel." He said we are 3 miles from the capitol building on the north side of town. He adds that everything north of here is, "country, about as country as you can get." As if to prove his point two men in cowboy hats cozy up to the bar behind him.

When I went to Boston College and told people I was from Miami some would say, "Oh, I've never been to the South," and I'd reply, "Neither have I." You have to travel north from Miami to get to the South. Tallahassee certainly has a Southern feel.

The last time I was here I was a teenager participating in American Legion Auxiliary's Florida Girls State. Girls State is a hands-on way for teens to learn how local and state government operates. You have to compete to attend. Activities include debating and voting on mock bills as well as campaigning. I ran as a Lt. Governor and faced a crushing defeat. It began with Boys State in 1935 which their website explains was founded in Illinois, "to counter the socialism-inspired Young Pioneer Camps."

Wikipedia says famous alumni include: Neil Armstrong, Bill Clinton, Mike Huckabee, Rush Limbaugh, George Pataki, Harry Reid, Michael Jordan and Mark Wahlberg. Really? Marky Mark? Hmm...I called American Legion and rattled off the names. A woman is quick to confirm. Yep. They all participated.

9/8/2011

2 p.m.

Thursday

Pass Christian, Mississippi

During a stop for gas in Waveland I chatted up a man standing in front of the food mart. Want to know the best places to eat in a new city? Skip the internet and ask a local. He scopes out our silly arrangement in the car. Dog in the back, baby in the middle, a meowing cat in the front, he smiles and in a wonderfully thick Southern accent tells us to cross the bridge into Pass Christian. "Just before the harbor make a left, eat at Pirate's Cove." He tells us to get a roast beef, shrimp or soft shell crab po-boy.

When we arrive I ask the woman behind the counter what she recommends. "I'm known for my roast beef and shrimp po-boys." She sure is! I order one of each so Mark and I can share. Then I spot "corn nuggets" on the menu. I've never heard of such a thing and so order immediately. They are tasty deep fried balls of creamed corn. We polish it off with a glass bottle of Barq's root beer. BeverageHistory.com says Barq's was first bottled in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1890.

That's also the supposed birthplace of the "po-boy." A po-boy everywhere else in the country is called a sub. The first thing we noticed was the bread. It was perfectly crunchy on the outside, soft on in the inside. According to Gumbopages.com, "What makes a po-boy special is the bread. A po-boy isn't a po-boy unless it's made with good quality, fresh French bread."

Frenchquarter.com offers this explanation of how the sandwich got its name: "The most widely accepted story holds that the sandwich was invented by Clovis and Benjamin Martin, brothers and former streetcar drivers who opened a restaurant on St. Claude Avenue in the 1920s. When streetcar drivers went on strike in 1929, the brothers took up their cause and created an inexpensive sandwich of gravy and spare bits of roast beef on French bread they would serve the unemployed workers out of the rear of their restaurant. When a worker came to get one, the cry would go up in the kitchen that 'Here comes another poor boy!' and the name was transferred to the sandwich, eventually becoming 'po-boy' in common usage."

A big thank you to Local10.com's Managing Editor Barb Besteni for recommending that we take the coastal route instead of the highway. She even mapped us here from New Orleans! Thanks!

9/8/2011

11:36 a.m.

Thursday

Waveland, Mississippi

We are cruising the Mississippi coast along Highway 90, enjoying the sight of water until it hits the horizon. My husband grew up sailing off the south shore of Boston and I am from Miami. That?s what makes us self-professed "ocean people."

This is our first time in Mississippi. We marvel at the grand mansions on the north side of the highway and white sands to the south. The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) says this stretch of road is one of the most scenic in the South. The coastal roadway was part of the Old Spanish Trail and used to be known locally as Beach Drive.

MDOT has been working to repair the damage done to Highway 90 since Hurricane Katrina decided to pay a visit in 2005. Pictures on their website show a road rippled with deep cracks.

We just can?t resist the call of the water and decide to pull over. On our various trips to California we learned Fahrenheit loves to play in the ocean. Plus our cat Buddy could use a walk. It is hard for most people to believe it, even when they see it, but our cat can walk on a leash.

It seemed like a great idea, even to Buddy, who was thrilled to be free from his soft carrier. Then it hit him, this sandy beach leads straight to WATER! If you have a cat you know exactly how much they love getting wet. So there we were, the whole family enjoying some beach time. Mina was gripping the soft sand with her long toes while Fahrenheit swam and Buddy...well...while Buddy freaked out realizing a large body of water was so close. Who the heck brings a cat on a leash to the beach? I guess we do! That?s how we roll.

9/8/2011

10 a.m.