One of the highlights of the drive to Florida is passing all of the produce stands along U.S. Highway 49 between Jackson and Hattiesburg in Mississippi. En route, you’ll find great fruit and veggies for your dinners at the beach. On the return trip, a Mississippi melon or basket of peaches is a little salve for the end-of-vacation blues.
Donna’s #6 at Florence just south of Jackson isn’t one of a chain but named after the Morgan family’s sixth child, who was also six at the time this stand opened in 1976. We loved the peaches from Chilton County, Alabama.
Anyone traveling to Florida’s Gulf Coast for a week with the slightest interest in recreational cycling needs to schedule one day away from the beach and ride at least a portion of the bike path that follows scenic Highway 30A. It could even be on a rain day. A little drizzle doesn’t hurt, and it’s more memorable than a trip to the outlet mall or playing Scattegories in the condo.
The 19-mile path is officially called the Timpoochee Trail. If you think riding 38 miles roundtrip sounds like too much work while you are on vacation, remember you can’t get much flatter than the Florida panhandle. Plus, there are 16 beach towns along the way. You peddle from one to another, lock your bike on the beach, splash around and hop back on. Don’t think beach & bikes mix? The route takes you straight through towns where you can grab lunch and refreshments. The Highway 30A Meltdown in downtown Seaside, the epicenter of the route, is one of eight retrofitted Airstream food trucks and serves several varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches . In Seaside, we also liked Great Southern Café for a sitdown meal; Modica Market, where the locals lucky enough to have some beachhouses shop for everyday groceries; and independent bookstore Sundog Books.
Each of the other towns has its own personality from the hip Grayton Beach with the “Cool Dogs, Weird People” slogan to Alys Beach with its posh Mediterranean flair.
Most, though, are quaint villages with pastel houses and white picket fences. If you don’t want to worry about hauling your own bike from home, there’s almost as many shops renting bikes than souvenir shops selling beach umbrellas and t-shirts. And they are affordable at $15 to $25 for 24 hours. Plus, they come with baskets and locks making it easy to dash in and out of stores and carry a few purchases. Our family did have to get used to the coaster brakes on ours.
There are few water fountains along the route itself and not much shade so stop frequently. And the route is crowded with tourist riders– sometimes even at night. I saw only one speedy cycler during our four-hour ride. Only a handful of the riders we encountered were even wearing helmets. It was that casual.
Truth be told, we didn’t make it the whole way. Our trip was midday in the middle of August so heat and poor water bottle management cut our trip short. We started at Grayton Beach and made it east to Alys Beach. So next time we’ll catch the west side & a trip to Stinky’s Fish Camp for supper and Blue Mountain Creamery in Santa Rosa for dessert.
Good Shopping: Clay, a gardening shop near Seagrove Beach and Beau beach home décor in Grayton Beach. You’ll have to come back to those places later in you SUV or van.
Bicycle Trips, Road Trips, Farmers Markets and Lagniappe Along the Way