At one time, I imagine, Perry, Florida was an important place. It’s located at the crossroads of three major U.S. highways: 19, 27, and 98. Nestled in Florida’s “Big Bend” area, it’s located at what is essentially the state’s elbow (or the armpit, I suppose).
Even with this crucial location, modern-day Perry looks a lot like the city that time forgot. Interstates 10 and 75 siphoned off much of the sunshine-bound tourist traffic, and now the city slowly weathers the years.
My friend Phil is the one who first used the “city that time forgot” line. He knows how I like to photograph old, forgotten places where nature is slowly overtaking manmade landmarks, and for some time, he had told me I needed to drive up to Perry.
Even before arriving in town, I began to find the type of scenes I was expecting. This burnt-out gas station is in Salem, Florida, about 15 miles south of town on US 19/27/98.
Arriving in Perry, I spotted this huge old neon sign. It now sits in someone’s front yard, but no one complained as I took a few pictures. The Perry Motor Lodge would have been a beautiful sight for 1950’s drivers, who spent all day just trying to get out of this ridiculously long, flat state.
Just up the road a bit, the Kingswood Motel is now for sale — and obviously has been for a while.
Don’t expect high-def.
This trapezium (it’s a geometric shape, i swear — look it up!) stands unexplained near a furniture store parking lot, on the way into downtown Perry. Something this big and ugly, without any obvious purpose (other than to hold a small No Parking sign) certainly deserves a photo.
The railroad tracks welcome you to downtown Perry, along with the town’s old train station (now a welcome center)…
… and a new town clock. Obviously, everything in Perry wasn’t as old and abandoned as I had expected.
Perry is the county seat of Taylor County, Florida, so you’ll find a courthouse in the middle of town.
At the end of the business district, the Faulkner House (1904) has been kept in good condition…
… although the old pickup truck next to the porch could use some attention.
After peeking in a few more shuttered windows, I turned around and made my way back to US 19. Here’s the whole visit on the dash camera:
After leaving Perry, headed west, I faced a long stretch of miserable driving. The clouds opened up with a downpour. Even on a sunny day, this would be an unappealing stretch of highway — lined by trees on both sides, and almost no diversions to hold your attention. During the worst of the downpour, with wipers running on high, I spotted a roadside picnic area.
The sign along US 98 didn’t even say “picnic area”, or even more appropriately, “break in the monotony ahead”. Instead, it said “Aucilla WMA”. Apparently, I’d been driving through the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area, a name that must have been given to this area so that the middle of nowhere could be considered somewhere.
It was quite a nice spot, even in the rain. I ran under the picnic shelter and watched the raindrops splash into a small lake.
There’s a dirt road here, which I can’t find on any map, called Western Sloughs Road. I have no idea where it goes, other than that it heads north from the highway. The Gulf of Mexico is only about five miles from this spot, but it’s south of the main road. It would be another half hour before I saw the Gulf for the first time on this trip, even though I had been driving near it all day.
Back on US 98, puddles formed in the pavement’s ruts, forcing me to drive either a little too close to the center line, or the shoulder.