It’s the little things.

We sprinted across Florida, from St. Augustine to the far end of the panhandle in two quick drives. We stopped in the middle at the Tallahassee Car Museum, an odd little museum with a few campsites out front (not everything on Harvest Hosts is a farm).

The kids and I wandered around the museum for a while, checking out the cars and other antiques, but the extremely dry air was weird and uncomfortable. I understand the reasoning there, but it’s a bit much to go from tropical Florida humidity to Arizona desert dry in the span of six feet.

The next day we were at Fort Pickens, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and one of my favorite, and least favorite, places in all our travels.

Fort Pickens is an oddball spot because the natural aspects, the beach and dunes, the crystal clear water, it’s hard to really say anything bad about the place. Who can argue with this?

The problem with Fort Pickens is that it’s the most mis-managed public park we’ve ever encountered. Everyone sees it, except the managers of course. From the park employees to people camping with us, everyone feels it, but we put up with it because of the location.

I think this year will be our last for a while though. I can deal with asshole camp hosts, rangers who do nothing but yell, but when the park shuts down at the hint of a storm, with no warning, no refund, and nowhere to go that just doesn’t work. At Fort Pickens this has become commonplace, a thing that happens several times a year. In all the months we’ve spent in the Outer Banks — which sees far more and far stronger storms — we’ve seen the campgrounds shut down exactly once, when a category 3 hurricane hit. We even rode out a nor’ester that flooded the campground and it didn’t close.

We were lucky at Fort Pickens this year because some locals told us the sheriff wouldn’t care if we spent the night in a nearby state beach parking lot. That’s where we waited out the oh-so-dangerous storm. That never showed. But I felt bad for the people who’d driven a thousand miles and now either had to spend $400 a night on a hotel room or just go home. Either way, your vacation is ruined.

I tend to take a philosophical view of these things, since the alternative is, well, there isn’t an alternative I can see. We’ve reached the stage of civilizational collapse where you get what you get and there’s nothing you can do about that. So I take the philosophical, or perhaps abstract view is a better way to put it.

To me Fort Pickens is a microcosm of the collapse of our national government. The distant park managers, ensconced in their posh homes in Atlanta, 350 miles away, attempt to decide what’s best for the park, for the visitors, from a distance that makes it impossible for them to know what’s actually happening. That’s if their intentions are good. I am unconvinced they are. Much as we don’t like to admit it, some leaders suck at leading. Some are just in it for the status and power.

Sound familiar? It’s how you get this.

Stormy day on the beach at Fort Pickens photographed by luxagraf
As dark and stormy as it ever got. Note that the Florida State Beach we’re standing on saw no need to close.

The storm was supposed to come in on Friday, but of course no one who makes decisions about these things works the weekend, so once the park was closed, it wasn’t opening again until Monday at the earliest no matter the weather. Never mind that the storm never hit, and the sun never stopped shining. The TPS reports required to re-open weren’t done until Monday. And then the park forgot to send out an email and tell everyone it was open. We only knew because we were sitting there watching the gate.

The sheriff I talked to (who was very nice about letting us stay in the parking lot for the weekend) had a few choice words for the feds, they were accurate, but I won’t repeat them here. Just don’t forget that we, my fellow taxpaying American, we own this place.

And it is a beautiful place.

This is why I call it a microcosm of the nation. America is a beautiful place, the land, the cultures, the people. Unfortunately we’ve let a very small, selfish, malignant minority take it over. And no, I am not a democrat, or a republican, a leftist or a rightist, I see no difference between these things. They’re all the same. The solutions to the problem won’t come from the people who created the problem.

Nor will it come from resistance. What you resist persists. The secret to robbing power from power is to ignore it. Governing is a hallucination of those in the government. Ignore it. Withdraw from it where you can. Buy less, trade more, work in the margins. Live in the margins

The current managerial class is out of ideas. Eventually their power will collapse, someone new will step in with some new answers and the process will repeat itself. As it has, for millennia.

In the mean time, I try to keep my children in mind. They’re going to live further down this timeline than I am. It may get considerably rougher, it may not, who knows. All I know is that I want to hold their hands for as long as I can, and show them some beauty before more damage is done.


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