Alex McRae

Off the beaten path

I try not to travel in the summer. At least not for pleasure. And certainly not to “popular” tourist destinations. But sometimes the travel bug strikes at the height of the sunny season and faraway places whisper my name. Or scream. 

It’s happening now. So I’m pondering new and exciting potential travel destinations. Florida is always fun, but if you’re looking to avoid the mobs, then from May through Labor Day, it’s best to shun spots overrun with hordes of gaudily-dressed, sunscreen-soaked tourists snapping pictures of sandy beaches and sunburned tots.

And it’s actually easy to find a tourist-free Florida hideaway. Just read the Florida police reports.

That’s how Little Econ State Forest in Seminole County hit my travel radar screen. Little Econ is halfway between Disney World and Daytona and so far from the nearest Interstate that no one goes there by accident. 

Which makes it an ideal spot to escape the crowds and enjoy relaxing activities like gathering “magic” mushrooms and poaching protected critters.

That’s exactly what five dudes were doing when they were busted at Little Econ by Florida Fish and Wildlife officials who caught them roaming the pines bearing backpacks bulging with marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and a two-foot alligator.

The dudes were locked up and the gator was set free and the bust made all the local papers. That means the mushroom-eating, gator-thieving crowd won’t be visiting for a while, making Little Econ State Forest the perfect getaway. It’s a definite maybe.

Of course, once you leave the beach breezes behind, summertime Florida is basically a tropical crock pot featuring blistering heat, brutal humidity and mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds.

Which makes tourist-free northern destinations an attractive option. The perfect place might be Preston, Minnesota.

Preston is home to about 1,300 folks and sits on the Root River in southeastern Minnesota. It’s close to Austin, Mn., home of Hormel Foods, the makers of Spam. Better yet, Preston is relatively free of gophers. Mostly because there is a bounty on the not-so-cute critters that drove Bill Murray crazy in “Caddyshack.”

I didn’t glean this nugget from the Minnesota Tourism Commission, but from a police report announcing that a local mother and son had been busted for stealing frozen gopher feet. When’s the last time that happened in your home town? Thought so.

The theft was reported by a trapper who told cops several bags of gopher feet had been stolen from his freezer.

Officers checked all the nearby towns that offered bounties for gophers and quickly discovered that Tina Marie Garrison and her son, Junior Lee Dillon, had cashed in almost five grand worth of frozen feet.

Since frozen gopher feet — or thieves —aren’t an ideal tourist attraction, Preston might be the perfect getaway. Especially when the Spam Museum and Visitor Center is open.

Of course, nothing beats visiting a new country. There are hundreds I haven’t seen yet, but I’ve been cautious about overseas travel since learning the government is collecting records of my phone calls, emails and Internet activity. 

Since my columns sometimes contain words the IRS, TSA and CIA consider suspicious —like “freedom” — chances are good my name is already on the no-fly terrorist watch list. 

That limits my options. Right now the only place I know my passport will pass muster is Turkey.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask the parents of 9-year-old British girl Emily Harris, who recently cleared Turkish customs with a passport identifying her as a pink unicorn. Complete with picture.

If Turkish officials are allowing pink unicorns into the country, they should welcome a redneck with open arms. Watch out, Istanbul. Bubba’s on the way.

(Send your email comments to: alexmmcrae@gmail.com)




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