The ride to Jackson County and Panama City

The Dragon Princess was born to guzzle gas, lay rubber and breath fire. She only knows ‘giddy up-go.’ Rain, sleet and snow make no never mind. Weather fronts come and go with bluster and wind. She goes where she is pointed. She waits for the key in the ignition and it is giddy-up go.

The ride itself was uneventful. However, should have paid more attention to the wind and clouds. There was a cold front moving in that totally escaped my attention. Had I been paying attention to it, I would have been prepared for what mother nature had in mind for me.  Rain and night time temperature dips into the 40s.

Not long after I turned off of the interstate,

headed north towards Marianna, encountered a signed for FCC Marianna. Could not resist the temptation and so I detoured towards the federal prison. It is a medium prison with some 1,200 inmates. However, a most satirical symbol was the old train parked at the entrance. The satire escapes me for the moment but I am sure to figure it out given time.

 This is not the only prison in Jackson County. There is a state prison called Jackson CI with 1,346 inmates and 372 staff. Jackson CI has two work camps and a work release center. We are talking of some 3,000 or so inmates not counting the county jail which has another 200 or so inmates. It turns out that about 10 percent of the Jackson County work force is law enforcement of some sort or another that includes police, sheriff, prison and jail employees. Of which the grand majority owe their employment to the pain and suffering of others.

Got to the center of town and found that the court house was under renovation. However, it was not the traditional southern county court house but it was located in the center of the old town. Parked the bike and went into the court house to ask about it. Found a deputy that told me the old court house had been torn down in 1962 and the new one was built in its place which some 50 years later is being remodeled.

Asked the deputy what the old court house looked like and he told me to go around the corner to the Tax Collector’s office and there was a photo of it. Went into the office asked for and got permission to take a photo of it and much to my surprise it cam out ok. However, this courthouse appeared to be much larger than the ones in Jefferson and Madison Counties. Looking at it closer, it appeared that there were additions made to each side.

Was curious about some of the history of the county and there was nothing locally available. So, that night I went to the internet and Wikipedia had an eyeful: “… Marianna settlers went to Tallahassee and enticed the Florida Legislature with free land, construction of a courthouse, a public square and $500 to purchase a quarter section of land to be sold at public auction as a way to finance the new government, if the county seat was moved to Marianna…… Marianna began to grow and prosper when the county government moved into the new courthouse in 1829….From 1869-71, Jackson County was the center of a low-level guerrilla war known as the Jackson County War. Members of the Ku Klux Klan consisting of Confederate Army veterans assassinated over 150 Republican Party officials and prominent African-Americans as part of a successful campaign to retain white Democratic power….” (Jackson County, Florida)

As I was putting this entry together it occurred to me that the county seat was given to Jackson the same way Suwannee CI was given to Suwannee County. The citizens raised the money to buy the ground and that they did. Then they made a donation of the land to the Department of Corrections for a prison. There was also other benefits thrown in such as expeditors process of codes and my sense is that the power was run to the prison with rural development funds. I guess this is the way of doing business in the South.

The ride into Panama City was nice but 231 seemed like a corridor lined with speed traps. Then once I got to the edge of Panama City noticed the obligatory road signs marking the turn offs to first the state prison and then the county jail. The prison is operated by Corrections Corporation of America under contract with the Department of Management Services and houses some 980 inmates. Bay county jail has an inmate population of some 985 men and women. We are talking of a small county of some 170,000 people with almost 2,000 men and women behind bars. Where as Jackson County had the lynching of Claude Neal in 1934 Bay County had 2006 murder of an incarcerated 14 year old black male named Martin Anderson

Rode on into Panama City to meet with Peter and his fiancé. However, prior to meeting with them registered at the camp site I was going to stay at in Panama City Beach. My guess is that it had been an old KOA camp site and failed inspections for maintenance and cleanliness. Should have been smarter but was making the trip on a shoe string. Never again will I make such a mistake.

Was in a hurry to meet with Peter and his fiancée so I just threw my bags into the cabin, locked the door and left. Had a good evening with lots of catching up when I walked out the door after dinner it was raining. Thought, this is not a problem as I had a dry set of clothes in the cabin. As I was pulling out, it really started coming down in buckets and I mean buckets. There was a puddle forming between my legs on the gas tank it was raining that hard.

Got back, changed clothes and headed for the bathroom. Surprise: thought I had gone through a time warp because this was the set-up I was used to as an enlisted marine back in the 60s. The only thing missing was the stool painted red which was designated those with VD (STDs for the younger set). I could see holes in the wall where there used to be privacy stalls but they had most likely been destroyed and not replaced. Not a problem as I was the only one in 14 or so cabins that was occupied.

 On the way back from the latrine the next morning, noticed two big cranes that formed a back drop for the cabin. Could not help but think of  the book and movie  For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. Then the question hit me just whom are the bells (cranes) tolling for? On the surface it may have seemed to be the camp sight and they were going to build another high rise. Am still trying to work that out.                                     

Then I looked towards the Gulf and saw this incredible high rise building. It must have had some 1,000 rooms/apartments or condos. It was like a big rock with caves or maybe a better description was a metropolitan prison were people voluntarily submitted to incarceration with electronic/digital entertainment devices as their restraints.

Spent most of the day going over the lessons learned from the Jackson county ride and then had a most enjoyable dinner with Kelly and Isabella. There needs to be more time outs in life to share bread with good people. The temperature was dropping to the forties that night and so I got a heated room as the ride back was going to be cold and cold it was. Bundled up in everything I had that was dry and put on the chaps. Getting on a bike that is packed with rucks and wearing chaps is a job. However, it was well worth the effort because 40 degrees plus at highway speeds is very but very cold. Only saw three other motorcycles on the 250 mile home. Got back stiff but was nice and warm stiffness everywhere except for the fingers. Made one stop for hamberger, coffee and to warm my fingers.

| The Gateless Gate Zen Center is funded solely by generous donation |

This entry was posted in On the Road, Politics, Prison and Jails, The Journey, The Problem. Bookmark the permalink.

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