Everywhere one goes in the Beaches of South Walton, people say "10 years ago ...
"... This was a lonesome beach 10 years ago. None of these strip malls were here 10 years ago. Heck, 10 years ago, this was a two-lane road through a forest. You could get a house around here for nothing 10 years ago."
Traveling east on US 98, my host and I headed for Scenic Highway 30A, a 20-mile strip along the Gulf Coast that is the heart of the place I'd been brought in to see.
"Up until about 10 years ago," my host says, "hardly anybody knew this road was here."
No more. By the end of my tour, when I had seen all 13 "eclectic beach communities" collectively known as the Beaches of South Walton, it was astoundingly clear what happened here about 10 years ago: The Machine found the place.