Key West Is South?

Yep, the southernmost point in the continental United States is in Key West. So why isn’t it Key South?

Southernmost Point in the Continental USA
Southernmost Point in the Continental USA

The reason I heard while I was down there was that the indigenous people who lived there before the Spanish arrived left their dead on the beaches. They would decompose and the bones were left behind. The word for bones in Spanish is “huesos”, and the pronunciation was corrupted over time to “west”.

Cuba is that-a-way!
Cuba is that-a-way!

Not only is it the farthest south you can drive to in the USA, it is also at the end of the road.

Mile 0

And, if it is at the end, it stands to reason that it is also at the beginning of the road.

How philosophical! The end is also the beginning...
How philosophical! The end is also the beginning…

Key West got its economical start as a community of “wreckers”. When ships would founder on the reefs, they would be there to lend a hand. One of the “tourism specialists” said that the wreckers would first rescue the people and then help themselves to whatever was on the ship. At one time, this was one of the wealthiest communities of the country. At least, that is what I was told.

Nowadays, Key West is all about the tourists. They come by car, plane and cruise ship.

Port-o-call
Port-o-call

Everyday, it’s a different ship and a different hoard of tourists. It is amazing the number of languages you can hear being spoken. Luckily (for me) everyone seems to understand my request to take a picture of me.

Me and My Coconut
Me and My Coconut

There were coconut stands all over, although none offered to put “de lime in de coconut.”

Coconut Stand
Coconut Stand
Coconuts Ready for Sale
Coconuts Ready for Sale

And all those tourists drinking all those coconuts leave a heck of a pile of empties!

Coconuts Only
Coconuts Only

Of course, not all tourists were satisfied with drinking unadulterated coconut milk. Incidentally, I found it interesting that the vendor didn’t use a machete to open the coconut. He used a power drill. Faster and safer, I imagine, but not nearly as interesting.

Oh, as I was saying…

Sloppy Joe's Bar
Sloppy Joe’s Bar

If you can’t find an alcoholic beverage in Key West, you just aren’t looking. Sloppy Joe’s Bar is the name of Hemingway’s hangout. Now, this isn’t the same bar. I’m not 100% sure of the story, but it sounds like the owner of the building raised the rent and so the bar moved. The building where the bar used to be is about half a block away, and it is – get this – A BAR!

I ate lunch at Sloppy Joe’s one of the days I toured Old Town. It was just before Christmas when I was there, and singing Santas were de rigueur.

Singing Santa at Sloppy Joe's
Singing Santa at Sloppy Joe’s

And  just in case they couldn’t cram in enough bars at street level, this one had three bars in one building. The third floor was for those who found the “no shirts, no shoes” requirement to be oppressive.

kkkkkkk
I am not going up on the roof!

There are many places of historic note. One such place it The Little White House.

The Little White House
The Little White House

President Truman spent 175 days during 11 visits during his presidency. His visits started in November 1946 after his doctor recommended a warm vacation. With changes in technology and transportation, the affairs of the government could be run from Key West.

Truman's Bust
Truman’s Bust

Truman was able to relax in Key West. Immediately upon arriving, he and his staff members changed into the “Key West uniform” – colorful shirts, instead of suits.

Truman's Shirt
Truman’s Shirt

Truman wasn’t the only president to spend time at the renovated submarine base commander’s dwelling. President Eisenhower created Department of Defense there in 1949. He returned in the winter of 1955 and 1956 to recuperate from a heart attack.

Kennedy was the last president to spend time at The Little White House. Not surprisingly, one of his visits was right after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. After all, Cuba is only 90 miles away from Key West.

Another famous house on the Key is Hemingway’s House.

Just about to enter
Just about to enter

The house was built in 1851 by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker. As one of those well-to-do scavengers, he chose the highest point on the key for his house. I think the guide said it was sixteen feet above sea level. It has one of the rare basements in town. Tift had the limestone blocks cut out of the basement and used to build the house.

Hemingway - typewriter

The quote in the typewriter says, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. Ernest Hemingway”

Do you suppose that a hundred years from now, people will display modern writers’ laptops?

It was kind of hard to get photos, as there was quite a crew on the tour.

Bedroom with cat
Bedroom with cat

The cats have the run of the place.

Balcony
Balcony
Shutters
Shutters
The pool
The pool

Hemingway’s wife, Pauline, had this pool put in while he was away. Pauline was his second wife, and the house was a wedding gift from her uncle. It cost $8,000 at the time. The pool cost $20,000. I do wonder if part of the motivation for putting in the pool had anything to do with the fact that he had already taken up with wife number three.

In any event, the guide told us that when Hemingway returned home and saw the pool, he flipped a penny at Pauline and told her that she might as well take his last penny.

Hemingway's "Last Cent"
Hemingway’s “Last Cent”

Pauline took the penny and cemented it in the patio around the pool. At least, that’s what the guide said.

Urinal fountain from Sloppy Joe's
Urinal fountain from Sloppy Joe’s

Another story the guide told us was that when the owner of Sloppy Joe’s lost his lease and had to move, they proceed to wreck the place. Hemingway brought home the urinal and had it made into the trough at the base of a fountain. Pauline was mortified, but he said that he had spent enough money filling it up that he was going to keep it.

And, of course, there are the famous Hemingway polydactyl cats.

Get a load of those feet!
Get a load of those feet!

Polydactyl cats have an extra claw or “thumb”. The guide told us that he has seen them pick up food with their paws. He also told us that the females are allowed to have two litters and then they are spayed. None of the cats is eager to leave this little slice of heaven. In fact, they run off cats that don’t belong there. I mean, if you were a cat, would you give up food, health care and a good place to live?

A pair of Hemingway cats
A pair of Hemingway cats

Speaking of animals, there are the famous Key West chickens.

Rooster

The story I was told was that when cock fighting was outlawed, the people were told to get rid of the birds. They just released them and they live a feral life. I was also told that they are protected by law. Theodore Roosevelt established Key West as a bird sanctuary, so now they just roam around at will and no one can touch them under penalty of law.

Of course, when I Google things to refresh my mind about what I heard on the tours, I sometimes get other versions of the stories. I think they should hand out salt shakers when you cross that last causeway onto the key. I think most of these stories should be taken with a large grain of salt.

458-salt-pepper-shaker

More Key West in the next installment!

 

Key Largo

Key Largo
Key Largo

No, not the movie, but John C. Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo. I booked a site for one night on my way down to Key West and then another one on my way back.

I got there with mere minutes to spare. Twenty minutes later, and I might have missed the rangers to check me in.  I made my way to my site and got set up. In the process, I learned what no see ums are. A woman I met later described them as flying jaws. Really, you don’t see them. You don’t hear them, but you sure do know when they have visited you!

The Keys are surrounded by mangrove forests. They grow in water. No wonder there are so many bugs!

The view from my campsite
The view from my campsite

A variety of plants grow in the forest. I was particularly taken with these pretty leaves.

five red leaves

I found out later that these are from the sea grape plant.

I got the electricity hooked up and turned on the air conditioner. Hot and humid! I settled in and went off to dreamland.

Cora woke me up early. She wanted her breakfast. For some reason, she thought 4:45 was a good time to wake me by rattling the curtains by my head. After I got up and fed her, I decided that I might as well catch a sunrise. It might be the only time I do such an extreme thing.

Okay, getting up before dawn isn’t all that extreme – for most people. I got dressed and headed over to the water’s edge.

Sunrise first

Dawn’s first blush is visible in the distance.

Sunrise 2

The water was a perfect mirror for the clouds catching the light.

Egrets...I've had a few...
Egrets…I’ve had a few…

The birds were looking for their breakfast, too.

Here comes the sun...
Here comes the sun…

And the cannons are guarding the beach.

Spanish cannons
Spanish cannons
And the sun is up!
And the sun is up!

It was time to head back to Flo and get ready for the final push to Key West.

 

 

Koreshan Miscellany

Koreshan Historic Site State Park has a great campground, but I have to say that the sites are just a wee bit tight. I got to experience two different sites because I didn’t book far enough out. However, I was pleased that I was able to book two different sites that kept me in the park for six nights.

The first site, was exceptionally close, but it only took me one pass to get backed in. I was so proud of myself that I had to document it.

Look how close the rear bumper is to the tree!
Look how close the rear bumper is to the tree!

There wasn’t much room side-to-side, either.

Backing in left side

But, I did it!

The wonderful thing about traveling around the country is getting to meet up with people along the way. While I was staying at Koreshan Historic Site State Park, I got to spend some time with my cousin, Coral Lee.

Me and Coral Lee
Me and Coral Lee

Coral Lee is a daughter of my mother’s cousin, Gordy. If I have read the charts properly, that makes her my second cousin. If not, maybe someone will correct me.

Coral Lee lives in Cape Coral. She was eager to meet my sweet cat, Cora. This all made me smile.

She met me at the park and took me to a favorite restaurant of hers. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of it, but I finally tried fish tacos. For some reason, fish tacos always sounded like an odd dish. Now I can say that I have had fish tacos, but I would probably order my fish prepared a different way in the future.

She showed me her lovely house with a pool cage. I guess you need a cage when there is a possibility of alligators. I also met her sweet kitties.

Another thing I did was go to Bonita Springs Beach to enjoy a sunset.

Sunset Wed 1

Is there anything more glorious?

Sunset 1

I don’t think so.

Sunset 2

And when the sun finally sank in the west, everyone stood up and applauded!

Sunset 3

I could sure get used to this!

Another day, Coral Lee came and got me for a trip to Sanibel Island. I had always heard about the beauty of the island. It has a reputation for being a great site for collecting shells, and I was really eager to see it.

Lunch at Over Easy Cafe
Lunch at Over Easy Cafe

Coral Lee treated me to lunch at Over Easy Cafe, which was recommended to me by a Facebook friend. I had hoped to meet up with her, but she was completely booked while I was in the area. There is always next time.

Lunch was delicious and Coral Lee treated me as an early birthday gift. I was delighted to have the celebrations starting already. After lunch, we headed to the beach.

Looking right
Looking right

In spite of the blue skies inland, there was fog at the beach.

Beach to the left
Beach to the left

We walked the beach for a bit. I was a bit disappointed by the shells that were there to be found.

Sanibel Shells
Sanibel Shells

Someone had found shells earlier, though, and had left a nice little work of art.

Sanibel heart

Coral Lee took me back to the campground. It was so good to meet up with her! I hope I make it back that way again.

Before I hitched up and pulled out for Key West, I needed to catch one more sunset at Bonita Springs Beach.

Orange sunset

The world is a beautiful place! I can’t believe how lucky I am.

 

Just Who Were the Koreshans?

Art Hall
Art Hall

The Koreshan Unity was a commune started by Cyrus Teed, based on his scientific and religious beliefs. He had some interesting ideas. For one, he proposed the idea of a “Hollow Earth.” He thought that the Earth and the sky was inside the inner surface of a sphere.

Cyrus Teed and his hollow spheres
Cyrus Teed and his hollow spheres

He thought that the surface of the Earth was on the inside of a hollow sphere and that we were looking at the stars on the inside.

Cellular Cosmogeny book
Cellular Cosmogeny book

Cyrus Teed used the Persian version of his first name – Koresh.

He came from New York State via Chicago and San Francisco and finally landed in Estero, Florida in 1894. The group peaked at 250 members during the first decade of the 20th century, and finally disappeared in 1961. They last four members bequeathed the property to the State of Florida.

In my opinion, the decline of the group might have had something to do with the fact that one of the group’s beliefs was that they believed that celibacy was a scientific method for obtaining immortality. Only the inner core was completely celibate, though. There was a middle group of members that were allowed to marry, but they only had sex for the purpose of procreation. The outer ring were non-believers that were allowed to participate in the secular aspects of the group.

Planetary Court
Planetary Court

There were seven women who lived in the Planetary Court. They were responsible for running the organization.

They shared a sitting room.

The sitting room
The sitting room

They each had their own bedrooms.

Planetary Court bedroom 3

The women’s bedrooms were airy and spacious.

Plantary Court bedroom 2

Mosquitoes were quite a problem. There wasn’t a vaccination against yellow fever until the 1930’s.

Planetary Court bedroom 1

There was a man who lived in the building, though. He had a room in the cupola and he was responsible for taking care of the women and they house.

From what the guide said, it sounds like everyone else slept in dormitories. Well, everyone but Cyrus Teed.

Teed's house

They have a recreation of the parlor that he had in his house.

Teed's parlor

The commune had a number of business ventures, including  a bakery, a printing  house, a general store, concrete works and a power plant.

The General Store
The General Store

The grounds were extensively landscaped, including decorative bridges.

White bridge

One of the trees they were quite proud of was a Monkey Puzzle Tree.

Monkey Puzzle tree

According to the name plate, its scientific name is Araucaria Bidwillii an it come from Australia.

name plate

It is an exotic tree, and I couldn’t get a decent shot of the whole tree. It is an evergreen treen

Monkey Puzzle pods

Now, I am not sure it these are the cones or if they are the “leaves”. I researched a bit and I can’t figure it out. However, these things are as long as a yard and very sharp. I was quite captivated by them.

https://www.facebook.com/kalamazookim/videos/vb.586021988/10153308683786989/?type=3&theater

Another plant they were fond of was bamboo. They wind in the bamboo made interesting sounds. Not only was there a rustling sound, the stems groans as they rubbed together.

Bamboo Landing on Estero River
Bamboo Landing on Estero River

Before the roads were developed, much transportation took place on water. They had a landing on Estero River for moving people and products.

And this is what I learned about The Koreshans.

 

Air Potatoes and Koreshan Historical Site State Park

After the wonderful days at Little Manatee River State Park, I moved a little further south to Koreshan Historical Site State Park. It was near a couple places on my “wanna do” list: Sanibel Island and Cape Coral, where my cousin, Coral Lee. lives

Koreshan State Historic Site is a relatively new state park. It was built on the land donated by the last remaining members of the Koreshan Unity in 1961. The remains of their once vibrant community is well-preserved, but more about that later.

The land is lush and the campsites are small, but I am truly proud of the masterful job I did backing in.

Back bumper
Back bumper

I backed right up to the tree!

Backing in left side

Look at the foliage by the road! And, I didn’t hit the tower box or water faucet, either! You can see how close my window is to the plants when I opened it.

The plants are amazing, too. One camper was telling me that there was a grapefruit tree by her site that kept dropping fruit on her camper. I looked around, and I found some citrus near my site, too.

Citrus

There was another plant that I found amazing. The day I pulled in, I found a small potato on the ground. I figured that someone had dropped one from their groceries.

The next day, I looked around and I found a bunch more!

Air Potatoes

I doubted that a person could be that clumsy. Besides, some of these were really petite.

I got curious, so I sliced one of them in half.

Air Potatoes sliced

It had the same texture as a potato.

Air Potatoes sliced brown

It even turned brown like a potato.

I stopped in to the ranger station and asked about them. I found out that they are an invasive species that was planted by the Koreshans, along with the citrus trees in the campground.

And, they are called – get this – AIR POTATOES!

They are a member of the yam family and the latin name is dioscorea bulbifera, They are native to Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.  They are vines and they grow very quickly, sometimes as much as 8 inches a day and can grow over 60 feet long. It climbs to the tops of trees and chokes out the native vegetation.

Air potatoes on the vine

Although it is a member of the yam family, the information I was able to locate indicates that the plant that grows in Florida is poisonous, or at least a bit toxic. It is also tricky. It can reproduce via the “potatoes” as well as from underground tubers. Is the plant is cut back to the ground, the tubers can survive for extended periods and send up shoots later.

Since it is so persistent, they are trying to eradicate by releasing a leaf beetle, lilloceris cheni. They started this method of control in 2012. You can see the holes the beetle has put in the leaves. I hope the beetles don’t decide that other plants start looking tasty.

Another feature of the campground that caught my eye were the stone slabs that were piled up in various places.

limestone

I asked the same helpful ranger about them. He told me that they were the limestone capstone that they had to excavate when they built the campground. I asked him about the odd pockmarks, and he told me that they were created by the same processes that form caves and sink holes. Ah! So rainwater become slightly acid as it passes through the air and forms carbonic acid and dissolves the rock. With all these holes, you can see how sink holes would form.

limestone holes

And that’s the “hole” story!

 

Anna Maria Island

A Facebook friend recommended Anna Maria Island as a great place for beaches. I have to say that I agree!

protrait

What a beautiful beach!

Beach 2

Beauty to the right of me!

Beach 1

Beauty to the left of me!

Birds

Even the birds were enjoying the beach.

As the gentle waves came in, I noticed something I had never seen before. Small shells were uncovered by the surf. I looked down at them and, before my eyes, they burrowed themselves back into the sand!

shell in my hand

I tried to take a video of this miracle, but I was a little leery of getting phone wet. If you ever get to the shore, take the time to look closely at the activity by the edge of the water.

The first beach I visited was a city beach that is located on the gulf side near the north end of the island. The entrance to the beach was lovely, too. The street side was lined with these great trees. They look like pines, but they aren’t like any pines I know.

Tree

The needles are long and seem like they are scaled.

Needles

The cones are interesting, too. They are barrel shaped, and don’t have the overlapping petal-like structures I am familiar with on pine cones.

Cone

As I was looking around, I noticed this light pole with a sign on it.

light pole

I couldn’t quite make it out, so I got closer.

The light is turned off during turtle nesting season
This light is turned off during sea turtle nesting season.

How cool is that?

I stopped for a snack and then headed to another beach. Two in one day! I think the second one I visited was at Holmes Beach. I just had to see the sunset!

Sunset 1

What a glorious day!

Sunset 2

On the way back, I tried to have dinner at a restaurant recommended by another friend. I did manage to find it.

Woody's River Roo

Woody’s River Roo in Ellenton.

I got settled in the parking lot and checked out the menu. It looked good enough, but I realized that I had some of my own chili back in the trailer. So, I got back on the road and had dinner there.

 

A Short Visit to Tampa

As I was planning my stops in Florida, I realized that I just didn’t know much about about the history of the state. When looking for things to do while I was in the Tampa Bay area, the Tampa Bay History Center looked interesting.

Tampa Bay History Center
Tampa Bay History Center

I found my way to Tampa’s Canalside District and found parking in a lot for Amalie Arena, which is the home ice of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

As I entered the Center, I encountered some amazing memorials to America’s heroes.

Heroes

They had several rows of photos printed on glass. The sun streamed through and projected an image on the bricks behind them.

Heroes 2

Quite appropriate for “The Sunshine State”, I thought.

Now, I have a bias against paying for parking, but they included the price of parking in the admission to the History Center. If only I didn’t have a bias against paying to go into museums, I would be all set.

When I entered, I did my best to find a discount. AAA? No. AARP? No. Good Sam? No. But, the helpful woman at the admission desk helped me locate a discount coupon in one of the tourist guides that they had in the racks of information in the lobby. A $2 discount and free parking? Okay, I can live with that.

The museum did a good job of interpreting the area’s history from the Seminoles through the Spanish and on into the present day.

Seminole Pottery
Seminole Pottery

Now, I am not completely certain that these pots are authentic relics from the past. But, they do seem like they might be.

Silver Ingot from the Atocha
Silver Ingot from the Atocha

This relatively innocuous looking lump is what caused all the trouble. Spanish ships sailed in fleets, carrying the riches of South America back to Spain. Nuestra Señora de Atocha was the most famous ship in the fleet. The treasure that was arriving by mule to the port in Panama City was so large that it took two months to record and load the treasure onto the Atocha. Between the time required for loading and then additional delays in rendezvousing in Havana, the 28-ship convoy wasn’t able to depart until September 4, 1622, six weeks behind schedule.

Two days after setting sail, a severe hurricane drove the Atocha and another ship, Santa Margarita, onto the coral reefs near the Dry Tortugas, about 68 miles west of Key West. The Atocha’s hull was badly damaged and it sank in 55 feet of water. Everyone on board the Atocha drowned, except for three sailors and two slaves. The Santa Margarita ran aground in shallower water, and about half of her cargo was salvaged. The Spanish were never able to find the Atocha.

So, how did a silver ingot from the Atocha end up in the Tampa Bay History Center? Well, American treasure hunter Mel Fisher and his team searched for the wreck for 16 and a half years. They found portions of Santa Margarita’s cargo in 1980 and finally found the Atocha in July of 1985.

The State of Florida claimed title to the wreck. According to the research I’ve done, they forced Fisher into a contract that gave 25% of the treasure he found to the state. I also found a citation that says that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Fisher’s favor. I am not quite sure of the logistics, but this ingot of Peruvian silver is in the Tampa Bay History Center, and it represents the lust for wealth that sent the Spanish into the region.

The Seminole that lived around Tampa Bay persisted, in spite of being “claimed” for the Spanish government. The trouble really seemed to start when the U.S. acquired Florida in 1819. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams negotiated a deal that got Spain to cede Florida for no money. The U.S. merely assumed some of the $5 million dollars of claims that U.S. citizens had against Spain.

The Seminole Wars ran from 1817 – 1858. There were actually three periods of intense fighting during that time span. According to the notes I took while touring the exhibitions, 200 Seminoles managed to escape death and deportation. Those 200 are the basis for the Seminole population that exists today.

Seminole dolls
Seminole dolls

These dolls remind me a great deal of the dolls I brought back from Guatemala. These were created for the tourist trade as well as for their own use. I like the patchwork details that you can see on some of the clothing.

Patchwork was an important part of their clothing.

Man's Patchwork Shirt
Man’s Patchwork Shirt

There is even a collection of the different patchwork patterns they used.

Quilt samples 1

Quilt samples 2

By the time I finished with the first floor of the museum, I was getting a little depressed. It is just the same thing, over and over again.

People are living their lives in an area.

Someone else wants what they have.

Bloody conflict ensures.

I went upstairs to see what else I could learn.

Statewide fence laws photo

I found out that Florida didn’t have fences to control cattle until the statewide fence law took force in 1949. Florida wasn’t just oranges!

Saddles to watch cowboys 2

They had these great saddle seats that rocked and bounced as kids watched a film about the ranching industry. I almost tried one out, but then I got a bit worried about the possibility – or probability – that I would fall off.

Ballot close up

Oh, and remember the famous presidential election of 2000?

Butterfly Ballot and Hanging Chads
Butterfly Ballot and Hanging Chads

Who could forget “chads”? Who even knew what they were before 2000? I mean, I would have called them confetti.

When I finished touring the museum, I encountered this lovely water feature in front. It was there to play in, and they even had a shower there to clean off before – and maybe after – splashing about in it.

Water feature

They also used historic bricks in the entrance to the building’s garage.

Vintage bricks

Vintage bricks 2

Vintage bricks 3

Baltimore, Augusta, Catskill, and Southern Clay Manufacturing, among other companies.

The road back to the campground was smooth, and there was a lovely sunset.

Sunset

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight!

 

 

Little Manatee River State Park and a Visit with Uncle Norm

I arrived at Little Manatee River State Park. It was a nice short jaunt from Lake Griffin State park. The ranger got me checked in and I left the ranger station and started driving…and driving…and driving. It was almost two miles from the entrance to the campsites.

I found my campsite and it was right next to another Airstream – a brand, spanking new one. The lovely people there helped me get backed in. What a great welcome!

My campsite
My campsite

It was a peaceful campground and a great place to use a home base to explore the Tampa Bay area.

Tortise front view

One of my main reasons for choosing this campground was to be able to visit my Uncle Norm, who is my father’s brother.

Uncle Norm and Me
Uncle Norm and Me

It was so great to see him! Our last visit was at Scott’s house in the fall of 2012.

Norm, Dad, Scott and Me 2012
Norm, Dad, Scott and Me 2012

I thought I’d include a shot with Barbara from that visit, too, as I didn’t get one during this visit.

Dad, Barb and Norm 2012
Dad, Barb and Norm 2012

Barb took a nap, but Uncle Norm took me to lunch at the American Legion. We sat out on the patio with a view of a body of water. We chatted over our meals and looked out at the water. We had hoped to see some dolphins, but they must have been between shifts.

Bird on the patio
Bird on the patio

We weren’t without animal entertainment, however. There was a flock of these small birds that swooped in under the monofilament lines strung to keep them out. The were looking for crumbs left behind, but one of them was exceptionally bold. He flew down and snatched a french fry out of the hand of a diner at the next table!

We chatted and got caught up on what was going on with everyone. When I left, I told him that I would be back in the area in few weeks as I headed north after my visit to Key West. We agreed to try to get together again.

On my way back to Little Manatee River, I crossed the Sunshine Skyway bridge for a second time.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge
Sunshine Skyway Bridge

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge crosses Tampa Bay. The whole Skyway is about four miles long. The center span is a cable-stayed bridge that is a little more than a mile long. It is 430 feet high at the center. The bridge is supported by steel cables that are wrapped in steel tubes. Each pylon has 42 cables. According to the information I found, Bob Graham, who was Senator at the time, suggested this design based on the Brotonne Bridge which connects the French cities of Le Havre and Rouen. The Travel Channel ranked The Sunshine Skyway Bridge as number three in the special of “The Top 10” Bridges in the world.

This bridge opened in 1987, but it was the second span across Tampa Bay. The first collapsed in 1980 after a collision with the a cargo ship, the Summit Venture. It collided with a pier during a blinding thunderstorm, sending over 1200 feet of the bridge deck into the bay. The collision caused six cars, a truck and a Greyhound bus to fall into the bay. 35 people lost their lives in the accident.

Dismantling the old bridge was quite a feat. Part of the old bridge remains, though. The approaches on the north and south are used as fishing piers. There are also rest areas near the fishing piers, which is where I stopped to take the photo of the span.

Baby birds
Baby birds

I enjoyed watching these baby birds hunting for food on the rocks by the bay. At first I didn’t notice them, because their feathers provide such good camouflage. When I noticed that the “rocks” seemed to be moving, I looked more closely and saw that they were birds.

I had a lovely visit with Uncle Norm. It was time to head back to the trailer to prepare for another day.

 

Lake Griffin State Park

After my time at Falling Waters State Park, I headed east and then south. The distance between the two parks was about 300 miles. Since I don’t push the speed limit while I drive, I plan on making an average of 50 miles and hour, which would mean that I was looking at a minimum of six hours on the road.

I didn’t get started as early as I would have liked, but I forgot to take into account the time zone change. Chipley was in Central and Fruitland Park is in Eastern. So, not only was the drive a long one, I would be arriving long after sunset. I called the office and explained the situation. The helpful ranger gave me the gate code and told me that the information packed would be waiting for me at the guard house.

I arrived, got my packet and figured out where my site was. Luckily, I had booked a pull-through site; otherwise, I would have had to park inside the gate and wait for sunup.

I wiggled into the site, got hooked up and settled in for the night.

I had noticed a region on the Florida map labeled “The Villages”. The next day,

I decided to explore and find out what that might be.

It turns out that The Villages are a group of gated communities. Most of the communities are restricted to people over 55, although there are a couple developments that allow children. The real estate agent I met with explained to me that they did need to provide housing for the workers. I guess everyone can’t be retired.

I didn’t get to see the gated communities. They are gated communities, after all. But, there are several town squares scattered about. I explored one of the squares. The real estate agent told me that “the public” was welcome to the squares.

Performance Art Center
Performance Art Center

Of course, “the public” doesn’t get to zip around in golf cars.

Golf Car Row
Golf Car Row

“The Public” is invited to spend money.

Hey! Kilwin's! Founded in Petsoky, Michigan.
Hey! Kilwin’s! Founded in Petsoky, Michigan.

You have got to know that you are in a place where people go to spend money when you find a fudge shop.

The Rialto
The Rialto

In fact, I came to spend money. I saw a review for “The Letters”, a film about Mother Teresa, and I decided to give it a look. The theater was quite elaborate and the seats were comfy, although not as good as the reclining seats in Charlotte.

The next day, I decided to take a drive. Escapees, a group I belong to, has an RV park near Bushnell. I figured that I should check it out and see if it is a place I might like to visit.

I was surprised that I saw so much ranching taking place. There were cows all over. I never really thought of Florida a cow state.

There were very nice people in the park office, and they welcomed me to drive through and look around. They said they always save some spots for people who are just passing through, although all the regular spots are booked for the season.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes

I was amazed when this elegant group of birds walked by. I asked one of the campers what kind of birds these were, and he confirmed my temporary identification that they were sandhill cranes.

And, also, I found it!

Easy Street
Easy Street

Now I know where to go when I am ready for it. Easy Street!

On the way back, I stopped at a vegetable stand. Nothing better than fresh, homegrown veggies!

Back at Lake Griffin State Park, I decided that I had to check out their claim to fame, a live oak that is estimated to be over 300 years old.

300 Year Old Live Oak
300 Year Old Live Oak

And then it was time to get ready to head south.

Cora looking out the door

Cora had to have one more look before we headed to our next stop, Little Manatee River State Park, near Tampa Bay.

 

Falling Waters – No, Not Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

 

See you later, Alligator

I stopped at the border for my FREE cup of orange juice and all the tourism literature I could carry. Actually, I was quite selective, but I still ended up with two small litter bags full. I took advantage of their nice couches to pick a campground for the night. I had planned to stay at another Army Corps of Engineers campground, but the one I had in mind was back in Georgia. I couldn’t see crossing into Florida just to cross back out. I wanted to put my Florida sticker on Flo!

Falling Waters State Park was right down the road, so I called just to make sure they had a site available. The pleasant man answering the phone assured me that they had room for me so long as I was there by five o’clock, so I headed down the road.

When I got to the park, I received a friendly greeting. I told him that I wanted to stay for two nights, and I told him that I would love a pull-through site. Believe it or not, he had a pull-though site for me! Electricity, water and right down a paved path to a beautifully clean bath house. All this for less than $20 a night!

campsite

The only thing the park didn’t  have was sunshine. It was overcast when I arrived and went over to a site two over from mine to chat with some fellow Airstreamers. Bob offered me a “red drink.” Alcoholic beverages are never permitted in public parks, it seems. Well, except for Milwaukee.

Bob, Joan and I chatted for a while until the mosquitoes came to feed. I had forgotten about mosquitoes! Bug repellent immediately went on the mental shopping list. Bob came put with Off Wipes for Joan and me.

After a bit, my “red drink” was gone and the rain started spattering down. Back to Flo for dinner and TV. Electricity and good television reception!

The next day, it was time to see the the water fall that this park is named for. I took a short stroll through forest with interesting plaques and labels.

Boardwalk

At 75 feet, Falling Waters is the highest waterfall in Florida. It is an unusual water fall because the water flows over a cliff and into a sinkhole.

Water fall

Sinkholes and alligators…hmmm. Florida is sounding a little sketchy.

In response to a request from a Loyal Reader, here is information about sink holes.

A sinkhole is a completely natural occurrence, formed by the same forces that form caves. Rain water absorbs carbon dioxide as it falls through the atmosphere and passes through the soil. This turns the rainwater into a weak a acid – carbonic acid – that dissolves the limestone as it percolates through cracks in the rock.

Sinkholes are usually formed when the roofs of caves become too thin to support the rock and soil above then. The roof collapses and a sink hole is born. That is how it happened at Falling Waters.

Now, there are other sorts of holes that can occur that certainly resemble sink holes.

Guatemala City, Zona 2
Guatemala City, Zona 2 2010

This hole opened up in Guatemala in 2010. According to the information I read at the time, it wasn’t a true sink hole. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be pleased to find this in my neighborhood.

The water sounded lovely as it fell. Click on the link and enjoy it for yourself.

https://www.facebook.com/kalamazookim/videos/10153288876941989/