Friday, February 23, 2018

Hairy Dogs and One Big Rodent

I had a long, leisurely drive yesterday from Jacksonville to Orlando to Bradenton, where I stayed last night with Dave's parents. It was a longer drive than I would have liked, honestly, but I hit some traffic and made some detours -- for photos, naturally!

North of Orlando, an area I don't know very well, I decided to explore the tiny communities of Lake Helen and Cassadaga. Lake Helen had some beautiful old homes (above).

I've been curious about Cassadaga for years. It has a reputation as a New Agey place full of spiritualists and mediums -- apparently this goes back to the 1870s, when a spiritualist camp began there. I had friends who went there on road trips from college back in the '80s, but being a skeptic, I'd never been. I can report that there's still an abundance of palm readers and psychics and crystals.

From there I drove to Orlando, where my friends Lynn and Glen live in an older neighborhood that I have always envied. (Yes, Orlando existed long before The Mouse -- although The Mouse transformed it from a sleepy Central Florida citrus town into the entertainment behemoth it is today.)

I met Lynn at her house, where I cuddled (not that I had a choice) with her three yellow labs, Ember, Persimmon and Rupert. Persimmon in particular was in my lap immediately. They were very sweet dogs and they covered me in dog hair.

Then we went to lunch at a neighborhood cafe and walked around Lake Davis, where the groovy little deco apartments above are located. I've long loved those apartments. They look tiny, but they're so stylish!

I hopped back in the car and headed south, where I hit masses of traffic on I-4 around Disney World.

If that looks like hell, that's because IT IS!

(Not bad for a picture shot from a moving car through a windshield, though. The Mickey Mouse electricity pole is a well-known highway landmark.)

Finally, after creeping along for a while, I escaped the clutches of The Mouse and found myself in Polk County, where I used to live. I took a little detour north of Lake Alfred on some roads that I used to cycle when I lived near there circa 1990, just to see if I recognized anything along the route. I didn't.

I drove through Polk City and on into Lakeland, where I got back on the Interstate. But traffic continued to be a nightmare, and it was 4:30 p.m., and I was approaching Tampa. I did not want to get stuck in Tampa during rush hour. So I got off the highway in Plant City and headed south on rural roads through eastern Hillsborough County.

They took me past phosphate mines and farmland to the tiny community of Duette, in eastern Manatee County. (You're getting quite a geography lesson here!) From there I turned west and drove into Bradenton, arriving at the in-laws' around 6:30 p.m.

We promptly went to dinner at a popular restaurant on the beach, where I had to gently defend our claim of a stool at the bar against a woman who seemed shocked that we would want to sit there before moving to a table for dinner. (She seemed to think she should have priority because she was eating at the bar. Dave's dad and I were already standing, but his mom uses a cane and I wasn't about to give up her seat.) Very weird.

Here I am, already getting into arguments with the locals!


  1. People, huh? They always ruin a great outing.

    I really enjoyed your mosey. I was in Orlando in the late 1970s, and then I went back (for business) in the mid-1990s, and was not prepared for the difference. A million new people had appeared in less than 20 years and the area was transformed as if by science fiction -- and nothing of the old, sleepy town was left. I could barely convince my brain that it was the same place. Star Trek has its pleasure planet, and I guess Earth has its pleasure cities, but I prefer Las Vegas (fake wholesome consumer-centered cuteness is so much more crass than honest hedonism).

    To be mooshed by a herd of labrador retrievers sounds like heaven to me.

  2. Joseph Conrad took us to "The Heart of Darkness" but you have taken us to "The Heart of Florida". I loved the last picture. Dilapidation is my thing.

  3. YP would like Jefferson County. Dilapidation is abundant.
    I love how you are sharing a Florida which most people never see when they visit. It's a little like Cozumel, isn't it? If you just stay down by the waterfront where the cruise ships come in, your idea of what the little island looks like is entirely different than if you just go a few blocks into the neighborhoods, or if you cross the island and stop to explore the ruins in the jungle or go visit the incredible wild beaches on "the other side." Florida is much the same. I often think of how people who are barreling down I-10 never even imagine the beautiful old towns and villages not a half mile from where they travel, doing their best to get to Disney World in the shortest time possible.
    They have no time for the amazing peaceful rivers, the icy springs, the dirt roads through pine forests, the giant matriarch oaks which spread their limbs across yards and courthouse lawns.
    Thank you for taking time to share some of this.
    I LOVE those tiny apartments. They are darling.

  4. I love that yellow house and those art deco bungalows. I would want to live in one of those. we prefer to travel on back roads. interstates and main roads are so boring. you might as well not travel for all the difference.

  5. I love seeing this view of Florida, the back roads and old buildings. Traffic there looks like traffic in southern California. Endless for miles and seeming to never end. It's good you know other less-traveled and more picturesque routes.

  6. Quite a road trip but you got some great photos along the way. I love the house but those apartments are my favorite. They really are very cool! Your traffic reminded my of my trip to Oregon last weekend. My friends complain that the wine country is only about 40 miles away from Portland but it takes almost two hours to get there due to the traffic. And they were right!

  7. It seems like everyone loves the art deco apartments. I do too.

  8. The backroads are a great way to go for many reasons. Great pictures.

  9. I'd love those apartments but probably would not fit through the door...Love your wanderings. Best to the in-laws!

  10. I love this tour of Florida. We almost always travel the back roads no matter where we go. Sometimes we regret it if it adds hours to our journey, but usually it's so much more interesting.

  11. I also love your tour of Florida towns. My parents live in Palm Harbor. I think the Gulf side is the prettier side of Florida; plus, so much less congestion!

  12. I was a bit worried about the "one big rodent" aspect of the post, but laughed when I got far enough to realize who it was! Love those little apartments. The original "tiny" homes, maybe :)

  13. Hubby and I are snowbirds and spend our winters in Palmetto. I've found that the later into the season we get, the grumpier the locals can be. Just last week I was asked by a local to vacate my seat at the bar if I was 'just' waiting for a table. I told her I'd let her know when they called us so she could have my seat. I got a loud Harumph then she stood at the end of the bar and gave me dirty looks. Locals have a love/hate relationship with us snowbirds.

  14. That yellow house is a confection and I also love those deco apartments. You are such a reliable tour guide, Steve, much like a reliable narrator. You have opened up London to me in a new way, and now you are showcasing your home state in a way not often seen. Mary is right. Most of us have no idea of the true range of Florida. Thanks for taking us along. And good for you for defending your mother in law's seat at the bar!

  15. Nice to revisit old places . They soon change enough so that we don't recognize them anymore.