Saturday, April 10, 2010

2010-08 Florida City to South Bay to Sebring Florida

Leaving the Florida Keys.

Florida City, Belle Glade, South Bay, Clewiston.

Marathon Coast Guard:  DoD personnel only.  $24 per night.  Full hookups.  Only 4 sites available.

Miami Everglades Rv park.  $39 per night.  Full resort style, swimming pools etc.  Full hookups w/cable Tv.  5 star commercial facilities.

South Bay County Park.  $26.  Full hookups, concrete pads, cable Tv and wi-fi.  Beautiful setting along the canal leading into Lake Okeechobee.  5 star facilities.

As it turned out, I was able to spend 15 days in the keys at the Marathon coastguard.  Plans were in place for me to get an Rv site on Big Pine Key, but the owner hadn’t left the site when I arrived and we had no idea when he was leaving.  Rather than spend a few nights boon docking (the temps are getting into the low 80’s) I decided to begin my trek back to Central Fla.

Sometimes it’s like trying to squeeze too much fun into a short period of time.  Like a good Florida orange, you try to get the last drop of orange juice out.  By heading out, I was assured of being able to visit, Ed Leedskalnin’s Coral Castle and a few other sites I have in mind of visiting.

The coral castle is one of those truly Floridian attractions that dates back to when car travel was just becoming popular.  Although Ed didn’t plan it as a Fla. attraction, to me it is the essence of just that, a quirky, kitschy attraction.

The coral castle is a creation of one man.  Ed, who’s only 5’ tall and weighed only 100 lbs.  No one ever saw Ed move the pieces being worked on or being moved into place.  Many of the pieces weighing several tons each.  When the original site in Florida City started to become too crowded, he moved the entire thing 10 miles up the road.

The whole castle was created as a tribute of sorts to his lost love, who decided not to marry him at the last minute.  It was created over 20 years between 1920 and 1940.  Many of the coral chairs rock back and forth, they were so perfectly balanced.  Including two large coral gates that swivel on old Ford car parts.

It’s just a magical place that I’ve wanted to visit for many years and finally got the chance to see it.

The next day I headed to South Bay, just outside of Belle Glade Florida along Okeechobee Lake.  I’d heard of a great county park and decided to stay there for a couple of days while exploring the area.

As a full time traveler, I stay in everything from commercial parks both high end and low as well as forests, state parks and county parks.  The more I travel, the more I appreciate those parks that go out of their way to do it right.  South Bay is one of those parks.  Campsites are easy to back into because they’re all perfectly angled.  Paved sites, nice picnic tables, grassy well maintained landscaping.  Ponds with walking paths around them.  Soft lighting, full hookups with cable tv and good free wi-fi signals.  On site laundry facilities.  They just about have it all.  Makes for a pleasant stay all around.

One of my stops in the area was to Clewiston.  A small farming community surrounded by sugar cane fields, cattle ranches and orange groves.  The town was designed by John Nolen, a renowned city planner.  The design remains but the town has remained, truly a small town.  Only recently getting a super Wal-Mart on the edge of town.  I enjoyed a tour and movie at their museum which fills in the story of creating the Hover dyke after two hurricanes devastated the area.  The development of orange groves and sugar cane with many farmers migrating from Cuba after Castro took over the country.  The time during WWII when the area was host to the British who came here to learn how to fly.  This is the original Florida which I love.  Large flat landscapes dotted with palms, uninterrupted blue skies with puffy white clouds slowly moving across the sky.

I had lunch at the Clewiston Inn.  Built in 1937 in the Neo-Classical Revival style, it oozes southern charm.  They have a very nice buffet lunch, but if your not in a hurry, order off the menu.  I had a chicken broccoli casserole, sweet potato casserole and fried okra all for $5.95.  The buffet is $10.95.  The food I got was beautifully prepared, even if the service and wait was a bit long.  Nice to dine in an historic building feel a bit pampered.

Driving around town, some of the side streets are lined with tall majestic Palms in double rows. Canals off of Okeechobee Lake boarder the northern end of town and continue to the west coast of Fla.

 I also drove into Belle Glade and was not overly thrilled with the town.  The original downtown area is mostly boarded up and falling apart.  Most of the stores are closed or are discount or Goodwill type stores.  Many buildings  and homes have security bars over their windows and doors.  I did see a couple of nice residential areas that were well maintained, but they were so close to the run down areas, it was all a bit sad.  Even the local Winn-Dixie looked like it was running on borrowed time.  Most of the free standing displays were of soft drinks, colored water of no value what so ever.

The town does have half a dozen fast food joints, but that’s about it.

Traveling along hwy 27, through the heartland of Fla. I enjoyed the smell of the orange blossoms in bloom.  The orange pickers were still at work  hard picking the last of the crop and it looked like they had many more days of picking ahead of them.  Those bright oranges showing off against the dark green leaves.  I reached Sebring Fla around noon time and will settle in for three days before heading to Orlando and a few Dr’s appts.  There must be some money here in Sebring, I saw a black, dark tinted windowed Rolls Royce idling next to the Super Wal-Mart center.

Nice to be traveling familiar ground through out Florida.

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