The Back Roads of Sorrento, Bay Ridge, and Mount Dora

The high N-R-G intersection of Brooklyn and Vine in downtown Sorrento.

Our friend Tyson is here on his annual visit from Philadelphia, and today we did some touring up through the more remote, rural areas of Orange and Lake Counties.

Why, you ask, did I not take him to Disney, Sea World, EPCOT, the Holy Land Experience? Been there, done that, and we have already memorized all sixty-three verses to It’s A Small World. And we won’t be going back to EPCOT until they come up with another country– Kreplachia deserves a pavilion, doesn’t it? The traditional nude folk dancing alone would draw crowds!

So, we set out for distant environs, mainly because I had to pick up the bag of clothes that we’d left in Jon and John’s car after our drive back from Key West this past Wednesday. They live up in Sorrento with horses, cats and a dog.

These are the horses:

We didn’t tarry long; we had places to go, and (dead) people to see. Who, you ask? Well, since Tyson is an expert on the Victorian-style cemetery embodied by such grandeur as The Green-Wood in Brooklyn and Laurel Hill in Philadelphia, he was open to traipsing with me through sand spurs, brush, thorn vines, and the like. Crumbling ruins, abandoned mental institutions, rusting industrial areas? He’s there! I like people who are game; I’m so often solo while making these jaunts that it was a nice change to have someone in the car who is as interested in the rotting and obscure as I am.

The Suttons– friends and lovers through all eternity, though she’s been waiting on him for over fifteen years so far. I picture her waiting at the Celestial Malt Shop, cradling an ice cream soda with two straws. The Sorrento Cemetery is nice: well kept, it contains a lot of the area’s early settlers. A lot of people think it’s morbid to have such a pleasant time in cemeteries, but people of Italian extraction think of them as way stations, a way to keep our departed loved ones in sight until we join them on the A Train to glory. Or Cleveland, if something goes awry.

“Let’s go down this road,” I would say to Tyson, and he would agree. As long as there’s no sign telling me NO TRESPASSING, or GUARD DOG ON DUTY, I march forward, thankful however for the safety of my car’s interior. The more rutted a road is, the more curious I grow. And this is what we saw around a bend. I believe this is situated in the John Puder Yard, but I have no idea what these buildings contain. Oats? Soylent Green? Taffeta? It’s very silent here and, it being a Saturday, there was nobody to chase us away. Still, there were no GET OUT NOW signs, so I went. This reminds me of First Avenue in Brooklyn, near Lutheran Medical Center; when visiting an uncle in that hospital in 2010, I became fascinated with the rusting infrastructure hugging the  waterfront.

As we continued through the back roads of Sorrento, Tyson spotted a railroad crossing sign on the south side of State Road 46, and his pulse raced; he’s a railroad man, having worked for Amtrak and Auto Train in the past, as well as working as a consultant regarding the restoration of old train cars.  So down the street we go, and we see this rusted set of cars parked along the tracks, practically hidden in the woods.

The string of cars spilts here; turning west, we found a path running alongside the rest of the train. Here there were chickens, and all sorts of flying bugs and, I figured, chiggers. (We were lucky.)

When I see a sign that says Church Street, I assume that, at one time or another, it led to a church; taking Church Street in Sorrento south took us to this little wooden gem…

On to Mount Dora. If you’ll recall, I blogged a day here with my sister and brother-in-law when they came up here from Port St. Lucie to look at wedding venues for his daughter. Today we made a quick tour of this little village, and it was rife with tourists buying things like calico cats stuffed with potpourri. That’s all good for the economy, but we did sniff around for some local history. We walked the mournful railroad tracks, sadly deteriorating since the little dinner tarin was discontinued; what a boon to light rail this line could be… but here’s Tyson, tracing a path back to the past.

We couldn’t decide if this house was a ruin or if was occupied; if it was occupied, it was occupied no doubt by a lot of cats.

On a hill outside of Mount Dora, just before you get back on U.S. Highway 441, is the Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church, established in 1896. Apparently they still hold services, though we were at a loss as to exactly what it is that Primitive Baptists believe in. Today they had some screen doors lined up for sale, I know not why, and I can’t tell you what all the rocks are for either. Is the Bible set in stone? On this rock I will build My church? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone? Who can say?

Our next stop was the Bay Ridge Cemetery, east of Mount Dora and south of Sorrento. As most of you know, I grew up in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, though my block is considered part of Dyker Heights since they rammed the Interstate 278 expressway through the neighborhood. I was surprised, years ago, to discover Bay Ridge, Florida, which consists of a few concrete block homes and this cemetery. Overgrown and forgotten, it’s hidden from the road and bordered by properties containing rusted barns and barking dogs (thankfully behind fences).

This is the Goding plot:

This is a steel headstone from 1937, its legend formed with solder… W. T. Gunn was two days old.

Flush with history, nettles, and all manner of dust, we returned home as an approaching storm settled in over Lake Ola; this is a view from Tangerine.

There were hundreds and hundreds of motorcycles converging on nearby Zellwood as we drove past; was there some kind of Harley confab that I wasn’t aware of? And why wasn’t I contacted? I can ride with the best of them, after all.

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11 responses

  1. Pingback: Exploring Rural Central Florida's Back Roads: Obscure Sights - City-Data Forum

  2. Pingback: Rail Road Crossing Sign Logo Mens

  3. Great blog. Hit on a few cylinders for me; born in Brooklyn, my Mother is buried in the Sorrento Cemetary, I live in Tangerine. Glad I clicked on this doing a web search some info on a unrealated topic. Truly enjoyed your perspective.

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