West Orange County History Posts

 

The people! The history! Working out here in West Orange County is a history buff’s dream come true. Here are some pictures that we’ve run recently on the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation Facebook page.

First off, here’s our Historic Marker, which stands at Woodland and Plant streets at the eastern entrance to downtown:

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Going through the archives, we often encounter particularly striking images. Here’s a dramatic view of Lakeview High School. Alumnae, check in with your class year!

 

The history! The people!
While researching an article on Fullers Crossing, the old agricultural community northeast of Winter Garden, we unearthed a newspaper piece about Mrs. Mary Dale. Beginning in 1919, she lived on the property known locally as “Deadman’s Curve,” which is where North Fuller’s Crossroad makes an extreme right turn and becomes East Fullers Crossroad. Before the road was cut through and improved in the late 1920s, which included a wooden bridge spanning a creek, Mrs. Dale said “the only reason people drove up here was to come and see me.” Mrs. Dale is shown second from left in this gathering of ladies honoring Mrs. Phil Peters for the latter’s work at Winter Garden’s First United Methodist Church.
L to R: Margaret (Mrs. Bill Story), Mary (Mrs. Neal) Dale, Laura (Mrs. J. S.) Kirton [long-serving principal of Lakeview High School], (Charman of arrangements), Billy (Mrs. Bob) Davis, Madge (Mrs. Phil C.) Peters, Murphy (Mrs. L.W.) Tilden.

 

 
The Hawthorne Grove care barn fire occurred on August 18, 1975. The building was located off Broad Street behind the former First State Bank on South Dillard St. in Winter Garden, and was rented from H.M. Bowness of Ocoee. The Winter Garden Fire Department was assisted by the Ocoee Fire Department to help quell the flames.
Pictured are Fire Chief Jim Briggs (center) and Mike Spears (second from right). The other firefighters are not identified.

 

 

Welcome back to school from the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation!
The first schoolhouse in Winter Garden was built in the 1890s on the northwest corner of what is now Park Avenue and State Road 50, on land homesteaded by J.W.F. Bray in 1880. Consider yourselves lucky, kids: this school didn’t come with air conditioning!
By 1929, it was a private home lived in by Beulah’s Gillard family. Twenty years later it was moved to the South Tildenville neighborhood, though it no longer stands.

 

State Road 438 through Oakland was once a quiet country byway, and nowadays you might miss this Oakland gem constructed by the Orange Belt Railway company in the late 1880s. It is one of four residences still standing that were built to house company employees. The house, photographed here in 1986, exhibits many of the architectural details characteristic of the Carpenter Gothic style popular at the time. It is known historically as the “Pierson home,” named for Datus L. Pierson (1855-1914), its first owner. He was one of the founders of the South Lake Apopka Citrus Growers Association, the agricultural cooperative whose buildings still stand on Tildenville School Road at the West Orange Trail. Pierson is buried in the Oakland Cemetery, located a half mile west of the house.

 

 

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PhotoBike Tour 16– Knowles Avenue in Winter Park (and Offsides)

I have all these negatives of photos I took back in the late 70s and early 80s of a Winter Park that’s largely vanished. I’m still trying to identify some of the sites, but occasionally something “clicks” and I remember exactly where the photo had been taken.

SIDEBAR: I do regret NOT taking photos of the Alabama Hotel before it went condo; my friend Donald and I walked there from my apartment at the Plantation in Maitland, and wandered the halls, the lobbies, the public rooms, the library… it was for sale and everything was open to inspection. It was magical, like being in a time warp: Kleenex boxes in each bedroom, with one leaf of tissue popping from each and every box, just waiting for a sneeze. It was like we were walking through a dream. The Alabama is a condo now. and doesn’t seem to hold the same ambience. What can I say?

The venerable Alabama. It used to be a resort hotel– one of FOUR giant hotels that used to be located on the Winter Park chain of lakes.

After looking through negatives this past week, and tooling around on Google Earth and then looking up Winter Park history, I realized I’d never really explored Knowles Avenue from top to bottom. It just sort of slipped away under my radar while I was bicycling in the past, or else– while in the car– it’s byzantine system on one-way signs precluded any 4-wheel exploration. This morning, before I knew the humidity was going to soar, I set out to see what I’d missed.

I approach Winter Park from the east. I have to cross 436, go north to the light, and then thread my way through the Winter Woods subdivision; we call it “the Wilhelm’s” because of the grammatically-incorrect sign that fronted one of the houses. I always wanted to ring the bell and tell them “it should say ‘the Wilhelms,’ but I never did. I’m surprised.

Then I wend my way south along Lake Howell Road, checking to see if there’s a way to get across the watery culvert over to Arbor Park Drive (there still isn’t), and so I usually go west on Pine Avenue. Incidentally, the name Arbor park Drive is relatively new– we still know it as the southern extension of Lakemont Avenue, south of the cemetery. I’m just saying.

Palmer Avenue is just a few blocks away, the site of my second-favorite house in Winter Park:

It used to have a sign out front– Lulworth– and was built by a Mrs. Mizener ion the 1930s. She insisted that there be no shutters on the windows because she didn’t want to have to bother painting them. (A woman after my own heart.) The house was designed by James Gamble Rogers II, and believe me– he didn’t have those Greek columns up front; his were slimmer and fit the facade better. The new owners didn’t consult with me when they redid the place… can you imagine?

Before heading into downtown Winter Park I remembered that I wanted to photograph a neighborhood marker– specifically, one that noted the historic African-American west side of Winter Park known as Hannibal Square. It’s been yuppified and gentrified into something very NOT Hannibal Square, but I did find the marker on Denning Drive– inexplicably knocked over; I think I’ll let the city know that this needs to be righted.

Knowles Avenue branches from Chapman, which is a little street that branches off Fairbanks; you don’t see Chapman much because you are driving past Rollins College while, at the same trying, trying not to hit students (and professors) who decide to cross the road while checking their eMail. You go through a parking garage– wave hello to the ticket lady– and then you are on Knowles Avenue, which stretches all the way north from Lyman Avenue to Casa Feliz on Whipple Avenue. And it’s rife with architectural gems.

The first gem you encounter is the facade of the former Lincoln Apartments, now preserved and nicely incorporated into the First United Methodist Family Life Center. That was thoughtful! I always wanted to go into the Lincoln and knock on doors. Who would I encounter– former Ziegfeld girls? Forgotten chanteuses who headlined in smoky Omaha boites? Jimmy Hoffa? I’ll never know.

Okay. You have to go a block east, to Interlachen Avenue, to see Osceola Lodge, a beautiful home built by the Knowles family in 1888. But behind it– on Knowles– is a cottage that was used by visitors to the larger Knowles house. I don’t recall ever seeing this cottage, though I have tons of photos of Osceola Lodge.

Here’s the Lodge:

And here’s the cottage just to the west of it, on the same large lot, but facing Knowles Avenue:

Then I went down the path to the left of that cottage and took this shot of the Lodge’s rear; I can easily picture myself living upstairs right. You?

Across the street on Knowles is yet another cottage built by Knowles, now the home of Architects Design Group– this is truly OLD Winter Park, ladies and gentlemen…

A third Knowles “cottage” has been transformed into a firm as well, but it’s unrecognizable as a cottage:

Near the north end of Knowles, just where it meets the golf course, the city has placed some old cement posts noting the names of streets. I don’t know ho wold these are, and they’re faded, but I did have some old negatives in my collection. These denote Something Road, Fitzwalter Drive, and Harmon Avenue; the last two denote streets at extreme opposite ends of one another.

Just off Knowles, actually at Interlachen Avenue, is a series of ancient-looking apartments which evoke Key West. This is my favorite…

Who lives here? An artist, a writer, a milkmaid? A woman with cats? A candlemaker, a surgeon, a bell-ringer?

At the very north end of Knowles, hugging the golf course, is Casa Feliz. It used to be on Interlachen Avenue, but was moved when the newest property owner decided he might tear it down. people rallied and had it moved to its present spot– a rarity in Winter Park, but enough people cared deeply to have this 1932 James Gamble Rogers II gem saved.

The front.

The rear.

Here are the Barbour Apartments on very north Knowles, built in 1933 and designed by our man james Gamble Rogers II. Everyone who moved to Winter Park used to want to live here. Of course, that was back in the 70s and 80s; now they want to live… where? I have no idea.

Leaving Knowles Avenue and returning home via Interlachen Avenue, I noticed this sign planted in the road.

The Red Pepper Garden Club… can you even?! It’s probably not as rollicking as the name would have you believe. I picture officious club women with pointy eyeglasses, prow-busted and powdered,  their sensible Enna Jetticks heavily decorated with rhinestones. They meet once a month at the Woman’s Club (sic) down on Interlachen Avenue, where cucumber-based refreshments bedeck a series of card tables situated at the front of the room. After an hour’s worth of apologies, explanations and general catching up, the ladies are called to order by Madame la President, who fixes them all with a gimlet eye, and intones:

“So… who is responsible for the dying aspidistra in front of the library?”

I began this trek at 10:30 in the morning and by 12:30 was blistered by heat. It was time to return, though I have a feeling I’ll be back: there are streets called Greentree, Bonita, Temple Grove and Elizabeth which deserve some prowling… join me!

PhotoBike Tour 15: Random Shots, and More Key West

Sometimes I’ll bike for hours and not even do a post, or I’ll take a million photos and use… three. It all depends on my mood, as I can morph from crazed enthusiasm to apathetic ennui in seconds. I think it has to do with sugar levels, endorphins, and cream cheese– whatever’s coursing through my system at any given time. Like, it’s not a good idea to load up on carbs before, say, a funeral Mass, because you’ll crash fall asleep just when the eulogy begins; you’ll wake up in the cemetery under a tree, wondering how you got there, and asking yourself who all those people are dressed in black? OH!

Sometimes I’ll take a photograph of something that profoundly affected me, and all sorts of captions, descriptions and references will pop into my head. And often, by the time I get home, I’ve forgotten everything. I’ll stare at the photo and wonder just where in hell THAT was taken. Luckily I have resorted to taking along a notebook and maps , though i am working on remembering to take along something to write with.

Here’s a shot of the altar at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, which is located on the grounds of the retirement village over in Slavia, an old settlement strung out along Aloma Avenue in Seminole County. This little brick church was built in 1939 and cost just under $7500. One of its stained glass windows depicts Jan Hus being burned at the stake for heresy. I avow as to how tragic and unnecessary that was. And the irony is that this Lutheran church belongs to a branch of Lutheranism called the Missouri Synod, which is very conservative and very close to Roman Catholicism’s sacramentals: hence the crucifix. It’s not that I’m particularly religious, but the whole topic of comparative religions fascinates me; I’m currently reading a book called Jews and Mormons– Two Houses of Israel, co-written by a Mormon and a Jew. It’s fascinating how they get after each other over fine points of doctrine and practice. Mormons believe that the indigenous peoples on the American continents are descended from Jews who took a boat over here in about 600 B.C. They also have a publication called The Pearl of Great Price, which includes alleged translations by Joseph Smith of things that were written on a traveling circus mummy’s papyrus wrappings; Smith calls this the Book of Abraham, and you can imagine what the Jewish guy must think about that.

I didn’t take the picture above. A reader of my blog sent it after I posted something about an old house I was trying to locate on State Highway 50 in Ridge Manor, north of Dade City. I remembered passing it a couple of times, but couldn’t remember exactly where it was. I always imagined it to be a decaying Southern colonial mansion, a leftover from the mid-nineteenth century, but it’s actually relatively new– just in not such great shape, but I was informed that the owner is attempting to fix it up. It’s a nice reminder of Gone with the Wind’s Twelve Oaks, which is where Ashley Wilkes lived. Scarlett O’Hara had an unnaturally strong erotic attraction to him– it must have been the sight of his blond frame straddling his horse– and also the scene of her first encounter with Rhett Butler. My favorite scene at Twelve Oaks is when Scarlett alights from her carriage on barbecue day, spies India Wilkes in a tacky brown velvet hoop-skirted gown, and trills “why India Wilkes! I just love that dress! I can’t take my eyes off it!” And India smiles her thanks, even though the two of them can’t stand one another. Then Scarlett sweeps into the house in search of Ashley, sees him with his intended, Melanie, and proceeds to slice and dice his fiancée with a series of backhanded compliments which have no effect on Melanie because she’s so GOOD.
Here’s an old brick building in Winter Garden,  one of my favorite areas to poke around in. That whole region south of Lake Apopka is crammed with history and remnants: Winter Garden, Oakland, Tildenville, Beulah, Killarney… it’s easy to get lost on the back roads and not see anything that reminds you of the 21st. century. There used also to be a migrant labor camp around there called Harlem Heights, but it’s gone.
Here are some power pylons marching through a field in rural Seminole County. If you look at this area on Google Earth, you can see a definite rectangular swath rammed through the area in order to support the power grid. They come very close to Saints Peter and Paul  on Old Howell Branch Road, and I swear you can feel these things humming and buzzing. Maybe that’s just my imagination; maybe I also stand in the yard late at night, waving a flashlight and hoping that the aliens come and take me away for a springtime tour of The Outer Planets. There’s one member of this household who believes strongly in Bigfoot; I’m not gonna say exactly who, but he always tells me that I’m going to look out the bedroom window one night and see one of those creatures staring back in at us.
Here’s a little barbershop in Goldenrod. It reminds me of the place I used to go to in Brooklyn, up the street and across Fort Hamilton Parkway. A guy with hairy arms gave haircuts, and he was eventually replaced by a dark Italian named Tony, complete with oiled hair and a mustache. I always thought he was going to tie me to the railroad tracks. I used to hope that I’d have to wait a little while so that I could sit and read the wrinkled magazines he had stacked on a little table. There were always copies of Playboy, which fascinated me. What I would do was slowly and sneakily try to hide the copy of Playboy inside a copy of Life magazine, which took a while to maneuver, and usually by that time the barber would be shouting “NEXT!!” But sometimes I was able to sit there and read, and I learned a lot from Playboy– most importantly that nobody looks good in a leisure suit, no matter how enticing the ads.
In Key West, this “peace bell” graces the West Martello Museum and Gardens. There’s a little plaque right there, saying something about peace and brotherhood, and so I felt compelled to pull the rope and ring that bell. Little did I know that they also ring that bell in order to let the volunteers know that it’s lunch time, as evidenced a few minutes later when the bell was rung by someone in charge and a calm stampede ensued; I had only succeeded in confusing everyone.
Here’s a place in Key West that apparently is “on hold.” It reminds me, actually, of certain houses in Brooklyn located in certain neighborhoods. Certain families have to live close to their business interests, and so the money is put into the house. After awhile there’s just so much you can do with the house, so they add things like marble balustrades, blue tile roofs, plaster dogs and dragons, and shiny, chrome fences. Soon these houses look like Chinese restaurants.
Soon I will be traveling to Geneva with Becky, and I’ve got to start my Polk County excursions as well though, with gasoline so expensive, I wonder how I’m going to do that. Polk County is HUGE, and there’s so much to unearth…

PhotoBike Tour 14: Key West

Welcome to Key West!

We spent a couple of days here with friends this past week, driving down Sunday with two and driving back up Wednesday with two others. It’s good that everyone drives! Bill was generous in offering to drag my bicycle down so that I could roam at will, and roam I did. We also did a lot of walking.

Kirk took most of the foliage pictures; click on any of these to make them larger.

Here’s my bike– the one with the white basket– fairly jumping off the rack to get started…

This time six of us stayed at the Hyatt Windward Pointe, located at almost the very southeastern tip of the island. It’s far removed from where we usually stay– over in Old Town on the west side– but it was a wonderful change and, if I decided to bike around, I really had to work at it. And it’s breezy along the bikeway that rings the island, making for lots of strenuous exercise and rationalizations:

“Do I really need to have TWO Manhattans? Yes, because I can bike them off.”

“Do I HAVE to have another helping of spaghetti and meatballs? Yes, because I can bike it off.”

“Do I really need to have FIVE gin and tonics? Yes, because you’re on Duval Street and you have to bike all the way EAST, and there will go all those calories.”

Calories, schmalories.

Here’s a vew from our hotel room, looking south toward Cuba. If you squint, you can see Fidel smoking a cigar. Just across the road is the bike path, and less than a mile to the right is Smathers Beach. Just over the seawall you can see the older, collapsed seawall just below the surface of the water, and it’s become a reef: you see all kinds of fish and sea urchins.

Just to the west of the hotel, within walking distance, is the East Martello Museum. This is where you need to go to get a sense of the island’s history and quirkiness; it’s also where Robert the Doll lives forever. We didn’t see Robert this time, but we did pass the store on Duval Street which sells his likeness. I tried to photograph the display of Robert the Doll dolls through the window glass into the closed shop, but the reflection precluded that; it wasn’t until I got home that I saw that the dolls managed to allow themselves to be photographed onto the reflection of the street outside the shop window…

See the Robert the Doll dolls floating in the center of the picture?

Walking through town, Kirk likes to photograph every bougainvillea bract, every palm tree, every blooming tropical. He has an eye for color and composition, so feast your eyes on the following photographs as seen through Kirk’s lens…

 

OK, this one I took. These are Royal Palms.

Me and a GIANT Desert Rose.

I spent a few hours on the bike exploring back streets and neighborhoods that most people don’t explore. Me, I see an alleyway, I go down it. I talk to people, ask questions, and find things out. The Albury House, for example, is a house I’ve been obsessed with for twenty-five years. It sold at the end of 2010 after the last family member who lived in it passed on (Bonnie Albury). The house is now being rehabilitated and it’s been scraped clean of its termites and barnacles both inside and out. I almost got inside, but the construction foreman was just about to start a meeting, and I didn’t want to cause an imbroglio. Not that there was much to see inside: you can literally look through the house from front to back now.

Here’s the entry hall stairway, which generations of Alburys must have climbed since the house was built in the 1800s…

Because it’s 2012 and not 1992, most people are on a budget, and so the six of us decided to each spend a night cooking while we were there. The unit featured a full kitchen, though we had to have a new orange juicer AND kitchen stove swapped out; neither worked, and there were bags of oranges that Jon and John had brought to be squeezed, let alone their chicken and rice, spaghetti and meatballs (Jim and Kirk), and steaks and potatoes and broccoli (Bill and Karl) which were slated for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday suppers respectively. So, we didn’t spend a lot of time in restaurants, though I do recall a lusty and excellent breakfast at Two Friends Patio. We were also planning on meeting locals Susan Kent and DeVonna Howell for breakfast one morning at Flamingo on Duval Street, but the plan fell through and  instead I ended up having many, many rollicking cocktails with them at Aqua later the same day.

Entertainment one evening was provided by yours truly, lip-synching to the warblings of well-known and obscure girl-groups from 1963 and 1964, ably assisted by my background singers and dancers, who gamely invented stunning new choreography for each verse; Kirk slept through it all, which was a surprise considering we had You Tube cranked as high as it would go. It’s a good thing we were worn out before midnight, or we would have had to do a few turns to the Monkey Stroll.

One night we played Trivial Pursuit, which quickly degenerated into a raucous edition of Charades when it was decided that not many of us could answer anything that happened after 1970. I reduced myself to humming the alphabet at my teammates and then slamming the table when I got to the letter that formed the first word of the answer. “H I J K LMNO P!!”

Since we were located on the eastern end of the island this trip, I decided to take a good look around. For instance, while biking east along Staples Avenue, I came to a dead end; cars could not continue further because of a cut running from the salt ponds on the island’s north all the way through to the airport. Bikes could access a little bridge, however, and it’s here that I paused and had a look at the scenery.

And, looking down into that water, this man-made reef… anything to avoid dragging the grocery cart back to the store!

Following are a lot of houses I couldn’t resist falling in love with. Really– these places seem so cozy to me, and with a little TLC might actually be habitable for many more years.

On Solares Hill, the island's highest point.

This visit we toured the Eco Center, a free museum which features Keys wildlife, sea life, and flora. Aquariums and dioramas show you what’s at stake along the fragile island chain, and a movie in a dark little theatre helps put you to sleep after all that studying. Let me explain– it’s nicely air conditioned, the music is very Enya-esque, and the images are of divers, snorkelers, and fish of all kinds swimming slowly through their underwater world. It’s mesmerizing, and I almost couldn’t get up out of my seat when the movie ended. You stumble into a gift shop, though the thing that impressed me most was the tooled metal border running along the room’s circumference. It features turtles, fish, coral, and the like. Very nice.

When I went to take a photo out front, it appeared that an SUV had parked itself right in front of part of the mural; naturally, I bitched, leading Kirk to sputter ” I knew, KNEW you were going to say something!!”

Along with the hidden and the obscure, I like to re-visit some old haunts, just to remind myself that some things never change:

The West Martello Tower is the home of the Key West Garden Club, and is an amazing place staffed and maintained by volunteers. You can wander its nooks and crannies for hours, and the view from the top of the sweeping Atlantic is incredible.

On the grounds of West Martello Tower.

The Garden Club library at West Martello Tower. You can sit here in this cool brick room and look at old books devoted to horticulture. What was that old joke? Someone asked Dorothy Parker to use 'horticulture' in a sentence, and she replied "you can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think."

The Margaret Truman Drop-Off Launderette, catering to first ladies since, oh, 1800 or so.

Inside St. Mary, Star of the Sea. (Sancta Maria, Stella Maris.)

They open the side doors for cross-ventilation at St. Mary, which helps dry off your streaming head after biking frantically to Mass and forgetting that you're going to be dripping when you dismount and go inside.

St. paul on Duval Street, one of the city's Episcopal churches. It's gorgeous, and when you go inside and see the statues and the holy water fonts and the figural stained glass, you say "it's so Catholic!"

Steamship deco in the heart of town...

Colorful transport...

Two full days go by fast, but if you drink a lot of coffee and Diet Coke you’ll manage to stay energetic enough to traipse hither and yon and up and down and along, though my feet were hurting all day Monday; I think that was because of all that choreography on the unit’s tile floors. When you’re performing, you’re only interested in pleasing your audience, not thinking about how your feet are going to hurt.

Jon and John drove us home via Jensen Beach, where we picked up John’s mini pinscher from his dog sitter, and Max was the most well-behaved dog in the universe. Not a bark did I hear, and my Claritin prevented any allergic flare ups because, if I had started to wheeze, one of us would have had to be left by the side of the turnpike…and it wasn’t going to be Max.

Jon picked up more oranges for squeezin' in Jensen Beach.

Can’t wait to go back !

PhotoBike Tour 13: Leu Gardens and Winter Park

(Foliage photos by Kirk… click on them to make them BIGGER.)

 See those beautiful plants? It’s a raft of bromeliads that were for sale at the Leu Gardens Annual Spring Plant sale today. Kirk rounded up a bunch of people to go “in the morning, early, so we can find parking,” and I do recall a voice at 8:30 saying that he was on his way, that he would let me sleep, and here’s your coffee. See ya later!

[Codicil: I’ve been up very late this week watching episodes of Downton Abbey on Netflix. AND I’ve had a lot of organizing work to do as well… so this morning maybe, maybeeeee I was a little tired.]

I knew there would be questions– where’s Jimmy? Sleeping in?– and I still have enough foolish pride left in me to care when people get the wrong idea, so I got on my bicycle and biked from our house to Leu Gardens. Not bad! The weather was perfect today, and the traffic was fine until I hit Corinne Drive coming out of Baldwin Park– then I had to contend with yupsters in their giant SUVs as they spedpastmeTHISclose while at the same time talking on their phones and tending to Madison and Yasmine in the back seat. I’m just saying.

Leu Gardens has bike racks set up to the right of the entry building, allowing the cyclist a short walk back to the main gate, or you can access the Gardens by going into the building and then taking the first left. Immediately, you’re in the Gardens’ famous acreage, and today was a most perfect day for a plant sale. The two young guys who were handling the area of the parking lot where the bike rack was located could not have been more accommodating, even laughing at my lame joke regarding valet parking, and that I’d be back to claim it at 2 PM… here’s the key. ha! And one was quick to say he’d start a tab for me after I asked “and now where’s the bar?” When one can bring smoky cocktail banter to a botanical site, then one is very fortunate indeed.

There was some phone drama regarding the coordinating of five people and their whereabouts, but that was easily addressed. I myself had to traipse through crowds looking for my posse, going on nothing but directional markers like “we’re at that house… near the ferns… past the roses.” WHICH house, WHICH ferns, WHICH roses? I did find everyone after all, and there’s nothing like catching up with friends while your ankles are being grazed by double-wide strollers: “So how’s work DAMMIT, OUCH.” The stroller brigade was out in force, which always leads me to wonder: how does one pair of parents with a double-wide stroller manage to link up with all seventy-five OTHER pairs of parents with double-wide strollers? All seventy-six couples and the 152 kids plant themselves in the middle of busy sidewalks, comparing ice cream likes and dislikes, discussing cupcake recipes, and relating how well little Chutney is doing in Advanced Ballet. And the mothers are just as chatty.

But I digress; it was too beautiful a day for anxiety, so I soldiered on. I knew Kirk would be using up megabytes on photographing the offerings, and so I must credit him with the shots of flowers in this blog entry. Scavullo couldn’t have done better.

The specimen below is a young Royal Palm. They really don’t thrive in our area, and reputable growers will impart you that important information. It’s just too cold here for them, and you’ll often see dead Royals gracing what was obviously a very recent landscaping job. They belong in South Florida, or in warmer climate pockets (you’ll find them on Merritt Island).

And here’s another grand palm, the name of which escapes Kirk at the moment, regardless of the fact that one is practically TRIPPING over identification signs while wandering through the Gardens. I’m just saying.

And here are some more flowers and things, one of the things being a koi fish (upper left). They’re basically large goldfish, which you’ll sometimes see in Asian restaurants swimming in picturesque pools. I always like to get the hostess’s attention, point to a koi, and say “that one, please.”

Some roses, below. One of the vendors showcased a selection of old-fashioned specimens, some of them considered rare. I spotted our friend Mark there, and started over to say hello, but ran into someone else I knew and said hello to him first. Hug hug, kiss kiss, and then back to finding Mark, who had suddenly disappeared. Then one of the vendor assistants asked me, in a Mrs. Kravitz voice, “is there a particular rare rose you’re looking for?” and I said “yeah, one called Mark,” and she said “I don’t think we have one by that name,” and I said “I’m kidding, Mark is actually a person.” Can you imagine the rollicking time you would have had with me today? Your sides would have been splitting.

Below: Kaffir Lilies, and a beautiful red Amaryllis.

After a Diet Coke AND a bottle of water, it was time to thread my way back home before it grew too hot. Rather than just go home the usual way– Corinne, Baldwin Park, Lakemont, Aloma– I decided to take a back way, just to see what I could see, like this old beauty on the corner of Azalea Lane past Mead Gardens (the pictures are by me from here on):

And, my favorite house in all of Winter Park, this time in color. (I blogged Winter Park’s beauties in black and white here recently.) It was built in about 1897 and it’s amazing that it’s survived for this long on the busy road it’s located on. Today I actually walked all around the house taking pictures, but the front displays this grand lady’s finest aspect.

 Instead of dealing with 436, I went north on Lakemont because there were a few streets to the east that I wanted to explore. I wanted to photograph Lacy Shadows, which used to be an old folks’ home decorated with beautiful wrought iron lace work on its two stories. (A woman I know who worked there used always to refer to it as “Shaky Laces.”) Lacy Shadows is gone, however; that was a disappointment. And of course the lot is for sale…

Now, I knew there was a vast nothingness situated between Lakemont and 436, but I wasn’t prepared for this. It’s part of Crane Strand Swamp, a wetlands area that’s hard to find if you don’t know where to look. I knew it was here, but hadn’t even seen it from this vantage point just a block or so east of Lakemont Avenue. Interlachen Country Club is built on this, and much of the Tanglewood subdivision (Lake Howell Road south of Howell Branch Road), along with a lot of development you see on 436 between Howell Branch Road and Aloma Avenue.

And just past here, on Little Lane, you’ll find the entrance to a development that apparently is in limbo or won’t be happening any time soon. Beyond the locked gates is Crane’s Strand, and an asphalt road leading to two cul de sacs surrounded by swamp. It was to be called Winter Park Preserve. A billboard right here says “Build Your Dream Estate– Last Large Parcel of land in Winter Park.”

Then, almost home after a short ride through Tanglewood. A rather exuberant house features this Bel Air parked outside, which is just about the color of my 2003 Ford Focus. I think this car is from 1961, which would make it over fifty years old. Can you imagine? I’m over fifty years old, and I’ll bet I’ve had more oil changes than this Bel Air.

Next… I’m planning on exploring the inner creases of Polk County. There’s lots going on down there in the way of obscure sites and villages: ghost towns, phosphate plants, spooks, and the like. I can’t wait!

PhotoBike Tour 12: Casselberry and Fern Park

HA! You’re laughing! Casselberry? Fern Park? Isn’t that all about 436 and 17-92, you’re asking? Well yes, in a way; 436 slices through the heart of the old farming communities east of old Winter Park, and 17-92 bisects the old fern nurseries of Fern Park. There IS old to be seen here.

Casselberry only became a city in 1965. It has a very picturesque “old” section centered around the Triplet lakes, and its old unincorporated Fern Park section features a lot of old motels and pre-Disney relics strung along 17-92. Casselberry stretches down to Howell Branch Road, and parts of it are still wild, mere seconds from crazy 436. (Remember that you can click on any picture to make it larger and more complete.)

On Lake Ann Lane, just south of Lake Howell. This is a little known street that leads to the big properties that border the lakes .

Here’s Lake Howell as seen from one of the condominiums that line the lake’s west edge. If I don’t see a guard house, I venture in; I’m fourteen years old and invisible, which is how I get many of these shots. While moseying along today, I got caught in a giant cloud of dryer exhaust coming from the condo’s laundry facility, and smelled nothing but fabric softener for a few minutes. Ecch!

This next shot is up near Semoran Skateway, where I and my little spent many evenings in the past rolling round and round and ROUND at Gay Skate. What exactly is Gay Skate? It’s cruising on little rubber wheels, trying to glide with aplomb without looking too ridiculous. For me, that was mostly impossible because I would go into these spastic convolutions rather than just crash merrily into a rail or onto the floor. And you just don’t do something like that in front of a group of gay people, because you will be socially ostracized for life.

Just past the Skateway is the southern entrance to the Kewanee trail, another rails-to-trails path that threads through Casselberry and into Fern Park. I never knew it was there until I looked at Google Maps one day, and there it was.

Along the Kewanee Trail.

Pausing along the Kewanee Trail, with a culvert managing to look picturesque.

Kewanee Park is in here, situated deep inside the suburban spread. Who knew that this place existed so close to 436? Shirley Jackson would have a field day with this isolated little wetland: “and no one can hear you scream, in the night, in the dark… “

Back to Lake Howell Lane, which branches off east and west from Lake Ann Lane, is this imposing set of gates; I think I know of the people who live here. No bikes allowed! Do you think I need to fill my white basket with yellow jonquils?

No Bikes Allowed.

The eastern end of Lake Howell Lane borders on the western edge of the San Pedro Retreat Center. This is a grazing area for local cows, who tend to move to this part of the property at night. I’m told by a San Pedro employee that it’s creepy hearing the cows lowing in the dark late at night…

PhotoBike Tour 11: Biking to Gabriella and Goldenrod

Yesterday I biked out to the Gabriella area. It’s one of a series of farming communities that lined Aloma Avenue when that road was the site of a railroad that ran from Orlando to Oviedo– the “Dinky Line.” You’ll see signs for Jamestown, Slavia and Goldenrod along the road, but Gabriella (aside from its historical marker) and a tiny place named Bertha are forgotten.  (Click on any picture to enlarge it.)

Two historians, Steve and Gayle Rajtar, have written a number of illustrated books covering   Florida’s history. I must credit the historical walking and driving tours published by them, which supplied some of the information I’ve gathered here.

Marker at Aloma Avenue and Bear Gully Road

From my house it’s a short ride along Howell Branch Road going east into the country toward Dodd Road. If you can mentally block out the sprawling suburbs that have sprouted all over, you can see the underlay of what was once a very rural farming area. When I moved here in 1978 I was struck by how many cows there were just a few minutes away from the intersection of 436 and Howell Branch. Dodd Road even had a dangerous right-hand corner at one point that would, if you decided to drive through the wall of yellow barricades, take you directly into somebody’s living room. Now it’s all been smoothed out and curved, yet you can still find the old road and take your bicycle along it. And there’s only one barricade standing.

The bike path looking east from Gabriella.

As you go north on Dodd, on your left you’ll see a road named Eden Point, which is surrounded by farms. There you’ll see cows as you are hurrying toward your destination. On the right you’ll come to a lane that heads east into some private property, and if you look at an aerial map you’ll notice a clump of forest at the end, with Gabriella Lane appearing on the other side, leading toward Tuscawilla Road and further east. There are no farms along the Lane now; they’ve all been sold off and replaced with giant houses on large acreage.

You’d never think that Tuscawilla Road and Aloma Avenue were once lined with farms and a railroad track, because everything is just about gone. However, if you mentally remove the suburban overlay– all very recent– you will find vestiges of the area’s rural past. Here on Tuscawilla Road, just north of Aloma,  is a piece of property where goats romp. Well… they don’t really romp, but they DO pay attention some idiot with a camera ventures up to their gate and starts taking pictures.

Goats!

Bordering on the bike path at Tuscawilla is this spot, where once stood the train station for the Bertha farming community.

Site of the Bertha station.

Just west of Tuscawilla Road on Aloma are the remains of a tiny little blue and white church that you may remember driving past up through about 2006. It began life as a school building in 1899 and by the 1980s it became the Morning Start Baptist Church. Its last incarnation was as the Bible Believers Tabernacle, damaged beyond repair by a hurricane in 2004. It was pulled down in 2006.

Remains of the 1899 schoolhouse.

Here’s the Burchard house just off Aloma, now the home of Perfect printing. It was built in 1927 from a pre-fab kit that Sears used to sell in its catalogue, and originally stood at 7421 Aloma; it was moved to this spot in 2000. Imagine ordering a house through a catalog? But people did, and the pieces would arrive and you would put them together and then move in. There are also a couple of Sears catalog houses out in Tildenville, west of Winter Garden.

The Burchard House, 1927.

This tiny place was built in 1927, a pre-fab, and christened the “Wee Hoosier Inn” by Professor and Mrs. Fred Gifford.

The Gifford home, 1927.

This is the Adriatico house, located on Grove Avenue. It fronts a large citrus grove which I don’t think is being cultivated anymore. It was built in 1926 and at one point along the front fence, under a very tall Washingtonia palm, there was a tombstone that read “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” gotten from a cemetery in Jamestown (further northeast on Aloma). I haven’t seen it in a long time. It’s hard to get a full picture of this house because of all the overgrown foliage; even I won’t climb the fence.

Adriatico House, 1926.

Below you’ll see shots of a house that once stood near the corner of Howell Branch Road and 436, just east of the plaza where a lot of people I know used to get their Halloween drag accessories. I took these pictures in about 1992; I think this was the Tuck house; the barn burned down about two weeks after I shot these. When I was photographing the house, a woman came out and made friendly conversation, and then invited me inside. She proudly showed off the stove in her kitchen.

The Tuck House (?), early 1920s.

And here’s the Bower-Dike farmstead on Howell Branch Road, seconds away from schools, major subdivisions and shopping centers. It was possibly built in the 1880s, rented by the Tucks, and then bought by the Dike family in 1926. It originally sat where Signal Pointe Apartments is, at the northwest corner of Howell Branch Road and 436, but was moved to its present location in 1970.

The Bower-Dike home near Tangerine Avenue on Howell Branch Road.

Off Bear Gully Road, as you drive up from Aloma toward Howell Branch Road, you’ll find this undeveloped piece of land facing the lake; this is where I always manage to collect sand spurs on the laces of my sneakers. This was all farming country not very long ago.

On Bear Gully Lake.

Almost back home… I picked up the bike trail and approached the bridge from where a train station used to stand at Forsyth and Aloma.

And the bridge, which I skirted because I didn’t have to cross 436 to get home. A sidewalk off the trail brings you to 436, and then I just biked north, crossed Aloma, and was soon home. I tell you– the traffic was wall-to-wall, and it’s incredible how you can find these rural places without ever hearing a note of traffic. And I’ve never felt stuck out here in the suburbs, because these places are just a few minutes away from home.

The trail crossing 436 at Aloma.

PhotoBike Tour 10: Cheese and Cows and A Bucolic Seminole County Bike Ride

Those of you who know me well can probably appreciate my fondness for doing things alone. While I do enjoy and love the company of my friends and family, there’s nothing quite like having a few hours to myself in which to indulge the caprices which worm their way into my psyche. It usually happens like this: I do what I have to in the morning, and then spend some time with Blueie the lovebird. He likes to nestle in my right hand (not the left) and look out into the backyard with me. He notices butterflies and lizards and other birds (wild and unruly) from behind the safety of the sliding glass door, and then I realize that I’m spending WAY too much time communing with this bird, and that it’s perhaps time to get out on the bicycle. (If you click on the pictures you’ll be able to see them in their original entirety.)

It’s one of my favorite things to do, and now that it’s slightly cooler, I’ve been ramping up the hours I spend cycling. “Slightly cooler” is relative, of course; the temperatures are just as high as they were in July-August, but there’s something comfortable in the air which makes biking a lot more pleasurable than it was two months ago. Still, my ball cap ends up a sopping mess, but who’s watching?

Today I went back to the Winter Park Dairy to buy some cheese. It’s up on Howell Branch Road, its property backing up to Lake Florence. There’s a sign now, and you bike (or drive) down a dirt road past horses and cows, and at the end you’ll find another sign that directs you to the farm store. You can buy cheeses there, as well as local honey (Dansk Farms) and other dairy products like milk and eggs. What’s amazing is that these wholesome wares are located just a short drive east of the manic intersection of 436 and Howell Branch Road. Some years ago– not very many– I was taking pictures of an old barn located just off that corner, and a kindly old woman came out of the farmhouse next to it and asked if I’d like to see the inside of her home. (I must have one of those faces that doesn’t automatically brand me as an axe murderer.) She had a wood-burning stove in the kitchen with a pipe that led through the wall, and I had to remind myself that it was 1995, not 1935… it was all very surreal, and now there are apartments there, and clipped hedges, and I suppose a pool. I couldn’t tell you because there’s an electric gate that keeps nosy people like me away.

David and Dawn Green are the owners and operators of the Winter Park Dairy, and they are pleased to present their products to customers who appreciate the vital importance of patronizing and sustaining local businesses. It’s not a trendy, yuppified concept that the Greens are offering: this is a working farm with all the smells and sights you’d expect, utilitarian, honest, and simple. You won’t find cinnamon brooms for sale, or cat dolls stuffed with potpourri, but you will find healthy local products. I tell you– the cheeses are phenomenal, made from milk from cows that you actually see on the site. Last week I bought a chunk of parmesan, intending to grate it into a pasta dish, but it didn’t last that long. Today I bought a hunk each of their Black and Bleu and Cheddar. They’re in the refrigerator and, believe me, it’s all I can do to NOT land on them with a sharp knife and a glass of wine; the pleasure of eating these wonderful cheeses will have to be disciplined and moderated. Go– GO AT ONCE– to this farm store and avail yourselves of this wonderful local product. You might even find some locally baked goods for sale, but you should go early.

Dansk beehives.

The farm store... and my bicycle.

Content.

It was so beautiful that, after filling my white basket with cheese, I continued further east just to see what was going on in the neighborhood. I like to check up on certain favorite places, probably just to see if things are staying the same. I did see a large sign posted on a property that’s for sale, but I won’t even go into the how and why of all that; I just want to say that I think we have enough anonymous subdivisions in Seminole County already. And just to the right of that sign is this spreading oak tree on a property located at Eden Point, which isn’t even on most maps. Cars speed past this spot, but a casual cyclist like myself can tool along and see what’s what at leisure. Sometimes cows will gather under this tree to escape the heat of the noonday sun.

The mighty oak.

Grand Road is a mysterious byway (at least to me) wedged between Dike and Dodd Roads. The property here is partly taken up by a belt of electrical pylons, but there are still wild, kudzu-swathed areas just off the road. There aren’t many cars on Grand, and those that I did see were (mostly) attentive to the lone cyclist moseying along. I try to ride with my left elbow pointing out, to force cars around me, but sometimes they like to play chicken. Excuse me?

Heading back towards the house, I stopped at the San Pedro property, a meditative retreat center maintained by the Orlando diocese. You can get to Lake Howell along paths that have been blazed through the forest, or you can just sit quietly in the chapel or on a bench near pasture land which is rented to farmers. The cows were in the pasture further west today, and a gentlemen I spoke with said that it would be pretty easy to traipse through the meadow and find them, though he himself wouldn’t– “swamp monsters.” Sometimes at night he can hear the cows bellowing loudly to one another. “I don’t know what they are upset about,” he said. “Something is spooking them.” Swamp monsters?

I like stopping in the cool, quiet San Pedro chapel at the height of the day. I can turn off my ears and shut out all the noises in my head, listening instead to that still, quiet voice. I’ve figured out quite a few things in this silent place. And I can refill my water bottle at the cooler. Sometimes it feels like I’m the only person around for miles. Here, the chapel looks out onto the forest that ends at Lake Howell.

On the way home, I pass through an area called Slovak Village. It was founded in 1949 to accommodate Slovak families and farmers who had settled in the area. There is a cemetery there– the Slovak National Cemetery– in the little lanes located between Eastbrook subdivision and 436. Its name hints at something vast and filled with rows of Slovak graves, but it’s actually very small, though scenic.

And then home, which is maybe ten minutes away from all this by bicycle. Mind you, I’m not complaining about living in a suburb-cum-rural-exurb as I do, because I know I can easily get away from the noise and the traffic in just a few minutes… and find some artisanal cheese on the journey.

PhotoBike Tour 9: Biking the West Orange Trail

For Kay of the East and Kay of the West… 

I’ve always been a child who drifted. It was hard for me to stay focused and alert much of the time, as I would drift off into daydreams or fantasies while teachers and people were trying to teach or talk to me. I realize now that it was a progressive hearing loss that was affecting me– since I couldn’t actually hear what was going on around me, why should I pay attention? And I kind of got the reputation for being naive, and dopey. I sat through numberless Broadway plays and musicals, not hearing much of what was happening onstage, though it was fine meeting and hearing Gloria Swanson backstage because she was IN MY FACE. As I grew older, everything became muffled, like I was listening to the Universe through wads of cotton. When I got hearing devices a few years ago, the world opened up and I could suddenly hear a pin drop. And I could hear trucks and cars and thunder and explosions and screams and people people people all the time, everywhere, constantly. talking talking TALKING. It’s noisy out there! And, since I began hearing every word coming from people’s mouths, I realize that we really don’t have much to say to one another most of the time. Or, much of it sounds the same.

With all this new noise, I get headaches sometimes. My brain, which presumably had formed itself into completion by the time I was 21, suddenly had to deal with all the loud new stimuli which assaulted me beginning at age 50. It can’t handle it. It gets crazy sometimes, and I find myself retreating: I turn off the devices, get on the bike, and ride blissfully into the sun (keeping keen watch for traffic, of course, as well as my bad eyes can manage). Don’t misunderstand– I mean, I could always HEAR, just not very well at all. I was hearing things, but had to ask “WHAT?!?!” in order for things to be repeated.

My recent get-away-from-the-noise bike ride brought me to the West Orange Trail out in western Orange County, one of my favorite places to prowl around in. I load the bike onto the bike rack, an ingenious contraption which, so far, has served me well. It’s attached to the hatch of my red Ford Focus via a system of straps and clips and clamps, the bicycle nestled atop it securely with two plastic belts. Speeding along the 408 towards the Turnpike Extension, I admit I do worry that everything is going to go flying off the back of my car and into the windshield of a station wagon filled with lovely, delightful nuns, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Now that the 408 has been extended as far west as Killarney, a  confusing romp through the Fruit Loop (that’s where the 408, the 429, the Turnpike, and 50 all converge) most of the time deposits me onto West Colonial Drive, and then it’s just a short drive to the Trail stop in Killarney near the Lake County border. A couple of times I’ve overshot my exit and ended up further north along the Turnpike near a place called Minneola, but it’s a scenic error and not too bad.

That’s the bridge over the Turnpike. When you look below, you see cars heading towards Miami or Ocala.

Here’s part of the boardwalk through the new Oakland Nature Preserve, a wetlands adventure that brings you to the shores of storied Lake Apopka. That vast body of water (why are large bodies of water always referred to as vast?) stretches for miles in every direction, and has only in recent years been encouraged to recapture some of its former glory– polluting muck farms along its shores have been shut down and the land reclaimed by the lake.  At one time it was one of the most famous places in the country due to its excellent bass fishing.

Below is a shot of Trinity Missionary Baptist Church on Oakland’s traditionally African-American west side. It’s typical of the tens of thousands of country Baptist churches sprinkled across the Bible Belt.

Some of the Tilden resting places in the Oakland Cemetery. The Tildens were a pioneer family who arrived in Florida in 1876. This Tilden built Meadow Marsh in the community of Tildenville.

Here’s Meadow Marsh, the Luther W. Tilden house. Some years ago, when it was being renovated into a bed and breakfast, I ventured inside and asked the carpenters if I could take a few pictures. But of course! It’s no longer an inn; plans for its most recent incarnation would have it become a civic / community center for the new Oakland Park subdivision, but that project is on hold due to the economy’s collapse.

The pioneer Luther F. Tilden home on Avalon Drive in Tildenville- the second house he built on this site. There is speculation that this was a Sears pre-fab house.

The first house built by Luther F. Tilden, just north of and next to the second family homestead; this was moved so theathe big blue house could be built.

Oakland Park: streets and lampposts, but no houses in this photo… as of 2013, however, the development has been restarted. Lots of houses now.


Trees have grown up through the old railroad tracks going into Tildenville.

Just east of Oakland on 438 stands this gorgeous home, known as Oakland Arms, built by Charles H. Tilden in 1910. Its most recent resident was his granddaughter, Margaret McKinnon.

The avenue of oaks, known as the Sadler oaks,  on 438 between Oakland and Tildenville.

Down a road marked Private I merrily pedaled my bicycle, and found this picturesque old barn. I’m surprised I wasn’t beset by dogs, wild boar, or chickens, not to mention any angry locals. I think everybody was at work.

Here is the second pioneer Sadler home, built in 1906. It replaced the original 1880’s structure, which was divided into two parts and set behind this house. People did sensible things like that back then.

In beautiful downtown Oakland is this home, which– when the town was a thriving, busy railroad town featuring hotels, an opera house, and more– served to house workers for the different railway yards.This was built around 1875.

The Oakland Town Hall, right there on the bike trail.

At one time this  home (the Petris family built it) featured a sign that said “The 1879 House.” It’s on the northwest corner of Brock Street and Oakland Avenue (438).

Another dignified Oakland lady.

This home was once the dining annex for the Oakland Hotel, which was attached at the left. The hotel was built in 1910 but this house stood in 1890.

The tumble-down walls above, on Tubb Street, are all that remain of the Smith estate; they now front a new subdivision. Grace Mather Smith lived here with her husband at the turn of the twentieth century, and she was– compared to the rest of Oakland’s more sober Protestant citizens– somewhat of a hellion: she liked to give parties, dance, and play golf. There’s this story: Grace was speeding into Orlando one day for an item she needed for a party, and was stopped by the police and told she’d have to pay a speeding fine of ten dollars. She handed the officer a twenty dollar bill and said “keep the change, I’m coming back through here like hell in a few minutes!”

Grace and her husband built the West Orange Country Club south of Tildenville on Avalon Road. Up until some years ago, its labeled brick archway still stood, but it appears to be gone when I look on Google Earth. It was built to resemble Grace’s walls.

A closer look at Grace’s wall, a the side of a new house. And in the center of town near the Town Hall and post office is a small green called Grace Park, established by the Smiths near a hundred years ago.

The dock at the north end of  Tubb Street facing Lake Apopka. I had a nice chat with this guy about alligators.

These are piers which once supported a much larger dock that featured a bandshell.

Just south of the northernmost house on the east side of Tubb Street, this home’s front porch once collapsed to the ground due to overcrowding during  a boisterous party. Don’t you wish you could have been there? The Manhattans must have been REALLY good.

An orange grove in the center of Oakland.

Centennial Plaza in downtown Winter Garden. The trail goes right through the heart of this cool little town to the east of Tildenville.

Downtown Winter Garden.

Monolithic First Baptist.

Down one of the side streets in Winter Garden. I could live in this little apartment house!

City Hall in Winter Garden– a deco dream.


This beautiful little gem rests in downtown Winter Garden, right off the trail. many people would see this and think termites,mold, mildew, too many cats, and hornets. I look at it and dream of built-in bookshelves, enamel topped kitchen tables, rose gardens, and writing on the back porch. And cocktails in the evening light.

The Winter Garden Heritage Museum.

The east side of the bridge over the Turnpike, heading back to the Lake County line.

I’m writing this on Thursday. Tomorrow I have an appointment with historians in Winter Garden so that I can show them my photographs of the area that I’ve been taking since the 1980’s; a history of Oakland is being compiled and I’m beside myself with interest. I was originally going to drive to the outpost on the Lake line and then bicycle to my meeting, but my scrapbooks are sort of heavy and when I jam them into my basket for a test run, suddenly I’m off balance and wobbling into traffic. What I’ll do is drive to the trail post in Winter Garden– ah HA!– have my meeting, leave my books with the ladies, and then ride the bike for a couple of hours. There are some things I’ve missed, and I want to have a little lunch as well. And then Saturday is the Oakland Heritage Festival; there are going to be some history displays and guided tours of town and I hope that I won’t speak out of turn.

It’s kinda quiet and peaceful back here in the nineteenth century… !  Let me know if any of you ever want to take an escorted bicycle tour of the area with me.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FROM Saturday, October 30, Oakland Heritage Festival

The town featured a pleasant little crafts / antiques fair, and offered driven tours through  town, and a pontoon boat ride on lake Apopka. We opted for the latter, as I’d never been on Lake Apopka, and it was time. They took us west over to Gourd Neck Springs, which were partially covered by a floating island of trees and debris blown into a clump during one of the 2005 hurricanes. The ride was great– knowledgeable environmentalist guides give you updates on the restoration of the lake (one had a charming Irish brogue), and it’s evident how passionate they are about their work. If you get a chance, and are experienced, see if you can arrange to rent a boat, and go out there.

Heading west on Lake Apopka

At Gourd Neck Springs, on the southwest side of the lake.

Here you can see part of the floating island of natural hurricane debris. We are right over the spring at this point; it’s almost 40 feet below.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

PhotoBike Tour 8: A Key West Treasure– The Albury House

This is my favorite house in Key West. It had been in the Albury family since being built in the 1800s. The house’s last occupant, Bonnie Albury,  died in 2007. I had the privilege of being glared at by her once while strolling past the house. The place is now up for sale… and needs a lot of work, most notably on the exterior. It needed attention when I first saw it in 1985, and it needs even more now. But it’s beautiful– its ancient Key West soul glows.

I can’t get enough of this house… here are some shots from August 2010…

And here’s a resident’s blog about Bonnie, and her life in Key West.

She was quite a character!

Maybe I’m one of the strange men she called the police about over the years?

http://conchscooter.blogspot.com/2009/02/bonnie-albury.html

Read the blog entry just below this one for our recent shenanigans on the island…