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Archive for the ‘US 17’ Category

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Now we get to the final major stop on this trip, the DeSoto County seat, Arcadia.

I’d been looking forward to visiting Arcadia for years, ever since I first learned about the place. It sounded so rustic and it was in an area of the state I’d never been, though I’d been near-ish to it a number of times. It’s about 30 miles west of Lake Placid, so every time I went to or from Miami on US 27, I could have easily gotten there. The first time I visited, though, was unintentional. and Mom’s fault.

We were on our last trip south together in February 2010. Didn’t know that at the time, since Mom was feeling good, as she had for most of the year and a half since the diagnosis. Thank you, Hospice. It wasn’t until over a week later that she finally took a turn for the worse and had to go into a Hospice House, where she passed a month later. No, not a clue the end was so close. So we thoroughly enjoyed this trip.

My original plan was to get to Bartow around dawn, drive down to Zolfo Springs, then over to Sebring and up US 27 back home. But we made better progress than expected, and got to Zolfo Springs around 1 PM. I mentioned to Mom how I wanted to see Arcadia, but didn’t want to detour that far from my plans. She asked how close it was and I wasn’t sure. I thought about 30 miles. She said that since we had a good amount of daylight left (it was cold with clear skies all the way), why not go to Arcadia? Thing is, I didn’t have any maps of Arcadia with me, since I’d not expected to go there. But somehow Mom convinced me to deviate from my plans. I mean, I did want to go, and why argue with her, since things were going so swimmingly. So we headed down US 17. Then I saw a road sign saying it was only 20 miles to Arcadia, so we were in better shape than I thought.

There’s only one NRHP in DeSoto County, and it’s Arcadia itself. Much of the downtown and surrounding environs is a historic district. Since I had no map that first trip, I had to go with estimating the boundaries from memory. I knew the courthouse was in the district, so I went there. Also stopped at the nearby Chamber of Commerce, but it was closed. (see Google map)

  • J. L. Jones Building (10-14 North DeSoto Ave) (AGFHA)
  • DeSoto County Courthouse (115 East Oak Street)
  • Courthouse Annex (201 East Oak St) (AGFHA)
  • DeSoto County Chamber of Commerce Building (16 South Volusia Ave.)

Then we went downtown. I parked and walked around, taking pictures all over. Yeah, I left Mom in the car, but that was SOP on all our trips. I never stayed away long, not more than a half hour. She was fine when I got back. Probably the thing I liked best was the Arcade-Koch Building, which looked like something you’d find on Miami Beach. I drove around a bit more and took some pictures of houses I thought were within the district. When I got home and checked, I found out I was right.

I’ve been back to Arcadia twice since, with maps and additional information. Once down US 17 again and passing through, the other from the west on SR 70 and stayed the night. The second time I crossed the Peace River, then went north so I could see the old Peace River Bridge, which is in AGFHA. Also visited the local cemetery, where some WWII British soldiers are buried. Each time I was in Arcadia, I went to downtown and parked where I had the first time. I’d sit a bit and remember the good times Mom and I had, and thanked TPTB for helping her feel good for so long so I could have those extra memories of her and me on the road together. (see Google map)

After Arcadia, we went east on SR 70 to US 27 and north. Really liked this part of the trip, since it was 30 miles of straight open road and little traffic through mostly ranches. We’d be like, “Look at all the moo-cows!” She was 83 and I was almost 50 and that’s right, we said moo-cows. If we felt like acting like 12-year olds, we felt no shame in doing so. If more folks would let themselves be less uptight more often, I think the world would be a better place. It worked pretty well for Mom and me.

If you go west, you can get to Sarasota or Bradenton, but they’re both about an hour’s drive. An hour south will get you to Fort Myers. The nearest large city is Punta Gorda, which is about a half hour away southwest down US 17. About halfway there is the town of Fort Ogden. More than a road sign, since it has an actual post office. In front of which is a historical marker about the town. Go north up the road behind the post office and you’ll find a few reminders of the past. There’s a small cemetery and an old school, for example. There may be more; drive around some if you have a mind to. Won’t take long, since there’s not much of Fort Ogden. (see Google map)

That’s all for this ramble. More maudlin than most of the other posts, but this was the last problem-free trip I took with Mom, so I hope y’all understand. Until next time, then, see you on the road!

Route length: 80 miles

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So, where were we? That’s right, Fort Meade. US 98 splits off to the east here. But maintain your southerly course on US 17 and bye-bye, Polk County. Next you’ll hit Hardee County and Bowling Green. Which may or may not have any relation to the other one. There’s an old hotel on the corner of US 17 and Main Street, which is now home to the Bowling Green Youth Academy. If you park at the Dollar General nearby, you can take a walk around it. Then if you stroll east on Main Street, you’ll pass the most unprepossessing city hall I’ve ever seen, and an old railroad depot about another block on.

Get back in your car and drive east on Main Street until it dead ends into Lake Branch Road. South on that will get you to Paynes Creek Historic State Park. Inside the park is an NRHP, the site of Fort Chokonikla, built during the Seminole Wars. There’s nothing left of it, just signs in the sand marking the spot. There are trails through the park. Very open and scrubby, with some stands of trees. The visitor center was closed when I visited, so there may be information inside about the history of the place. (see Google map)

Back on US 17 and southward. The road is four-laned, with a wide median between the northbound and southbound parts. It’s very well maintained, and more what I’d expect to see near a larger city. I can’t imagine there’s that much traffic going through here, so why it’s like this I haven’t a clue. Makes driving easier, I’ll give it that.

You’ll soon be going through the Hardee County seat, Wauchula. A right at Main Street, and you’ll go through downtown and some nice old commercial buildings. Just past them on the left is the Hardee County Courthouse. I like the solid architecture, but the brownish-grayness does make it a bit bland. The old County Jail is behind, now used for local government office space.

Back the way you came and crossing US 17, the old city hall is on the left. Very nice condition, I must say. All along here is nice, since Wauchula participated in the Main Street Florida program. Whenever I get back down there, I may some aimless driving in town, since I suspect there’s some other neat stuff to see.

A couple blocks south is the only other NRHP in Hardee County, the Albert Carlton Estate. Which is, you know, a house and a few acres of land. It’s not fenced, so you can get close-ish to take pictures of the house. Still, it is private property, so you might want to take telephoto shots from the street.

Which is what I’d have done, if I was alone. But Mom was with me, and she encouraged me to get closer. I was like, "Mom, I could be trespassing and get into trouble." And she was like, "We’ll just tell them why you’re here." No greater love hath a mother for her son than being willing to use her terminal cancer to help her son take pictures of historical places. Yep, she was one in a billion. (see Google map)

Wauchula was one of those towns I wanted to visit due to its mildly odd name. The next town’s name is a bit weirder. Zolfo Springs. It’s believed the name came from Italian immigrants’ pronunciation of "sulphur springs", a feature in the area. Oh, and lest I forget, as you enter town you’ll cross the Peace River, which will be to the west of US 17 the rest of the way south.

You’ll pass by Pioneer Park, which is a heritage park like the one up in Homeland. There’s no admission fee, so it won’t cost you anything but time to go in and look around. If you go far enough in, you’ll reach the banks of the Peace River. If you have a kayak or canoe, you can take a relaxing trip along the river. (see Google map)

  • Pioneer Park (US 17 and 6th Ave. (or SR 64 and Terrier Drive)) (AGFHA)

If you go continue south, the road becomes two-lane and stays that way until you get to Arcadia in about twenty miles. Mostly farmland along the way. So whatever the reasons for US 17 being so expansive, they end in Zolfo Springs.

If you want to see one of the kitschy places that define Florida, though, go east on SR 64. Then south on CR 663 and west on CR 665. Look for the signs for Solomon’s Castle and follow them to the parking lot. A note, though. I couldn’t get to it the first time I visited because the parking lot was flooded. So if there’s been torrential rain recently, you mightn’t be able to get in. Otherwise, park and go witness the glistening home of Howard Solomon, Solomon’s Castle. He’s an artist and sculptor, so you can see his smaller works inside the castle. Which was made from printing plates that were discarded by a local newspaper. There’s a small restaurant there and limited lodging is available. Howard doesn’t do credit cards, so make sure you have the 10 dollars per person admission in cash when you go. And some extra in case you want to get souvenirs. (see Google map)

The most direct way to the next area on the itinerary is down Pine Level Road. The first mile or so is a dirt road, but not pot-holey or anything. You’ll get to SR 70 in about 10 miles. Then follow the map link below to see the remnants of Pine Level itself. Hard to believe this used to be a county seat, since there’s hardly anything left now. You can else check out what’s left of Owens, a small community in the area. (see Google map)

Next post, Arcadia. See you on the road!

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This is a melancholy trip for me, since it was one of the last I took with Mom. We did Bartow to Arcadia, then over to Lake Placid and up US 27. This will be about the first half.

However, we’ll start in Mulberry, which Mom and I didn’t go through. I got there about a year later. The only reason I went was to see the Mulberry Phosphate Museum, since that was a major industry in days of yore. I didn’t go in. Yeah, me and museums. There may be more to see there, but you’ll have to figure if there’s enough enticement to go there, folks. (see Google map)

Take SR 60 east and you’ll run straight into Bartow. It has 1 commercial and 2 residential historic districts, and several NRHP sites. They’re spread out somewhat, so there’s as much driving as walking involved. The county historical society is in the old courthouse, where you can learn more details regarding the area’s past. (see Google map)

Once done with central Bartow, head south on US 17/US 98. Before you get completely out of town, there are a couple more sites of historical interest. First is what’s left of South Florida Military College, which is now a private residence. Then there’s the Conrad Schuck House, which is one of the trippiest homes I’ve ever seen. (see Google map)

From south of Bartow to Arcadia the road is one of the most unmoving roads in the state. I mean, you can move on it. But it’s not especially thrilling, at least between inhabited places. Good for getting you from point to point, but scenical it ain’t.

Look for the sign for the Homeland Heritage Park and take a right at the light at CR 640. In a short bit you’ll arrive at the park. There’s a collection of historical buildings, some of which I’m sure were moved there. I’ve seen a few parks like this all over the state. Macclenny, for example. Amongst the buildings is the old Homeland School, which is on the NRHP. To me, the nicest thing is the old church.

When you go back to US 17, if you cross it you’ll find Mosaic Peace River Park. The Peace River parallels the road all the way down to Arcadia, and is on the east side most of the way. There are a few parks along the river, and this is one of the larger ones. There’s a boardwalk that’ll get you to the river, and it feels like you’re in a tropical rainforest. I rather liked it more than I thought I would. (see Google map)

Continue south and you’ll be in Fort Meade. A large part of it is a historic district. Quite a lot of neat old homes, so take some time and drive around. Don’t miss the old Christ Church, either. (see Google map)

  • Fort Meade Historic District (Roughly bounded by North 3rd Street, Orange Avenue, South 3rd Street and Sand Mountain Road) (NRHP)
  • W. Henry Lewis House (424 North Oak Ave) (PENDING NRHP)
  • Fort Meade Town/City Hall (8 West Broadway)
  • Christ Church (331 East Broadway) (NRHP)

Fort Meade is the last city you’ll be going through in Polk County. After this, you’ll go through 2 more counties, their county seats, and some other towns too. Bit like US 90, but flatter and less trees. But that’s all in the next post. Later, and see you on the road!

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The Lady and Sons, in Savannah, Georgia

Went to Savannah and worked my way down the coast last week. Got into The Lady & Sons (Paula Deen’s place, above) at 11:30 without a wait, which surprised me. Going on a weekday is the way to go. Paula nor her sons were there, but that wasn’t a surprise. I wanted Mom to meet Paula, because they’d have gotten on famously. They could’ve been separated at birth, doncha know. Mom was with me in spirit, though, as always. I only managed a couple of days in Savannah, and would really like to spend more time there.

Other highlights were Brunswick and Darien. There’s some stuff I didn’t get to (Sapelo Island and Cumberland Island), that’ll have to wait for another trip. Took over 1500 photos, visited 88 NRHP sites, 10 National Historic Landmarks and a couple of National Monuments, so a success all-round. Wish I didn’t have to get new tires, but that’s just my luck, I guess.

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