Archive for the ‘US 41’ Category

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There are only two cities in Florida that I know of that are named after cities in Italy; Naples and Venice. This post will be about the former.

Going south on the west coast, Naples is the last large city you’ll encounter. It’s the county seat of Collier County, having supplanted Everglades City decades ago. That happens more often than you’d think, that changing county seats thing.

I’d heard that Naples has lots of golf courses, and according to Discover Naples, it has more per capita than anywhere else. Which also means that Naples has a ritzier population than most cities in the state. It’s one of the best maintained cities I’ve seen in Florida.

I’ll wager another of the attractions is that there are several pockets of nature nearby. Like Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Picayune Strand State Forest. It also has one of the top ten busiest parks in the state, Delnor-Wiggins Pass. I was there on a Monday around noon, and it took half an hour to get in. I’ll bet on weekends it fills up right after it opens.

Plenty of culture, too, with museums and art galleries scattered hither and thither. (see Google map)

But I’m all about the historical, and Naples has that too. I don’t know how much has been lost over the years, but there does seem to be a significant amount of historic structures in the area. The one historic district covers both commercial and residential buildings. Make sure to talk a walk to the end of the 1,000 foot long pier, ’cause you’ll get an amazing view of the Gulf and Naples when you get there. (see Google map)

There are a couple of NRHPs on the outskirts which you may be able to get to, if you have the means. The ruins of the Horr House looks to be in a gated subdivision. Key Marco Estates, I believe. So unless you know someone living there, you’re unlikely to be able to get in. But I think it might be accessible by bicycle. I’d check first, since even with a bicycle, the house is some ways from the entrance. The other site is the remains of the Keewaydin Club. No roads to it; your only option is a boat. I don’t even know if you can land on the island it’s on. You might only be able to see it from offshore. I think there are tour bouts that go there, if this is any indication. Should anyone actually makes it there, tell me how it goes, will you? (see Google map) (see Google map)

Head southeast out of town on US 41, ’cause we’re going into the Everglades. There’s a bit of driving before you get there, though. In the meantime, you’ll be passing through a region I’ve covered previously. That is, the whole Everglades City area. I’m including the sights below, in case this is your first time through, or you want to revisit some of them. There’s also Monroe Station, which I need to get to one of these days. (see Google map)

If you decide to travel the length of the Tamiami Trail to Miami, your last gas stop is at the SR 29 intersection. Make sure you top off your tank, get munchies and avail yourself of the facilities before you get past. It’s about 60 miles of wilderness before you’ll see signs of civilization again.

This is the only large section of the state I’ve not visited. There’s not been enough on the way to entice me. It’s just one very long drive to Miami. I know I’ve said I like to just drive, but even for me, I need a bit of stuff along the way to break up the monotony. The road is kind of historic, since it follows the original route from Miami to Naples. Another thing I’ll get around to eventually, but not high on my priority list.

Should you go this way, you’ll get to Miami in about an hour. Well, Tamiami first, where you can see the Frost Art Museum, I suppose.

So, that’s southwest Florida done. I’ll be getting to the less south part (Sarasota and such) in a while, never fear. Until then, see you on the road!

Route length: 100 miles


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We return to the Pensacola vicinity to explore the other major road in and out of town (not including the interstate), US 90. I’ve covered the stretch east of Tallahassee. Now it’s time to cover the west half.

I’ve mentioned before what a pleasant drive most of I-10 is. This is especially true of this section, even zooming through. There are no major cities between Pensacola and Tallahassee. Since the speed limit is 70 mph, that means you can go from one to the other in three hours or less. Should you want to get to any of the county seats along the way, they’re all within about 6 miles of the interstate. So start in Pensacola, or Tallahassee, or anywhere in-between; it’s all easily accessible.

Should you eschew the interstate, I would recommend one stop along it that you might like to check out. It’s the longest entrance to a rest stop in the state. If you’re going west, that is. On the east side of the Apalachicola River is a rest stop on the south side of the interstate. Going west, you have to take an off-ramp and cross a bridge over the interstate to get to it. The medians around here are wide, a quarter of a mile or more. Honestly, you’ll think you’re never going to reach the end.

Once you get there, though, you’ll find a larger rest area than others along the way. It’s probably because it serves eastbound and westbound traffic. Picnic tables, a walking path, and large bathrooms. There may be showers, but I can’t remember for sure. Unfortunately, you can’t see the Apalachicola River from the rest stop, nor get close to it.

Which is another reason to visit the rest stop, since you’ll cross the big bridge that crosses the river. All the bridges that cross the river are impressive, and I’ve seen everyone, so believe you me.

Enough about the interstate; we’re doing US 90. Speed limits in the urban areas are 35-45, but between they’re 55-65. Just the driving between Pensacola and Tallahassee will take you about 4 hours.

We’ll begin in Milton, which though in the next county over, is a suburb of Pensacola. The first spot is on the western fringes of Milton, the Arcadia Sawmill and Arcadia Cotton Mill. This was another one of those that had vague directions. However, some research led me to discover the site was now part of a historic preservation park thing. There are informational displays, and a long boardwalk that takes you through the adjacent semi-swampy areas.

From here you can go next to Bagdad or Milton. I suggest the former, as you’ll be doing less backtracking.

Bagdad is only a couple miles south of Milton. Most of it is a historic district. I’ve walked a bit of it, but mostly drove around. Didn’t see any sort of downtown; it’s all residential. Considering how close they are to Milton, I guess they never really needed a commercial area. I couldn’t find any of the slave houses mentioned in AGFHA, but I didn’t look very hard for them. They could be gone; I’d be amazed if any still survived.  I’m sure the local history folks could help to find out. (see Google map)

  • Bagdad Village Historic District (Roughly bounded by Main, Water, & Oak Streets, Cobb & Woodville Roads, Cemetery, Pooley, & School Streets) (NRHP)
  • Benjamin W. Thompson House (4661 Forsyth Street) (AGFHA)
  • Bagdad Post Office (Thompson Street and Forsythe Street) (AGFHA)
  • Bagdad Methodist Church (Forsyth Street and Overman Street) (AGFHA)
  • Emma Fournier Forcade-Donald Youngblood House (Church and Allen Streets) (AGFHA)
  • McNair House (Allen Street) (AGFHA)
  • Slave House (Limit Street) (AGFHA)

In the US 98 posts for this region, I mentioned Yellow River Marsh State Park. You can get to it from Bagdad as well as US 98. It’s remote either way. (see Google map)

Now go over the small bridge that crosses the creek that separates Bagdad and Milton. You’ll initially encounter the old depot, which now houses a railroad museum. Further on you’ll enter the historic district, which encompasses most of downtown Milton and a block or three north and south. The building where the local historical museum was got damaged by fire back in 2009. They had to close it, but it may have reopened by now. I hope so, ’cause I rather like Milton, and would like to learn more about the area from the folks there. Maybe even a story or two about their most famous son.

I mentioned a while back that US 90 goes by the courthouse of every county it passes through. Across from the history museum is one, for Santa Rosa. I didn’t think it was an old one, but I found out it was built in 1921. There was remodeling done 40 years later, which may have reduced how much of the old architecture you could see and thrown me off. But I did like it when I first saw it, even thinking it was modern.

The local historic society has put out a walking tour, which you can find here. (see Google map)

When I was doing Wellborn, I talked about the bit of Florida State Road No. 1 that was still there. Now you can see a much longer section, that’s also on the NRHP. It goes several miles west of Milton, just to the north of US 90. I’ve seen at least one car parked on it, so you can drive it (very slowly) for old time’s sake. Or just park nearby and walk along it. Very much like the old brick Dixie Highway, a part of which is east of Hastings, but a better-kept portion is in Maitland. (see Google map)

Once you get past the end of old Florida State Road 1, you’ll be going through some of the Blackwater River State Forest. That’s about all you’ll see for the next 25 miles. Do look for the turnoff to get to the Blackwater River State Forest. It’s very popular with canoers. Even though out of the way, there were a goodly amount of folks picnicking and such both times I was there.

By the by, the photo at the top of the blog is of the Blackwater River, in the park. In case you needed some additional encouragement to check it out.

Just before you get into Crestview, there’s another turnoff that will take you to the Baker Block Museum. Which is in the town of Baker, and is a living history museum. I’m not sure what the ‘Block’ part is all about. The building isn’t a block long. (see Google map)

We’ll stop here. Next time, my least and most favorite towns in the Panhandle. See you on the road!

Route length: 35 miles

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We were leaving Charlotte County on US 41 last time. You’re about to re-enter Lee County now. From here on, you’re not going to see anymore "nature" on US 41 until you get out of Naples. Then you’ll see nothing but nature until you reach Miami.

First you’ll reach North Fort Myers. Take a right onto Pine Island Road and you’ll get to the old J. Colin English School. Like most schools, you’ll have better parking options if you visit on the weekend. Plus you can get pictures of the buildings without all those annoying kids in the way.

The next few spots are way west on Pine Island. I’ve not seen a one of them, so can’t say whether they’re worth the trip or not. You’ll have to get to the north end of the island to catch a boat to Cayo Costa State Park. So if you want to see that, you can always check out some of the other things along the way. (see Google map)

South on US 41 again, you’ll encounter another big bridge. This one crosses the Caloosahatchee River, whose start you may have seen if you did the Lake Okeechobee circumnavigation. You’ll also be going over the Caloosahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which is a small island in the middle of the river. You may feel a bit deja vu, because once again you’ll be in a historic district on the other side. But this time you’re in Fort Myers, and the district is a bit smaller.

Like Punta Gorda, I’m going to the outer limits to the east first. In fact, so far out you might consider coming from the other direction. I have, via LaBelle once and Arcadia another time.

This next several miles will be educational in more ways than one, since you’ll see four old schools. All are still in use, but not all are schools now.

We’ll start in Alva. Don’t know if the name of the town has anything to do with one of the most famous winter residents of the area, Thomas Edison. Bit of a coincidence if it didn’t. On the north side of Okeechobee Waterway are the Alva Consolidated Schools. They remind me of the old Clewiston Schools, in that they are two different styled buildings next to each other. Cross the Waterway and visit the Eden Vineyards & Winery. No, not been there yet, but hope to. Next are the Olga School and the Buckingham School, both of which are now community centers.

After that, you’re out of the suburbs and in Fort Myers, or close to. You’ll pass the old Merge-Hansen Marina, the last old school (Tice Grammer), and the Terry Park Ballfield. Which was full up when I stopped there. (see Google map)

Further in are some historical houses and museums. Oh, and a couple more historic schools. I think Lee County may have more schools on the NRHP than any other county, now that I think of it. (see Google map)

Next are a number of older homes, some of specific interest. My favorite is the Murphy-Burroughs House. It’s somehow palatial and casual at the same time. Plus behind it you can get an amazing view of the two US 41 bridges. (see Google map)

Finally back in the historic district. It’s roughly a square mile, so it’s very walkable. If you can park in the middle, that’s ideal. But if the streets are filled up, you should park at two of the opposite sides, which works almost as well. It seems like most of the buildings here are historic, but they may have building codes set so new construction has to blend in. However they did it, they did it right.

Just outside the district limits is the Towles House, which looks like it was built a year ago. Another great job of upkeep. If only more cities had the resources to do the same, or the will. (see Google map)

  • Fort Myers Downtown Commercial District (Roughly bounded by Bay and Lee Streets, Anderson Avenue and Monroe Street) (NRHP)
  • Earnhardt Building (2258 1st St) (AGFHA)
  • First National Bank (2248 1st St) (AGFHA)
  • Old Lee County Bank (1534 Hendry St) (AGFHA)
  • Richards Building (1615 Hendry St) (AGFHA)
  • Robby and Stucky Building (1625 Hendry St) (AGFHA)
  • Lee County Courthouse (2120 Main Street) (NRHP)
  • US Courthouse and Federal Building (2110 1st Street ) (NRHP)
  • William H. Towles House (2050 McGregor Boulevard) (NRHP)

Last but perhaps most are three houses, all in a row. Well, two of them. The third, Casa Rio, is nice, from what I could see through the gate. But next to it are the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Didja know they both lived here and were neighbors, back in the day? I did, thanks to my NRHP obsession. It’ll cost you twenty bucks to get past the fence and see the houses up close. I didn’t feel like laying that much out the last time I was there, so I took shots from the sidewalk. Easy, since it’s a low picket fence. Next time I’m there, I think I’ll actually go in. Hmm, I’m putting together an itinerary to revisit down there, ain’t I? (see Google map)

The next two locales I’d suggest going to on the weekend, ’cause the road (CR 869) that gets to both is busy, especially during weekday rush hours.

Firstly, Fort Myers Beach. It’s a 30-35 mph speed limit through the developed area, so don’t expect to zoom through. The old school and the Mound House are pretty close together, the state park about five miles down. It has two entrances. If you want a park passport stamp, go to the southern one. You can also see Mound Key to the north from here. If you have a boat, this is one of the places to get there. (see Google map)

Return to CR 869 and head west to Sanibel. I’d heard about the place, but wasn’t prepared for how wildly popular it was. The downswing in the economy doesn’t seem to have hurt them much, if the massive traffic when I visited is any indication. There’s just one land route, which has a toll bridge. Six dollars later and you’ll be on the island.

A good part of the island is a National Wildlife Refuge, but the rest is developed and then some. The high rises are closer to the beach, with the small touristy buildings near the bridge. I like the old lighthouse on the east end of the island, even with the two dollar parking fee. There’s a very new NRHP there, the ‘Tween Waters Inn. I hadn’t planned on going back, but I guess I’ll have to brave a return visit. Still, if I go on a weekend next time, perhaps I’ll enjoy it more. (see Google map)

There are a few bits left around the edges. Like the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium, which appears to be surrounded by a golf course. And the Railroad Museum of South Florida, not to be confused with the Southwest Florida Museum of History housed in an old railroad depot. (see Google map)

Time to go to Naples. But along the way is a state park that made me break my 30 minute rule. One of my top ten favorites, Koreshan Unity Settlement Historic District. It was the home of an odd cult (yep, Florida). They’re not around anymore, since celibacy was part of their religion, and they didn’t get that many converts. There’s a shocker. But most of the wooden buildings they constructed remain, after over 100 years. It’s right on US 41, so it’s easy to find and not a diversion at all.

Oh, the 30 minute rule? Well, I wanted to visit all 150+ state parks in a reasonable amount of time. Especially since I was trying to visit all 1600 or so NRHPs as well. So I decided early on to only spend a half hour in each state park. If I liked what I saw, I could always come back in the future and spend more time. There were only a few state parks that tempted me into staying longer during the first visit, like Koreshan. That it’s on the NRHP as well was a factor, but I’m also a sucker for the bizarre. And Koreshanity? Pretty bizarre. (see Google map)

There you are, southwest Florida. I shan’t be doing a Naples post for a few weeks, unless there’s a-clamoring. So many places, doncha know. See you on the road!

Route length: 230 miles

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This series of posts will be about the last part of the state I visited, southwest Florida. US 41 through Charlotte and Lee Counties, specifically. I wrote an extensive description of my first visit in April 2010. I made a follow-up trip the following year, to get those bits and bobs I didn’t get before. Now I’ll give you the whole kit and kaboodle, in one nicely wrapped package. Well, two.

Note that this area contains one of the larger concentrations of National Wildlife Refuges in the state. Most are restricted to the public, as they are, you know, meant to be refuges for wildlife away from people.

This part of the state was also hit hard by the collapse of the housing bubble. Couldn’t prove it by me, though. When I was there in 2010 and 2011, there was much hustling and bustling. No empty storefronts I could see, or forests of For Sale signs. They seem to be recovering now, so go and pump some money into their economy, eh?

First off is Charlotte County. In a state with possum monuments and psychic towns and gravity defying hills and bat towers, the first stop on this trip is in a class by itself. And I’ve not seen it yet! I’ve gotten to most everything I wanted in that region, so I dunno when I’ll get around to checking it out. Maybe on the way back from spending a night in Everglades City.

Oh, the quirky attraction, which I hope is still there? It’s in a Dairy Queen off I-75 at the Kings Highway exit. In one of their restrooms, to be specific. It’s the she-inal. Which is a urinal, for women.

What a brilliant idea, right? Not so much. Someone came up with the concept in the ’90s, and they were installed all over the US. In Dairy Queens, primarily. They weren’t popular, though, so they gradually disappeared from DQ bathrooms. This one, near Port Charlotte, is one of the few left. Yep, another of those ‘only in Florida’ oddities that make me love my home state. Thank you, Lord, for making Florida so… abby-normal.

Next stop is a terrific place to learn about the counties’ past, the Charlotte County Historical Center. The lady there when I visited was very helpful. There are a goodly number of books and old photographs, so soak up all the history you like.

Across the street is the site of the old Mott Willis Store. It’s one of the sad NRHP stories, since it was torn down only a year after being added to the Register. Many people labor under the misapprehension that National Register status protects sites from destruction. Not so. It mostly recognizes they’re worth protecting. It allows access to tax incentives for restoration and such, and can be used to promote a place to encourage preservation. But I’ve run across several buildings that have been demolished by man, not nature, after being added. Sometimes money from Uncle Sam can’t fix a problem, doncha know.

From here, head southwest. You’re heading for Boca Grande, but there’s some stuff to see along the way. Like El Jobean. It was a housing development that never really developed. Just off El Jobean Road you can find two NRHPs, an old post office and old hotel across the street. The hotel is barely visible. Not because it’s far from the road, but because it’s horrendously overgrown. I’m surprised that any of it is standing. Unless someone takes an interest in the near future, it won’t be standing for much longer. The post office, on the other hand, is in use. There are some pictures of the area in one room, and the rest is a casual restaurant. I recommend the burgers. The one I had was yummy and decently priced. That and the fries held me over most of the way back to Ocala.

Over a bridge and you’re near two state parks, Stump Pass Beach and Don Pedro Island. The first looks popular (nice beaches). Don Pedro Island is only accessible by boat, so if you’ve not got one (like me), you’ll have to just look at the island from the dock on the shore. (see Google map)

About 3 miles down from the Don Pedro Island State Park shoreside entrance, take a right onto Boca Grande Causeway. Which will lead you, inevitably, to Boca Grande, which is in Lee County. It’s like several of the islands around here, where there’s a fee to get on them. Usually it’s around 5 to 6 bucks.

Once you pay, you’re on your way. There are a couple more bridges you’ll cross, where you can see quite a few boats on the water. It is built up, but nowhere near as much as, say, Sanibel Island. After the bridges, you’ll be on a narrow two-lane road with a bike/walking path next to it. Eventually the road opens up a bit and you’re in Boca Grande proper.

The historic sites are in clusters, so you’ll be doing the park-walk-drive-repeat tango a few times. But I don’t think you’ll mind, since there’s little traffic and adequate parking all over and it’s so darn quaint.

Keep heading south on Gulf Boulevard and you’ll get to Gasparilla Island State Park, where besides some outstanding beaches you’ll find two old lighthouses. One is tall and metal, which you’ll pass first. At the end of the road is the other, low and square. The keeper’s quarters are right next to it. If you get there at sunrise on a weekday morning, like I did, there’s a good chance you’ll have the place to yourself. I can imagine there are hordes of people here on the weekends. If you look northeast, you may be able to make out the Island Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a restricted one, so even with a boat you can’t land on it. Admire it only from afar. (see Google map)

Time to head back to the mainland, and Charlotte County. You want to catch US 41 south. Once you cross the bridge over the Peace River, you’ll be smack in Punta Gorda.

In fact, you’re pretty much in the historic district. I’ll dwell on it in a bit, but first the outlying stuff.

Go northeast on US 17 to get to the neighborhood where two NRHP houses are. Villa Bianca is a private home, but you can get fairly close to the Babcock House. I think it’s been recently renovated; it looks practically new when I was there. (see Google map)

Now head back towards downtown. You’ll notice how little developed it is along here. I don’t know why, but it’s nice to see for a change.

The old high school got hit hard by the 2004 hurricanes, but you couldn’t tell. They’ve done a great job with repairs. I was there on a weekday, and the place was in full swing. Nearby is the old railroad depot, which is now a historical museum. (see Google map)

North on US 41 will get you back to the historic district. It’s moderate-sized, so you can’t just park the spot and walk the whole thing, unless you want to spend half the day doing so. Check the map link and decide your strategy. Parking is good, with some streets metered. On Retta Esplanade west of US 41, there’s a city park where you needn’t pay for parking. So if you want to do more walking then driving, park here and save yourself some money.

It’s a pretty park anyway, right on the river, so it’s worth stopping at in its own right. There are also standard park facilities available, well-maintained. After you’ve been on as many roadtrips as I have, you find yourself being as happy to find clean public restrooms as interesting historical sites. File them away for future trips. Knowing where the bathrooms are will save you a whole bunch of leg crossing and feelings of desperation.

If it’s open, you can visit the A. C. Freeman House, which has a history museum and Chamber of Commerce offices. Lots of useful info to be had there, I’m sure.

I wasn’t particularly moved when I first visited Punta Gorda. It just seemed like a generic model for midsized Florida cities. The second time, though, I warmed up to it. The weather was as close to perfect as it gets on both trips, which helped. I also noticed how beachy it felt. It’s the architecture; quite a few houses along Retta Esplanade wouldn’t look out of place in Cedar Key or Fernandina Beach. Which is odd, since Punta Gorda doesn’t have beaches. Not even on the river.

I’ve knocked everything off the list that I wanted to see in Punta Gorda, so it’s not like I feel compelled to go back there. But there’s a niggling wish that a new NRHP will get added so I’d have to return to photograph it. And let’s not forget the she-inal. We shall see. (see Google map)

You can go down Burnt Store Road to get to Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park. It don’t impress me much. If you like hiking or horseback riding, you’ll probably love it, ’cause there are scads of room to do both. (see Google map)

Otherwise, go south on US 41. In a little while, the buildings thin out. You’re not driving through protected lands, but it feels like you are. There’s mostly road and semi-prairieness for the next 15 miles. Enjoy, because after this there’s nothing but city driving.

That’s it for Charlotte County, and a little bit of Lee. Next time, the rest of Lee. See you on the road!

Route length: 100 miles

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This trip will take you down US 41, from the Georgia border to Lake City. It’s another one with mixed emotions for me, as this was part of the last trip I took with Mom. We went the other direction, of course. We went up US 41 all the way to Valdosta, over to Thomasville, then down to Monticello and home. It was a cold February, but the memories of those trips with her will always keep me warm.

OK, the trip. If you come down I-75, you can stop at the Welcome Center for some orange juice and information. If you come down US 41, you may pass through Valdosta. There’s some nice historic stuff in town, but I won’t go into that now. You will almost certainly go through Lake Park, and there’s an NRHP only a couple blocks south of US 41 there. It’s the Ewell Brown General Store, and it’s home to the local history museum. Hours are limited, as it’s operated by volunteers, like many such museums. Check ahead if you want to see inside.

Keep going south. There’s an NRHP farm in the area, but I couldn’t find it. It’s likely too far off the road to see. In about 5 miles you’ll cross the state line and be in Florida. Technically you’re in Jennings now, but you won’t see much for another couple of miles.

There’s not a lot to see in Jennings. I am curious about the history, but haven’t found much of anything about it. There’s a school on the NRHP, and a few spots from AGFHA. There do look to be some older houses north of US 41, so some aimless driving may not be amiss. (see Google map)

  • Jennings Post Office (1221 Hamilton Ave (SR 141)) (AGFHA)
  • Mercantile Stores (Hamilton Ave (SR 141)) (AGFHA)
  • Jennings High School (1291 Florida Street) (NRHP)
  • McCall Bates House (SR 150) (AGFHA)
  • Apalahoochee Bridge (dirt road off SR 141 (NW 9th Dr, NE of Jennings)) (AGFHA)

You’ll be paralleling I-75 for the next few miles, then US 41 veers east. You’re not going to see much traffic, since most people will use the Interstate. Which means you’ll have the road to yourself, so enjoy the countryside.

It’s about 12 miles from Jennings to the next town, Jasper, and you’ll cross a modern bridge over the Alapaha River about half way. The road merges with US 129 and SR 100, then you’ll be in Jasper.

I like Jasper. Maybe because it’s bigger than Jennings, so there’s more to see. And they’ve got a nice historic downtown area. Only a couple of NRHPs; the Old County Jail and the United Methodist Church. Also a few sites from AGFHA. I think the Ginning Company Warehouse is the building across from the old jail. Jasper is the county seat of Hamilton County, so I’ve included the courthouse on the itinerary. It’s not historic, though. Looks like it was built maybe 30 or 40 years ago. But if you want to see all the county courthouses in the state, knock yourself out. (see Google map)

  • Hamilton County Historical Museum (Old Jail) (501 1st Ave Northeast) (NRHP)
  • Jasper Ginning Co. Warehouse (501 1st Avenue Northeast?) (AGFHA)
  • W.Y. Sandlin House (Southeast 1st St. and Central Ave.) (AGFHA)
  • Hamilton County Courthouse (207 Northeast 1st Street)
  • Commercial Bank (102 Hattey Street) (AGFHA)
  • Kirby L. Sandlin House (208 1st Ave. SW) (AGFHA)
  • W.R. Drury House (306 Central Ave) (AGFHA)
  • United Methodist Church (Central Avenue and 5th Street) (NRHP)

You’ve got a long straight road ahead of you. It’s miles and miles of miles and miles. About 17, until you get to White Springs.

I’m really fond of White Springs. It’s just so charming. Most of the central part is a historic district. You’ll find the historic buildings near US 41, farther off are mostly mobile homes. Still, it’s got a state park information center, with an old bath house behind it from the days when the area was a resort. Check out the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, too. If you time it right, you’ll hear the carillon tower bells. (see Google map)

There’s another state park outside the city limits, Big Shoals. Not signed at all, so it’s a dickens to find unless you have a map. Apparently it’s popular with rafters, since there are rapids along the river.

According to AGFHA, there are tobacco barns scattered around the county. If so, I haven’t seen any along US 41. If anyone knows where some of them are, could you let me know? If you jog over to US 441, you’ll find the Corinth Methodist Church. I stumbled on it accidently while in search of the Goodbread-Black Farm Historic District. Didn’t find that, but the church was a pleasant surprise. The . Ironic that later I found that the church was in AGFHA. Sometimes it’s worth zigging when you think you should be zagging.

Back to US 41, and off the road somewhat is another old church, Falling Creek. The church and cemetery are on the NRHP. Another old wooden church that’s in excellent condition. The cemetery is rather small, and covered by trees. It’s a quiet spot, so walk around and think of what the lives of the people here were like. (see Google map)

That’s it for now. See you on the road!

Route length: 60 miles

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It didn’t take me long the find the Punta Gorda Atlantic Coast Line Depot (photos), at about 2. It’s a historical museum now. The weather was sunny, toasty and breezy. Great light for photo-taking, as you can see above.

My next stop, Charlotte High School was the first school I encountered the whole trip that was in session. Perhaps appropriate, since it was the last school on my list. Thing is, there was an ambulance and police cars on the street in front. It may have been an accident, I couldn’t tell for sure. They were putting someone on a stretcher, and I could only hope things would work out. My access to the historic school building on campus wasn’t restricted by the hubbub, fortunately. I remembered that it had gotten severe damage in the ’04 and ’05 hurricane seasons, but you couldn’t tell. Whoever fixed it up did an outstanding job.

I headed west in search of the A. C. Freeman House, but could find no sign of it. Moved, I hoped. I was happily right on that, as I discovered later.

Going along La Villa Road, I saw a number of understated historic looking houses, enough for a historic district. Then it was some windy roads until I got to Shore Drive, where I easily found the Clarence L. Babcock House.

After that, back to Punta Gorda proper, and the old ice plant. Got front and back shots, including a brick building in back which was likely where the ice was stored. That building is now a pub, open at 3 in the afternoon. Hmm.

Charlotte County Courthouse

It wasn’t far to the historic district (street view). It’s referred to as residential, but the boundaries encompass most of downtown. I parked near a corner of the district and walked around the downtown area. Not all, but enough so I saw the H. W. Smith Building and the old First National Bank . The courthouse I liked especially, what a surprise. Back to the car by 4, and hunger struck. I staved it off with the ever-reliable Altoids.

Heading for the Punta Gorda Woman’s Club, I drove right by the A. C. Freeman House. It must have been moved. Very nice condition, which figures since it’s now the home of the Chamber of Commerce. The women’s club parking lot was full. I was lucky to find a parking space, so I got out and took pictures as quickly as possible.

Then I drove around the residential part of the district. Reminds me of the main historic district here in Ocala, but with fewer trees. I stopped at a city park on the edge of the district next to the Peace River. Did a recce for the next stage of travel. It was almost 4:30, and I knew I had only a few hours of good daylight left, and I did want to get home at something of a reasonable time. Options in mind, I departed, unlikely to return. I only missed a museum, and the city doesn’t entice me enough to draw me back.

Over the Peace River bridge, I was in Port Charlotte almost immediately. I turned off the Trail, and reached the Charlotte County Historical Center. It was almost 5, which is when they close, but I got in and talked to a nice lady inside. She confirmed that the A. C. Freeman House was moved, as I thought. Also, the Mott Willis Store, which should have been across the street, had been demolished only a year after getting on the NRHP. Which just goes to show, being on the Register is no guarantee of permanent preservation. Got a pamphlet about the historical society for future reference, and was off.

Once back on the Trail, I was in the thick of rush hour. It wasn’t completely horrible, but it did slow me down. My travel options were narrowing.

I got off and headed towards El Jobean, which didn’t take too long to reach. I missed the road to get off at which would get me to the historic stuff. I u-turned and found the road. Yeah, I do a lot of u-turning. I get a workout when I travel, even while I’m driving.

Two places on my list in El Jobean. An old hotel, about the size of a house, abandoned and surrounded by scrub bushes. Couldn’t really get a good shot of it, but took a couple anyway. More accessible was the former post office and general store (street view), which is now a museum and restaurant. It’s where I found out the origin of the town’s name. It’s not, as one might think, Spanish. No, the town’s founder, Joel Bean, created it by making an anagram of his name. I’d wanted to get to Boca Grande, but was too far, especially this late in the day (almost 6 PM). And even though sundown wasn’t until 8, the light was now not as ideal as I liked.

Before I left, I got my third meal in an NRHP site. I ordered it to-go, though. Got a bacon cheeseburger, and I think the bacon was applewood, ‘cause it was sweet, with fries. About 7 bucks, and really good. I’ll have to go this way when I do make it to Boca Grande, and will have to remember this place for future reference. Good food, lots of it, decent prices, historic building, they’ve got it all.

For me, this was the beginning of the end of the excursion, since I knew I wasn’t going to get many more photos.

I went through Englewood and the since there was still OK light, I stopped at the Lemon Bay Woman’s Club. It looks like a few of the other
woman’s clubs throughout the state. I wonder if one architect designed several of them?

I wondered if I’d ever reach Venice, but I finally got there about 6:45. I drove under a bridge to get to the Venice Depot. This was one of those occasions where late photo-taking worked out nice, since the near-sunset light gave a lovely golden glow to the depot. It’s also in very nice condition, thank goodness. There was an awful smell in the area, though. It wasn’t industrial. Maybe fishy? I had to hold my nose, it was so bad. I backtracked and drove over the bridge into downtown Venice, and no more smell.

Downtown Venice was busy, and on a Tuesday night. I drove around a bit, but couldn’t easily find any of the stuff in the area I wanted to get pictures of. Since it was less than an hour to sunset, it wasn’t worth expending too much more effort, so I officially ended the photo-taking portion of the trip. After this, it was just heading home.

I have to say, I like SR 681. It’s a 4-mile-long or so connecter between US 41 and I-75. It also has a nice long on-ramp that gives you plenty of time to get to speed to get onto the interstate. None of this 0-to-65 in no time like most of them.

Heading north, it was smooth sailing. Not much traffic at all. I got to the Sarasota area by about 8, just around sunset. There was another half-hour of civil twilight and not long after that I was on familiar territory; I-75 around Tampa. The traffic was light, which was great. I thought about getting off to US 301, but figured that I was through what’s usually the worst part of the interstate around here, so I didn’t.

Which turned out to be a big mistake, as the first theme of this trip reared it’s ugly head in a big way. I’d just got past the I-75/I-275 split, when suddenly the traffic slowed to a crawl. Fortunately, there was a rest stop coming up, so I pulled off. I accidentally went into the truck parking area, and since there’s no connection between it and the regular car area, I parked between two trucks. I got out and found the security guys, who told me there was a stretch of I-75 that had only one lane open. I don’t know if they were widening or repaving or what. Thing is, there shouldn’t have been enough traffic to make it a problem. I mean, why were all these people driving on a Tuesday night at quarter-‘til-9 going north out of Tampa, huh? They should be all home watching Dancing with the Stars.

I called my cousin Paul and filled him in, then figured, what the hell. I was going to get a cup of coffee to wake me up anyway, why not a nap instead? So I got back to the car and let the seat back, cracked open the windows, and conked out about 9. When I felt better rested I looked at my watch and, lo-and-behold, it was 10:30. Yes, I’d napped for an hour and a half. The traffic looked immensely better, so I gave it a shot. It looked like it was thickening up as I got on the interstate, but it wasn’t too bad. Turned out the one lane portion was only about a mile, had to drive around 30 mph but was through it quick.

Much clearer from then on, even though I ran into another one-lane stretch about a half hour later. There there was so little traffic, though, that I could go through at 50 mph and get past it in no time. I got off at the Lake Panasoffkee exit, as it was close to US 301. I was a little disoriented, since I’d never driven this part at night, but once I found US 301, I was on very familiar territory from that point on. I forgot about the construction of the bridge over the railroad tracks in Wildwood, and more in Oxford near the Villages. Dang, it’s not gonna be much fun at the begiinning of any southbound roadtrip for months.

Finally, blessedly, I got home. At a quarter-after-midnight. Which should have been more like 10:30. Oh well, I got home safe, and had a good time (mostly), and that’s what counts. The whole trip was more than 850 miles, and I took over 1213 photos. Exactly one more than I took on my Easter trip in 2008. But that one was only three days long. So, not a record for me, but sort of one anyway.

More travelogues to come. Not nearly as compendious, ‘cause they’ll only be for my usual day-long trips.

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Mom’s E.T. in the hotel bed, again

Looking out the hotel window, towards Tamiami Trail

Fort Myers. The final day.

It’s funny, I didn’t set an alarm the whole trip, and I get up nearly the same time every morning. Like this day, once again, 7:30. They had the whole setup to make coffee in the room, so I had some nice fresh-brewed before I stepped out the door. As can be seen in the photo above I took out the window, it was another lovely day, great weather to end the trip.

I had breakfast at the very same Holiday Inn in which I stayed. I was the only one in the dining room, and it took longer than I expected for my order to get done. Maybe it was just me being impatient to get going. Wait, I just realized I had slow service at about half the places I ate this trip. Weird. Still, worth the wait. I got a fresh veggie omelet (even had broccoli) on taters, like a veggie Asher. But healthier, as I got it with Egg Beaters and whole wheat toast. I knew it would hold me for a good long time.

I’ll have to wax eloquent about Ashers some other time, and how much I miss Skeeters, and their big biscuits, and great Chinese food.

So I got going by 9, and it was cool and comfortable again. First stop was Edison Park Elementary School (photos). It was closed, so spring break must be the whole week. There wasn’t fencing around the buildings, so I could get some nice shots.
The school was only a few blocks from my next stop, the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates. I met one of the groundskeepers and had a nice chat. He rides a motorcycle in his spare time, and told me about a nice restaurant in Okeechobee, ironically. It’s called the Cowboys BBQ and Steak Co., and I’ll have to try it when I go back to look for the Battlefield. As far as the Estates, he said it’s 20 bucks to get in. To me, it wasn’t worth spending that much with the small amount of time I planned to spend there, so I took photos from outside the low fence around the grounds. Which was good enough. There was another house on my list next to the estates, Casa Rio. It was completely gated, though, so I had to settle for some so-so shots with the zoom. Can’t always get ideal pictures of every place I’d like, doncha know.

Across from the street from the estates is where you got tickets to get in and other information. Speaking of which, they were able to confirm my suspicion that Anderson Avenue is now Martin Luther King Boulevard. It was the one boundary line of the downtown historic district that I didn’t have. With that, I knew the area I had to cover. The information area was also part of the botanical segment of the Edison Estate. There was a large stand of ficus trees there, which Edison had planted to experiment with for rubber production. I remember what a problem those trees were in Miami, ‘cause their roots can enter pinholes in underground water pipes and clog them. And the roots can grow a really long distance from the tree itself. Could those damn trees be his fault?

I was going to save the district for last. The next place was the William H. Towles House. What a weird address. It’s 2050 MacGregor Boulevard. Not so weird. But next to it was 2036, and next to that was 2052. So 2050, then 2036, then 2052? The house is now office space, which at least means it’s being used and kept up well.

Headed east, and got shots of the old Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Station (now the Southwest Florida Museum of History), then the Imaginarium Hands-On Museum. The latter was very… blue. Didn’t go in to either, ‘cause of time constraints. And I’m not much of a museum guy.

Next, another school, the Paul Lawrence Dunbar School. Closed. Large grounds, so did a bit of walking to get shots from all sides.

Then it was back west towards downtown. I got shots of the Gilmer Heitman House and Alderman House, even though the addresses were slightly different. Thank you, Guide to Florida’s Historic Architecture.

Murphy-Burroughs House

Drove a few more blocks and parked behind the Langford-Kingston Home, which was being reno’d. it’s also across from the Murphy-Burroughs House, which to me is almost as nice as Lapham-Patterson House in Thomasville, Georgia. Took lots of shots, front, back and sides. Also got photos of the US 41 bridges (street view) behind the house that go over the Caloosahatchee River. They’re quite a sight.

Last but most, the downtown historic district (photos and street view). I found a parking spot with almost 2 hours still on meter, hurrah! Don’t hate me because I’m lucky. I feel like I earned that spot, ‘cause I walked that whole dang district in just over half an hour. OK, most of it. I got decent pictures of everything I wanted. Well, except the Lee County Courthouse, because there was construction going on in front, so got best I could. I was done and going north over one of the bridges by 12:40.

Overall, I like Fort Myers. I’ll have to come back eventually, since there’s a few spots I missed around the edges of the city. Maybe I’ll even tour the Edison and Ford Estates when I return.

Guess what’s next? Yes, another school! The J. Colin English School (photos and street view), to exact. Closed. It’s odd to see so many elementary and middle schools closed on weekdays. I’m not complaining, it let me get clear pictures without hordes of kids running around.

Back to US 41, there was a BP, thank goodness, ‘cause I needed a fill-up. While doing that, I chatted with a couple in a car with Hawaii plates. They live there a few months out of the year, and bring the license plate with them, for amusement value, mostly. After I filled up, I called Richard for my check-up call of the day. Went back into the store and got some snack stuff, and departed by 1:30.

I like this section of US 41 (street view). It reminds me of US 441 between ocala and gainesville, but a bit bleaker and with more coastal vegetation. Liking the 65 mph speed limit, too.

Which was over too soon, once I entered Punta Gorda. An OK place, with a generic Florida mid-sized city look. More on that in the next post.

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