Archive for the ‘US 441’ Category

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Remember the trip around Lake Okeechobee? Well, if you come from the north, there’s some neat historical stuff along the way. You do have to contend with suburban Orlando traffic. ‘Tis the Land of the Mouse, doncha know. But once you get out of St. Cloud, you’ll feel like you’re in the back of beyond. One of the great things about Florida. Even if you’re in a major metropolis, you can find somewhere within an hour’s drive where you’ll feel like you’ve dropped off the face of the earth. I think Florida will always be that way.

We start off in Osceola County, with Disney World’s closest major suburb here (only 13 miles away), Kissimmee. Coming from the north, you can reach it via US 441 or the Turnpike through Orlando, or US 192 from US 27. I’ll give you directions to things scattered around the outskirts, mostly museums. (see Google map)

Now we’ll head downtown. First, though, get to Old Dixie Highway. The Colonial Estate is private, but you can see it from the road. A good zoom lens will allow you to get some decent photos. 

The streets in downtown Kissimmee run at an angle, not directly north-south and east-west. It can throw you off for a bit until you adjust. Most of the buildings below are in the boundaries of the historic district. An interesting non-building is the Monument of States, which is built from material accumulated from all the states. Well, except Alaska and Hawaii, since it was built after the Pearl Harbor attack. The buildings are clustered in different spots. Look at the map and decide where best to strategically park. It’s a very busy downtown, but I’ve not had problems finding decent parking. (see Google map)

I’m including the Lanier House, but it’s very out of the way, and Street View doesn’t show much there. It’s possible that the place is gone. Or possibly moved to the Pioneer Village and Museum. There is a Lanier House there. I’d check there first. (see Google map)

  • Lanier House (1964 Ham Brown Road) (AGFHA)

Get back on US 441 and head east. You’ll go under the Turnpike, and now you’re in St. Cloud. There was a sugar plantation here, all remnants of which are gone. There’s only a historical marker near city hall to commemorate its existence. When you get to Florida Avenue, take a left. You’ll be able to get to all the sites of interest off this road. Go to the lakefront first and see the Sam Lupfer-Davidson House, and other older houses near it. There’s also a nice city park on the lake if you want to stretch your legs and take in a view of the lake. 

Head back down Florida Avenue. There are nice old homes along here too. There’s probably more on the side streets. Consider taking one or two and see what turns up.

When you get near downtown, follow the map below. Like Kissimmee, the historic stuff is clustered. You can see everything by only parking in three or four places. There are also older looking buildings which might entice you to wander further. Another place I’m surprised isn’t a historic district. Or two. (see Google map)

  • Sam Lupfer-Davidson House (711 Lakeshore Blvd) (AGFHA)
  • St. Luke and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (813 10th St) (AGFHA)
  • Livingstone Memorial Church-First United Methodist Church (1025 10th St) (AGFHA)
  • Hamilton Disston Sugar Plantation Marker (South side of 9th St., between New York and Massachusetts Aves) (AGFHA)
  • St. Cloud Hotel (1004 New York Ave) (AGFHA)
  • St. Cloud Heritage Museum (1012 Massachusetts Avenue)
  • Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall (1101 Massachusetts Avenue) (NRHP)
  • First National Bank Building-Golden Age Club (1200 New York Ave) (AGFHA)
  • Walking trail

Get back on US 441. If you want to get to Lake Okeechobee by an off-route, head back west until you get to Canoe Creek Road, then head south. You’ll think you’re never going to see the end of civilization, but eventually you will. Then there’s only miles of road and trees, with a blip of the modern world when you drive over the Turnpike. You can’t get lost. There’s a trailhead for the Sunset Ranch Interpretive Trail, if you feel like hiking for a while. Keep going south and you’ll pass over the Turnpike again. You’ll be in Kenansville, then back on US 441. (see Google map)

  • Sunset Ranch Interpretive Trail (1003 State Road 523)

But I’ll extol the virtues of Kenansville later. If you choose not to go down Canoe Creek Road, head east on US 441 when you’ve finished exploring St. Cloud. Before you know it, the buildings will thin out. You’re heading into rural Osceola County. When you reach the US 92/US 441 split, you can keep on US 92 and see the Holopaw State Forest. It doesn’t look that big, and I’m not sure what facilities it has, if any.(see Google map)

Now you’re going down a road that most casual tourists don’t see. Since the Turnpike parallels US 441 most of the way until it jogs east on its way to Miami, only locals go down this road. Or those going to the city of Okeechobee. Even those probably take the Turnpike at least to Yeehaw Junction. This is why I like this section of US 441. It’s so completely opposite of what you’ll see on it going through Orlando. And the speed limit is close to that of the Turnpike, so you’re not losing that much time.

This is agrarian Florida. More specifically, cattle country. People outside Florida (and even inside) think citrus and tourism are our major industries. But cattle ranching is still right up there with the rest. You’ll see prairies with roaming cows all the way down. This is what much of Florida was like a hundred years ago. Development is encroaching, but I think it’ll stay concentrated on the coast and around urban areas like Orlando. Unless something radically changes, I expect a lot of this part of the state will look the same a hundred years from now.

It’s almost 70 miles until you reach Okeechobee. There are a few picnic spots on the side of the road, if you need to pull over and rest. But there are some small towns along the way, with more amenities, if needed. 

The first is 18 miles from Holopaw. I mentioned it earlier; Kenansville. I think it started out as a train stop. I don’t believe it was ever a bustling metropolis, but it did appear to be a small thriving community. Enough so to have a bank and rather large cemetery. You’ll find them all on Canoe Creek Road. Nearest are the old bank and the Heartbreak Hotel. The rest are to the west. The old cemetery is the farthest, just before you get to the Turnpike overpass. There’s a modern convenience store on the corner, where you can get knoshies to tide you over until you get to the big city of Okeechobee. (see Google map)

  • Piney Woods Inn-Heartbreak Hotel (1350 South Canoe Creek Road) (AGFHA)
  • Kenansville Bank (1351 South Canoe Creek Road) (AGFHA)
  • Kenansville School (795 South Canoe Creek Road) (AGFHA)
  • Post Office (795 South Canoe Creek Road) (AGFHA)
  • Kenansville Cemetery (199 South Canoe Creek Road)
  • Walking trail 

Now one of my favorite places, for name value. Another of my many travel interests are unusual Florida place names. I’ve visited DeFuniak Springs, Wewahitchka, Two Egg, and Zolfo Springs. I’ve been to Venus and Jupiter. The towns, not the planets.
But right up there is Yeehaw Junction. The few times I went this way to or from Miami, I stayed on the Turnpike. I saw the exit for Yeehaw Junction and always wondered what it was like. Finally, I took the plunge.

Not much to see, honestly. A company was trying to do residential development here, but didn’t get too far. The economy and gas prices would likely have killed the project, but malfeasance got there first.

Can’t say I’m really sorry. Don’t let Yeehaw Junction become the next Clermont (now more of a bedroom community for Orlando).
If you’re going to south Florida, and want to save some money, get off at this exit and take SR 60 to Vero Beach and catch I-95. It’s about 20 miles, with a 65 mph speed limit almost the whole way.

Back to the Junction. You’ll drive over the Turnpike, and it’s only a couple miles further. Right at the intersection of US 441 and SR 60 is the furthest south NRHP in Osceola County, the Desert Inn. It’s decades old, started as a place for cowboys to stop on cattle drives across this part of the state. I don’t know how much it’s still used by cowboys, but bikers seem to like it, which is always a good sign. I got a sandwich there, and it was pretty good. So if you didn’t get any food before this and are feeling hungry, give it a try. If you need gas, there are a couple of stations east on SR 60 on the way to the Turnpike. One of them is also a Stuckey’s. (see Google map)

The next major stop after this is Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. There’s a northern entrance, supposedly, but I’ve not been that way. I’m going to direct you to the southern entrance.

It’s easy to get to. Drive to the back of beyond, turn right and go past the middle of nowhere, hang another right until you get to BFE, keep going and there you’ll be.

Not much of an exaggeration, really. It’s about 18 miles down US 441 to the turnoff for the park. Another 10 miles will get you to a small collection of streets and mobile homes, where you’ll have to drive real slow. I think 25 mph. Signage directing you to the park is good, so if you’ve followed it, you’ll reach the entrance gate. There’s no ranger station there, it’s an honor system park. You still have even more miles of dirt road to traverse before you get to camping areas and the turnoff for the ranger station and museum.

This is the park I would send people to if they complain about how overdeveloped Florida is. There’s getting away from it all, really getting away from it all, then there’s coming here. I’m not much for camping, but I may spend the night here someday. The view of the night sky here is supposed to be spectacular. I’d say it’s the furthest away place from city lights in Florida. A cool fall evening here would be something else.

From here, you can go along the road on the map indicated and see the remnants of Fort Basinger. Not much more than a historical marker, really. The few buildings left are on private property, far from the road.

Or you can go all the way back to US 441 and head south for 15 miles until you reach Okeechobee. Not a lot to see either way except prairies. But if you’re like me, and enjoy the journey as much as the destination, you’ll be happy whichever one you choose.

That’s it, y’all. See you on the road!

Route length: 95 miles

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September 22 (Wednesday)

The day of departure arrived. We got on the road about 5:30, if memory serves. The point of the trip for me was to see “not Florida”, so getting to Georgia by sunrise (7:17 AM) was a deliberate choice. It was closer to 8:00, but I was still happy. I think we stopped at a Burger King or McDonalds for a quick breakfast.

The rest of the trip was so-so, at least for a while. I don’t recommend I-75 for scenic driving. It’s not bad, but it’s bestrewn with billboards like you wouldn’t believe. The ones for Magnolia Plantation alone were every mile, which made me not visit. I hate being clubbed over the head with advertising.

Then we got to the outskirts of Atlanta. Another reason I wanted to leave early was to avoid rush hour. We got there about 3:00. There was construction, so we considered the trip a success. Because if you go on a long trip, you’re going to encounter road construction, so you might as well make the best of it.

We took I-675 and I-285, which form the eastern part of the Atlanta roundabout. Finally, we reached I-85 and headed away from Atlanta. I remember telling Mom that I never wanted to move to Atlanta, and if I ever said I did want to move there, or within 20 miles of there, to remind me of this part of the trip.

We drove by Gainesville, Georgia, which I was tempted to get off the interstate to see, but it wasn’t a strong impulse.

Not that much farther, I-85 ends. Not abruptly, it just becomes US 23. Sort of like what happens to I-95 in Miami. You’re driving south and suddenly you’re on US 1.

Back to Georgia. We stopped for gas and use of the facilities at a country store type place. I was hoping to stay in North Carolina that night, and we looked good for that.

After a little while, I felt like I was on familiar territory, because US 441 merged into US 23. It’s an old friend, wherever it is.

Tallulah Gorge

We made a tourist stop to see Tallulah Gorge, and I really felt like I wasn’t in Florida anymore. You just don’t see this kind of terrain in the Sunshine State. It was almost like my trip had really begun.

The road continued to get hillier as I went through Clayton and Dillard. We crossed into North Carolina, and arrived in Franklin by around 5:00. Mission accomplished.

Except, at first, not so much. I hadn’t made hotel reservations, since I wasn’t sure how far we’d get. Went to Days Inn at first, since Mom and I like them. There were hardly any cars in the parking lot, so I thought we were set.

Not so! Every room was booked, because there were electricians and other workers in town repairing all the damage from Hurricane Ivan. But the desk clerk very nicely called around and found another hotel in town with rooms. And it was cheaper! We drove there and checked in, then ate at this nice little diner, which you could tell used to be a small convenience store. Back to the hotel and settled in. There was a gas station next door, and I had a hankering for something. I can’t remember now if it was ice cream or soda or what. Anyway, walked over and got, then back.

So, about 12 hours of driving, and I felt fine. I did almost all the driving for the trip, ‘cause I really like to drive. Mom did give me a couple of breaks during the trip, though.

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Seven years ago I took one of the best trips of my life. Two weeks on the road with my Mom. I know, some of you are probably thinking, “I couldn’t spend two hours in a car with my mother!” But Mom and I got along so well that it wasn’t a problem. Quite the contrary. Over the next few weeks, I’ll recount the trip. The pictures won’t be up to my usual standard, as they were BDC (before digital camera). C’est la vie.

The setup. I was still living in Gainesville and working at WebMD, and had accumulated a month’s worth of vacation time. I wanted to use it all, but TPTB said they couldn’t spare me for that long. Ironic, since I was laid off 6 months later. Anyway, we settled on 2 weeks.

I decided to leave in early September of 2004. I planned and plotted the trip for months beforehand. I really wanted Mom to go with me, and she was amenable. She’d retired years before, Dad had passed in 1999, and I wanted to get her out and about. I’d taken one weekend road trip in April to Columbia, South Carolina, solo. Fun, but I wanted to share this one.

There were 3 spots I wanted to visit on the trip:

  1. Nashville, Tennessee, the WebMD corporate headquarters. I know, on my vacation I go to work. But I wanted to meet some of the folks I’d been corresponding with through my job. And they could show me some of the scenic sights whilst I was there.
  2. Allentown, Pennsylvania , to meet someone I’d been corresponding with online for a while.
  3. Penns Grove, New Jersey, to visit Mom’s brother’s family, whom I’d not seen for twenty years or more. Funny thing. Mom and Dad came from Philadelphia, and most of the relatives still lived in the area. Mom didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the relatives we didn’t visit, so we didn’t tell them. Also, part of visiting them was that Mom wanted to get rid of a bunch of Christmas decorations, because she wasn’t putting them up as much, since it was an effort for her. One of my cousins there wanted to have the decorations. Mom was going to mail them, but there were 4 or 5 big boxes. I suggested just taking them to her. I figured that what we saved on postage would help pay for gas.

So Mom and I very assiduously budgeted for gas and food and lodging. Rachael Ray was doing her “$40 a Day” food travel show, so that’s what we budgeted for food. At the end of the trip, we had money left over, since we rarely ate 40 dollars worth of food between us. Better to over budget than under.

My plan was to drive down after work to Ocala, where Mom lived. I’d spend the night, then we’d leave early the next morning. Then we’d drive up the east coast, avoiding the interstate so we could see the sights. I figured 3 or 4 days for that, then stopping in New Jersey. After that, over to Allentown, then Nashville, and home. I had maps and books so wherever we were, we’d not get lost.

That was the original plan. Then along came the hurricane season. Yeah. Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne. And those were just the ones that hit Florida. Charley was the one that made me make major revisions to the itinerary. It went right up the east coast, and I heard reports that roads through the area were washed out or had trees down or otherwise damaged. I didn’t think driving that way would be too scenic.

So, reverse it. Instead of New Jersey-Pennsylvania-West Virginia-Tennessee, it’d be Tennessee-West Virginia-Pennsylvania-New Jersey.

But I kept pushing back my departure. I didn’t want to be driving through a hurricane as I was leaving Florida, or on the way back. When Hurricane Ivan was going to come through in September, I went down to Ocala to help Mom if she needed it. She did, because the power went out and was out for almost a week. Ironically, the power at my place in Gainesville was fine.

By this point, I was ready to go-go-go! Then hurricane Jeanne came along, meandering all over the Atlantic, and I decided not to put it off any longer. I called my boss and said I was leaving on the 22nd. Since I’d put off leaving for about 3 weeks at this point, he was fine with it.

Now I can’t remember if I went to Ocala on the night of the 20th or the 21st. You know, I think it was the former. I probably wanted to give myself time to pack and rest and finalize travel plans.

I’ll post installments every few days. Later, y’all!

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The Desert Inn

So my first real stop was good ole Yeehaw Junction, home of the Desert Inn and Restaurant (photos and street view), listed on the NRHP. Middle of nowhere now, but a popular passthrough for farm workers and cattle drivers back in the day. Got a meal to go, which I’d never done at an NRHP site. That turned out to be one of the themes of this trip. More on that later.

The road through the Preserve

Down US 441 I went, turning off eventually to visit Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park (photos). Good lord, talk about out of the way. Anyone who says Florida is overdeveloped, just go to this park and you’ll be disabused of that notion. I did my usual quick hit-and-run tour, since it would take the good portion of a day to explore the whole place.

Leaving there, I headed south again until I reached US 98, which took me to the city of Okeechobee (photos). It’s bigger than one might expect, considering its location. No skyscrapers or such, mind you. There are a lot of visitors that go boating and fishing on the lake throughout the year, which I suppose helps. I’m not strongly moved by the city; don’t particularly love or hate it. To me, it’s a gate to other places.

Amongst the pictures I took, I got some of the Freedman-Raulerson House (photos), the only NRHP site in the city. South on US 441 again, I started the loop around the east side of Lake Okeechobee. I couldn’t find the Okeechobee Battlefield, which is not only on the NRHP, but is a National Historic Landmark. Have to do more research, since it’s the only place keeping me from having photos of all the NRHP sites in Okeechobee County. I love when I can knock out a county like that, and hate when I get close but can’t.

After a bit, I hung a left and caught State Road 710 to get to Indiantown. What’s in Indiantown, you may ask? The Seminole Inn (street view), I answer. It’s main claim to fame is that Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, stayed there because her uncle had built the hotel and helped develop the town. They also say they make great fried green tomatoes. I wish I’d had time to try them out.

Back to US 441, and Port Mayaca. Got shots of Cypress Lodge, best I could. Down to Pahokee. I couldn’t find the old Pahokee High School. When I got home, I discovered I’d had an imprecise location, and had driven right by it. Couldn’t check it off, therefore.

I did get to accomplish one of my big goals for this trip, which was to drive the entire length of US 441 in Florida. When we lived in Miami, it was a few blocks from the house and I drove up and down it a bunch. Then we moved here to Ocala and I moved to Gainesville, so I drove the stretch of US 441 between the two for more than 20 years. Over time, I’d driven every other section in the state, except the one bit between Pahokee and US 27. The last time I was there, in 2005, there was major construction going on. Not resurfacing, oh no. The road was gone. They’d removed an I-don’t-know-how-long stretch of it (several miles, at least), so I had to detour. Well, 5 years later, it was all done, and very nice it is too (street view).

On to Belle Glade, then left and heading west on US 27 through South Bay. I’ve heard there’s problems with the Dike, but I didn’t see anything. I noticed mile marker signs, like on the Interstates. Weird. They stopped at the Hendry County border. I wonder if it’s something that’s in the works for all the US routes?

I made no hotel reservations for the trip, since I didn’t know how far I’d get each day. I had a feeling that I’d have to stay in Clewiston the first night, and so it was. I hardly got any pictures, since it was close to sundown at this point. I found a nice efficiency style hotel, and only about $50 a night. The room had a full kitchenette! I’ll have to remember to look for this kind of place on future trips.

Where to eat? I decided to indulge and went to the Clewiston Inn (street view), which I’d say is the most important NRHP site in town. They have a gorgeous mural in the room where the bar is. The place is, as they say, top drawer. Sadly, I had the entire dining room to myself. A couple did come in after I sat, though. The waitress brought out some very good cornbread. There was barbeque on the menu, from the Old South Bar-B-Q, a place that had burned down and the Inn had acquired the name and recipes to use. But I didn’t want to go someplace that fancy and have barbeque. Since it wasn’t Good Friday, I didn’t need to restrict myself to fish. So I had prime rib (good, though a bit more rare than I ordered), mashed potatoes (good and fresh, with chunks and bits of skin), and hushpuppies (very good, but odd, since I’ve always gotten them with fish) Had room for desert, so I tried their key lime pie. Really good, and not too tart.

I returned to the hotel and called my friend Jeff, since I was so close. He lives in Broward County, and was only about 70 miles away. We talked, then I watched TV for a while. There was no FNC, though, how annoying. I did get to bed early, well before 10 PM.

That was day one. The editted highlights. And I got started late. Hang on for the next three days!

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At last, I got out on a roadtrip the weekend before last. I went on Sunday (the 6th). I prefer going out on Saturdays normally, as that gives me Sunday to start sorting through photos. However, that Saturday the weather was crappy, so there you go. I left about 6 in the AM, to get a good headstart. It was 36 degrees when I left around dawn. Cold for Florida, but I like it that way. It just invigorates me.

The first hour or so of the trip was in the car anyway, so I stayed quite toasty. I got to the first stop in my jaunt, High Springs, around 8 AM. Took some odds and ends photos around town, then headed north. I wasn’t intending on stopping at the bridge over the Santa Fe River, but I like taking river photos. As it was, I got some nice shots, including the first one above, which turned out way better than I thought.

Then it was off north, crossing old Bellamy Road, to O’Leno State Park, the site of my first SCA event back in ’78. What little I remember, the park hasn’t changed much. I walked along the Santa Fe River to where it goes underground. I planned to walk to where it comes up again, in River Rise Preserve State Park, but that’s 3 miles. Would have taken way too much time and might’ve worn me out some. So that’ll have to be another trip. Whilst there, the sky started getting dingy. It was on and off like that the rest of the day.

Went to Fort White to get some better pictures of a couple of places I’d visited previously, the Sikes House and Fort White Public School, both on the National Register of Historic Places.

After that, I started “springs hopping” and hit Ichetucknee Springs State Park, the north entrance. It was weird, there being no one there. But the tubing down the river stops in the winter. Part of my plan, actually, so I could get shots of the springs unobstructed. And the stepping stones therein, as the second picture shows. I then went to the south entrance. I was most peeved, since there was no ranger at either entrance, so I couldn’t get my park passport stamped, grrr.

Now I was on US 27, near which I’d be staying the next few hours. I stopped in Branford and got shots of the Suwannee River, which I wound up crossing in a few spots along the way. Then I went of US 27 a bit to hit Troy Springs State Park. Nice park, and there were people diving! It was still chilly, so better them than me.

Next was Mayo, and I got 3 buildings. Those being the current Lafayette County Courthouse (the third picture), the Old Lafayette County Courthouse, and the House of the Seven Gables (the Florida version).

Went up SR 51 and crossed the Hal W. Adams Bridge, then got to Peacock Springs State Park. More divers! Also, the narrowest, ruttiest, twistiest road in any state park I’ve ever seen. Potholes were huge. The springs were neat, though.

Back down to US 27. Almost forgot Lafayette Blue Springs State Park. Maybe I shoulda, since they were doing a bunch of construction, and there was no ranger, so there’s another stamp to re-try getting.

After that was the long stretch. It’s nearly an hour’s drive to the next town, Perry, with not much of anything between. Got shots of the two NRHP sites in the town (and the county, for that matter), the Old Perry Post Office and the Old Taylor County Jail. Also took photos of the Taylor County Courthouse, the last one above being an example. It’s not “historic”, per se, since it was built around the 1970s. I like it a lot though, it’s nicer looking than most modern courthouses.

Perry was the turnaround point, where I started heading southward towards home. First I stopped at the Forest Capital Museum State Park. Nice little place, and nice ranger. By now it was 4:30-ish, and I knew I wouldn’t get home until well after sundown. Another stretch of even more nothing is what US 19/98 is like going away from Perry, and it’s nearly another hour until you reach the next town, Cross City. Stopped at a Hardee’s there. I miss Hardee’s, there aren’t any in Gainesville or Ocala. I usually try hitting a Hardee’s for breakfast on my roadtrips, as they usually tide me over for quite a while. I was starving, though, as I hadn’t eaten all day. Crazy, huh? Still, worth the wait. The Portobello Mushroom burger, yum!

I found the county courthouse and got some shots of that. It looks like a big warehouse. One of the least courthouse-ey looking courthouses I ever did see. It was just about sunset, so that was the last thing of which I could get pictures. But I was in pretty familiar territory by that point. Chiefland, Williston, and then home around 8 PM.

Mileage: 306
Photos: over 340

Yes, I can take that many pictures in a day. Why I love my digital camera, ’cause I don’t have to worry about wasting film. And I’d say about half the pictures I take turn out decent enough to save, so I’m doing good.

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