Posts Tagged ‘Yeehaw Junction’

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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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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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Haven’t done that in a couple of years. I had bereavement time from the company, so I decided to take an extended time away. I brought Mom along, by proxy. She used to collect ET memorabilia, and she had a big stuffed teddy-bear-like one. I told her months ago that, after she was gone, I would take it with me on future excursions, so she’d always be with me.

So, the beginning and end of the trip were a bit aggravating, but the middle part was great.

Beginning: Got started late (left after 9 AM). The turnpike exit I wanted to get off at was a Sunpass only exit. So I had to go the extra forty-odd miles to Yeehaw Junction on the turnpike instead of backroading it.

End: Construction on I-75 at 9 at night made me pull of at a rest stop and take an hour-and-a-half nap. Didn’t get home until after midnight.

But just about everything in-between was marvelous. Weather was clear the whole way, and almost cool. Took over 1200 photos. Now the job of sorting through them. Such fun.

Here’s Google map links to show my approximate path each day:

Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4

I’ll share photos and such, but it’ll be a while. B/c, you know, 1200.

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