Day 1 Nov 9
I enjoy old hotels and there are some great ones here in Florida. In my hometown there are several including the Vanoy and the Don Cesar. In West Palm the Breakers. Those are out of my price range, but others are not. In Apalachicola the Gibson that we stay in often is one. But my favorite is the Jacaranda in Avon Park. The history is amazing and if not for a fun law that said community colleges could not have dorms it just might have followed the path of others of abandonment or the wrecking ball. But the law said that the schools could not have dorms and that limited the most important program of any college....sports. So, the college created a separate foundation that bought it to house athletes thus saving one of the great hotels from the 20's, (that is the 1920's; the 2020's are closing in so I need to clarify). Half of the hotel houses students and the other thirty rooms are for the public. The elevator is original and requires an operator. The first floor has been redone in a décor that does nothing for me. I prefer the third floor that is basic like the original hotel. In the winter they have a piano player in the lobby playing for several hours just like the old days.
Though I have just finished a two-week trip just a week ago I am headed to the Jacaranda. I have had to cancel three reservations already over the summer and I am not cancelling this one.
I left around two, after yoga, a stable of my life now, the construction crew closed back up the part of the house they had taken down to hang sheet rock. It is a great day to ride! Temperatures are just right and the sky blue. I cross the Sky Way bridge on I-75 and am quickly across Tampa Bay and exit the interstate in the direction of Parish and am quickly on rural road.
Fred has been acting up a little lately. The previous owner had put everything possible on him. A lot of it is gone now. I ride a Vespa because it is basically a simple machine designed to run forever, but some people like pimp it up. Mine came with crash bars, sold, a winter skirt, returned to owner, a very tall windshield, trashed, and lots of LED lights. The LED head light makes you very visible to other traffic but fails the job it was designed for, lighting the road. It is going when I get time. The running lights and blinkers are LED and they have started causing problems and they will be going also. The big problem with all of this is if I did not put them on I have no idea how to fix them as they are not in the parts or maintenance manual and the though the manufacture of the unit is helpful, it is still a pain.
But the problem today is it has a very light hiccup. It started on the last day of the last ride. I looked at some things, mainly the spark plug and wire as it has been my nemesis in the past, but saw nothing obvious. I have good tow insurance and it is a very, very slight hiccup so I press on.
Riding in central Florida is all about just riding, as there are no curves, no hills, and little of interest to see. However, I discovered the Bunker Hill Winery while looking on Google Maps at this route I have ridden often. In the middle of nowhere I make a little detour to visit it, knowing full well that the wine will be bad. I did not even come close to that, it was worse. The grapes are muscadine or scopanon It was not even anything I would call wine. Each “blend” has a “med” or a “dry”. “Med” just means they added sugar. They had “watermelon”, “onion”, “green tea” wine. More offensive than the wine was the sales person. She was firm and adamite in her “knowledge” of wine which was wrong that..(I was going to make a comparison to some of new news words and politicians, but I am not going to help spread that). “Unlike European wine makers, who you never know what third world their fruit is from...... , unlike California and Europeans we don't filter our wines......, unlike European's we don't add carbonation to our wines”, and on and on. I would call them lies, but she did not know any better and really thought she was telling the truth (back to the political comparison again). She had led off with all our grapes are grown right here on the farm and by the end of the conversation she said 97% of our grapes are grown “locally”. That lead of statement about all the wine is grown on the farm was a obvious lie and I questioned her about it.
After paying my $5 and getting 5 samples, none that I took more than a sip of as they were honestly horrible, I left.
More like cat pee than wine
In the parking lot Fred was setting and the gas tank was moaning and belching, something not uncommon but louder and harder than usual. I took off the gas cap and there was a big gasp for air and a long gurgle of fuel in the tank. I decided that the problem with the hiccups might be the vent system, so I left the fuel cap lose and roared down the highway. Sadly, that was not the problem as after he got heated up the hiccups were back.
Oh Boy a turn, a turn!!
I arrived at the Jacaranda about 5 and Tamara greeted me by name. It is nice when you are welcomed by name. I think that is mainly due to not many red scooters park at their front door so all the credit goes to Vespa. Besides the history, the other thing I like about the Jacaranda is their employees. All friendly great people.
I walked across the street to 18 for a drink. The owner is a very friendly guy and we visited awhile. Avon Park is ground zero for those illegal immigrant people so there are some great cheap Mexican food places. I did not want to ride so I walked a mile to the best one. It is a general store with a kitchen. Unfortunately, all those illegal were there standing in the line that you order food. The two back up places were closed so I ended up back at 18 for a prime rib wrap. That was close to a taco.
The day started at the Derby dinner. It is one of those places that if you don't tell them you will have a plate of food big enough to feed a family and two large biscuits. I requested they limit the amount they gave and had a reasonable serving. After dinning, I walked around town and came upon Chris at the Baptist church that covers two large blocks. He was working on an Irma damaged building. They a going to demolish their old sanctuary. Unlike as seen on reality TV shows like American Picker and Salvage Dogs nobody wants anything out of the building. Not the stain glass windows or the pews or anything.
This was a different damaged church. almost ever church in town
had damage. So much for protection from above.
Chris at the Baptist church
About 10 I saddled up and headed out of town. Not much to see around here but agriculture. We passed all the big names of old Florida, Duda Brothers, Lykes Brothers, Mormons, American Sugar. These operations have tens of thousands of acres around Florida. Sugar subsidies is one of the biggest examples of cronyism in our country. It is very complicated and more than I can explain here but if you are bored look it up.
Jimbo runs the fish camp
I was headed for the city of Okeechobee, but I meandered off the trail and did not make it that far. I did cruise through on the Seminole Indian reservations and stopped at Jane's, our cat sitter, favorite spot, the casino. It is nothing but a large square painted metal building. Not even close to the Bellagio. Inside were row after row of gray hairs, mostly women, playing the machines. They don’t even get exercise since the arm on the machines were changed to buttons. Even the roulette and black jack tables were just automated machines. As I left an old couple came in from the parking lot. They both had walkers and could barely move, but by god they could lose money.
By now I was 80 miles south of the Jacaranda and it was time to turn north. Vicki is coming over for the evening and I need to meet her. The ride north to start was on US27, a four-lane uncrowded highway. I got off in Lake Placid to visit the Clown Museum and look for lunch. Fortunately, the museum was closed but it looked interesting. Lunch was at the Interlocken Cafe on main street. This is the true meaning of Mom and Pop restaurant. Granny and Grandpa own it, a brother and his wife work the kitchen, and granddaughters serve the meal. Karma came into to play for lunch. I had wanted white bean soup ever since Frank and mentioned it a lunch weeks ago. So much so, I had searched the internet for a recipe. At first I ordered a special, half a BLT and cup of soup. Then they ran down the list of soups, number one being bean soup with ham and cornbread. I quickly changed my order to just a bowl of bean soup. It was everything I wanted it to be except the cornbread was yankee style, lots of sugar. Another table came in next to me and all ordered the soup but there were only two bowls left but the alternate soups were just as interesting. This is a very small place and we were a little worried when we heard from the kitchen “you know how to fix a bowl of soup don't you?” No idea what that was about but the soup was perfectly served and consumed.
The whole family visited me at the table and Granny Rita told me some tales on the offspring. At was one of those friendly experiences I seem to find.
Never seen a prettier glass of tea
The next stop was the Hen Scratch Winery. Unlike the Bunker Hill Winery, Marta the wine server he made no false claims, called what it was, juice with a kick. She was fun to talk to and, so we chatted for a while. This whole area had gotten the brunt of Irma. The county pulled twenty-nine loads of vegetation off her place alone. As usual mobile homes bit the big one. There was damage to the buildings on the back side of the Hen Scratch farm. Marta talked of hearing the “train” just like they say on TV about tornadoes. She also got to experience the eyewall passing right over her house.
The Hen Scratch of course has chickens scrambling about. Marta said during the election people would pull in, take a picture and leave. When one came into the store she asked what was up and they said one of the chickens looked like the Donald and was about as smart.
I beat Vicki to the Jacaranda by five minutes. We walked the town and then went to 18 for drinks and dinner. It is a small place and was packed, including the bar, and the two waitress's were hustling. We had a couple of casual drinks at a high top table until we were ready to eat and had to wait a short time for a regular table. Dinner was great. We were close to the closing time of 9 and Pam the waitress had time to chat. She said it was so crowded because David, the owner, had been in a golf tournament and handed out a lot of free drink coupons to those “damn Canadians” and that is why it was so crowded. Twice the work for half the tips she said. David stopped by the table for a visit and then we went back to the Jacaranda were we had been upgraded to s suite to finish off the evening.
This morning at the Derby the talk was about guns and fake news. It is interesting to listen to these people who really think that if they were in the church in Texas they would have been the John Wayne of the day, never realizing that John Wayne never was shot at with real bullets. They talked about fake news, but by god all the bullshit stories they were telling they saw on TV and the internet were by god the truth. Of course, this was from all the load mouths and after they left the conversation got back to normal and hard to overhear or not interesting enough to listen to. The ride home was just a straight, and I do mean straight road, ride home.