Monday, March 24 Miami Beach
Well we are back on line. Had a slight glitch with the iPad and telephone technical support got it going again. I just forgot phone support existed and thought I would have to wait for an in person visit.
We are “home”; our regular Hilton Timeshare on Ocean Drive across the street from the ocean and park. Already got some groceries and had dinner at The Front Porch just half a block away. (Our waiter told us that Tom Brady and his second wife Gisele Bundchen have a unit in the high-rise condo across the street.) It was a 500 mile drive door to door from the Wakulla Springs Lodge south of Tallahassee. While I know there is speeding on the roadways everywhere, Florida drivers seem to take the award for greatest percentage of drivers dramatically exceeding the speed limit (like 15-20 mph over the limit).
On Saturday, we drove from Sandestin (Miramar Beach, FL) to Tallahassee. The weather was supposed to be rainy most of the weekend but on arrival, the skies were clear and we made Alfred Maclay Gardens State Park our first stop. A New York financier, Alfred Maclay created the gardens for his family’s southern retreat. He specifically designed the gardens to showcase flowers that bloom from December to April, the time of year that the family would be present.
The flowers here were blooming much better than the flowers were at Bellingrath last week. Today,we arrived in time for a park ranger tour; although other people were touring the gardens, we were the only ones to take advantage of her insights.
The home was not palatial, just well constructed. The gardens were more of the centerpiece. The live oak and spanish moss set off the azaleas, dogwood, etc.
After Maclay gardens, we stopped in at the Florida Historic Capitol Museum. In the 1970s, Florida constructed a new capitol and legislative chambers in the shape of a modern, high-rise office building. Florida is one of only four states to do this (ND, NE, and LA are the other three). The historic capitol was constructed in several phases from 1839 to 1947. The building is plain for a state capitol; reflecting Florida’s traditionally conservative fiscal policies.
Tallahassee is the far northern part of the state. When Florida became a territory in 1821, it had separate capitals at Pensacola and St. Augustine reflecting the structure Great Britain set up during its control from 1763-1783 (East and West Florida units). Tallahassee was chosen as the mid point to reduce travel time. In 1900, Florida voters went to the polls and Tallahassee was re-confirmed as the capital, beating out Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Ocala.
The capitol museum recounts a summary of Florida history, reminding us again that Jim Crow laws and slavery had a strong hold on the state. While some of the Florida Indians were transferred forcibly to Oklahoma, others hid for years in remote areas.
Florida did not really grow until the 1920; it is currently the fourth most populous state in the Union. Florida reflected the southern pattern and it fought to keep segregation. The capitol museum seemed to portray the situation honestly but concisely.
We completed the day with church and settled in to our Airbnb abode for the evening. This was a one bedroom townhouse not too far from downtown Tallahassee.
Sunday, March 23rd again looked like it would be a rainy day. We headed out to Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park. Once again, money speaks. Edward Ball was a brother-in-law and business manager of Alfred DuPont. On a “scouting” expedition to find land to grow pulpwood in the 1920s, Ball came across Wakulla Springs. The springs pump out, on average, 225 million gallons of water a day. It had been a small lodge since before the Civil War. Ball recognized the need and value to preserve the springs and purchased the property, adding land to it over the years.
Ball personally handled all of the details of the new lodge construction including materials, building floor plan, etc. His original Tennessee marble is still used throughout the building. The lobby has a series of scenes painted by a German painter who had been the last court painter for Kaiser Wilhelm.
We went to Wakulla Springs for two reasons. First, to take the 9:40 boat tour before the rains came. Second, we would be spending the night there in the lodge.
The springs tour was an hour long, led by a retired park ranger who continues his love affair with the park by volunteering to lead tours. The park is home to a wide variety of animals and birds. I can not name most of the birds. We did see about a dozen alligators.
The waters are increasingly cloudy, not clear, due to tannic acid from trees and pollution from human development and agriculture. The area of the springs and park are remarkably clean and devoid of trash. (Younger persons can skip this next sentence or two.) Several of the Tarzan movies featuring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan were filmed at Wakulla Springs. Evidently, Ginger Stanley who did O’Sullivan’s underwater antics stayed in the room we slept in.
The springs discharge from a series of underground caverns developed in this karst geologic formation-last seen by us in Missouri and Arkansas. Teams of scuba divers have spent years exploring and charting the caverns,to date, over 30 miles of interconnected caverns have been discovered. One group of scuba divers planned out a 7 mile completely underground journey with air tanks stored underwater to provide enough oxygen for the journey. When it was completed, they had to stay underwater in special structures for 24 hours to decompress.
After lunch at the lodge, we drove to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse. This is on the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the oldest refuges in the national system. This part of Florida is called the Forgotten Coast since much of its land is owned by lumber companies and is not developed. The refuge includes a wide variety of habitats. Previous commercial uses included turpentine production, forestry, cattle raising, salt production, and limestone mining. We saw a dolphin, alligators, and numerous birds during our walks. The lighthouse dates back to 1842 and has survived wars and hurricanes.
Based on the recommendation of the boat tour guide, we stopped at the Gulf Specimen Aquarium. A combination of “touch tanks” and “looking tanks” allows one, if interested, to closely interact with diverse fish and amphibians. Talk about a bunch of ugly looking creatures. We made our stay there a brief one.
We finished Sunday with dinner at a local fish restaurant in Spring Creek (population 1700). The restaurant was half a block from the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, driving there, we saw the signs; “Dead End” and “Pavement Ends” before we saw the restaurant. The food was quite good. Chris had read about this place in a book she had picked up earlier in the day, “Off the Beaten Path-Florida”.
The lodge room at Wakulla Springs was quite spacious; the common areas more basic. No TV in the rooms and with the iPad dead (at that time) it was time for bed on another hard bed with flat pillows. One of the many reasons we were happy to reach South Beach today.
Ed and Chris Monday 11:25 pm