Miami Beach Saturday March 21
Night and Day. We left quiet little Ruskin FL for Miami Beach. It is 250 miles in distance but a whole ‘nother world. We could have driven via the interstate but once again drove the two lane roads, east across the entire state and along the shore of Lake Okeechobee. Towns in the interior part of the state are few and far between. The area’s RV and mobile home parks are definitely not in the high rent district. Cattle and tomato growing transferred into sod and sugar farms.
Lake Okeechobee is the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States. It is only about 10-15 feet deep and is an integral part of the process of keeping the Everglades fresh. There is a long history of how the water has been used and abused. Today there are watershed districts trying to manage competing demands for use of the water in addition to the need to not diminish the flow to the Everglades. There is a 30 foot high dike around the lake with a 110 mile long walking/biking path on top of the dike. I would not recommend it as a walking path. There is absolutely no shade and at Florida heat, it would be about the last hike I would want to undergo.
Arrival in the Miami area brings back the wide highways, speeders, high density of new skyscrapers, etc. The normal 10-15 minute drive into South Beach across the causeway next to the cruise ship harbor was bumper to bumper, 50-60 minutes of stop and go driving. Pedestrians are everywhere, never waiting for a light.
The next five days are probably beach days, depending on weather. 2015 is the 100th birthday of Miami Beach and there will be a few celebrations this week. Part of the allure of Miami Beach is the architecture. Art Deco for some of the oldest hotels from the 1920s; the Miami Modern movement from the 1950s with over-the-top hotels and motels.
In contrast, little Ruskin began life in 1908, named after John Ruskin, a social critic and utopian. Tomato growing (Di Mare Fresh and Pacific Tomato are two big firms still operating in the area) was its major crop and activity until after WWII. Suburban development has occurred but there is no downtown, not even nice strip development. The two most popular and highest rated restaurants on TripAdvisor are a hot dog shack and a fish shack. And I do mean shack. The cooking facilities look like an enclosed car port; the dining area is picnic tables under a larger car port type enclosure. We did try the hot dog place, it was good barbecue. The crowds keep coming and the parking lots are always full. Not everything has to be artisanal with modern vibe architecture to be good.
Our lodging for the last three weeks, the Resort at Little Harbor combines hotel, timeshare, and townhouse condominiums. It has two restaurants, three pools, and a marina. The staff was always friendly. The beach area is on Tampa Bay, not the Gulf of Mexico so the wave action is less.
The Gulf beaches in this area have been highly rated consistently. However, we found them too highly priced. There were also articles in the Tampa paper how horrendous the traffic is going to Clearwater Beach. Clearwater Beach is on an island. There are less than 2,000 parking spaces. During Spring Break, 10,000 vehicles try to access the beach. One person we met in the elevator at Little Harbor went to the Gulf beaches and just had a horrendous drive. When we were at Siesta Key three weeks ago, there was little public beach access and no parking. Not for us this year.
Friday we drove into Ellenton and visited a state park memorial “mansion”. The building was home to an early pioneer. He moved here from the Tallahassee area in the 1840s and raised sugar cane primarily-with the major assistance of slaves. However, his luck was rotten. Storms, fires, diseases combined to force him to turn the plantation over to his creditors in 10 years. The home was the hiding place of the Secretary of State of the Confederacy when the Civil War ended and he escaped to Europe rather than facing charges.
The Tampa area (Clearwater, Tampa, Sarasota, Bradenton, etc) does offer numerous activities across a range of interests. We enjoyed the time here at little Ruskin.
Ed and Chris Saturday March 21, 11 pm