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Monday, April 30, 2018

Zoo #AtoZChallenge #blogboost #MusicMovesMe

I never thought that the end of my January trip to Florida would result in a trip into my early childhood.  But it did, in one of those "it's a small world" events.

We were on the Auto Train, preparing to head back to Virginia.

We were just about ready to leave the Sanford, Florida station when the woman sitting in front of me struck up a conversation.  It was her first trip on the Auto Train, and, since I had ridden it several times, she started to ask me some questions.

We were chatting as the train began to move.  We were about five minutes out, maybe even less.

Suddenly she started to yell, "Did you see that? Did you see that?"

Not what we saw on the Auto Train- Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia, South Carolina August 2017

"I saw giraffes!  They were just there, walking alongside the tracks!"

I thought about it for a minute, wondering if she was hallucinating, but then remembered that there is a zoo near Sanford, Florida (The Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens). 

I've always loved zoos - I know not everyone does, for various reasons.

I was born in the Rockaways, in Queens, one of the boroughs of New York City, but grew up in the Bronx, another borough.  An aunt used to take me, several times a year, to the Bronx Zoo.  I loved being with her, and loved visiting the zoo.  I had my favorite exhibits, she had hers, and we always had a good time.

Hearing my train friend's accent, I suspected my train mate was from New York City, too.

I asked my seat mate (one row ahead of me) where she lived.  And she said "in Queens, in a development called Arverne by the Sea."

What were the chances?

 My first home, as a baby, was located blocks from Arverne by the Sea.  What were the odds, out of everyone who travels on the Auto Train, to find someone who lived in my birth neighborhood? 

The zoo was far in the past by now. We were on our way back home.
Lake Myra, Florida
The train traveled on, as the sun started to set in Satsuma, Florida.

The rising sun tinted the eastern sky red as we passed through Richmond, Virginia the next morning.
Truly homeward bound, as visions of Bok Gardens, Lake Wales, January flowers, St. Petersburg, Madeira Beach, manatees, seabirds, gulf sunsets, Ybor City, and now giraffes, danced through my memory.

But I'm not done yet.  After all, this is Monday and it's time for #MusicMovesMe, a Musical Train that leaves the station every Monday.

Who are the 4Mers who participate?

The Head 4M'er (Engineer) is XmasDolly.  Her co-conductors are:  Callie of JAmerican Spice, (who is on hiatus but is always welcome back once she is able to conduct once again) and ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥   Also,  Cathy from Curious as a Cathy.  And, ahem...a special announcement - guess who is the newest conductor?

Yours truly - me! (Thank you, fellow conductors!)  So...with thank you's out of the way....
Time for songs beginning with "Z".


Scorpions - The Zoo

OK, technically, this 1967 song by one of my all time favorites, Simon and Garfunkel, is called At the Zoo, but I am counting it as a "Z" song.

Zoot Suit Riot by the Cherry Poppin' Daddies.  I have to admit, I am also partial to the satiric version by Weird Al Yankovic called Grapefruit Diet.


Zombie - a current song by Bad Wolves.

And now, once more, thank YOU, 4Mers, for voting me the latest conductor for Music Moves Me.  will strive to carry out my conducting responsibilities.

On that note I end the April 2018 Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost, and the Blogging from #AtoZChallenge.  On May 7 we are supposed to blog a retrospective post, but since that is a Monday, I will do it sooner. 

Thank you for taking the train ride with me, and joining me on the trip through Florida - Outside the Theme Parks that was my A to Z theme.

Why not join me daily, and enjoy my other offerings?

Thank you for reading!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Instant Spring

"Spring has arrived" - the three most welcome words anyone in the Northeastern United States can hear.

Ten days ago, hardly any flowers were blooming here in the Binghamton, New York area. Although there are snow flurries in today's weather forecast, it would appear spring has finally taken control.  Forsythias are out.  Daffodils are blooming everywhere.

A couple of walks in the past four or so days yielded these flowers, which seem to have sprung out of nowhere.  But they didn't come out of nowhere - they just waited patiently until some internal clock whispered "it's time".

Star magnolia opening up by the Johnson City, New York post office. 

Daffodils, Endicott, New York.

A viola on my mother in law's tiny lawn - this must have seeded from a hanging basket we had bought her last year.

Squill, Binghamton.

More squill, Binghamton.

Hurrah!  Even if we are supposed to get snow showers today.

Day 29 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost.

Tomorrow is the last day of both the Ultimate Blog Challenge and the Blogging from #AtoZChallenge. Join me then!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Ybor (City) #AtoZChallenge #Blogboost

Ybor City, a neighborhood near downtown Tampa, Florida,  is a National Historic Landmark District district.

It was founded in 1885 by cigar manufacturers, including one Vincente Martinez Ybor, and was incorporated into Tampa a couple of years later.  The cigar years were good ones for Ybor City - this city of Cuban and Spanish immigrants had many high paying jobs in the cigar manufacturing industry available to them.  But, by the time I first set foot in Ybor City (escorted by a cousin who grew up in Tampa) in 1966, the community had slid way downhill.

In the last thirty or so years, Ybor City has experienced a revival.  These pictures were taken by me in 2013.
Let's walk down 7th Avenue for a minute, and see what is out there to see, free of charge.

The beautiful Columbia Restaurant is decorated with many historic tiles.

This is one of my favorites - decorated with grapes.  It should be noted that, in addition to Cubans making up much of Ybor City's early population, there was also an influx of Italian immigrants.

The cigar heritage of Ybor City was evident in some of the offerings at the weekly farmer's market.

This is the only time I've ever seen cigars for sale at a farmer's market.

The old Ferlita (before that, La oven Francesa) bakery on 9th avenue is now a museum.

It once was a major producer of Cuban bread, a bread somewhat like Italian bread.  You should not leave Tampa without trying at least one Cuban sandwich

Day 28 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost.

"Y" day (next to last!) on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge #AtoZChallenge.  My theme - Florida Outside the Theme Parks.

Join me Monday for the final Blogging from A to Z Challenge post.

Friday, April 27, 2018

X'd (out) #AtoZChallenge #Blogboost #SkywatchFriday

X'd out.

Crossed off.  No longer exists?  Maybe.  Maybe not. Earlier in my "Florida outside the theme parks" posts for this challenge, I have blogged about some of Florida's former glory (the old Grand Hotel in Lake Wales, and the Kress Building in Tampa, Florida, for example.)  Now it is some time for happier news.

If you are wondering the attraction I have to Old Florida, know that my first visit to Florida was in 1966. I flew with my Dad (my first airplane flight) to visit relatives living in Tampa, Florida.  To use an old expression, this native of New York City was "blown away".  We made two more trips - I (alone) in 1969, and again with my Dad (and a cousin) in 1972 for a family wedding.

In 1974-1976, as a newlywed, my spouse and I lived in the Tampa Bay area for just under two years.  I visited various attractions, not realizing that the Florida I knew and experienced would, one day, be a historical curiosity.

So why am I blogging about these places, when I am supposed to be blogging about "Florida Outside the Theme Parks"?  Because some of these places, which have existed for well over 100 years, feature natural or man made wonders.  Or, are just plain part of Florida history.

Before we get into this history, a couple of more Florida sky pictures for #SkywatchFriday.  Johns Pass Village, a fishing village in Pinellas County, Florida has reinvented itself as a tourist destination and has not been "x'd" out.
Johns Pass, Florida, January 2018.

Sunset over fishing boats.
And a repeat from my "V" post - I couldn't resist.

Now, back to our history lesson.

For example:


Weeki Wachee, whose advertisements I watched so intently while growing up in New York City.  I have not made it there yet, but it's on my bucket list.  Fortunately, this is now a state park, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.  Here's a video clip from 1948.

Another now-state park, Silver Springs, bills itself as "Florida's first tourist attraction". Some of the early Tarzan movies (and some other movies) were filmed there.   I remember visiting Silver Springs in the mid 1970's, and again, with my then-teenaged son, in 2006.  I would gladly go back, although it is not quite what it was like in its heyday.  The admission charge can't be beat - only $2.  (How much do Disney or Universal cost?)  The best news: those wonderful glass bottomed boats are still running. Alas, I do not have handy the pictures I took back in 2006 - or, in 1975, for that matter.

Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven, which was the #1 tourist attraction in the United States in 1963.  When I visited it in 1974, it was both a beautiful garden and a water ski show attraction (this is another place I remember from seeing on TV while I was growing up).  It was in danger of closing (with condos built on the land) in 1986.   Now, parts of it are preserved in the theme park Legoland, complete with Southern belles built from Legos.  Just think of all the celebrities that have visited over the years:  Elvis, John Kennedy, Johnny Carson, and more.

Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg. In the middle of a historical neighborhood, it is alive and well. I had photos at one time, but I can't find them.

The Kapok Tree restaurant in Clearwater.  My spouse and I ate there several times while living in Tampa during the mid 1970's.  It must have been reasonable as we didn't have much money.  Now closed (1991), but, happily, the building is maintained.  As of 2011, the tree was still alive and well.

No, not all of Old Florida has been X'd out.

"X" day in the #AtoZChallenge and day 27 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

And, joining  Yogi and other bloggers who watch the sky at #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Walesbilt #AtoZChallenge #Blogboost

In my "R" post, I featured the Rhodesbilt Arcade.  Now, it's time for some more vintage Lake Wales, Florida.

On a January midweek afternoon, my spouse and I walked around downtown Lake Wales, Florida.  It was quiet.  Perhaps a little too quiet.

But the architecture drew us in.  I am no expert in architecture, but I enjoy old buildings.

Back in the 1920's, developers had high hopes for Lake Wales.  There was a land boom in this and other parts of Florida, a boom that eventually started to bust in the late 1920's, especially after the Great Depression took hold.

One of the distinctive buildings of that era was the Dixie Walesbilt Hotel, a 10 story building that opened in January of 1927.  Part owners in the building included actresses Gloria Swanson, Clara Bow and Mary Pickford.

But the building has sat, abandoned and rotting, for many years, as the building passed from one owner to another.  At one point there was a plan to turn this building into condos, but that was abandoned.  One can hope that the latest efforts at renovation result in the promised reopening of a boutique hotel, which will be called the Walesbilt.

A website called Abandoned Florida has pictures of the interior as the building undergoes renovation.  Imagine, interior archways built from Cuban mahogany.  Wood doors made from Tidewater Red Cypress. Terra cotta friezes. (It's enough to make me want to take a course in old historic buildings.)  If all goes well, this will reopen (this year?) as the Walesbilt Hotel. 


Day 26 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost.

"W" day in the #AtoZChallenge.  My theme "Florida outside the theme parks".

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Village (Johns Pass) #AtoZChallenge #blogboost

Johns Pass Village is on Madeira Beach on the west coast of Florida, near St. Petersburg.

Created by a hurricane on September 27, 1848, it sits on a pass connecting the Gulf of Mexico with Boca Ciega Bay.  It's named after John Levique, a pirate, who is said to have been the first person through the pass after the hurricane.  It is a fishing village and a tourist attraction, and if you are after beautiful beach related scenery, you are in the right place.  It's child friendly, too.

Now that's a sunset.

Sitting on the dock of the pass, a bird watches the tide roll away.
It isn't all beauty.  Being a fisherperson is a dangerous job.  Some don't make it home.
And speaking of seagulls, I decided not to tempt them with an ice cream cone.

Seagulls or not, this village was a wonderful place for a New Yorker to visit in January.

Day 25 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost and "V" day on Blogging from #AtoZChallenge.  My theme "Florida Outside the Theme Parks".

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Unusual - #AtoZChallenge #blogboost

I've been saving up these pictures taken in Sanford, Florida to feature on my "U" post for the #AtoZChallenge.  But then, yesterday, nature presented me (in my upstate New York home) with a most unusual day.

Winter has hung on her for what seems like forever.   But today, the temperature got up to 73 degrees F (22.8 Celsius) which wouldn't be any big deal - except we got snow almost every day for the last two weeks.  Of course, it has all melted, and the spring flowers are finally popping!

Anyway, back to Sanford.  In January, waiting for the Auto Train to bring us back north, we took advantage of a free shuttle to go downtown and explore for a bit. 

One of the downtown buildings was covered in mosaic.

I can not identify the building I took these pictures of, but I wonder if this holds a clue.  "Mr. Imagination".  I did a Google search and I wonder if this artist may have been involved.

I would love to know the story of these mosaics in Sanford.
Does anyone know more about this outside art?  I'd love to know.


Day 24 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost and "U" Day on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  My theme - Florida Outside the Theme Parks

Monday, April 23, 2018

Treasure (Island) #blogboost #AtoZChallenge #Music Moves Me

No music today, just treasure and pirates and a little "T" music.

Treasure Island, Florida.

Treasure Island is on the west coast of Florida, near St. Petersburg and Madeira (called "Mad" by the locals) Beach.  Exploring Treasure Island involves a parking charge, but it is so worth it.

Trail sign.  It was wonderful walking on a beach in winter (picture taken in January).
Sand sculpture.

Treasure Island seabirds.  I could spend hours looking at birds and the tide going in and out.

The most beautiful "Don't Litter" sign I've ever seen.


And now (Ta-Da!) it is Time for Today's Music Moves Me.

Our Condustor of this Musical Train is XmasDolly and her Co-Conductors Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥  & Rockin’ conductor Cathy from Curious as a Cathy. 
The 4th 4Mer Callie, is on hiatus and we wish her well! Let's take a Musical Train today:

I'm not following the Theme today which I hope the 4M gang will excuse me for.

The first (above) is a song by a group called Thrice - Black Honey.  The video is pretty creepy but the lyrics are political, and you can take them for what you will.

The other song, in keeping with my theme of Treasure Island (and I hope you will excuse the profanity at the very beginning of the video) - Treasure, by Bruno Mars.

And guess what?  It is time for me to THANK YOU for your visits and comments.  That is what makes this Train run!

"T" day on the Blogging from #AtoZChallenge and day 23 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #Blogboost.  I hope you've been enjoying my theme "Florida Outside the Theme Parks".

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day 2018

I was finishing up high school when the first Earth Day was held in 1970.

I was young.  Idealistic.  Growing up in New York City, I saw what pollution could do firsthand, between November 23 and November 26, 1966, when New York City was blanketed in smog so brown and thick that you could not see across the street.

Some 185 people died, and it is estimated that 10% of New York City residents suffered some adverse health event from the smog.  My father and I were fortunate.

In my childhood, the snow would develop a black crust soon after it fell.  I never knew "clean" snow until I moved from the city.

Thanks in part to the 1966 Thanksgiving smog, the United States Congress passed the clean air act in 1967, with other legislation following.

Now, here we are in 2018, celebrating the 48th Earth Day, and climate change is upon us.  More frequent flooding, and increasingly harsh weather events plague us all over the world.

April 19, near Johnson City, New York
Parts of the United States are getting snow. We haven't gotten the huge accumulations but it snowed every day this week (except yesterday).
April 19, Binghamton, New York
We all know what is happening, whether or not we want to admit it.

Will we have the will to drop politics from the discussion, face what is happening, and take the actions we need to take?

Tomorrow - "T" day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sanford, Spring and Snow #AtoZChallenge #Blogboost

Sanford, Florida.  It is a city in Central Florida  dating back into the 1830's.

Some may know it from trips to the Orlando, Florida area.

Sanford is the southern terminus of the Auto Train, the vehicle carrying train that is my ode of transportation every few years when my spouse and I travel from our home in upstate New York to Florida.

At one time, much of the celery grown in the United States came from the Sanford area.

We found this plaque in its Memorial Park explaining that, after the South lost the Civil War, people came down into Florida, including the Sanford area, to snap up land at bargain prices.

Most of the buildings downtown date from the 1920's.
When we first visited Sanford in August of 2006, we were not at all impressed.  But times have changed.  Many of Sanford's downtown treasures are being renovated.
Info on a downtown building

Sadly, Sanford also has quite a history of racism directed at African-Americans.  Even today, if you ask an American what they associate with Sanford, they may very well answer "the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in 2012".  Unfortunately, this was far from the first racist incident in Sanford's history.  Even Jackie Robinson felt the sting of Sanford's racism.

Still, Sanford also offers people waiting for the Auto Train a free trolley that takes them from the train station to downtown - a downtown that becomes more and more attractive with each passing year.

Snow, April 19,near Johnson City, New York
Especially when those in the North encounter this weather on April 19, and dream of a Spring trip on the Auto Train to Sanford, where it is green.

Tomorrow, April 22, is Earth Day - join me then - this snow photo will give you a hint of my theme tomorrow as I take a day off from Blogging from A to Z.

Day 21 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost and "S" day on the Blogging from #AtoZChallenge.  My theme: "Florida Outside the Theme Parks".

Friday, April 20, 2018

Rhodesbilt Arcade #Blogboost #AtoZChallenge #SkywatchFriday

The Rhodesbilt Arcade, in Lake Wales, Florida, was built between 1924 and 1926, when Florida was experiencing a land boom.  The builder was one Jesse Rhodes, a real estate agent.  This building is on the National Historic Register.
The two sides of the building have totally different feels.  This is one side.

And the other.  What a beautiful blue sky contrasted against the building.
Let's go in and see what we can find.
We weren't able to get into all of the building, but the part we could access was beautiful inside.
It was January, but the small Christmas tree somehow seemed to belong.

Madeira Beach, Florida
And, just in case you were tired of sunsets - here's another Florida sunset for you.

Day 20 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

"R" day on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge #AtoZChallenge

And finally, I join Yogi and other bloggers who watch the sky every Friday on #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Quirky - #Blogboost #BloggingfromAtoZ

Mt. Dora (also see my "D" day post), Florida, has a well deserved reputation as being a quirky city - as in "sometimes eccentric", or "zany".  It's an artist colony, and it has its share of people who intended to just pass through, but never left.

And, anyway, I needed a post with a title beginning with "Q".

Here are some examples, which I offer in an affectionate spirit.

In Mt. Dora, people want other people to be happy.
It has its own polar bear, "Monty".

A local business has a bubble blowing machine, where children and adults gather to enjoy the bubbles (they are a bit hard to see in the photograph but the bubbles are there).
Mt. Dora's own space oddities.
Quirky and just a few miles from all those theme parks.

Day 19 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost.
"Q" day for the Blogging from #AtoZChallenge - my theme, "Florida Outside the Theme Parks".

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Phillip Phillips #AtoZChallenge #blogboost


Long before Orlando, Florida became a theme park destination, the Orlando area grew a lot of oranges.   To the south, past the theme parks, they still do.  
Here, to get you thirsty for some "OJ", is an orange juice commercial from the 1950's, featuring New York Giants football player (and late husband of NBC's Kathie Lee Gifford) Frank Gifford.

We can thank a number of individuals for introducing and developing the citrus industry in Florida, including a man by the name of Phillip Phillips. (No, not the same Phillip Phillips who won American Idol).

Dr. Phillip Phillips, who died in 1959, was a medical doctor, a philanthropist, and a businessman, and, most of all, a man who became rich off of citrus. Phillips first came to Florida in 1894.  His first venture failed when a freeze wiped out his crops.  But, he didn't give up.

He owned thousands of acres of orange groves.  He developed several innovative ways of processing and packing orange juice, including developing the "flash pasteurization" process that took the metallic taste out of canned orange juice.

I remember a brand of canned orange juice called "Donald Duck"....oops, I just made a Disney reference again.

Orange Juice processing plant
If you are ever in the Lake Wales (south of Orlando) area, I recommend a visit to the Grove House of Florida's Natural juice.  You get to taste the fresh juice, and it is oh-so-good.  And it's free, too.
When I lived on the West Coast of Florida between 1974 and 1976, we would sometimes (if the wind was blowing right) smell the wonderful fragrance of orange trees in bloom.  I wonder how many of those groves were once owned by Dr. Philips.

Today, Dr. Phillips has a number of buildings in Orlando (an art center, a high school, and more)  named after him.  It turns out I was staying in a suburb of Orlando, population of around 11,000 . Dr. Phillips had purchased this land in 1905 and turned into orange groves. My pictures were really being taken in Dr. Phillips.
I'll end this post with a picture of Poinsettias growing outside a store in Dr. Phillips.

Considering that we got snow squalls yesterday where I live in upstate New York (and many people got much worse), you'll forgive me for Pining away for Florida.