The arrival of Florida Travel + Life magazine inspired lots of reading and reminiscing about previous travel throughout the state. This month’s edition focused on the 500th Anniversary of the founding of Florida and it motivated me to make plans to visit sites in the state that I’ve overlooked and revisit places I haven’t been for years.
What a great way to spend a cold, holiday weekend. We gathered all the Florida books we could find in the house…I was amazed at how many we own. Then we started reading. We recalled previous trips and started planning future ones.
The best find of the weekend was the WPA Guide to Florida. I haven’t read this book for years. It’s a Federal Writer’s Project Guide to Florida in the 1930s, but this is the revised, 1985 edition, with an introduction written by John’s dad. The first portion of the book provides information about Florida’s background with articles about the culture, history, and folklore of the state. Part two highlights the “principal” cities, but the real treasure lies in the final section called “The Florida Loop”. Detailed descriptions of twenty-two tours round out this final part of the book. Tours cross every region of the state and provide a terrific travel plan for exploring all of Florida.
Tour 6 starts in Thomasville, Georgia with stops in Monticello, Williston, Brooksville, Tarpon Springs, Clearwater, ending in St. Petersburg. While we would look at this as a single day’s drive, the tour provides details on must-see spots in each of the stops along the path. From the introduction:
The real heart of Florida, and thus the real heart of the guide, is in the countryside and the hundreds of little towns described in Part Three, “The Florida Loop”. Here is a series of tours from town to town, crisscrossing the state following the old highway routes, many of which retrace Spanish and Indian trails.
Here in the innumerable asides, interruptions, verbal stopovers, side glances down silent, infrequently traveled roads, we hear whispers of adventures long forgotten, of mystery and magic, of earlier scandals and misdemeanors, or fears and hopes, and of minor tragedies and, sometimes, huge successes.
We are warned to watch out for redbugs, snakes, and gnats and not to eat poisonous plants. We are told of speed laws and somewhat reproachfully informed that some motorists habitually drive faster than the 45 mph than legally allowed. – John I. McCollum
The highlight for me, Tour 3, FernandinaBeach to Cedar Key. This tour plots the path we’ll take on our quest for seeing the sunrise over the Atlantic in the morning and the sunset over the Gulf in the evening. We’ll wake in Fernandina and then travel the route detailed through Baldwin, Starke, Gainesville, and finally to Cedar Key in time for the sunset. While I don’t anticipate encountering any cattle on the roadway which the book warns may be a problem near Baldwin, I do plan to look for landmarks and historical places outlined in the tour; and yes, we’ll take SR 13 and US 90 and US 301 as well as the other roads from the tour as we complete this 159.8 mile trek.
After reading this book over the weekend, I’m encouraged to drive many of “The Florida Loops”…looks like a good way to get reacquainted with Florida.