Starting the New Year in Wauchula, FL – back at Peace River

We left Breezy Hill in Pompano Beach on Monday December 28 around 8:30. Acey’s mileage 69,942.3; Thor’s 77,286 and arrived back at Peace River at noon. They have implemented a “lottery” for the 50 amp/sewer sites, so we did not get to our site until after 2pm. They have limited sewer sites, so they decided this is the “fairest” way to assign them.

Monday and Tuesday Linda worked on the blog; we took lots of pictures with our phones, plus Rob, Chuck and Chris took some… lots of photos to sort thru and then write about our stay in Pompano Beach! Linda made bean soup with the hambone from our Christmas dinner. And we caught up on laundry.

Wednesday we drove into Bradenton and over the Skyway Bridge and into St Petersburg. There was a nice bike trail in St Pete that Jim found, and that was our destination; the Skyway Trail. We got our first glimpse of the Skyway Bridge; from this distance, the cables in the center look like sails.

As we crossed over, the cables were evident

We parked not far from the bridge and rode our bikes over to the park and had lunch at the picnic area there.

There was a marker that did not give a lot of information about the former bridge. It took four years and $22 million dollars to build the first two-way span that opened in September 1954. It was named the “Sunshine Skyway”. In 1970, the main span bridge was named the “W.E. “Bill” Dean Bridge” after the Chief of Bridge Design for the State. At the time, the original Sunshine Skyway bridge was an engineering marvel. In order to accommodate ships in the main channel, the main span was 150′ above the level of the water and had a distance of 864′ between piers. The main span was 22,325 feet in length. Due to increased traffic, a matching twin bridge was built in 1971.

There was also a memorial plaque for those that died when the southbound part of original bridge (the “newer” span) was hit by a freighter during a horrific storm in 1980. The plaque shows the twin spans. The northbound (original) span remained open for 2-way traffic while the new bridge was built. Jim remembers driving over it just a few weeks after the accident; it was eerie to see the other span there, disappeared and then back again!

The new Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a world-class showpiece of engineering and aesthetic beauty; construction began in June 1982 and opened in 1987.

As we rode on the bike trail, we saw some windsurfers in the bay with the bridge in the background.

We drove past a Magnuson Hotel that appears to be closed. This chain of course draws our attention when we see one, since Linda grew up as a Magnuson…

We saw several birds as we rode around St. Pete. This egret was rather photogenic

and a pelican posed for a photo op

This big bird sitting in the eerie looking tree may have been a vulture.

It was a beautiful day to be out for a ride!

We rode a little over 20 miles around St. Pete.

Friday – Happy New Year! Lets hope that 2021 brings some sense of “normal” back to our lives and this COVID-19 virus goes away! Linda finished and posted the blog for Christmas week. We walked around the campground. We checked out the hiking trails and saw some interesting palm trees that look to have been blown over some time ago but are still growing!

and another lone egret.

Many of the trails are muddy and full of water – there may have been some heavy rains here while we were gone. We revisited Puttersville and played the 9-hole course twice – Jim got a hole-in-one!

On Saturday, Jim made pancakes – as usual! We were going to drive to Venice to ride our bikes. but the winds looked to be about 20-25 mph there, so we went to Bartow to ride the Fort Frasier Trail a third time. It is a nice trail and scenic!

Some more Florida history that we had not stopped to see on previous rides:

And some more quotes on the power poles to share:

my favorite one:

Good ol’ Dr. Seuss! We rode about 15 miles and then visited a craft brewery.

Sunday we had our usual routine – joined our Sunday School class on Zoom; still studying Genesis and today’s subject was Noah and the ark. It took Noah nearly 100 years to build the ark. It had never rained before the flood came, but Noah was obedient to believe God. They were on the ark for about 1 year! We then joined our worship service at Stephens Valley Church on YouTube. We are still looking at the Miracles in Mark. This week Jesus healed a demon possessed boy.

We began to get our 2020 income tax information together and zoomed with the family later – and made our usual Sunday pizza for dinner.

Monday – on our way to Venice, we crossed over Troublesome Creek; Linda’s Book Club just read The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek and discussed it last week on Zoom. The story was set in Kentucky – not the same creek of course, but it was ironic to see the sign!

Our destination was The Legacy Trail. This pretty train depot was at the parking lot at the trailhead. This is another rails-to-trails bike trail.

This trail is 21.5 miles out and back again.

This sign was a bit disconcerting, but thankfully, no alligators were spotted!

We have seen several recumbent bicycles on the many trails we have ridden. This couple was enjoying their ride! They have 3-wheelers.

We rode to the end of the trial and saw they are working on extending it! We turned around and found a picnic table to have lunch.

Interesting history of the railroad

The Legacy Trail runs next to this open-deck timber trestle originally built in 1911.

More history of the area.

As we rode along the trail, we noticed the mile markers that replicate the original markers for mileage from Richmond, Virginia.

There were 2 tall bridges over busy roads to add a bit of a challenge – both close to the trailhead – so the finish was a chore, but we did it! When we got back to Acey, a squirrel greeted us…

Wednesday we drove to Auburndale and rode on the Teco Auburndale Trail for about 9 1/2 miles where it joined up with the James Van Fleet State Trail that goes another 29 miles.

There were power poles along about 3 miles of the trail. No quotes on these poles…

The trail was well maintained – the grass was cut on both sides for several yards from the trail.

We rode out 12 miles before we turned around. We brought lunch with us again and stopped at a rest stop to eat.

These 2 fellas were enjoying their recumbent bikes – a 2-wheeler and a 3-wheeler.

A creek ran along both sides of the trail at times.

There was a big muddy turtle on the side of the trail.

Linda fell at the end of the ride – took the 90 degree turn onto a brick walkway too sharp… yikes! A couple of scrapes and bruises but no major injury. We made a brief stop in Lakeland.

Ibis seem to be everywhere!

As we drove back to the park, the sun was setting.

Thursday Jim sanitized the fresh water holding tank. The park had a break in the water line, so we had been on a precautionary “boil water order”. This is probably the third park we have had that happen in our travels. Linda worked on the blog while Jim was busy with the water and other chores. After he finished, we went to the Puttersville mini golf course again and Linda got THREE holes-in-one!

Friday we visited Solomon’s Castle in nearby Ona, Florida; basically in the middle of nowhere! Howard Solomon began building his castle in 1972 at the age of 47 after having lived in the Bahamas for a few years. He had previously lived in the St. Petersburg area, and wanted to live in the nearby vicinity. The outside of the castle is covered in aluminum printing plates that had been used by a local newspaper – they can only be used once; so he gave the plates new life!

The “guards” at the door are named Knight and Day…

Fortunately it was not a bright sunny day or it would be hard to see the place!

There are 90 stained glass windows in the Castle and grouped in themes – here are some based on nursery rhymes

We could not take photos inside – so the windows are not as colorful as they could be had the sun been shining thru them!

These 12 windows with signs of the zodiac were created by sandblasting the glass!

As we were about to enter the castle, there was a mosaic at the entry made from leftover tiles from the bathrooms on the grounds.

Inside the castle, its like an art gallery with a wide assortment of things Howard made basically from junk that he found or was donated to him; things like oil drums, discarded nuts and bolts, beer cans, sea shells, sheet metal and wood. We were not allowed to take photos inside the castle, but I found some online.

“Jeb the Bushman” is an elephant made from several oil drums with the tusks made out of manatee ribs and toenails made out of clam shells.

This lion was more impressive that the photo here. The tour guide pointed out the bat under it; a “lion’s club”… just a sample of the punny humor that Howard loved to incorporate in his art, and in the script for the tours.

Howard created art by using several skills including  welding, painting, carpentry, wood turning, sandblasting and a great (or odd?!) sense of humor. He liked to say “I make stuff” – and he made LOTS of stuff!! The wheels on this train used to turn – but apparently the motor no longer works.

The giant mousetrap in the background shows the 2 eyes and ears in the “V” which is in every Victor mousetrap who knew?!

This one is entitled “Liz Taylor as Cleopatra”. Howard liked to use chain as hair in several of his creations,

There were several pieces of art done in wood – some of which recreated works by famous artists – I could not find photos of them online, but there are several sites on YouTube where you can see a tour of the castle; here is one

Howard built the “Boat in the Moat” and opened a restaurant in it during the ’90s

There is more stained glass in the boat! There was also a lighthouse on the grounds and they say they “haven’t lost a ship since it was built” (groan)

On our way to the second tour, we passed Howard’s impression of the Alamo that he built – well – because he could…

There was a large building that had 2 rooms full of antique cars; a Willis Jeep, some Chevys and Dodge cars in one room and all Fords in the other. Again, no photos allowed, but the cars were quite impressive. Mr. Solomon bought all of the cars fully restored and drove them to his place. He took his money out of the stock market 2 years before it crashed in 2008 and started his collection. He passed away in 2016 and his family is keeping the place going. It was an interesting place to visit!

Saturday Linda did some reading and rested. Jim went out to get a grease gun greased the jacks. We had our family Zoom since there were many Football games on Sunday.

And on Sunday, we zoomed with our Sunday School class and joined the worship service at Stephens Valley Church on YouTube. We played a round of shuffleboard after lunch. We will be leaving for Clermont in the morning. Linda finished up this blog and Jim prepared for departure.


3 thoughts on “Starting the New Year in Wauchula, FL – back at Peace River”

  1. Well, good job on your Blog. Enjoy reading all the comments and history of where you are been. IF I had KNOWN that you guys were got to stop in Ft. Worth and Denton, I could have givien you a great history lessor about Denton, Texas. How my 6th great-grand father Samuel Lemule Lovejoy moved to that area and was the first merchant in a town he helped found– Denton. He had a large influence there and in McKinney, Texas. I have a whole scrapbook about him and the family. And, I grew up in Ft. Worth. Happy New Year to you, stay safe. Luv.

  2. I’m happy you weren’t hurt after your fall Linda. That’s why Cynthia wont ride two wheeled bikes anymore, she falls off too much. Enjoy the rest of your travels.

    1. Yes – very fortunate that nothing was broken! I got some rather colorful bruises which are just about gone now – a few more falls and maybe we need to consider a recumbent bike?! There are so many really nice trails in Florida, and we need to be active – we’ll see how it goes!

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