Jan 3-17 - Peace River Preserve
We spent two weeks at the Thousand Trails Peace River Preserve, a quiet park in a rural, mostly agricultural area. It was closest to the town of Zolfo Springs, about 20 miles west of Sebring and 50 miles east of Sarasota. The area was a huge contrast to the highly-developed Orlando area. We had to drive about 30 miles to the nearest Presbyterian Church (which is why we only made it once). Judy's nearest Curves was 23 miles away. Nary a Costco or Camping World or Applebee's to be found. We liked it. Orange groves and cattle ranches everywhere.
About half of the campsites at Peace River don't have a sewer hookup, no big deal as we can live for about a week before we have to dump. So when you check in, you pick your own non-sewer site, and then you can choose a sewer site as they become available, picking in the order you arrived. We checked in on a Thursday, but waited until Sunday to pick a sewer site, so we'd be near the top of the list. That worked well, and we got our first choice. Interesting process. We experience something new almost everywhere we go.
The Peace River, one of Florida's major rivers, is only about 50 ft wide as it wraps around (and sometimes floods, they say) the RV Park. The king (queen) of the river in those parts is a three-legged alligator they've named Stumpy. Nobody knows how Stumpy lost her left hind leg, but they're pretty sure Stumpy is a "She". But she hangs out in the stretch of river bordering the park, and has been there for several years. Stumpy looks to be about 10 or 12 feet long. You'll see several pictures of Stumpy in our slideshow.
About 50 miles back toward Orlando, near the town of Lake Wales, is the Historic Bok Sanctuary. It's located atop the highest point in peninsular Florida - the so-called Iron Mountain, all of 298 feet high. Edward Bok made his fortune as editor of the Lady's Home Journal beginning in 1889, and after retiring around 1920, hit upon the idea of developing a garden and wildlife sanctuary on top of that sand hill. The result is a wonderful garden, estate, and best of all, a 205 ft tall "Singing Tower", housing a 60-bell carillon. The carillon is the third-largest in the country, the larger two both being in New York City. The gardens were designed and built by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr, one of the greatest landscape architects ever. It was a delightful place, we took a lot of pictures, and enjoyed one of their daily carillon recitals. This place is a real treasure.
About 20 miles west toward Sarasota is Solomon's Castle, which would qualify as a roadside tourist attraction if only Mr Solomon had built it along an actual road. As the story goes, Howard Solomon came to Florida from New York City to find some seclusion to pursue his creative career as a successful sculptor and artist. He bought a chunk of land in the middle of nowhere, and started scavenging materials to build a house. Being an eccentric, as well as an artist, he turned his house into a castle, and people started coming by to take a look, and so he started charging admission. So the story goes. Whatever the reality, it's a kooky kind of place - a three-story "castle" filled with weird works of "art". It was fun. And the food at the on-site restaurant was pretty good, too.
Judy's has long been fascinated with stained glass, and the Peace River park offered a stained glass class. We now own a very attractive, one-of-a-kind stained glass butterfly, which hangs in our door. And several years ago, while we were in Ashland OR, we encountered a lady who wove beautiful baskets and things from pine needles. Judy was fascinated. The RV park also offered a class in pine needle basket making, using the 12-14" long pine needles that are everywhere around here. Judy's first basket is an ongoing project, but so far it looks really nice.
We chose to winter in Florida to avoid cold weather while staying on the east coast, so we could continue exploring the eastern US in the spring. So far we've been reasonably warm, although there have been a couple of frosty nights. The "regular snowbirds" assure us that these cold snaps are highly unusual. But the citrus farmers are very well prepared to ward off frost damage to the crops, so it can't be all that rare to have a frost. We guess the Chamber of Commerce would just as soon we not mention that "frost" word. Sorry about that, but a couple of mornings it's been warmer back in Reedsport than where we were.
There are about 75 pictures taken while we lived at the Peace River RV Park. You'll find them here.