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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Backtracking in Northern Florida

Tuesday, 2/12

The more we thought about it, the more we realized that we had missed something yesterday as we crossed over the Suwannee River and hadn't taken at least a quick look at the nearby Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center back at White Springs.

So we began the morning by backtracking to the North and visited the State Park back at White Springs.

Now it turns out that Stephen Foster never visited Florida and has no connection to this area. Well, no connection except that once upon a time he was writing a song and needed a two syllable name for a river in the South. A little adjustment and "Suwanee" became "Swanee" and he was home free!

In fact, in spite of the setting of most of his most famous compositions, Stephen Foster only visited the deep South once and that was on a month-long riverboat cruise along the Mississippi to New Orleans.

This did not stop the state of Florida from creating a 250 acre park in his memory complete with the world's largest carillon, a 97-bell unit that plays Foster melodies throughout the day.

The main museum building in the park preserves a number of items from Foster's past and includes a number of interesting antique pianos. It also houses eight action dioramas that depict some of Foster's most memorable tunes. Your first reaction at seeing the depiction of "old Black Joe" and some of the others is almost certain to be shock. We live in a society that has quietly and with embarrassment purged Foster's tunes from our schools over the course of the past forty years. This exhibit preserves not just the memory of Stephen Foster and of the slaves of 1850 but also of the Southern culture of 1950 when this exhibit was constructed.

Well, with that out of the way, have a look at this bed and breakfast in White Springs:

I think that our next trip through the area will have to include a stop here or at the nearby old hotel. They are both on the banks of the Suwannee river.

And maybe we will find ourselves in the area with time for a canoe trip along the river. The Cyprus trees and and Spanish Moss would make a great setting even though we did notice that the gift shop was heavily stocked with mosquito repellent.

We wrapped our morning and headed back through Lake City and across toward St. Augustine. Traveling the back roads we passed through Starke where we again had barbecue for lunch. This time it was at Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q. Sonny's is a regional chain with 138 sites in 9 Southern states. While good, and you can't complain about the price at $5.95 for meat and two sides plus garlic toast, it was no JL's. In fact, Famous Dave's puts this chain to shame.

The Weather Channel had predicted rain at about 3:00 p.m. We found it held off until almost 3:45. At that point, the rain got pretty heavy and put an end to our sightseeing as we passed through St. Augustine and along the coast.

The Daytona 500 is being run next Sunday so this is Speed Week in the area. The Harley-Davidson dealership near Daytona had thousands of bikes in their spacious lot and we didn't even try to find a hotel until we reached Titusville near the Kennedy Space Center.

But SpeedWeek isn't what it once was. Up until 1959, the race events were run on the beach in the wet sand. The highlight was the "flying mile" and the cars were truly stock.

We settled in at a Day's Inn and are ready for a leisurely jaunt down to the Miami area tomorrow.

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