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[Update December 2021: This is an old thread. I updated it to add a factoid (go to the last post).]

I’m on the road again, this time to Florida. Meet a couple of friends of mine in Harlem, Georgia...

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Hamiltonian, collinsmark, davenn and 4 others

Mentor
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If it happens you'll see this guy (on the left) in Fort Lauderdale somewhere providing food for the homeless or otherwise on the street, then

do me the favor and shake his hand for me and tell him thank you from me. He's a WWII veteran and thus part of the reason I could grow up in a free society.

Edit: I forgot to mention. His name is Arnold Abbott.

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Greg Bernhardt and jtbell
2022 Award
I’m on the road again, this time to Florida. Meet a couple of friends of mine in Harlem, Georgia...

View attachment 218550
That's a very fine hat you've got yourself into!

Mentor
I hope it doesn’t turn out to be another fine mess...

Ibix
Mentor
What are Stan and Ollie doing in Harlem, Georgia, anyway? Oliver Hardy was born here. His hometown has a museum devoted to them, and an annual film festival.

Shortly before arriving in Harlem, I crossed from SC to GA at the Thurmond Dam on the Savannah River which marks the border. Route US-221 runs via the top of the dam.

Tonight I’m in Starke, Florida, in the north of the state. Tomorrow I’ll continue to Fort Lauderdale.

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collinsmark and davenn
Homework Helper
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That an osprey? Or a large raven?

Mentor
That an osprey? Or a large raven?
Not a raven, I think. There was a whole flock of them in the park. They flew off as I approached. One of them was dangling a large-ish carcass from its beak. Couldn’t tell whether it was a fish or some land animal, it was so shredded.

Mentor
Before leaving Starke this morning I walked a bit. The main road, US-301, is clogged with big trucks that use it as a shortcut between Jacksonville and Tampa, bypassing Orlando. But just a couple blocks away are some nice residential streets and a quiet old downtown that still has its Art Deco movie palace. And a “colorful” pair of accountants.

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Mentor
North Florida is pockmarked with lakes like this one, Lake Lochloosa just off route US-301 south of Hawthorne. The bulletin board at right gives number and size limits for bass fishermen. A couple of boat trailers were parked nearby.

When I passed an electronic billboard advertising an indoor pickleball facility, I figured I must be coming up on a retirement community. Sure enough, a few miles later I arrived at The Villages, with its distinctive bridge over US-301.

I was hoping to get a picture from the bridge, but it’s apparently only for golf carts! So I settled for walking around the nearby Spanish-themed shopping area.

I’ve read that there are a lot of activities here, not just golf, but I think I’d prefer to have more (young) non-retirees around. Also, the upscale stores and boutiques aren’t our thing.

My wife and I have driven through here many times, on our way to visit my parents who retired to Fort Lauderdale. Most recently was about 12 years ago. We can remember when the surrounding land was mostly still horse farms or vacant. Now it’s built up into a huge commercial, medical and residential area.

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davenn and dlgoff
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I’m in Fort Lauderdale to see Brightline, the new passenger train service that started last Saturday, to West Palm Beach. It’s the first stage of the route which will connect Miami (later this year) and Orlando (in a couple of years).

Trains run every 1.5 hours. I just missed one, so I’m now waiting for the next one at 11:55.

The tracks are old although renovated (the Florida East Coast line, not the one that Amtrak uses), but the stations are new.

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2022 Award
The tracks are old although renovated (the Florida East Coast line, not the one that Amtrak uses), but the stations are new.
I took a train from Fort Lauderdale to Miami airport years ago (2001/2ish, I guess). Not sure if it was the predecessor to this one or the Amtrak service you mention. I took a taxi to the station from my hotel. The driver spent half the journey on her phone telling someone she couldn't afford some repair or other to her car, and the other half trying to convince me to let her drive me to the airport. Apparently only junkies and alcoholics take the train in America because you don't have poor people except for junkies and alcoholics, not like we do in Europe.

I took the train. Nobody murdered me for drug money.

Mentor
Meet a couple of friends of mine in Harlem, Georgia
Must have been some Dutch people who settled in this area. This town and a part of New York City are named after the Dutch city of Haarlem.

I've been to Florida only once, on a road trip with my parents back in 1953. I remember swimming in the ocean at Daytona Beach, and seeing a fort built by the Spanish in St. Augustine, FL, the oldest masonry fort in this country. Another vivid memory was visiting my mother's uncle with my Dad and brother. "Uncle Dick," a life-long bachelor, offered all three of us a beer when we got there. I was 9, my brother was 7. I think my dad was too surprised to say no.

Mentor
I took a train from Fort Lauderdale to Miami airport years ago (2001/2ish, I guess). Not sure if it was the predecessor to this one or the Amtrak service you mention.
That’s Tri-Rail, a state-operated commuter train that uses the same tracks as Amtrak’s long-distance trains from NY and DC. Brightline uses a parallel set of tracks a few miles to the east which last carried passenger trains in the mid 1960s IIRC.

Brightline is a more “upscale” operation than Tri-Rail because it’s ultimately targeting Miami-Orlando tourist and business travel.

I rode to WPB in “Smart” (standard) class. I’m splurging on “Select” (deluxe) class for the return trip. $15 versus$10. The pics below show the “Smart” lounge in Ft Lauderdale, and coach.

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davenn, dlgoff, OmCheeto and 1 other person
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Yesterday I rode to Miami on Tri-Rail. It has a new station near the airport, which also has Amtrak, long distance buses (Greyhound and Megabus), local buses and Metrorail, car rental agencies, and an automated peoplemover to the airport. No more shuttle buses!

I toured the Metrorail and automated Metromover system, and walked around downtown a while. A lot of money has poured into downtown since I was last here, probably 15 or so years ago. More high-rise condos and office buildings. It’s a big contrast with the outlying areas that Metrorail passes through.

As I was standing on the Brickell Ave. bridge admiring the view of the Miami River, bells rang and gates closed. The drawbridge was about to go up! Fortunately the gate was far enough from the bridge itself that I could wait safely, even though I was “trapped” inside.

Next to a Metrorail station is the new Brightline station under construction. It’s supposed to open later this year, with trains running to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, extending the line I rode a couple of days ago. They’d better work fast.

This is a huge building. It extends beyond the tower a couple of blocks, almost to the next Metrorail station. The railroad company hopes that the trains and the real-estate development will support each other.

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What would a trip to Fort Lauderdale be without a visit to the beach? My father and I often walked here on my previous trips here over many years.

The “heart” of the beach is where Las Olas Blvd. arrives from downtown.

On this corner is a Fort Lauderdale landmark. Beach bars come and go, but the Elbo Room endures.

Back in 1938 there was almost nothing else out here!

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Mentor
Now let’s head inland from the beach, along Las Olas Blvd. First we cross over the Intracoastal Waterway, looking north with the beach island on the right.

Las Olas (at left in the pic immediately below) continues through an area where the streets alternate with canals so as to put all homes on the waterfront.

All these islands have expensive single-family homes, except the one on the left in the pic immediately above, which has rental and condominium apartments. These were formerly all modest 2-3 story stucco buildings from probably the 1950s. Now they’re gradually being bought up and replaced with larger, more luxurious and more expensive buildings.

My parents lived in the building below for many years after they retired. Apartments here were much cheaper in the 1980s! My wife and I always stayed here when we visited, on a couch that opened out into a bed. (So it was a new experience for me to look for a hotel here for this trip!)

Finally, just before reaching downtown, Las Olas becomes an upscale shopping and dining district. Although we never actually bought anything here, I enjoyed strolling through it on my daily walks.

Tomorrow I leave for Orlando.

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dlgoff and davenn
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The fast way to drive from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando is via Florida’s Turnpike, but I prefer slower routes with things to see along the way... in this case route US-441.

Crossing over to Lake Okeechobee, we pass miles of sugar cane fields and a sugar-processing plant.

Then we follow the eastern shore of the lake, which is surrounded by a dike to prevent flooding.

North of the lake, the main product is cattle. About 70 miles of US-441 are lined mostly with cattle ranches. The crossroads with FL-60 is called Yeehaw Junction. The only thing there is the Desert Inn, which dates to the 1920s and is a registered historic landmark. I didn’t stop to eat because it was late in the day and I would have had to finish crossing the “desert” in the dark. Maybe next time...

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dlgoff and davenn
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So what have I done during the last two days in Orlando? Disney World? Universal Studios? Gatorland? Ripley’s Believe It Or Not? Nah...

Yesterday I toured SunRail, Orlando’s commuter rail line that opened three years ago. It shares tracks with Amtrak’s long distance trains from the North, and stops at Amtrak’s 1920s-vintage station as well as its own new ones.

Today I made a day-trip to Tampa to revisit its streetcar line that connects downtown with Ybor City.

Tomorrow I’ll visit a tourist excursion railroad northwest of Orlando as I start my two-day trip home.

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davenn
Gold Member
Thanks for sharing your holiday through these photos

very enjoyable seeing parts of the USA I haven't been to

Dave

Gold Member
Thanks for sharing your holiday through these photos

very enjoyable seeing parts of the USA I haven't been to

Dave
Same for me JT. Great photos.

Mentor
Thanks for the comments! I wasn't able to work on the last couple of days' worth of pictures right after returning home, because we had visitors on Friday.

On Wednesday after leaving Orlando, I visited the Orlando & Northwestern Railway, which serves three lake resort towns: Tavares, Mount Dora and Eustis. This is a pure tourist operation that runs heritage-type passenger equipment on two lightly-used branches of a shortline freight railroad, the Florida Central Railroad. It makes three 2.5-hour round trips per day so you can stop off along the way for lunch or shopping.

I splurged on a ticket for the dome car so I could enjoy the views better and rode one round trip straight through. Then I "chased" the next round trip by driving ahead of the train to take pictures of it at various places along the line. This is less hair-raising that it might sound, because the train runs at only about 15 mi/hr (25 km/hr).

There are some nice views of Lake Dora from the train.

At the station in Tavares. This is a restored classic diesel locomotive from the 1950s, which originally belonged to a railroad that hauled coal through the Appalachian Mountains. The coaches are also from the 1950s, passed down through various railroads and then restored.

Near the station in Mount Dora. This is the other end of the train, with a more recent locomotive in the O&NW's own colors.

I ended up spending the night in Starke, which you saw in an earlier post. When I get a chance, I'll finish up with a couple of stops from the last day of driving.

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dlgoff
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On the last day of the trip, driving through Georgia, my first stop was in Folkston, just north of the Florida border. This is where routes US-1 and US-301 meet as they come down from the North, so streams of tourists once flowed through here. After the I-95 expressway (motorway) opened in the 1960s, closer to the coast, not so many. The town promotes itself as the "Gateway to the Okefenokee [Swamp]".

Railfans still flock here because because two major railroad lines merge just north of here on their way to Florida (the "Folkston Funnel"). Perhaps the majority of rail traffic from the northern states to Florida passes through here. The town moved its old railroad station further back from the tracks and set up a train-viewing park, railroad museum and visitor information center. Unfortunately for me, mid-mornings are apparently slow. I was in town for an hour, and only one train came by, while I was inside the museum.

A block away is a converted caboose, where railfans can sleep like the Chessie kitten. I bet you have to reserve it long in advance.

One more stop...

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davenn
Gold Member
A block away is a converted caboose, where railfans can sleep like the Chessie kitten.
Love this picture.

Gold Member
......

I splurged on a ticket for the dome car so I could enjoy the views better and rode one round trip straight through. Then I "chased" the next round trip by driving ahead of the train to take pictures of it at various places along the line. This is less hair-raising that it might sound, because the train runs at only about 15 mi/hr (25 km/hr).

There are some nice views of Lake Dora from the train.

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.........

That keeps reminding me. I so want to do the train trip through the Canadian Rocky Mt's in that sort of carriage ... bucket list thing

Dave

Mentor
Have you ever wondered where Santa Claus spends the off season? Maybe he's in one of the modest brick houses in this town, in a former pecan grove in Georgia. This was my last stop except for a coffee break, before arriving home.

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dlgoff and Ibix
Mentor
North of the lake [Okeechobee], the main product is cattle. About 70 miles of US-441 are lined mostly with cattle ranches. The crossroads with FL-60 is called Yeehaw Junction. The only thing there is the Desert Inn, which dates to the 1920s and is a registered historic landmark. I didn’t stop to eat because it was late in the day and I would have had to finish crossing the “desert” in the dark. Maybe next time...

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It looks like I missed my chance. The Desert Inn closed in June 2018, less than six months after I passed by.

Ode to Yeehaw Junction: The downfall of Florida’s most beloved brothel (and its burgers) (Flamingo magazine, February 2019)

Semi truck crashes into Yeehaw Junction’s historic Desert Inn (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, December 2019)

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