As the Winds of Engleville rattled our windows and the thermometer refused to climb above zero, we planned a trip to sunny Ocala Florida to visit family. We decided to avoid the stress and hassle of airports and security and jets, and we booked passage on the Silver Meteor train bound for Miami! We would travel almost twenty-four hours by rail, and ride in a roomette, with window seats for both, bunks for sleeping, and even our own toilet and sink! Who knew travel could be this relaxing, luxurious and easy? We saw a lot of America from the track side. Early March is not the most flattering for any place up north, as the snows have melted and now reveal the messes hidden by winter. We ate on the train and slept on the train, and arrived in Ocala rested and ready. Click any image for a full-size carousel.
Our hosts, my wife’s sister and her husband, had planned several low-stress outings for the out-of-towners. We toured the Leu Botanical Gardens, where a vendor show was on at the time. We toured historic old town Ocala to view some classic old Florida homes.
We trekked to Cross Creek, home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling, and Cross Creek. The home is a State Park and Historical Landmark.
Who could go to Ocala without a visit to Gator World, and a chance to hold and feed live alligators?
The highlight of our day trips was Silver Springs State Park, which operated privately up to a few years ago, when the modern tourist trappings of Disneyworlds and Six Flagses lured away those folks that would spend a day at a park where the fastest moving thing is probably a bird, a fish, or maybe you. I was delighted to see the state take this over and keep it open. It is truly an all-American institution, with a fleet of silent, electric-powered glass-bottom boats that ply the crystal clear waters of the spring, which is a hidden Niagara Falls, spewing out enough water to “fill four Olympic-size swimming pools every minute.” Many, many movies were filmed here, partly owing to the glass-clear water perfect for underwater filming. The Jurrasic look of the isolated river lent itself to Creature From The Black Lagoon, and a number of television shows shot footage here as well. On the path one can still view “Tarzan’s Tree”. The very place where Johnny Weismiller lived with scantily-clad Jane and his boy, “Boy”. (If Boy was Boy, why was the chimp “Cheetah”? Talk about identity crisis.) We were fortunate enough to see on our boat ride Rhesus monkeys that are now wild in the park, having been introduced by a well-meaning showman who thought they would be contained to the island where they were released. Little did he know, monkeys are excellent and fearless swimmers.
Okay, so it’s basically the “vacation slide show” instead of the usual wildlife photos. To folks who live in Florida, it’s probably not too exciting. But for a country mouse from the snowbound north, it was one eye-catching thing after another. We stayed five days and spent two on the train, one down and one back. It may not surprise you to know I shot darned close to 2,000 frames in the week. I’m sure you’ll see more herein. After I spend a few weeks sorting them!
Keep shooting! Happy Snapping!