February, 2014. Here and There in Florida.

Posted on February 9, 2014


The best part of traveling is – traveling. Going here, going there, just to see something new.

So, here goes!

The urban planner’s utopia

The Villages' four Town Squares provide a real hometown feeling.

The Villages’ four Town Squares provide a real hometown feeling.

The Villages, 32 square miles of perfect planning located in central Florida near Lady Lake, is both a great place to visit and a hard place to leave.

A master-planned, age-restricted retirement community, its success should be a model for urban planners of all villages and small cities.

Their impressive amenities – multiple golf courses (60), restaurants (100+), recreation and fitness centers, retail stores and 67 residential neighborhoods – tell part of the story. The other part, harder to quantify, is all the elements that work together to form the ‘signature’ look of The Villages.  Harmonious construction details, cleanliness, meticulous maintenance and just plain good planning make this a special place. Its perception of gated-exclusiveness is belied by the fact that a very nice pre-owned house costs less than a condominium in our snow-bound northern home.

Restaurants, shopping, entertainment - the Town Squares have it all.

Restaurants, shopping, entertainment – the Town Squares have it all.


Maybe our Yankee village council could learn something by visiting The Villages.

Don’t miss it if you’re ever in the area.


Seven (and a half) iconic Airstream trailers stand upended Stonehenge- style along I-4 in Dover, Florida. This aluminum sculptural display is the brainchild of Frank Bates, owner of Bates RV, a retailer of the luxury recreation vehicles manufactured in Ohio.trailer-henge

Bates built his Airstream Ranch – similar to the famous Cadillac Ranch in Arizona – in honor of the company’s 75th anniversary in 2006. At that time, the company reported nearly 60-70 percent of all Airstreams ever built were still rolling down the highways.

The trailer’s aluminum-clad sausage shape dates back to the 1930’s, created by the chief designer of Charles Lindbergh’s famous aircraft, The Spirit of St. Louis. The still-popular trailer has seen very few exterior changes through the decades.

Bate’s attraction has drawn tourists from as far away as Japan. It has provided a backdrop for a fashion shoot and was featured in a country music video. Two people even asked about the availability of ‘trailer-henge’ as a wedding venue. Talk about serious campers.

As you might expect, not everyone loves Bates’ roadside ‘sculpture’, but so far the courts have upheld his right to keep his aluminum art exhibit located on his own property.

Tractor trailers filled with oranges await their turn to unload.

Tractor trailers filled with oranges await their turn to unload.

Air pollution of the sweetest kind

Follow that truck!

While wandering around in the Winter Haven area, we spotted a semi hauling a load of oranges heading towards a plume of steam dead ahead.

The truck – and a couple more similarly loaded – was headed to the Cutrale Citrus Juices USA’s plant in Auburndale.  Parked outside were 50 or more tractor trailers filled with the fruit waiting to be unloaded.

Steam from the plant – as well as the oranges sitting around outside – filled the air with the tangy-sweet scent of citrus that must permeate everything in this little town.

Cutrale operates as a subsidiary of a Brazil company, and produces citrus fruits and related products such as juices, peel products and oils.  It also has a plant in Leesburg, Florida.

Interestingly, –  and new to me –  citrus peel, seeds and residue pulp is processed by the company into a feed additive used mainly in the cattle breeding industry.

oranges Cutrale has an agreement with Coca-Cola Foods to supply orange juice for their Minute Maid products.  Production in excess of Coke’s needs is marketed independently by Cutrale.

Take me out to the ballgame – the Tiger’s first spring training park

Flocks of winter snowbirds fly to Florida every year to catch some rays and participate in the annual ritual of their favorite sport, spring training.

While Joker Marchant Stadium, the southern headquarters of the Detroit Tigers, is familiar to all fans, there’s another stadium nearby that might not be as well-known, though it is part of the Tiger’s Florida history.

photo (1)Henley Field was the team’s winter home field from 1934 to 1966, when it was deemed too small, too old and too hemmed in by the city to warrant expansion.

Luckily, this classic stadium escaped the wrecking ball, and now is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, valued both for its architecture and its place in Major League Baseball history.

Built to serve the spring-training needs of the Cleveland Indians in 1925, the stadium is today beautifully maintained and used by Florida State College.  As one of the oldest stadiums still in use in the country, it provides a great opportunity to experience baseball in a classic old-school venue.

While the aluminum bleachers take away from the classic look, those backrests must be welcome.

While the aluminum bleachers take away from the classic look, those backrests must be welcome.

Henley Field was used by the Tigers in 2002 while Joker Marchant underwent renovation. As another round of updates are planned for sometime in the near future, the Tigers may once again take the field at this historic site.

Joker Marchant Stadium

Joker Marchant Stadium

Posted in: Travel - Florida