Day 18: Gainesville, FL to Panama City Beach, FL and then onward to NYC

I was very naughty and squeezed in one more day of picture-taking when I really should’ve been heading home. The sun was out and I couldn’t help myself. A quick check on-line later showed that I had about an 18 hour drive ahead of me from FL. Uh oh – not a fun prospect. Hence, the delay in posting this while I was on the interstate and then collapsed into bed. I took a bunch of naps on the way and arrived home around midnight. Here are some highlights from the last day.

The Bambi Motel is one of several fun ones still left on old Highway 441 in Gainesville.  The repetition of the name and holes in the plastic lead me to believe this was something else originally.


In Starke, I hit another great roadside stand: Kings Kountry Produce. I had to buy a small carton of strawberries which were growing right there in the fields. Also, picked up some of the Sweet Taters, as advertised, which I’ll bake up this weekend.




The Diplomat Motel is in Lake City, also on Highway 441. There was no text on the other side of this giant sign so I had to take this photo pretty much into the sun.  It didn’t come out as badly as I thought it would.


The former Sun N Sand Motel in Perry has been converted into, of all things, a strip mall. And by that I mean converted not “replaced with”. The office and rooms have been turned into mini shops.




And here are another couple signs from Perry. These motels look like they are barely hanging on.



I had hoped to finish up my FL list for this trip.  It was disappointing enough that even though I had tacked on an additional three days, I wouldn’t have time for the LA, MS & other stuff I wanted to grab on the way home.  By the time I got to Panama City Beach though, the sun was already getting low on the horizon.  I had to choose between full-throttling it over to Fort Walton Beach or letting the dogs get one last beach run in.  The dogs won.  It was a good decision as they were so thrilled to be running around.  Although there is lots of new development going on in PCB and big signs that say “No Dogs”, I found a spot behind a hotel-in-progress where we could have a big sandy stretch all to ourselves.  I’ll finish up the FL stuff & the rest of the trip next March then.

Now that we’re back home, I’ll be busy for at least a couple months getting the approximately 2,000 photos inserted to the website.  The dogs are still contentedly zonked as evidenced by this photo of Grippie in one of the dogs’ favorite cushy beds.  Usually they are curled up in these things but here Grip has her ass in the air.  When you’re tired enough, I guess, position really doesn’t matter.  I hope they are all still dreaming of beaches, sunshine, strawberries, and exotic birds.


I hope you’ll come travel along with us again this summer when we’ll be doing a much bigger roadtrip to the Midwest (Ohio, Kansas, Missouri and more).


Day 17: Sebring, FL to Gainesville, FL

The weather turned ugly today:  lots of rain in the morning, then only sporadic with mostly grey skies.  There might have been 20 minutes of sun all day and most of that was while driving.  So I got what I could in terms of photos – decent enough for documentation, just dreary-looking.  I covered a lot of miles and the dogs toughed it out with just vacant lots here and there for exercise.  There was one brief stop at a lake for some “swim-swim”.  Tomorrow, they’ll get their last big romp at a dog park for this trip. 

While hunting down a giant can of turpentine trash can in Lake Placid, I encountered some very fine murals.  Here’s a sample:


This gator sign is at the Watering Hole in Sebring.  It was way too early to investigate the gator.  I don’t think I’d want to see a captive gator anyway.


After yesterday’s blog posting of a Superior Motel chain sign, I noticed another adapted one in Winter Haven.   And here’s a vintage example of what these signs looked like.


Also in Winter Haven, there was this adapted Mister Donut sign. The store was a regular boxy building and didn’t have the original W-shaped roof.


I got into the tourist groove at Ferris Groves and purchased some strawberries, two jars of jam, and a “goodie”.  Gotta support these places!  The orange coconut candy seems to be the same manufacturer as the lime coconut patties that I sampled back in Tennessee on a previous roadtrip.  But there were gators on this one so possibly they are custom made if not for this shop then for Florida?  I didn’t sample the candy yet to report on its quality.


Note three sets of legs visible — eager to see what “mama bought for us”.


This one’s for you Jacob…K — are you out there?  I didn’t know they had hillbillies in Florida. This sign is in Hernando.


I’ve been noticing a sign phenomenon that might be unique to the South.  It’s possible they exist other places and I just didn’t notice.  Or possibly it’s confined to Florida since I can’t exactly remember when I started noticing these.  Anyway, mounted on top of a larger plastic sign are these smaller plastic signs.  Usually they have some simple illustration to identify the type of business or just for an extra design.  This one at Ken’s Furniture in Ocala is pretty nice.


Here are a couple buildings from Silver Springs.  The first, an adapted Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge.



And this little building looked so lonely and special to me.  A real Southern belle surrounded by Spanish moss-draped trees:


I love mid-century buildings that incorporate natural materials.  This one in Ocala is a little over-the-top!



I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the lack of respect that plastic signs get.  We’re really going to miss them when they are gone.  This one from Ocala is a real winner in my opinion — and it’s BIG.


So. I have one more day to play and then the following day will be all interstate. A sensible person would maybe do a couple hours of picture-taking tomorrow morning and then start heading home. But I can’t help myself. I’ve been staring at the atlas and my list and I’m tempted to get to Mobile, AL if I can. I don’t have that many stops in the FL panhandle… and, hey, from there, I’m almost in New Orleans… but that’s a 20 hour drive home! So I can’t really say what my plans will be. But I do know that I won’t be posting here tomorrow night since as soon as the sun goes down, I’ll be driving like a demon northward with just napping breaks and caffeine. I’ll finish up the final batch of Flickr photos and a wrap-up post here once I’m back home on Thursday.

Day 16: Tarpon Springs, FL to Sebring, FL

Another beautiful day here in paradise.  Sun all day except for a quick 10 minute shower and some greyness in the afternoon.  It looks like I’ll be going home to temperature highs in the 50s.  Much better than when we left!

I found a lake for the kids first thing this morning to blow off some of their steam.  When we arrived, I saw this grey bird & got a picture from a distance.  When I got about 50 feet away, he got nervous and went off to a wooden post.  Then I knew it was safe to bring the dogs out.  Nik battled with a swan once and I didn’t want to take any chances of a repeat episode.  This guy’s beak looked pretty sharp!  I think the bird (egret? heron?) was amused by all the ball throwing, barking and swimming while he stayed safely right where he was watching us.  I’m sure he was back in the water not five minutes after we left.


This has to be one of my favorite finds of this trip.  I think this was an extremely clever adaptation of a Tastee-Freez sign.  From Tampa.


I’ve seen a few of these cute water vending machines scattered around Florida.  I love the penguin statue in the igloo top.


This building in Tampa is quite impressive.  The Henry B. Plant Museum is housed in the former Tampa Bay Hotel which was built in 1891.  The reflection from the intense sun wiped out the most dramatic part:  the minarets are extremely shiny silver.



Cement Products & Supply in Lakeland had one of these “you pick” displays.  I’d have a hard time choosing one!


OK — I need your help with this one.  These red plants are incredible — what are they?  They look like they belong in a science fiction movie.


 Here are a couple fun signs from Lakeland.  Harry’s is an adapted Dog N Suds sign:


while Dick’s Auto Sales has it all in terms of shapes and materials:


A couple more bird sightings.  These two came in to graze on busy Route 19 north of Lakeland.  I saw the one on the right land first.  A crash landing at that – toppling face first.  The darker one was more graceful.  I assume the one on the right is the male because of his fancier markings?  They seemed a little larger than ordinary mallards.  Can anyone identify them and tell me if they are ordinarily this clumsy?


I spotted this billboard today.  I dunno — is this sexist?


I know I have seen these Superior Motel chain signs in post cards but I don’t think I’ve seen one in real life.  From Bartow.


My food has not been all that exciting lately.  Salads from supermarkets, White Cheddar Cheez-its to munch on, souffles from Panera, cookies from Starbucks…  I haven’t really found any regional fun food to share with you.  But since I’ve never actually had a cone from Twistee Treat, I thought I’d better take the plunge today in case I don’t see any tomorrow.  I’ve taken photos of about 10 locations so far on this trip.  I tried the strawberry to match the umbrellas.  It was as wonderful as it looks.  Yes, I always get nuts with my ice cream.  I can’t think of any food that isn’t enriched by nuts.  This was the small!


I hope to savor this next part of the trip for years to come.  While driving east from Fort Meade to Avon Park, we passed through miles and miles of orange groves.  The perfume of the white blossoms was incredible.  The house I grew up in was surrounded by lemon groves but I don’t remember any fragrance.  Surely, lemon trees must produce similar blossoms? 


Day 15: Sarasota, FL to Tarpon Springs, FL

It turned out that I had planned about 100 stops in and around St. Petersburg so I didn’t make as much headway as I thought in moving northward.  Tomorrow, I’ll be tackling Tampa and a bunch of stuff east of there. I’ve only got three more days to play down here — so it’s crunch time! The “panhandle” might have to wait until next year.

The dogs only got one real good run today — at the 17th Street Paw Park in Sarasota. There was a huge area with good fencing for Grem and a kiddie wading pool for Nik. Everybody was pretty quiet and tired today except when we passed water, motorcycles, or other dogs.

Grippie has successfully taught my other dogs her hatred of toll boths and what to do about it. It’s become such a nightmare that I usually just quickly park & about 4 feet from the booth and hop out to pay. The toll booth collectors get all angry with me but it’s really a safety issue at this point. Grip knows the second I put my hand in my pocket for money. She looks down the road and at my hand and down the road. Then she starts barking and wakes everybody else up for group mayhem. I’ve tried putting the money on the dash a mile away but she keeps one eye open and the second I touch the money, she lets loose. I stick my arms way, way out of the van because I fear Grip will bite the person if I’m not ultra careful. Most states accept E-Z Pass now so I don’t have this problem anymore. But I don’t think FL’s SunPass is compatible. Here’s Grip getting warmed for a toll booth:


I’m not sure if this building in Sarasota is “real” (vintage) or “retro” (built much more recently to look old):


I do know that the Selby Public Library in Sarasota was built in 1998.  This round building was designed by Eugene Aubry. It reminds me of a couple of F.L. Wright buildings.


I was saddened to find a couple great signs (e.g., the Sunset Terrace Motel) and Mel’s Twistee Treat are now gone from Highway 41 north of Sarasota. This sign and building probably won’t be around much longer either.


In fact, not just in your town or your state, but everywhere across America, strip malls just like this one are popping up.  I really find the aesthetics of this mini Main Street so offensive!


This building in St. Petersburg is not my era — but its details called to me.  It is known as the Snell Arcade.


This appears to be an adapted sign in St. Petersburg.  Does anyone know what it originally advertised?


As I understand it, this place in St. Petersburg used to have gas pumps out front as well.  It has been here since 1946 and is still in operation.  I’m mostly keen on this place because of their clock which is quite large and still works.



Okay — calling all local St. Petersburgians and/or chain experts — what might this building have been used for originally?  It looks like a Tastee-Freez or Dairy Queen — but those wings on the sides don’t look quite right.  Then there are the garage bays — which could have been added later I suppose.


Speaking of fast food chains, how about a purple former Burger Chef — from St. Petersburg:


For those of you that don’t know it, I write the Sign Lines column for the SCA (Society for Commercial Archaeology) Journal.  For the next issue that’s coming out, I wrote about neon plumbing signs. A number of them included animated dripping faucets so I was thrilled to come across this little guy in St. Petersburg even though he’s modern and plastic.  I’m glad to see the sign tradition continues. 


While I was shooting some photos at the Polynesian Putter mini golf course in St. Petersburg Beach, I noticed this guy hanging around.  He was not in the parking lot but actually strolling about the course.  I’m not sure if he’s a regular or gets any handouts but he’s sure different from the pigeons and seagulls that I’m used to seeing in public places.  I believe he’s a white heron.  I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong!


This place in Pinellas Park had me doing a vigorous U-turn over several lanes of traffic.  It’s now a security business.  Google Maps shows the building painted white and for sale.  Does anyone know what was here before to which we can attribute these statues?


This car/boat amalgamation is parked in front of Mahuffers (restaurant/bar) in Indian Shores.  Yes, that’s an outboard motor on the car’s roof and a beer bottle & can next to the boat’s steering wheel.  I assume this thing is drive-able.


 One more sign before we go.  Topper King is in Clearwater.  I love the giant & somewhat crude truck depiction.


Day 14: Miami Beach to Sarasota, FL

Good news!  Gorgeous sun all day, laid down a lot of miles, and best of all:  I’m taking another three days off from work for this trip.  That should ensure that I’m able to do a thorough job of FL and maybe by some miracle grab some things on the way home as well.

I didn’t get a lot of blog photos since a good chunk of the day was taken up with getting across the everglades.  I did see some interesting, heron-like birds and a few gators but didn’t stop to photo them.  Highway 41 is less profitable photo-wise than Route 1.  There sure are a lot of look-alike malls and chain stores.  Also, ate up a bit of time at various dog parks & beaches.  But tomorrow should be much higher SPH (shots per hour) since I’ll be in some big cities and backroads in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area.

Before leaving Miami Beach, I found these nice mosaic murals at a Wachovia Bank.  There were also representations of Abraham Lincoln, Betsy Ross and a cityscape.



While not politically correct, this place in Miami had a great sign with each figure outlined in neon:


The dogs got sun, sand & surf at the Lovers Key Dog Beach in Bonita Springs and Paw Park in Venice. Both were absolutely wonderful.  Warm, crystal clear water and white sand.  Although neither was fenced, the beach concept seems to hold Grem’s attention which is a lot easier on my nerves.  There were big waves in Venice which I think Nik really enjoys.  It increases the challenge of getting to his blue dino.  The two seniors, Grip & Fix, seem content to just mill about — sniffing and munching on what I’m not sure.

When I was here in FL several years ago, I posed my dogs with the giant shell at the Shell Factory.  So I wanted to update the photo (different pack members now).  The passing tourists are always shocked that my dogs will stay up there while I shoot.  They are about 6′ off the ground and the shell is curved and slippery.  I have to put each one up there and then carefully take each one down (harder).  It’s not easy getting all four of them to a) look at the camera and/or b) look like they want to be there for these posed photos.  Here are a couple of particularly bad outtakes where everybody has goofy and/or tired expressions.



Day 13: Miami, Key West, Miami Beach

As you can see from the title, I didn’t make it very far today — though I sure drove a bunch of miles.  I’m going to have to trim this trip.  Most likely the states on the way home, as well as maybe the FL panhandle & some west coast destinations, will have to wait til next year.  I should’ve known that two weeks would not be enough from the size of my stack of maps before I left home.

I managed to drive about halfway through the Keys towards Key West before I needed a nap last night.  Pulled over at a quiet spot and fell immediately asleep for a few hours. Then back on the road.  It rained a little bit in the morning but then mostly sun for the rest of the day.  The drive back from Key West seemed to take forever — slow drivers and construction.  Then once in Miami, tons of traffic.  So I’m feeling rather frustrated that we’re here another day.  Although there’s so much good stuff in Miami, I could easily spend another week just exploring.

The dogs got a little beach time and two dog parks.  Both smallish but plenty adequate.  The one in Key West, Higgs Beach Dog Park, was not on the beach but very close by.  In fact, Grem almost found her own way to the water by slipping through a gate.  I called her before she made it through the second gate (freedom!) and she came running back (knowing I had cheddar cheese today).  A good thing as she would’ve been in traffic — sheesh! The second dog park was at the end of the day in Miami Beach. The Flamingo Bark Park had better fencing and lots of fun downsized agility equipment.  That was a bonus for all my dogs as none of them have seen equipment for more than a year.

Nik and I have developed our own style of agility over the years with natural and manmade obstacles. I can pretty much send him over, around, and through anything. Here he’s “hup hup”-ing a low fork in a tree.


And here he is chilling in the communal drinking bowl with his blue dinosaur (he’s favorite toy at the moment).  He knows most of these dog parks have a hose and water set-up.  So when he really starts panting after running for maybe 20 minutes, he goes to look for relief.  If they don’t have a kiddie pool, he makes his own.


I had about 10 stops to make in Key West before turning back around.  There was interesting architecture but just not the style I need for the website (deco/streamline and mid-century).  There were way too many people, gift shops, etc. — not my kind of place.  Here’s a detail from one building that caught my eye:


There were about 10 other stops in the Keys.  This sign is probably not enough for the website but still merits inclusion here.  Note the bubbling martini glass between the U and O of “Liquors”.  This was in Marathon:


My camera doesn’t quite capture the beauty of the emerald green water in the Keys.  I tweaked with Photoshop but it’s still not quite right.


The Overseas Highway is loaded with restaurants and gift shops.  These figures are pretty tacky but still cute.  I’ve seen a number of these manatee mailboxes in use on this trip.


I’d love to spend a few days around Miami Beach just shooting windows.  These photos taken from the van while stuck in traffic.




The Miami Beach Art Deco hotels on Collins and Washington have all gotten their due with restoration and landmarking.  There are probably hundreds of photos of each of them at Flickr already.  I’d like to come back sometime and focus on the overlooked side streets.  Here’s a gem of a house that I doubt has gotten much attention.  I love all the little details.



Day 12: West Palm Beach, FL to Miami, FL

You won’t see any sun in today’s photos:  because there wasn’t any!  It poured and poured until about 2pm when it lightened up a little but still kept on raining.  The rain stopped at 7pm when I finally gave up shooting.  There was a surprising amount of flooding everywhere for a state that deals with hurricanes all the time. 

I did manage to get a fair amount of photos for the website — though I have mentally noted that they will all need to be reshot in the sun some other time.  The dogs got exercise during temporary breaks in the downpours.  They had a little beach time in the morning.  We also checked out Pooch Pines in West Palm Beach and Bark Park in Fort Lauderdale.  The fencing was a little skimpy in spots and both places and Grem took off for a bit — but luckily came back.  I really feel like she thinks dog parks are a personal challenge to her – “you ain’t gonna keep me in no enclosure!  There must be something REALLY good on the other side.  That’s where the wild animals live and the trash is tasty.”  Grem can fit through just about any 4″ hole or gap.  I think she waits until I’m busy playing with somebody else and then sneaks off.  Sometimes I see her running off in the distance a football field away — a black speck on the horizon.  So much for “safe” fencing.

Since photo-taking was such a challenge and the driving was also pretty scary, I didn’t get many blog-worthy photos.  Just as well, as I’d love to get to bed by 11:30 tonight for a change.  I want to get up early to get down to Key West before the sun comes up so I don’t waste daylight time going both directions.  I have GOT to start moving up the left coast tomorrow (even though I have a number of Miami stops left).  I’m considering taking a couple extra days off work because I’d really like to continue doing a thorough job with the FL stuff.  Ideally, I would also like to get to some of the stuff from other states on the way home but it’s looking unlikely.  I think I foresee another Southern trip next March to finish things up.

I saw a few of these beautiful yellow flowering trees today which added some cheer to the greyness of it all.  Does anyone know what they are?



I also noticed this tree which must be a coconut palm?


Fort Lauderdale and Miami have incredible amounts of mid-century buildings.  I hope to return some day, in better weather and when I’m not in a rush, to do a much more through job of picture-taking.  I’d like to do a whole batch of just concrete and metal screens like these:



This building had nice metal screening and decorative brickwork as well:


Sorry to cut it short — but I have a big drive before dawn and am still ragged from staying up late last night to catch up with everything after my big night out.  Hopefully, sun tomorrow!

Day 11: Orlando, FL to West Palm Beach, FL

So this is my second post for the night and it’s nearly 1am but I am determined to catch up!

After some stops NW of Orlando, we skeedadled eastward back to the coast. Nik smelled the water coming and began his squealing routine. Which then gets Grem barking. And therefore, gets Grip barking. Fixie and I just stare at each other and shake our heads. I gave in many times today to this insanity. Nik and Grem did some surf riding for their ball/frisbee. While the older, more sensible dogs, stayed on shore with me. The water seems pretty warm though I won’t be going in. Although I grew up in Southern California, on the beach, I cannot swim.

On with the visuals. In Plymouth, there was this place, “DECO Gallery” which had mostly giant pottery but also a few odd items including this spaceship. There were little seats inside but I have no idea what it’s original use was:


The Budget Motel, certainly not it’s original name, had this neat canopy. I’ve never seen anything like it.  This is in Titusville.


The Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach has these huge, tacky but wonderful statues of various beach sports. I didn’t shoot the skateboarders and I think there were about 3 other statues.




This mid-century building in Cocoa Beach was originally a bank — which one, I don’t know.  To get to the drive-through teller, you drive between the legs.  You can make out the teller’s window on the right in this photo.  I’m not sure if today’s mammoth SUVs would fit in there.  I also don’t know what’s happening to this quirky building.  It appears abandoned.


What would a post be without at least a couple signs?  This one is in Melbourne, way behind “Hot Rayz Limousines”.  I don’t know what the sign is doing back there and barely visible.


This one, also in Melbourne, is at “Del’s Freez”.  I thought they added this plastic to simulate chocolate.  Later, I found out it was black drapery as the owner had passed away.


One last photo from Melbourne then in celebration of St. Pattie’s Day.  This was a quick grab out the window so it’s not the best quality or composition but I had to share these folks with you.  I don’t know how much they’d had to drink already (it was late afternoon) but they were yelling to strangers things like “Tis the Day!  Tis the Day!”.  Dig their shoes.


Day 10: Daytona Beach, FL to Orlando, FL

OK — I’ve got a lot of catching up to do after my night off. Quite frankly, it’s all a blur. Yesterday seems like a year ago from all the driving I’ve done.  The dogs got one last run on the beach before I steered inland for the day. Tons of stuff in and around Orlando to take care of. The dogs also got to two dog parks. Paw Park in Sanford was smallish but well-fenced and lots of fun with a misting station, a giant fallen tree for the dogs to climb on, etc. The only other person there was a guy from Boston with his German Shepherd who was down visiting his son in Tampa. He’d found out about this park from a big book on offleash dog places. So, here we were, two out-of-towners, with this wonderful little place all to ourselves. The other dog park was really incredible: Fleet Peeples Park in Winter Park was huge with lots of trees, secure fencing all around, with one side completely open to an enormous lake. It was a welcome relief in the afternoon for everybody. Highs have been in the high 80s the past couple days.

But I have a LOT of photos to share with you so let’s get to it. I love these plastic clock signs but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or photo-ed any before. “Scottamus” has a few in his Flickr stream. This one is from Daytona Beach:


Lots of citrus groves and stores around the past couple days.  This one in Edgewater, FL:





This one is citrus-related:  a honey store, also in Edgewater.  I don’t know what happened to their great sign which I shot in 2005.


A detail of the small image above the door:


In Winter Park, I noticed these towering palm trees blocking billboard advertising space.  It’s nice to see that they are protecting the bases of the trees and letting, for once, nature triumph over man-made development.



Also in Winter Park, the towering remains of a sign.  Does anyone know the history of this thing (across the street from Skycraft)?  “…ists” = Tourists?


Another thing that’s been intriguing me — I’ve seen a lot of these super pylon-ed buildings in my travels in the past couple days.  They must’ve been part of a chain — but what?  Gas station?  Store?  Here’s one in Orlando:


And another in Orlando.  I imagine the roundie part was added later:


Just next door to this one, is this former station which I’m told was originally a Sinclair.  I guess the projection held a circular Sinclair logo like this?

More help from the locals needed.  This building is in Orlando — but just what was it originally? (on Orange Blossom Trail just below Colonial)


This sign in Orlando is a little scroungey but still neat.  That Ford Mustang was probably brand new when this sign was produced.


The security at Orlando’s “Gatorland” uses these cool gator-fied John Deere trucks.  Acutally, I believe John Deere calls this model the “Gator”.  But I don’t think you can buy them with this canopy — or can you?


This Orlando building was constructed in 2006 as the “Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies”.  It is enormous and has interesting shapes and patterns.  Try as I might, I could not get the whole thing in one frame.  Time to get a SLR camera with some mega wide angle I guess.


Towards the end of the day, I made a point to go see this creation.  The Monument of States is in Kissimmee:




A rarity for me, at home or on the road, I did a little socializing (hence the delay for this post).  I met JennRation Design (aka Jennifer) for dinner and had a great time. Over the years, I’ve emailed back and forth with a number of people who have similar interests. When I can squeeze it in, I try to meet one or two of these people on these trips. What a wonder the internet is!