2018 Florida Road Trip Part 4 (Continued)

2 Jan

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites


Day 4 Monday 10/22/2018


Now I headed 10 miles northeast on SR- 684 to visit the Manatee Village Historical Park located in Bradenton.  This historical village park consists of some ten restored buildings, a steam locomotive, artifacts and memorabilia, arranged to give visitors an idea of what the old “Cracker Trail” of Florida was like before paved roads and electricity.  In addition to the 1903 Wiggins General Store, there is a farmhouse, a barn, a bunkhouse, a community church, a schoolhouse, a courthouse, a smokehouse, a sugar cane mill, and boat works.



There seems to be several definitions for the term “Florida Cracker” that I have come across in my travels. Wikipedia suggests the term “cracker” was used as far back as the Elizabethan era England to describe a braggart.  Then in the 1700s the term “cracker” was used to describe American frontiersmen who the British considered boastful and lawless rascals.  By the 1800s the term “cow hunter,” in the south, had morphed into “cracker cowboy” because of their use of whips to drive the cattle.



Then there is the definition I’ve heard that the term “cracker” was derived from the Spanish Vaqueros, who had migrated from Mexico to the southeastern U.S. and also used whips to drive their cattle.  And then there are the people today who use the term “cracker” to boast about how many generations their families have lived in a certain area (e.g. George Cracker or Florida Cracker).  So take your pick.  I like all the definitions, and am not about to argue with any of them.



Next I headed northeast 15 miles on U.S.-41/-301 to visit the Florida Railroad Museum located just north of SR-62, outside the city of Parrish.  The museum consists of a collection of some 40+ pieces of rolling stock from various time periods.  This museum is known for its short round-trip railroad excursions in their restored vintage 1930s Pullman cars, on a six-mile section of the original 1895 Seaboard Air Line track, between Parrish and the ghost town of Willow.



After this quick visit, I headed east on SR-64 to visit the Pioneer Park Museum & Wildlife Refuge located in Zolfo Springs (1878).  This turned out to be a big waste of time, since I almost missed the tiny “Cracker Trail Museum” in the middle of the huge campground area.  It turns out this is a camping/events site, and their few “Cracker” houses & buildings didn’t hold much interest for me.



Now I headed northwest on several Florida backroads, to visit the TECO Streetcar Line in Tampa. The address Greta (my Garmin) took me to turned out to be the streetcar stop for the Port of Tampa Bay.  There were no streetcars there, but The Florida Aquarium was in the same location.  Since the aquarium was on my list of things to see on this trip, that worked for me.  This attraction is home to more than 7000 aquatic plants and animals, and their exhibits are laid out in such a manner as to show the extensive journey a single drop of fresh Florida spring water takes to get to the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.



My original plan was to stop in Tampa for a meal at the Columbia Restaurant, but time was running out on me, “…and I had miles to go before I could rest.”  So I by-passed the Columbia and headed for the Tampa Firefighters Museum there in Tampa. This museum is housed in the restored 1911 Old Fire House No.1 and has on display artifacts and memorabilia related to the history of the Tampa Fire Department from 1885.



Now I headed west on I-275 to visit the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum located in Pinellas Park.  This is a fabulous museum with a unique collection of some 60+ beautifully restored vintage cars from all over the world.  I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I was with this museum.  A car collector’s “must see” when next you’re in the Pinellas Park/St. Petersburg area.



Next I tried to find the Tampa Bay SimCenter, close to the Tampa/Clearwater International airport, where I was hoping to take a flight in a Boeing 737 simulator.  When I couldn’t find their facility, I called them and they said I would need a 24-hour advanced reservation for a slot.  Well that didn’t work, so while I was near the airport, I looked for the Florida Military Aviation Museum.  When I saw the Grumman Albatross, out front where the museum should have been, I thought I had found the museum, only to discover it was no longer in business. Bummer!  The Albatross was the “gate guard” for the Coast Guard office at the airport.



So I told Greta (my Garmin) it was time for her to take me to dinner, which tonight was going to be at the original Crabby Bill’s seafood restaurant (1983) located in Indian Rocks Beach.  I had a delicious dinner of Wild Sea Scallops with cold slaw and onion rings.  Yummm!




—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 61 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.




One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

3 Responses to “2018 Florida Road Trip Part 4 (Continued)”

  1. divoran09 January 2, 2019 at 5:34 pm #

    Well done. I enjoyed it.


  2. GP Cox January 2, 2019 at 7:32 am #

    You had an excellent trip! I’m going to have to find that Florida Cracker trail one day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Onisha Ellis January 2, 2019 at 9:54 pm #

      I decided the same thing! Sounds like some day trips this winter.


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