Tag Archives: Florida

“Big Daddy” Don Garlits’ Museum of Drag Racing

“Big Daddy” Don Garlits himself! Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida

Whew! After the (not) overwhelming response from my last post I needed a break. Actually, I just kind of got distracted and forgot that I hadn’t finished the series from our Florida trip.

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida

If I had any boyhood heroes that weren’t astronauts, one of them would certainly be drag racing legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits.  Garlits’ name is to drag racing fans what Richard Petty’s or Mario Andretti’s names are to stock car and Indy car racing.  Old fans, at least. 😉

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida

As we were driving past Ocala, FL on I-75, I saw a sign that said “Drag Racing Museum Next Exit.” Then I saw whose museum it was! We didn’t have time to stop on our way south, but made a point to visit on the way back home from St. Petersburg. Yes, it was another museum, and art of a different kind than painting and glass! And of course Kathy was thrilled to have something else to look at besides airplanes. 🙂

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida

Here are way too many photos from our visit. But there were way too many cars, and even this is a small sliver of what we saw.  Highlight of our visit, of course, was that “Big Daddy” himself was there, giving a personal tour to a small group of fans. We listened to a few stories before they disappeared behind a door that said “Employees Only.”

Garlits has assembled an impressive collection of not only his own cars, but cars from the history of drag racing.  And that is just in one building! A second building houses hundreds of mostly stock cars from the 30s forward. A few even older than that. Many of the cars are from Garlits’ personal collection, but a lot of them have been donated over the years by thoughtful and generous owners. We spent a couple of hours there. I could have spent longer, but we needed to move on up the road. So we could get home just in time for a winter storm!

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida

Enjoy the photos!

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida

Doing The Bada Bing Thing

When a restaurant bills itself as “The Best Italian Restaurant in St. Petersburg” and is walking distance from your motel, you need to go, right?  Such was the case with Gratzzi Grille.  Yeah, maybe the name isn’t spelled ‘correctly’ but I’ll bet it gets pronounced correctly!

One of the items on their menu is what they call ‘Cavatelli Bada Bing.’  It’s prepared tableside by one of the owners, and uses a lot of flaming vodka to prepare a very cheesy, very delicious cavatelli dish.  I had to try it! It’s a bit more of a show than it is an example of fine Italian cuisine, but it was fun.

I didn’t take photos or videos, because I just wanted to watch.  But the video below shows it better than anything I could have shot anyway.  And the guy doing the cooking is the guy who did mine.

And that’s the Bada Bing! 🙂

YouTube player

A Visit To The Dali’ Museum – St. Petersburg

The Helical Staircase in The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida

Despite being a photographer for years, I’ve never had much more than a passing interest in art, and artists, in general.  Sure, I’m aware of a lot of the famous names.  We’ve attended galleries and shows, and even a few art auctions on cruise ships.

The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum). St. Petersburg, Florida
The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum). St. Petersburg, Florida

After visiting The Dali’ – the museum dedicated to art by Salvador Dali’ – I now know that Dali’ was much more than the guy with the weird mustache that painted even weirder pictures.  After reading and learning about the surrealist movement and the motivations and inspirations behind it, it starts – starts – to make a bit more sense.  I have to believe that substances of some kind must have been involved.

“The Hallucinogenic Toreador” The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum). St. Petersburg, Florida
The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum). St. Petersburg, Florida
The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum). St. Petersburg, Florida
“The Ecumenical Council” The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum). St. Petersburg, Florida

Admittedly, though, seeing Dali’s art in person doesn’t really make it easier to understand or explain the imagination that must have been crucial to developing the ideas and concepts that resulted in this work.  But that is what genius is.

We missed by a week being able to see work by another famous artist – Picasso.  A Picasso exhibition was opening the week after our visit.  That would also have been interesting, but will have to wait for another time.

Dali’s Galacidalacidesoxiribunucleicacid (Homage to Crick and Watson). The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum). St. Petersburg, Florida

Visiting both the Dali’ and the Chihuly museums is a strong reminder that there are lots of fine and worthy galleries everywhere.  Charlotte even has a number of them, and we need to keep that in mind as we think about things to do and places to go.

“The Ecumenical Council” The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum). St. Petersburg, Florida

One of the other positive things I found in both museums is that in each of them, signs said that “Photography is encouraged!”  Of course they want you to tag them on social media, but that’s OK.  It was a welcome approach in this age of restrictions and paranoia.

The Helical Staircase in The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida

Exploring St. Petersburg, Florida

Monument commemorating The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, the world’s first airline. On the pier in St. Petersburg, Florida

As I mentioned in a previous post, once we found out that our cruise had been cancelled, we began looking for something interesting to do for a few days.  We originally looked into a beach resort, but the temperature forecast – while warmer than North Carolina and a lot warmer than places farther north – did not seem to us to be warm enough for beach time.  Maybe it was just a letdown from not being able to go to Cozumel? 😉

Hampton Inn. St. Petersburg, Florida
Hampton Inn. St. Petersburg, Florida
Railing shadows. St. Petersburg, Florida
Railing shadows. St. Petersburg, Florida

We settled on St. Petersburg for a number of reasons.  We had never been there, it is on the water (Tampa Bay), has a number of interesting museums and looked to have some interesting restaurants.  We found a Hampton Inn right downtown near the waterfront for a reasonable price, and headed that way after our time in Lake Wales.

Building. St. Petersburg, Florida
Building. St. Petersburg, Florida
Building. St. Petersburg, Florida
Building. St. Petersburg, Florida

We found St. Petersburg to be a youngish town, and in a lot of ways it reminds me of Fort Collins, but with water instead of mountains, sandals instead of hiking boots.  There is a vibrant arts scene there, plenty of public space, a good selection of restaurants of all kinds, and a pretty open and accepting mindset toward people of all kinds, ages and preferences.  We really felt welcome there.

Teak Restaurant. On the pier in St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Pete Pier. St. Petersburg, Florida
Mural at the St. Pete Sailing Center. St. Petersburg, Florida
Duke Energy Center For The Arts. St. Petersburg, Florida
The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum). St. Petersburg, Florida

After visiting a town, Kathy & I often wonder aloud about how it would be to live there.  The downtown area has plenty of condos and apartments, and there were at least two grocery stores within easy walking distance of our motel.  With the restaurants, shops, waterfront and museums, there would be plenty to keep anyone occupied. Of course we aren’t looking to relocate, but the hypothetical is still interesting. It looks like it would be pretty expensive, and one of the things we love about where we are is that it is not expensive, which allows us to do the travel we do.  So we visit!

This boat owner is not going to be happy! Pelicans. St. Petersburg, Florida
Wild Nanday Parakeets In St Petersburg, Florida
Building. St. Petersburg, Florida

I’ll write separately about the museums, but wanted to share a few of the photos I made while wandering around the town on our various outings.  We had lovely weather which helped a lot.  There is nothing like a blue sky and sunshine to provide a feeling of warmth, especially when it is 25 degrees with snow on the ground as I write this!

Building. St. Petersburg, Florida
Fountain in South Straub Park. St. Petersburg, Florida
Building. St. Petersburg, Florida
Building. St. Petersburg, Florida
Internationally renowned artist and Tampa Bay native Janet Echelman has created one of her famous billowing net sculptures to dazzle Pier visitors. “Bending Arc” measures a massive 76 feet at its highest point and 428 feet at its widest and is perpetually in motion with the wind. The artist titled the sculpture Bending Arc in reference to MLK’s words: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” St. Pete Pier, St. Petersburg, Florida
Teak Restaurant. On the pier in St. Petersburg, Florida
Skyline from the Teak Restaurant on the pier in St. Petersburg, Florida
Building. St. Petersburg, Florida
Building. St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Petersburg, Florida
Building. St. Petersburg, Florida
Mural at the Morean Arts Center, St. Petersburg, Florida
Building. St. Petersburg, Florida

In Lake Wales, Florida: Bok Tower Gardens

The Singing Tower. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

We had driven past the entrance to Bok Tower Gardens several times, but it took us until the 4th visit to our friends Bill and Cathy to actually get there.  It is quite a beautiful place!

The Singing Tower. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
The Singing Tower. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Door detail. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. Edward Bok’s grave is marked by the flower basket
Sundial – what time is it? Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

The tower and gardens are the creation of Edward Bok, who was editor of the magazine The Ladies Home Journal.  Ed gets most of the credit, although it appears that the money actually came from his wife, Mary Louise Curtis Bok.  Mary Louise was the only child of newspaper and magazine magnate Cyrus H.K. Curtis, founder of, among other publications, The Ladies Home Journal (coincidence? 😉 ).  With her daddy’s money Mary Louise founded the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.  She also did a lot of other good and charitable work, especially toward supporting talented young musicians.

Entry flower display. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bamboo. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

The tower and gardens are on the National Register of Historic Places and the grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., son of Frederick Law Olmstead, Sr., known for his work with the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, Central Park in New York City and other important landmarks.

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Photo spot. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Photo spot. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

In 1925, Bok decided build a stone water-and-bell tower. He hired architect Milton B. Medary to design “the most beautiful tower in the world”. The 60-bell carillon occupies only the top of the Singing Tower, some of the rest contained large water tanks to irrigate the gardens, with Bok’s baronial study at the base. The 15-foot-wide moat surrounding the tower’s base now serves as a koi pond.

The Gothic Revival tower was built at the highest elevation of the site, south of a reflecting pool that reflects its full image. The tower is 51 feet square at its base, changing at the height of 150 feet to an octagon, with each of the eight sides 37 feet wide. It is built of pink Etowah marble and gray Creole marble, mined in Tate, Georgia, and coquina stone from St. Augustine, Florida.

The tower’s 60-bell carillon was cast by Taylor & Company, of Loughborough, England. The bell chamber is on the eighth floor of the tower, and just below it is a playing room that houses the clavier, or keyboard, that controls the bells. The bells are stationary, only the clappers move to sound them. The sixth floor is a studio for the carillon player. Recitals are given daily.  We got to hear one of the recitals, with the carillonneur easily viewed via video feed to a sitting area within view of the tower.

Peace Lantern. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Gate detail. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Gate detail. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Gate detail. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Gate detail. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Gate detail. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

We were very thankful to have visited the tower and gardens on a day that was relatively cool, with low humidity.  I can only imagine how warm and sticky it would get on a sunny day, especially in summer.

For anyone wishing to figure out the sundial, we visited on January 9.  By following the instructions below the dial, it is pretty easy to calculate the (approximate) time.  Yes, the answer can be found in my metadata (convert from GMT). 🙂

I haven’t felt especially wordy lately so I haven’t been posting much.  But I did finish processing the photos from our recent visit to Florida.  I have posted a gallery on Adobe Portfolio of a selection of all of my photos from this trip.

Making The Best Of It

Frog fountain. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

So what do you do when you’re in Florida for a cruise and the cruise is cancelled?  Well, for Kathy & me, we find something else to do!  We had already been planning to visit our friends Bill & Cathy, who spend the winter in a community near Lake Wales.  Our original plans called for us to visit them after our cruise, so we called them and said, “guess what?”  They were somewhat relieved that we would not be coming to visit them after having spent a week on a Covid-infested cruise ship, even though we had planned to take a test after getting off the ship.

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

We were able to shift our motel reservation to a week earlier than our original plan, then take a few days there to decide what to do with our newfound time (and money).  Since the cruise line cancelled the cruise, they are going to refund all of our money PLUS give us the equivalent amount in credit toward a future cruise.  A deal for us – we get a few days in Florida and still get a free cruise in the future!  Some strings are attached, of course, but nothing we can’t deal with.

Photo spot. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

We decided to play tourist in Lake Wales while we were there.  We visited the Bok Tower Gardens, a relatively famous landmark that we had heard about but never visited.  We stopped by the Florida’s Natural Visitor Center and learned about the history of Florida Orange Juice.  Who knew?

Door detail. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
The Singing Tower. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

So what to do?  We looked at the weather forecast and decided that it was just going to be too cool to head to a beach resort somewhere.  Yes, the temperatures were forecasted to be in the upper 60s to low 70s, which is warm if you are coming from Minnesota or Canada, but for us thin-blooded North Cackalackians it just wasn’t warm enough!  We settled on a few days in St. Petersburg, another town we had heard about but never visited.

The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum). St. Petersburg, Florida

Over the course of three days in St. Petersburg, we visited the Salvador Dali’ museum, the Chihuly Glass Collection at the Morean Arts Center, and generally wandered around town exploring.

Glass works by Dale Chihuly at The Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center, St. Petersburg, Florida
Glass blowing demonstration at the Morean Glass Studio, part of the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida

On our way home we stopped by Ocala and visited the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, and were even treated to a “Big Daddy” sighting!

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida

We’re home now and watching an assortment of winter weather passing through the area.  Yes, it might be warmer if we had stayed in Florida, but it is nice to be home in our house any time.  We’re well stocked and shouldn’t have to leave the house for a few days.  So it can snow/sleet/freezing rain all it wants – the sun will probably be back out tomorrow then it can be almost spring! 🙂

Skyline from the Teak Restaurant on the pier in St. Petersburg, Florida

An Unexpected Turn

The Helical Staircase in The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida

Kathy & I were halfway to Tampa, FL last Friday, and in fact had just crossed the Florida state line, when we got a message that our cruise, which was scheduled to depart the following day, had been cancelled.  Well, dang it!

All was not lost, of course. We rearranged some plans, made some new plans, and salvaged a few days of sunshine.  We returned home this afternoon just in time to hunker down for a winter storm.  But we figure better here in our own house than somewhere else!

I’ve got stories to tell, but it’s late and cocktail hour is underway.  More to come as I develop my film!

Shadows, Lines and Angles

Lamp Post – St. Augustine, Florida

I finally finished up processing photos from our recent Florida trip.  I didn’t have an interesting story to go with them but they are pretty interesting on their own.

Lake Placid, Florida
Historic Downtown Parking Facility – St. Augustine, Florida
Historic Downtown Parking Facility – St. Augustine, Florida
Tiles – St. Augustine, Florida
Castillo de San Marcos Fort in St. Augustine, Florida
Castillo de San Marcos Fort in St. Augustine, Florida
Castillo de San Marcos Fort in St. Augustine, Florida
Castillo de San Marcos Fort in St. Augustine, Florida
Castillo de San Marcos Fort in St. Augustine, Florida

A Quick Stop At Lake Okeechobee

Park at Port Mayaca Lock & Dam on Lake Okeechobee, Florida

We’ve passed by Lake Okeechobee on a number of occasions as we’ve transited central Florida, but have never taken the time to stop until this last time.  The reason we hadn’t seen the lake before is that it is almost completely surrounded by a 30 foot earthen dike, preventing views of the lake from the roadway, but keeping the water where it belongs.

Park at Port Mayaca Lock & Dam on Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Park at Port Mayaca Lock & Dam on Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Park at Port Mayaca Lock & Dam on Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Park at Port Mayaca Lock & Dam on Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Park at Port Mayaca Lock & Dam on Lake Okeechobee, Florida

The only way to actually see the lake is at one of the access points to the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail.  Even in the few towns around the lake there is no actual ‘lakefront.’  There is a large roadside park at the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam on the east side of the lake about 30 miles south of the town of Okeechobee.  We stopped there on our way to Okeechobee, where we spent the night before heading out to St. Augustine.

Park at Port Mayaca Lock & Dam on Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Park at Port Mayaca Lock & Dam on Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Park at Port Mayaca Lock & Dam on Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Park at Port Mayaca Lock & Dam on Lake Okeechobee, Florida

We only spent about an hour at this stop, but it looks like a place with a lot of photographic opportunities depending on weather conditions.  If you don’t mind man-made objects like dams and pilings in your photos they might really add some interest to a nice morning or evening sky.  We had a few clouds around for our time there, but it was a little early in the evening for really nice light.  It had already been a long enough day, so we went on to our day’s destination.  We’ll see about returning for longer on a future trip!