Tag Archives: January

“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

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

Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park

Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina

Kathy & I were recently looking for someplace different to walk besides the sidewalk between our neighborhood and the main drag, and decided to explore the Mount Holly Trail at nearby Mountain Island Park.  Walmart and Micky D’s are only so scenic!

Parking area and playground for the Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina
Mountain Island Hydroelectric Facility in Mount Holly, North Carolina

The park is located next to the Mountain Island Hydroelectric plant at the south end of Mountain Island Lake, just outside the town of Mount Holly and only about 8 miles from our neighborhood.  The park contains a large parking lot with fishing area, small playground and hiking/biking trails.  We walked the 1.6-mile trail to the end and back, which made for a nice afternoon.

Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina
Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina

The trail is mostly an easy walk for anyone in reasonably good walking shape.  There are a few hills, mostly on the far end from the parking area.  A portion of the trail surface close to the parking area is pretty coarse gravel, which makes for rough walking for a bit.  This area of the trail is close to the river, and I would guess it floods occasionally, thus the need for heavier base.  We were there on a dry day without a lot of heavy preceding rain, and there were a few muddy places along the trail.  Overall the trail is in very good shape, but I would suggest sturdy shoes.  The woods should be very pretty as the trees and vegetation green up in the spring.

Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina
Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina

We were there on a Wednesday in January, so there was not much traffic, mostly couples and people with dogs.  We saw a few mountain bikers on main trail as well as the adjacent mountain bike trails as it got later in the day, but not too bad.

Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina
Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina

We’re hoping to explore some more walking & hiking areas over the coming months, and I will report on them here for anyone who is interested.  Or anyone who just wants to see the photos!

Tom’s Trail Summary:
Length: 1.6 miles to the end, or 3.2 miles round trip.  There are several options for shorter loops, or out-back for a shorter distance is possible.
Terrain: Mostly flat with occasional hills
Surface: Mostly dirt with a few gravel places.  Recommend sturdy shoes like hiking boots.
Comments: The trail is shared with mountain bikers and dog walkers.  No motorized vehicles.  Pleasant walking along the Catawba River.  Should be pretty in the spring as trees and plants green up.  I tried to find a link to a trail map but could only find a Google Map to the parking area!
Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina