Old Florida Getaway

This week-end adventure is called "Old Florida Getaway" because it takes you into the heart of rural old Florida--that part of the state's heartland that helped defined this peninsula in the days before there was much in Miami, and long before a world-famous, big-eared mouse built an empire near Orlando.

Herlong Mansion in Micanopy

Let your old Florida getaway start in Micanopy (mick-an-OH-pee), a quaint, small town just south of Gainesville. Micanopy may be hidden away, but Hollywood discovered its rural charm a few years back when the movie, Doc Hollywood, starring Michael J. Fox, was filmed here.

For overnight accomodations, consider the Herlong Mansion, originally built in 1845, but remodeled a few times over the years.

A Front View of the Herlong Mansion
The Stately Herlong Mansion in Micanopy

If you ask me, this popular Bed and Breakfast with its stately Greek columns just drips with old Southern charm. Every time I see it, I halfway expect to find the likes of Scarlett O'Hara drinking a mint julep on the upstairs veranda, still cussin' on about that no-good rascal Rhett Butler.

A View of the Street from the Upstairs Veranda of the Herlong Mansion
A View of the Street from the Upstairs Front Veranda

The mansion's interior with its rich wood floors and paneling has all the historical charm of its stately exterior.

An Inside View of the Herlong Mansion
Inside the Herlong Mansion

A morning's breakfast in the dining room can be the start of a good day.

A View of the Herlong Mansion Dining Room
The Dining Room

Micanopy is a sleepy little southern town, almost like a place that time forgot. My wife always enjoys browsing in and out of the little shops and cafes on Micanopy's main street, especially during the cooler times of the year when Micanopy, like so many other places in Florida, attracts more visitors, many of whom come here, I'm sure, to enjoy our mild winter.

A Street View of Micanopy, Florida
Micanopy, Florida

If lunch time finds you in Micanopy, you might want to enjoy some doggone good barbecue at the Pearl Country Store on US Highway 301. That's right, I'm suggesting that on this Florida getaway, you eat at a gas station!

Pearl Country Store
Pearl Country Store--A Good Place for Lunch on this old Florida Getaway

There's just something about this country store and barbecue roadhouse that really appeals to me. Maybe it's the scrumptious smell of barbecue that hits you when you first walk in the door. Or maybe it's just the roadhouse charm that I like. I don't know. It's hard to say. But I can tell you this, I flat-out enjoy eating at the Pearl Country Store.

Inside the Pearl Country Store
I Can Smell That Barbecue Now

I usually end up getting a jumbo barbecue pork sandwich along with a big serving of their home-made vinegar-based cole slaw, to which I add generous portions of black pepper. A persnickety food critic, I am not. I just know what's good when I eat it. And, to me, this is GOOD.

An interesting bit of information about Pearl is that the owner, whom I've met, is the son of the late Dr. Archie Carr, that most well-known and respected University of Florida graduate research professor in zoology. Dr. Carr's love and enthusiasm for his subject matter, coupled with his ability to explain complicated things quite simply to non-biologists, helped endear him to a great many people.

Paynes Prairie State Preserve

To add an element of outdoor adventure to your Florida getaway, head north up US 301 for a mile and a half to Paynes Prairie State Preserve.

The US 301 Entrance to Paynes Prairie State Preserve
Paynes Prairie State Preserve Entrance on US 301

Here, you can walk Cone's Dike Trail through the sometimes-wet, sometimes-dry prairie. Along this trail, I've seen deer,alligators, armadillos, and water moccasins. You might even see wild horses and American bison.

The beginning of Cone's Dike Trail in Paynes Prairie State Preserve
Explore the Prairie Along Cone's Dike Trail

The Preserve borders on Lake Wauburg. Bring your kayak or canoe and plan on some paddling. The Lake Wauburg University of Florida facility for students, faculty, and staff is located on the other side of the lake.

Lake Wauburg Panorama
A Composite Panorama of Lake Wauburg

Although there is a swimming beach on the opposite side for UF, there is no place for swimming in the Preserve.

To see a lot of alligators, try the North Rim Interpretative Center, and walk the La Chua Trail. Depending on water levels, there can be lots--and I do mean lots--of alligators here.

For this old Florida getaway, you'll need more info on the Preserve. To find it, see my page on Paynes Prairie.

Cross Creek

The next stop on your Florida getaway, is the small community of Cross Creek and to the preserved homestead of Pulitzer-prize-winning writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, which in 2006 was named a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.

A View of Marjorie Rawlings's House from the Front Yard
The Marjorie Rawlings Home

Apparently, Miz Rawlings could write about anything. I mean, among other famous works, including The Yearling, she wrote an entire, entertaining, world-reknown Florida classic, essentially about hanging around Cross Creek. A memoir-based movie -- Cross Creek -- starring Mary Steenburgenand Peter Coyote premiered in 1983.

In some ways I feel a kinship with this lady because, as was obviously the case with her, I'm one of those people who can't not write. But while her writing is exquisitely artful, mine is more of a mundane, practical craft. We are who we are, I suppose. But there's no law that says we can't aspire to greater things.

One thing I particularly like about her is that she appreciated the Creek's "certain remoteness from urban confusion." Preferring the calmness of natural creation to the hurriedness and pushiness of large cities, I can relate.

The house and gardens depict her 1930s way of life here in rural north Florida. The layout is unusual by today's standards. For example, the kitchen is separated from the house's main part, to keep the heat from cooking fires out of the living area.

Pictured here is the screened-in front porch where she is said to have done a lot of her writing while watching the world go by along the road outside. The house itself was closed for summer refurbishing on this hot August day, but sometimes when it'sopen, they'll have her old typewriter placed on the table, with a piece of half-typed-on paper fitted in the carriage, as if shehad just left momentarily to fix herself a cup of tea.

A View of the Front Porch of the Marjorie Rawlings Home
The Front Porch

An old car of the day with the word OMNI on or near the front grill, remains parked in the carport, as if Miz Rawlings would come out at any time to make the four-mile trip to the Post Office in Island Grove.

Marjorie Rawlings's Car Parked in her Carport
Marjorie Rawlings's Car

In 1942, the same year she came out with Cross Creek, Marjorie Rawlings wrote Cross Creek Cookery, a book of recipes of the area. In that book she has an entry for what she calls "Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie." She said she even served it on occasions to those "in whose welfare I took no interest."

If you ever feel like ignoring your doctor's advice about a healthy diet, you'll want to try some of this stuff. I guess it's much like other pecan pies, except, from what I can tell, the secret ingredient is Southern cane syrup, and not the corn syrup most people use.

Well, I'm here to tell you, it is one outstandingly good pie. Our family usually has it every Thanksgiving and Christmas, andonce in a while on times in between. What a treat.

The Yearling Restaurant

The day's last stop on this Florida getaway is dinner at reknowned The Yearling restaurant here in Cross Creek. (My wife loves their sour orange pie.)

Marjorie Rawlings's Car Parked in her Carport
Marjorie Rawlings's Car

Walking into The Yearling is like stepping back into time. The dark-wood paneling and the memorablilia on the walls are reminders of days gone by. The bar looks like something out of the 1920s.

A View of the Old-Time Wood-paneled Yearling Restaurant Bar
Old Time Bar

A huge gator hide on the wall, a Confederate Stars and Bars in the background, and even an old beat-up cold-drink box set the stage as a reminder of rural Florida days long faded into history.

An Interior View of The Yearling Restaurant
Days Long Gone

According to the owner, people come from as far away as Tampa to eat here. Obviously, Cross Creek doesn't have the population to support a restaurant of this class, so it's a good bet that most patrons come from other places.

Anybody familiar with The Yearling will recognize the name of "Willie Green," the blues singer who, with his guitar and harmonica, has entertained diners here for years. Apparently, Willie is taking some time off for health reasons now, but a lot of people will join me in sending him "Get Better Soon" wishes.

So, there you have it--a suggested two-night Florida getaway back to old Florida, with a day's worth of activities--includingsome outdoor adventure at Paynes Prairie--in between. The first day is for arrival, and the last day is for departure.

Wishing you a great trip.