Whenever we don't make it out to any state parks for any period of time...even when we have plenty of other events going on in our lives...I end up feeling restless. I climb the walls, wanting to get out and explore the natural Florida. It had been some time since our last state park outing, and so one rainy Sunday we...Rob, Olivia, me, and Xandra... made up for lost time: A day-long road trip with three state park stops!
Our destination was the Tampa area, which had 3 distinctive museum-style parks where I figured we could (mostly) stay dry. Our first stop was probably the saddest, must run-down park we'd ever seen, the Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site. We later found out the condition was due to standing water. The rangers couldn't mow!
The mound was used for ceremonies approximately 2,000 years ago and is twenty feet high. Climbing up the stairs on that quiet, overcast morning really helped me feel the magical reverence such a location held all those years ago. The towering live oaks draped with Spanish moss only added to the ancient feelings.
We've been to several mounds like this one, but Madira Bickel Mound is unique. Once you climb to the top of it, you walk directly on it instead of on a protective platform. I just wish the grass at the top wasn't so tall!
On the way back to the car we saw several butterflies I had never seen before. I've since identified them as White Peacocks:
Our next stop was the Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park. Got all that?! :) Judah P. Benjamin was the Confederate Secretary of State and hid out at Gamble Plantation until he could safely get the heck outta town. The plantation was once a huge sugar mill, and the house itself is the only one of its type in South Florida (and why they consider Tampa to be South Florida is beyond me. Just sayin').
Heavier rains gave way to the occasional drizzle as we made our way into the museum on the property. The ranger inside stamped our books and was rather pushy, wanting to give us stamps for other local parks we hadn't been to yet. We had the hardest time getting him to understand that, yes, we would absolutely make the trip back to Gamble Plantation for those stamps, even though it is out of the way, whenever we actually made it to those particular parks, because we weren't willing to get stamps for parks we hadn't been to. His attitude sucked, but our principles totally rocked! And so did the museum:
On one wall was this very cool chart, cross-referencing herbs and ailments. Some of the ailments of the day...and the treatment for them...were bizarre.
After the museum, we wandered around the grounds. Not only is the plantation house there, but the Patten House as well.
We couldn't go into the house, so Rob drank a beer, Xandra struck a pose, and Olivia got her Om on. Just kidding...Rob picked up trash, Xandra struck a pose, and Olivia waited for aliens to beam her up.
We eventually made it to the actual plantation house, which was closed at the time. We were in between tour times, so we opted to look through the windows. Except Xandra, who opted for a little B&E:
Next to the house is a cistern for collecting rain water. Apparently Mr. Gamble believed our spring water to be anything but pure!
Finally, a few more photos from around the plantation:
Our final destination was the quaint, historic Ybor (pronounced Eee-bore) City Museum. Some of the finest cigars in the world came from Ybor City, which was founded by Don Vicente Martinez Ybor. From the stone streets to the cigar makers' houses, this area has been preserved to showcase a rich period in our history.
The museum itself is housed in what was once the Ferlita Bakery. During their busiest weeks they made 35,000 loaves of bread! I can just imagine how wonderful it must have smelled.
We learned that it wasn't just the Cuban immigrants who made cigars. There were Cubans, Italians, Germans, Spaniards. Many nationalities and cultures came to Ybor City and found their niche in such a prosperous time. And, they were well cared for. Don Ybor believed in home ownership and health care, which created a feeling of pride in his workers. I would love to go back in time and see Ybor City at its peak!
After taking a look around the courtyard, we met up with Park Services Specialist Alex Kinder for a tour of La Casita, one of the cigar maker's houses.
After our tour we looked around outside a little more:
Wild coffee, which tastes nothing like the real thing.
And then it was time to head home. We met up with Chris for a visit to Gander Mountain and dinner at the Tilted Kilt, and our day was then complete. The need to visit a state park was met for the time being, and we were much richer for the experience. Three totally different parks, three totally different experiences. One truly satisfying day!