In 1939 the Mixons bought a twenty-acre citrus farm and have been selling oranges and other fruit ever since. They now ship all over the country and have expanded the gift store to sell other products. Part of their land is used as a wildlife refuge and for educational purposes. Tractor-drawn tram rides are available three times a day for wildlife tours. I knew this was a place I needed to visit on my way to Robinson Preserve. Unfortunately I missed the ride, so I checked out the gift shop instead.
The gift shop is larger than most and filled with eclectic gifts and souvenirs of all kinds. Many are Florida-themed or orange-themed. There are doormats, wind chimes, soap, and purses. There are books and toys. There are local wines, including pineapple and mango wines. There are salad dressings, salsas, jellies, and countless candies. There are a wide variety of honey products, including honeycomb. They have cheeses flavored with horseradish or maple. They have crystallized ginger, sausages, chocolate-covered potato chips, and gummi centipedes (just like gummi bears, but with more legs). They even have pretzel dips that come in flavors such as Pub Beer, Raspberry, and Key Lime Honey Mustard. Inside the shop is also a café, serving pizza, subs, soups, and Cubans and other sandwiches. Of course they still sell fruit, including star fruit, pomelos, and gigantic ponderosa lemons (just like lemons, but with more…lemon). I just had to go around and look at everything. The staff was very friendly and I felt like I could just hang out there a while. I can see why it has become a popular destination. They tried to tempt me with fudge, but my eyes were bigger than my wallet. I ended up buying peppermint bark instead.
Even with everything else, oranges are still the focus of what they do. They sell orange fruit, orange juice, and orange ice cream. They even have my YouTube hero Annoying Orange. Hey!
2525 27th Street East, Bradenton, Florida
Written by Daniel Noe, InkDoodler.com
Deep in Lithia lie the 6312 acres of mostly forest that make up Alafia River State Park. This is a popular place for bicyclists. Off the sides of the mixed-use trail are countless bicycle trails. These trails are narrow, twisted, and very hilly due to the entire place having been used as a phosphate mine in the past. Mountains are a rarity in Florida and this is one place for mountain bikers to get their fix. They are rated as “epic” by the IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association).
I did not know any of this before I went and I don’t have a bike; I went for the extensive walking trails, which are shared by bicycles, horses, and also tortoises. Soon after leaving the trailhead, I rounded a corner and saw a tortoise coming from the other direction at a decent speed. Only when I got close did it take any notice of me and this was just to slow down a bit every time I moved. I completely forgot that my new phone can take video, so instead all you get is a photograph. I also took a picture of a navy blue dragonfly that miraculously held still as I approached and I saw a large spider.
The trails were a bit confusing. Even though they are marked, they are not always marked at every intersection, and there are many side trails not on the map. Most of these are bicycle-only trails, but it is not always easy to tell. After getting lost several times over I found myself near where I started. Since I was more tired than I expected that day, I decided to leave early without seeing most of the park. On the way back to the parking lot, I saw two tortoises where before there had been one. Very cute.
Alafia River State Park also has a nice campground, nice picnic spots, and fishing ponds. I’ll have to go back when the weather is cooler and I have more energy.
14326 South County Road 39, Lithia, Florida
Written by Daniel Noe, InkDoodler.com
My favorite thing about Hammock Park is the covered platform I can watch the boardwalk from. There are also several trails, a small playground, a butterfly garden, restrooms, and disk golf available. The day I went to the park the butterfly garden was still flooded from the recent storm so I can’t say much about that, though I did see a couple butterflies elsewhere in the park. From the boardwalk itself one can look down and see fiddler crabs and turtles. The playground features a pyramid of ropes that shifts around as you climb it. You haven’t lived until you’ve climbed something that moves as much as you do. The gravel fill below it I discovered was strangely bouncy. Upon closer examination I determined it was made of little bits of rubber tires. I suppose it makes for a softer landing when you inevitably fall off the ropes.
It seemed boring at first. When I first arrived, I took the trails around the eastern perimeter of the park. There were benches named after various people. There were numerous puddles and muddy spots that slowed me down. These puddles had tiny tadpoles! The larger puddles had larger tadpoles! This redeemed what was otherwise a boring area. A drier trail was completely blocked by fallen trees. I climbed around and over the first two only to be utterly defeated by the third. The only redeeming feature there was the patch of plants I found with touch-sensitive leaves. The sun was hot and there was less shade than I like. I was starting to think the park might be a dud. I was very wrong. Read More
Five Galleries: The Dunedin Fine Art Center boasts five galleries, a gift shop, the Palm Café, and a lounge area in the central lobby complete with art books, couches, and a piano. It is located on Michigan Avenue right near the Dunedin Community Center, Highlander Park, and Hammock Park. There is good parking. By one entrance is the alien machinery pictured above. By the other entrance is a long tile mural built over the course of several years by many children of different ages from different schools in the area. The center is open seven days a week and paid for largely by donations.
Thought-Provoking Exhibits: Of course, it’s what’s inside that counts. I caught them on a transition day when only two of the five galleries were open. The Entel Family Gallery hosted an exhibit called Dignity: Tribes In Transition. It was a collection of photographs of indigenous people from around the world, often in a mixture of traditional and modern dress. Pictures of people are interesting because unlike landscapes or abstract sculptures, people have dreams, thoughts, goals, aspirations, and can interact in their environments in complex ways. What were they thinking? I could not tell. There were several plaques on the walls explaining what the project was about. They referenced a UN declaration in the seventies to protect the rights of indigenous people, though I question what else the declaration might have had in it since the four nations to vote against it (New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States) are not exactly known for human-rights abuses (relatively speaking). Another plaque stressed the importance of learning the culture of our ancestors. It suggested that in order to know where we are going, we must know where we come from. I’m not sure I buy that argument. Another plaque suggested that trees feel pain and that Africans have somehow known this all along. The jury is still out on that. The exhibit certainly got me thinking, which I’m guessing was the point.
Pretty Pictures: The second exhibit (Harmonic Divergence) featured works inspired by music. There are two paintings that stand out to me now. At first glance, it looked like a swirl of color probably representing music was escaping from a trumpet or horn of some kind. A drum and harp floated nearby. Upon closer examination, I decided it looked more like the horn was escaping from the swirl. Do instruments make music or does the potential for music encourage the invention of instruments? I’m probably thinking too much. The other painting I liked was a borderline impressionistic scene of a man with a guitar-like object and four women in hats. There were large flowers in the background and fruit on the table. The women appeared to have their eyes closed, probably enjoying the music. It was all very colorful. The instrument itself had several regions of different colors on it. There was just enough consistency in the highlighting to discern the direction of illumination. I liked it.
1143 Michigan Boulevard, Dunedin, Florida
Written By Daniel Noe, InkDoodler.com
LOCAL TAMPA BAY