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East, again

PETER O’CONNOR
Contributing Columnist
oconnor@lbknews.com

Time does pass; I like to recall the sign I  once spied in a classroom of the tiny school on Fishers Island, New York.  Now that’s a spot that would suit the five-star  wannabes around here.  That sign said “Time Passes, Will You.”  I note with some chagrin that I first wrote about Florida’s East Coast over three years ago.  I’m over here again this Thanksgiving week.

On a Thanksgiving Eve morning we set out for the east coast of our Florida Peninsula, for West Palm Beach.  We are fortunate to have family so close.  This is a journey of some 175 miles  which takes us through the beauty of old Florida.  As most of you know when you get inland 10 miles from any coast in this State you enter a different world.  To remain always on the coast is to miss most of this land of sunshine.

After a brief stop at Einstein’s in Sarasota for bagels and coffee we head east.  Even in Sarasota there is a slight chill in the air.  East on Clark Road you’ll see the almost completed Sarasota National Cemetery.  Here at this impressive site our Sisters and Brothers rest in endless rows.  Visit this place if you haven’t yet.   Heading east, beyond the trail as they used to say, we reach the nexrt landmark, Myakka State Park.  The roads out here are much improved of late after a multi-year improvement project.  If you like flora and fauna visit this spot some day; you’ll see lots of nature and even some gators.  This is the beginning of the trip across Florida.  It gets lonelier from here.  I count the Myakka River as the beginning of the interior on this side.  We head all the way to the Kissimmee River as the edge of the east.

The first feature you see heading east is the vast area of grazing land with numerous cattle.  The numbers are high even now in winter.  This is serious business.  Citrus groves line the road a bit further on.  The not so small town of Arcadia is the next landmark.  This is an agricultural community.  You’ll see a vibrant town with many migrants – mostly working.  This town boasts a western wear store in case you need to augment your local wardrobe.  Walmart has arrived here too.

Further east on the two lane state highway are many more groves.  This is Highlands County.  There was a big pipeline construction job underway along here in prior years –  all finished now; the site covered and clean.  There is a large prison facility in DeSoto County clearly visible.  I’ll bet this is a major employer around here.  The straight two lane passes huge sod farms.  Here you’ll see where all that turf comes from.  You’ll spot signs for Indian reservations out here too.

Traveling further we approach Okeechobee – a large town close by the great lake of the same name.  This is a commercial center.  It even had a Five Guys (now closed I see) and a Jersey Mikes.  Modern attractions had come to town.  Something to notice?  Both Okeechobee and the smaller Indiantown to the east have small  independent  telephone  exchanges.  They have modern telecommunications we on the coast might emulate?   This is rural America.

We enter sandy soil again as the highway approaches the Atlantic.  Crossing the Kissimmee and the Interstate, it’s 95 this time,  we have reached the opposite coast at West Palm.  Palm Beach itself is beyond across the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway.  Places like Singer Island with its high rise sentinels standing along the beach might resemble the best of what our coastline could become,  The wealthy towns of Jupiter, Boca Raton, as well as impressive Palm Beach are here.

We stop at Ibis, our destination for the weekend.   This planned and well gated community is at the western edge of the City of West Palm Beach.  Ibis boasts three golf courses to test its members and guests.

Ibis Golf & Country Club, Inc. is a mandatory, equity community offering four different levels to choose from, ranging from a Social Sports Membership to a Premier Golf Membership.  This might be the typical Florida golf community.  The populations, seasonal and permanent are larger here on the East Coast.  These numbers obviously can support the larger facilities found over here.  Our West Coast style is less intense and slower.  Maybe we just like it our way.

Friday, Pat and I took a 2 hour drive about Palm Beach and environs.  We headed out to the coast( that’s the Atlantic) and turned south. The area is heavily developed and somewhat run down.  Crossing the Intercoastal leads to Palm Beach itself.  Wow, this is class.  Worth Avenue is still there.  St. Armands is no Worth Avenue.  These are the homes by the sea of some super-rich.  Impressive.  Northward along Route A1A takes us onto Singer Island, Juno and north to Jupiter.  These are all impressive communities.  The singular feature that I noticed is the land set aside along the coast/beachfront for public parking.   These beach facilities are actually used by folks.  This is a planning feature our planners might consider.  We obviously missed this in developing our Key.

A trip around Florida is necessary to understand and appreciate our State.  It is not all  Mediterranean  style mega-houses and lush green fairways.

This State is home to many peoples, with many work styles. Try to see them all.

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