The mandatory gearhead content… Old engine blocks used to fortify the docks at the historic Smallwood Store (est. 1906) in Chockoloskee, Florida.

I had another run in with Floriduh yesterday- The park owner, not happy with the below market revenue he’s getting from my 99 year lease, left a handwritten demand on my door for a near doubling of the annual membership fee, and a demand that I move the trailer. Not sure if he meant the little 4 by 8 or the one I’m living in, but if it’s the latter, it ain’t gonna happen- it’s married to the “lean” as we call them in Minnesota, tied down to a concrete slab, the electrical and water systems and roof are interconnected, and it ain’t rolled in over two decades. So I studied up a bit on Florida mobile home park law and got my ducks in order. Not that I really need too- the park owner is turning eighty, just got convicted of two counts of vandalism and careless driving, and never sent me a bill for the annual fee or even the utilities. If worse comes to worse, I’ll strip the trailer and dump it on him… Right now it costs as much to move a singlewide as they’re worth. Said park owner ought to know- he’s got three foreclosed and abandonned ones occupying lots, and the banks won’t even repo the trailers.

So today I escaped Floriduh and went riding in search of Florida. Headed east on the Tamiami Trail, and found these characters fishing on a boardwalk just a short walk from the Trail. There was an alligator, an owl, a couple eagles, and various other waterfoul in attendance also, but they either moved too quick or were too camo’d for this very amateur photographer to bag. This is Florida!

Turn off at Florida 29 and follow it along the bays and islands to the end of the road… And the Smallwood Store. Founded in 1906 and run by successive generations of the same family, the store closed in the 1980s and was just left… Inventory and all. Now reopened as a museum, and a glimpse into what Florida was like before the scam artists, speculators, and developers that built Floriduh came along. The dock is there for a reason-  until the road was extended in the 1950s, everything came by water. The store has survived several hurricanes, and after flooding in one hurricane in it’s early years it was raised on stilts.

Recently the historic Smallwood Store has been the scene of a battle between good ‘ol Florida and it’s evil twin, Floriduh. For decades land access to the store was by a dirt road across some neighboring vacant land, and nobody thought anything of it. Few years back a developer bought the land with dreams of profitable seaside condo, but with the real estate market having crashed and burned here, that ain’t gonna happen. So the developers put a fence across the road and blocked access to the historic Smallwood Store, taking them hostage and demanding that the county or somebody with deep pockets buy them out. Fortunately the non-profit that runs the museum waged a good legal fight, the county sided with the museum, and the court ordered the access road unblocked… Florida beat Floriduh, at least in this round.

Took in the museum in Everglades City on the way back and learned more than I ever could imagine about the city and it’s reason for existance, the Tamiami Trail. Imagine it’s the late 1920s, and your job as a member of the new Southwest Florida Highway Patrol is to ride your sector of the new Tamiami Trail on a new motorcycle, helping floundering motorists, talking with the local Seminole indians along the trail and the hunters and fisherman, all while enjoying that Florida sunshine!

Back to the sad reality of Floriduh… Hooked up the little trailer and got the ramp ready. When you’re dealing with a crazy park owner, best not to leave him a vulnerable pawn like a motorcycle to abuse or capture. So I’ll be hauling the Buell back to Minnesota. Hopefully I’ll be bringing something more dirt capable down next winter to replace the Buell.

So the now over century old battle between the beauty of Florida and it’s evil twin, Floriduh, continues…

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