Day 12: January 2, 2015
Florida Wild Wings

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Smokey's Smoke House is in an unmarked building but it does have a sign and a good reputation. I sat at the counter and took the waitress's advice in putting my order together. Smokey makes his (or her) own sausage which is extra good by itself and makes the biscuit & gravy extra good, too. My food had just arrived when a fellow with a cane came through the door. Without missing a step, he called out "biscuits & gravy & a cup of black coffee" and took a seat at a picnic table against the back wall. Before I finished, he had eaten, paid, and was gone.

Two sections of Dixie Highway I had yet to drive have their northern end near Lake Alfred where my uncle is living and where I intend to spend a day or two. One is the Highlands Connector and the other is part of the West Mainline. Without giving it too much thought, I figured I'd drive the connector first then return south and get started on the rest of the mainline. Then, when I was getting ready to leave Bradenton, I looked at the logistics a little more and decided doing the mainline first was a better idea. I have driven the route south from Punta Gorda so that's where I spent the night and started driving this morning. Between Punta Gorda and Winter Haven it's pretty much divided four-lane and this morning it was rather foggy divided four-lane.

I first assumed the graded path west of the highway was some farmers lane but it continued for what had to be more than a single farm and was raised and leveled beyond what any farmer was likely to do. Hoping for something like the brick segments I saw the other day east of Arcadia, I pulled over to take a look but saw no evidence of pavement of any kind.

This is where the South Florida Connector reaches the West Mainline in Arcadia. Rattlers Old West Salon is a couple of blocks to the left.

At Arcadia's north edge, the Desoto Motel is still in business.

Between Bowling Green and Fort Meade, the Dixie Highway (now Old Bowling Green Road) crosses Whidden Creek then turns east at what must have once been a gas station. Then, after rejoining US-17 for about five miles, it moves onto two-lane Old Homeland Road which it follows to Winter Haven.

Shortly after noon, I reached Lake Alfred, hooked up with my uncle Eldon and cousins June & Nolan, and went immobile. We eventually exerted ourselves ever so slightly to walk down the wooden path behind the house to the edge of Lake Haines where a few anhingas and grackles awaited. During the more than an hour we were there, the lone osprey we saw preened itself a bit but did not move from its tree top perch. Eldon had brought some bread and tossed bits on the water where fish that I never actually saw grabbed it in an instant. Three sizable turtles showed up and made their own, somewhat slower, moves on the bread but were essentially unsuccessful until the fish and the grackles had their fill and let them reach some of the bits of bread.

Back at the house, Nolan spotted an egret perched on a hand rail in the back yard. I opened the door and snapped a couple of quick photos. Then, while my camera was still pointed at it, the big bird floated from the railing to the ground. Cool!

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