Back Roads and Castles Part 2

But, it’s “time to fly” so to speak, and with regrets I jump back in the truck and head to my next destination, just outside of the city limits.

In addition to clowns, caladines and murals, Lake Placid is also home to Henscratch Farms Vineyard and Winery.  I make my way down Orange Blossom Road with great anticipation after my unique experience at the morning Vineyard.  A few more turns and I am well off the beaten track, slowing to the Henscratch sign, only to discover the parking lot is full!  I have 4 wheel drive, so I make my own spot.  The grounds have a rustic farm charm to them.  There are rows and rows of grape vines, hydroponic strawberry towers, and blue berry patches. People are milling about everywhere!  Picking berries, looking around, and dozens of folks are in the wine tasting building. 

Strawberries are abundant for picking December through March and they have loads of them hanging off the towers, but I show amazing restraint. Blueberries will be available April through June, and the Muscadines and Scuppernogs are ready in August and September.  In addition to picking strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and tasting great wine, the Farm boasts a home made ice cream stand and huge gift shop, complete with a bucket of cheerios to feed their free roaming chickens. Farm fresh eggs are readily available for sale. I zero in on the wine room and survey the selections.  Country White Scuppernog wine.  First time I’ve seen that.  After tasting the honey-like juice, I end up with several bottles of it, along with Red Rooster, a dry Cabernet. 

After feeding a gang of determined chickens, I head to the truck with my tasted and approved purchases. The farm yard is perfect for a dog break, so I let the kids out for a stretch, and give everyone a much appreciated “travel meal”.  As we sit in the parking lot, Buddy catches sight of the chickens and becomes, well, becomes rather confounded.  He starts spinning circles and whining and looking at me with those dialed in, expectant eyes.  He lunges in the direction of the birds, and his leash becomes unhooked.  Before I can react he bolts straight up to the cluster of maybe 6 or 7 hens, I mean bolts right up to them, and launches into a hard core point, almost touching ones tail. Several people rush over and take pictures.  Of course my camera is nowhere to be found. He is frozen in place. The birds are apparently unconcerned. I grab my good hunter by the collar as he is looking up at me from the corner of his eye, and escort him back to the vehicle.  He is so excited I just want to hug him forever and tell him he’s the best, because he is. It’s back into the truck, and we are back on the road again to see what we can discover next.

It’s late afternoon and I don’t have a clue where we are in relation to where we were, or where we are going.  But suddenly we stumble upon Charlottes Webb Pub, a wild and crazy biker bar.  Well it has the potential to be anyway.  It’s pretty quiet now, so I stop for a quick refreshment. I feel like I should be wearing black leather.  I am clearly not blending in. I sit at a small table by the window, typing bar names in the GPS, wondering what would have happened if Buddy would have grabbed that bird.  Lyn and Ted told me about a place out in the middle of nowhere, but I don’t think this is it. The gals working the bar are friendly and chatting with some “regulars”. They think I’m looking for a place that used to be the Bulldog Roadhouse. “Where am I now?  Wauchula?  Where’s that?”  I can tell this would be a great bar to visit when it’s packed and the bands are playing. I can just picture rows of Harleys lined up in front. One of the girls says they have room for campers and RV’s.  Well if only I would have known that back in December!

Nothing is coming up on the GPS, so I finish my drink, give a nod, and am out the door and back on the road again.  I almost feel like we’re driv022ing up and down the same damn roads, but it can’t be.  Then to the right I see a little sign with a castle painted on it, and an arrow pointing ‘this way’.  We follow the signs, are eventually directed down a skinny winding dirt road, and what happens next is certainly the strangest thing so far…..

We arrive to Solomon’s Castle.  Yes, literally, a castle, complete with iron gates, a moat, stone bridges, walking gardens, and even a 16th Century Spanish Galleon ship. It is an amazing, beautiful and fairytale like place. It is the creation of internationally recognized sculptor Howard Solomon.  No detail has been left out in the construction of this Renaissance residence.  Stone guards flank the front doors, There are scores of beautiful stained glass windows throughout the castle. There are sitting gardens, sculptures throughout the grounds, fountains, images of knights and unicorns, it’s simply amazing. There are dozens of cars in the parking lot, but it’s hard to spot any other people around.  I discover the pirate ship is actually a restaurant, known as “Boat In The Moat”, offering breakfast and lunch in carefully carved out areas of the ship and grounds to provide privacy for large groups or private meals, indoor and out020.  It’s getting to be dinner time, but I am able to squeak in a corned beef on rye and a beer inside the ship.  The atmosphere is fun, and the staff are very attentive.  The whole castle is available to rent for special events. They even have a bed and breakfast, “The Blue Room”. After my quick little meal, I walk along the nature trail to the creek, and back.  The Solomon’s actually live here?  Wow.  The next thing I know I’m back at the gate. “Once upon a time…..” 

So my GPS isn’t finding anything, and the servers at Boat In The Moat were not sure about the bar in the middle of nowhere. They were thinking it’s Charlottes Webb, but I am persistent and want to find the place.  So I drive around and around until everything looks the same again.  Desolate roads, thick brushy terrain, and no signs of life.  Finally I don’t make that left turn I keep making.  I go straight. And within 5 minutes I end up at Herbs Limestone Country Club.  I found it!  Yes this is one helluva hole in the wall biker bar, perched on the corner of what must be a life threatening intersection if there were ever any cars on it.  As I look up and down the three straightaway roads that seem to meet at this center point which is the bar, I’m the only sign of life in all directions, and this little bar the only sign of business. I park, and walk up to the entrance.

This building is old, with an old porch front and large lean-to roof, rickety wood benches, a vinyl chair, some stools and a crazy wood carved statue.  To the side of the tiny building is a huge wood railed area carved off where tall tables and benches are, an old truck, and a platform stage in the middle.  I enter, onl023y to be practically attacked by a big burley unidentifiable dog.  A skinny elderly woman races across the small square footage from behind the bar to restrain the dog.  Introducing Zadie, the bar owners mother.  She’s holding down the fort while her son is off running errands. She’s not doing so good with the dog!  Some sort of mastiff-pit bull-bulldog looking dog who is on a mission to let me know this is his bar.  He finally gives up at my lack of fear and settles down on one of the old leather couches lining the tiny room. Zadie and I end up in deep conversation at the bar over the next hour, about dogs, bikers, and what activities go on at the Limestone Country Club.  They’ve been here forever, but her one son passed last year.  They are still trying to pick up the pieces and get back to the business of live music outdoors on hot summer days.  They need to update their flyers. Bikers tour all over this area and hang out here, where some of the best blues and rock in Florida can be found.  I just have bad timing.  I tell her about Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery, and we struggle to even find it on the map. I tell her where I started from at 7:30 this morning. Then I see how far away I am right now.  Dear.  I think it’s time to leave! Zadie urges me to come back soon.  And I will.  

The sun is starting to sink down behind the scrub brush.  I quickly let the dogs out for potty break and some water, then follow Zadie’s directions back to the highway and pick up the GPS signal.  We are on track to make a mad dash back to the campground.  The girls are already sound asleep. We’ll be lucky to pull into camp by 10.  It certainly has been an interesting adventure today!

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