Archive for November, 2008

The Historic Redland Tropical Trail

November 25, 2008
Redland Tropical Trail Sign

Redland Tropical Trail Sign

I don’t really know what the Redland Tropical Trail is or how it was created.

The trail is located in South Florida, about a four hour drive south of the Orlando area. In my next few posts, I will share my experiences in this area that most visitors to Central Florida don’t have the time to visit. Pity. There is some good stuff there.

Despite the fact that I do my best to research every blog and provide as much factual information as I can in as entertaining a way as possible, I was unable to locate very much information about the trail. I did find that there is some dispute as to whether it is proper to refer to the area between Miami and the Keys in south Florida as the Redland or the Redlands. It also appears that the Redland Tropical Trail was some kind of marketing scheme created by nine businesses around two years ago. Not knowing for sure, I will give you my best guess based on what I observed.

It appears that a small group of agribusiness tourist destinations got together to solve a problem. None of these places seem large enough to pull in vast amounts of tourists by themselves. Perhaps, however, if they band together for promotion and advertising purposes, they could attract some crowds. Mrs. LanceAround, our number one daughter and I accidentally stumbled upon the trail last January. We found it interesting enough to visit again this past month.

According to their website, The Historic Redland Tropical Trail consists of nine businesses and a visitor’s center–The nine businesses are: R. F. Orchids, The Coral Castle, Everglades Alligator Farm, Schnebly Redland’s Winery, The Bonsai Garden, Robert is Here Fruit Stand, Monkey Jungle, Capri Restaurant and Cauley Square. We have only visited three of the nine: The Coral Castle, Robert is Here, and we had lunch at Capri Restaurant. They were all excellent.

The Coral Castle is one of the most fascinating places I have ever experienced and I will feature it in it’s own post. The same with Robert is Here Fruit Stand. I won’t blog about The Capri Restaurant but I can tell you it was an oasis in the southern Florida landscape and we enjoyed an elegant Italian meal there. A definite thumbs up!

Coral Castle

Coral Castle

Each of the three places we visited had an intricately carved wooden signpost (like the one above from the Robert is Here Fruit Stand)–Designed like an old fashioned roadside sign that has labeled arrows pointing to various destinations with the mileage to get there–Clearly designed by the Redland Tropical Trail. The signpost listed the names of the nine mini-attractions. In addition, at each location there was more advertising with the names of all the other members of the trail.

As we traveled from place to place between the trail, the Keys and the Everglades, we encountered a very interesting roadside of South Florida. There were many farms and orchards with rows and rows of fresh growth. There were fruit stands, ice cream shops, depressed areas of boarded up homes and areas of obvious wealth. There was a house that was built to resemble a castle with round turrets and it was up for sale. (No, it was not the Coral Castle, I will blog about that later.) There were canals, obviously man made, with intricate drainage dams. Several businesses featured back swamp alligator air boat tours. There was even a large, presumably Indian, casino. In other words, there were plenty of interesting places to stop and explore.

It would be nice if the Redland Trail website provided more information about their history, members and goals. For now, it is little more than a couple photos of each location with a link to their websites. Some of those individual websites, like the Coral Castle, appear to be in a perpetual “under construction” state for over a year. Even the main trail website was advertising an event from last February as I write this blog nine months later.

So only time will tell if this coalition provides enough of a boost to these businesses to keep up the effort of maintaining the Historic Redland Tropical Trail. But for today, it got my family to visit a few places that we found highly recommendable. So for now all I can say is that it worked for us. I hope you enjoy it as well.

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Historic Bok Tower Gardens of Edward Bok

November 4, 2008

Bok Tower at Sunset

Bok Tower at Sunset

Do you know who Edward Bok was? I never did. At least, not until Visit Florida–The tourism agency for the state of Florida–invited me to visit the Historic Bok Tower Gardens on behalf of the Polk County tourist industry. It was a good idea–I walked away very impressed!

As an entrepreneur, I have read a lot of management books. But very few have had such a positive impact on me as the book, The Americanization of Edward Bok. Funny thing is, it is not even a business nor management book. No, it is the Pulitzer prize winning autobiography of Edward Bok. A man who immigrated to this country from the Netherlands in 1870 at the young age of six and had a profound impact on this country. I had never heard of him, or this book, until I toured the Bok Tower and purchased the book from the gift shop. I’m glad I did.

Bok Tower

Bok Tower

Before he left the Netherlands, his grandmother admonished him to “make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.” Edward took these words to heart and although he was a very successful businessman, he never failed to live up to his grandmother’s ideals.

As a youngster, Edward would read an encyclopedia, then write letters to the famous people mentioned in the book asking them about the information he learned. He received numerous responses and even met several of the people he wrote to–Including a couple of presidents! Such initiative served Edward well as he grew and engaged in several entrepreneurial activities. Most notably, he became editor of the Ladies Home Journal, headquartered in Philadelphia. Under his tutelage, the LHJ became the first magazine in the world with a circulation of over one million.

During his lifetime, Edward, recalling the words of his grandmother, did his best to make the world a better and more beautiful place. In his autobiography, he talks about how dismayed he was over the vulgar way that homes were springing up around the nation. He commissioned several famous architects to create blueprints for beautiful homes that could be built inexpensively. The LHJ provided these blueprints and thousands of beautiful homes across the country can thank Edward Bok for their existence.

Perhaps his most notable public service was to offer a $100,000 “American Peace Award” for the person who could come up with the most practical plan to ensure peace and get the congress to act on it. I would love to share with you the details of this plan and dozen of other interesting stories from Bok’s book, but I am consciously working on keeping my blog posts shorter and more to the point. My goal is to whet your whistle enough for you to explore further.

Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens

Upon retiring, Edward built a carillon on the tallest point in the Florida Peninsula in Lake Wales, Florida. This bell tower is the centerpiece of the Bok Tower Gardens. Every day at 1pm and 3pm the bells are played. Edward died in January 1930 less than a year after President Coolidge dedicated the tower and surrounding gardens. He is interred at the base of the tower.

The Bok tower garden is definitely off-the-beaten-path and much, much “more than a mouse.”™ You won’t find tacky, tourist stuff, rides, or cartoon characters here. But you will find beautiful gardens, peaceful tranquility, a splendid carillon and a perfect place for meditation and quiet contemplation.