In search of the perfect orange, part 3

Breakfast at the Cabot Lodge (named for former UN Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge?) south of Gainesville was about the same at the Holiday Inn near Ocala only we sat near an open fireplace. And the orange juice is getting better, although nothing to write home about. (Is blogging a form of writing home?)

Driving south on Route 27 from Gainesville to Sebring we took a right on Lake Minneola Road because the name sounded nice and headed into the small town of Clermont. In the historic downtown we found clean, quiet streets for a Saturday, mile temperatures (long-sleeved shirt weather, maybe close to 60). Stopped at Liz’s Ice Cream & Deli for lunch with a table of about 10 senior citizens and Liz behind the counter making sandwiches. Very, very friendly people. Two were Kiwanians and one a Rotarian, in their 60s and 70s and maybe early 80s. They talked about sex and getting drunk the previous night. Must be the Florida heat.

We drove around the south shore of Lake Minneola and were impressed with the public spaces—beach and pavilion, walking and bike paths and what looked like an amphitheater under construction. Big lake with some chop from the wind but it wasn’t undergoing eutrophication as so many of the shallow lakes in this part of central Florida.

After lunch we drove to Sebring and checked into the Inn on the Lake, a beautiful three-story hotel in the Spanish style across the highway from Lake Jackson, with a view of Little Lake Jackson from the room. There was a pool for lounging and groups of friendly, talkative people. Golfers we guessed from the tournament sign-in sheet in the lobby. Most in their 60s, a few younger, a few older. They sat in the back of the lobby by the fireplace and talked about getting laid. What’s with this generation?

Drove through an industrial area for dinner at the Blue Crab, a cross between a restaurant and clam shack, a place for seniors, blue-collar retirees and (finally) locals. It’s owned by a couple of bikers. The waitresses looked lean and nicotine burned. Ours was named Mel. Before she took our order she introduced herself as Big Bird and said that her boss, Bill, calls her Turkey Buzzard. She leaned toward us and in a conspiratorial whisper said, “I told him, ‘You call me that because I eat a lot of shit around here, so it must be true.’” Then she reared back quickly as if she’d given offense. Not at all. If she wants to burn her ears she should hike up the road and watch the old folks strut their nine irons.

Sunday, Jan. 9. Finally we have reached the summit: at the Inn on the Lake the orange juice is excellent, fresh-squeezed, the waitress said, by a local company. After breakfast we drove south to the small town of Lake Placid to see if lived up to its name. It did, maybe a bit too much. In Sebring the business district consisted of a couple of stores and a consignment shop on a rotary. Here there isn’t even a business district. And once outside town things got thin rather quickly. Around the lake some homes backed onto water but they were crushed together, on busy highways and fully exposed to the sun. Not much fun in August.

Lunch at the Tower View Restaurant in Lake Placid—second time we stumbled onto one of the more popular restaurants for locals. Then north to the Sebring International Raceway, home of the 12-hour Grand Prix, where we spent half an hour watching small noisy cars race around a very long track.

Back home to have a drink by the pool, dinner at the hotel restaurant and a wild evening doing laundry. Tomorrow the real world beckons as we head to Orlando to cover the International Builders Show at the Orange County Convention Center.

Sebring Intl Raceway 448