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Southward, the gas-pulled caravan takes its way. South of freezing weather is the destination of each car. Like birds of passage, these motoring robins are again headed in the general direction of the Antarctic Circle. Florida is all groomed and prepared for their coming. Our southernmost state extends hands warm with welcome, for it is her annual $100,000,000 cash crop which is speeding south on cushions of air.
Big cars, little cars, new cars, old cars, camp cars, buses, limousines and diminutive roadsters, motorcycles and even bicycles compose the strange procession which is thronging on pneumatic tires to the land of our last frontier. Mechanics and millionaires, bankers and blacksmiths, realtors and restaurant keepers, tramps and tourists, sun-chasers and winter-dodgers compose the variegated traffic which congests the main highways and bring opulence to villages and hamlets which otherwise would wallow in the slought of financial discontent. Everybody hopes it will not rain until they reach Jacksonville, Lake City, Gainesville or some of Florida's other gateway cities. Everybody warns everybody else to beware of the skiddy highcrowned roads around Macon during wet weather. Somebody tells somebody else that her cousin's cousin writes that apartments are scarce and costly and boarding houses and hotels jammed full, in Orlando or Ocala or Melbourne or Miami. Another one tells how much the tourist camps and tent cities have improved.
Realtors from Kalamazoo or Kokomo, Two Rivers and the Thousand Islands hope that will be the Golconda that it was last winter. Carpenters and bricklayers pray that work will be plentiful and living quarters easy to find. Golfers anticipate enjoyable battles against General Par and Colonel Bogey. Fishermen yearn for the days when they will match wits with the tigerish barracuda and the leaping tarpon. Nimrods wonder if they will be in time to get Charlie Tommie or Harry Willie-popular Seminole guides-to pilot their first hunting quests into the internetted Everglades.
Society matrons seeking new conquests at Palm Beach or Miami Beach, stenographers who will search for work as soon as they get located at the Y. W. C. A. or in the home of some friend, bathing beauties impatient to display the newest styles in beach garb, professional bachelors on the lookout for rich widows, red-nosed capitalists anxious to arrive in the latitude where the eighteenth amendment has no sting. The passing show includes representatives from every status of society.
The drive begins early in October when the vanguard from Illinois, Indiana and Iowa steps on the starter and heads their horseless vehicles toward the land of peaches and pecans, cane and cotton. By the latter part of the month the motoring cavalcade has attained full strength. Everybody scurrying over the roads at top speed to get to Florida in time to secure satisfactory accommodations for the winter season. The Florida seasons covers a six months' period from November to May. Woe betide the unfortunate party who arrives too
Prices often mount with the demand. The last comer may secure living quarters - but at a highly inflated price.
Indeed in many respects, the motoring parade headed south resembles an old fashioned gold rush. The only difference is that the majority of the motorists will pay out the gold instead of taking it in. Many of the automobiling army carry camp kits or drive homes on wheels. They spend the night at tourist camps of which there is an ever-increasing chain all the way from Washington to Florida City. Hotels, inns, boarding houses, private homes and a few clubs accommodate the tourists who do not care to camp. Ten years ago it was a real adventure in motoring to drive a car from New York to St. Petersburg. Today, the same jaunt is almost as simple as an ordinary railroad journey. Good roads have replaced the previous thoroughfares of doubt. Comfortable hotels have sprung up where none then existed. The hazards of the trip have been minimized. The scenery through the Carolinas and Georgia is picturesque and inviting. The cross country trip is delightful even if you have made it many times before unless the weather man intervenes and by conspiracy with Jupiter Pluvius makes the going soft and slushy.
It is a good four days' drive from our National Capital to Jacksonville. If you have never visited Andrew Jackson's namesake city, the trip is well worth your while, even if it does take a day or so longer before you land in sunny southern Florida. Jacksonville is the state's largest city and teams with the bustling industry and big business affairs which are typical of the mill run of northern cities. The route by Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia, your writer has been over it several times, but recommends that it is a good roadway to avoid unless special business obliges you to travel that way. In wet weather it is practically impassable.
This bugaboo about Georgia roads is an offspring of ancient history. Time was, a few years ago when motor travel through the Georgian counties was a roundrobin affair of running in and out of deep ruts. Itinerant swine, sheep and kine disputed the right of way with your chug-chugging motor car. If the rain came - you were lost. Nothing to do then but to lay up for a few days in the nearest town. If you were stubborn and went ahead anyway, your car would usually end up at the end of some stout towline with a pair of mules providing motive power at $5 to $10 "per mot." Those were the days when the motor cavalcade South ran into a constant series of trials and tribulations.
Last spring your writer tackled a new route to St. Louis from the Lake City, Florida, portal. He ran over Georgian roads as sleek and smooth as the best in North Carolina via Valdosta and Macon and up to Columbia, South Carolina. Thence along the regular main-traveled route to Greenville, South Carolina. There he switched off to Asheville, pleasure resort deluxe in the highlands of western North Carolina. Over a newly completed trail, he traveled through rugged mountains and rockbound hills to Knoxville and thence to Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky, through the heart of the matchless Blue Grass.
This route is the newest short cut to the Middle West, the Far West and to the Ohio Valley. It saves you about 600 miles of extra travel over the trip made by way of Washington, D. C. Last spring the going was a bit rough on some of the detours, but those new stretches of highway have long since been finished and your trip to Florida by way of Lexington. Kentucky, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Ashville, North Carolina, can now be made most delightfully over improved roads. You will trail through some of the most picturesque skyland country east of the Mississippi. You will never regret your selection of this short cut route.
If you have never visited our great National Capital, it makes a dandy trip to motor North in the spring by way of Washington. You will then see the inimitable City of Presidents in the bud and blossom glory of May and June time splendor.
In roaming about these United States during the last couple of months, your writer has met with this and that and a hundred other "scare stories" about living conditions in Florida for the 1925-26 season. Guess and rumor, imagination and doubt have bred up a network of inaccurate statements which are being broadcast and believed north of frigid weather. Admittedly, Florida has experienced a wonderfully successful summer season. Realty investments have been maximum. The exchange of property has been legion. Land values are still on the rise with the sky the limit. More summer tourists visited Florida during the last five months than ever before during the state's history. Hotels, which customarily are closed during the period from May to November, were reopened to accommodate the crowds. There was appreciably but little letup in the travel to the land of tropical sunshine to that utopian "Land's End" of the United States.
Rumors have run wild that the accommodation facilities of Florida were taxed to capacity during the recent summer and that all available rooms, suites. Apartments, cottages, bungalows and other living quarters were already engaged for the winter. Hundreds and hundreds of families from Georgia to Maine and from Vermont to Texas who had planned on motoring to Florida this winter are dubious about the prospects. The most of them have not engaged accommodations. There is absolutely no ground for these surmises and speculations. Florida has staged a building campaign during the last six months unsurpassed by any other American state of comparable size and population. Preparations have been made to handle the increased numbers of tourists and winter visitors who will flock south of the fur coat zone when the cold weather begins. Do not postpone your trip to Florida because of idle and meddlesome gossip.
If you are skeptical about accommodations, communicate with the Chamber of Commerce officials in the city or resort Center where you plan to spend the winter. Obtain from them lists of available accommodations. Correspond if you wish with hotel-keepers and apartment house owners. Make your selections and reservations by mail or wire. Be assured that you can find suitable living quarters in the land of palms and sunshine. There is only a certain small proportion of America's population that can spend the winter in Florida. Many of these People of which have winter homes in the resort center of Dixie. There is always an adequacy of accommodations for the others. Transients who come for only a two to three weeks' visit during the peak of the season have trouble securing accommodations. They should be forewarned and should forearm themselves by making reservations before it is too late.
By all means if you are coming to Florida this winter, travel by motor, ship your car or else hire some chauffeur to drive it down to Southland's capital of Florida. Of course, you can rent automobiles with drivers by the week or month or season. However, the rates are high and meanwhile your car or cars are idle back home. The motoring trip to Florida from Maine or Michigan, Vermont or Virginia, Alissotiri or Minnesota is delightful. Even during cold weather, the trip can be made in comfort in closed cars. However, for maximum pleasure, your journey South on cushioned tires should best be made in October November or December before the rigors of winter set in.
If there is one thing above all else that the winter visitor in Florida needs, it is an automobile. Many case-hardened tourists follow the practice of purchasing low-priced automobiles as soon as they arrived in the land of palmettos and poinsettias. The following spring when they prepare to speed on steel rails back to their Northern and Western homes, they sell these machines. In some cases, they arrange with the dealers at the time of purchase to take the cars back at certain fixed figures in three to four or five months.
With 11,000 miles of improved roads, with highways which lead to new counties of enchantment, with paved pathways that link together all the ancient and modern glories of our oldest state, motoring adventures by the hundred are at your elbow when you come to Florida. The matchless Connor's Highway which freed an empire from isolation links the Atlantic with the Mexican Gulf and makes your jaunt from the East to the West Coast of Florida most enjoyable. Early in 1926, the spacious Tamiami Trail will be available to vehicular traffic. It introduces you to all the mysteries of the mystical Everglades. Your trip to Florida will not be complete unless you roll over its highly improved course.
The remodeled Dixie Highway which extends down the East Coast and connects Miami, Homestead and Florida City with Jacksonville, Daytona, Orlando, Melbourne and intervening points is a highway of tropical beauty. You speed through a covered canopy of live oaks and pines, Palmettos and Palms. Spanish moss shrouds the trees with festoons of tropical supremacy. Wild flowers adorn the roadside. The borders of jungle like thickets screen the roadside. Every farm or estate, cottage or mansion which you pass is gay with cultivated flowers - a fusion of brilliant colors such as you never previously admired out of doors during winter days.
Then you come to the notable Indian River country which radiates from Cocoa as a Popular center. There you see tropical glory clad in its best, with a variety of verdure and costliness such as you never thought possible. For many, many miles, you follow the palm-shaded and sand-skirted shores of this mighty river which is as large as some seas. You whizz by fields of pineapples and groves of citrus. Truck farms pass before you in symmetrical review. Roadside stands sell oranges, grapefruit, cocoanuts, preserves and jellies as well as honey at ridiculously low prices as compared with what you pay in New York or Philadelphia.
This tropical fairyland through which you roll over highways as smooth as a ballroom floor reaches out ever and anon and gives you a view of the ocean roller, as they surge in from the farflung Atlantic. Jupiter Island, if you drive that way, will offer a seaside boulevard for your pleasure which winds through marvelous estates. And then you come to West Palm Beach, society's winter headquarters and gateway to the Everglades. Thousands and thousands of cozy bungalows of every style of architecture set down amongst stately pine and whispering palm trees with oleanders, crotons, bougainvillea, hibiscus, poinsettias, poinsettias and other flowers and ornamentals adding brilliancy and exotic colors to the passing show. Huge hotels, spacious beaches, private ways for wheeled chairs, more bicycles than you have seen since Hector was a pup, the commercial section bustling with business-the twin Palm Beaches introduce you to Southern Florida in all its original glory.
Again, you step on the starter and speed onward to Fort Lauderdale, failed for its fishing and accessibility to the Everglades. You can enjoy one of the most attractive boat trips in all Florida if you will but stop at Fort Lauderdale and make this excursion through a jungle and kingdom. On to Miami, city of the multitude where pneumatic hammers and the echoes of construction lull you to sleep and awaken you next morning. Greater Miami with her 350,000 residents and her 50 square miles of area will entertain you in a hundred different ways. Her many marvels may be best seen from your motorcar.
From Miami, you can invade the isolated winterlands of the "Glades" and roll by gasoline power through a country which theretofore has been reached only in Indian canoes-until Florida added another contribution to the world's wonders by building a roadway through swampland's greatest dominion. You will find the Everglades quite different from your dream-day conception s-web footed prairies of sawgrass, hammocks of live oaks, pines and palmettos, great stretches of country bone dry except during the flood season, a kingdom of fertile soils debarred from agricultural production until its surplus moisture content is drained away.
Your goal is artistically beautiful Fort Myers, if you journey to the West Coast via the Tamiami Trail. There you will react enthusiastically to the same thrills and homelike comforts which caused Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and other famous Americans to select Fort Myers as their wintertime headquarters. A city that has not lost its naive quaintness and tropical grandeur in the impetuous drive for great development which pulsates now throughout Florida.
Then up the West Coast where cities and resorts are building like magic, where the jungle is being forced back into oblivion, you glide in your trusty vehicle destined for Bradentown, Sarasota, Tampa and St. Petersburg. Tampa will attract you as the industrial hub of the Peninsular State. A city with the charm of a sea port, the commerce of great industries, a center of manufacture, cigar capital of the New World, a municipality which every once in so often drives new boundary stakes farther out into Hillsboro County -Tampa, one of Florida's most talked-of cities.
Your trip to Florida will be incomplete unless you tour through the land of lakes and the rolling ridge country - and of natural beauty which is just beginning to develop on a large scale. In a survey of Florida's 55,000 square miles of surface, you will find no more picturesque or alluring countryside. It boasts the semi-tropical luxuriance of the part of the state and, in addition, it presents the delights of a territory of rolling topography. From Lakeland to Bartow, you will see a panorama of sights and scenes which will forthwith intrigue so that will wish to settle and spend there balance of your days. The inimitable Mountain Lake Country with Iron Mountain, the highest elevation in all Florida, lie along this route.
And from the ridged districts of motoring "ups and downs," you will wish to wander gypsy style through the historical and natural wonders of Central and Northern Florida. Everywhere you go you will find well-maintained roads. And each highway leads to some new place of interest. Every town in Florida has a different story to tell. A galaxy of narratives which date back to the beginnings of man's environment of Florida's equitable climate add the allurement of European and Asiatic travel to your comings and goings cross and crisscross of the Flamingo State.
St. Augustine, dean of American cities, will make you think you are sojourning in Barcelona or Granada or Seville. Pensacola and Tallahassee will enthrall you with the indefinable features in which make New Orleans and Mobile and others of the old time southern cities centers of visitation. A few blocks from the streets of today, you can delve to the thoroughfares of two to three centuries ago. Evidences of the occupational days of the Spanish explorers remain even today.
Florida, mecca of motoring, is indeed a curious combination of the most progressive present and the most remote past. Practically every section of the state has its story to tell. Tales as remarkable as the fairy stories and the months of mythology await the writing in the land of our last frontiers. Old Smyrna with its colony of Minorcans, St. Augustine which has withstood battle and sieges innumerable and which has flown the flags of four different countries, Jacksonville with its pioneering history during the days of Andrew Jackson, Tampa's attacks by pirates during the days of Jose Gasparilla, the Big C3-press Swamp and Ten Thousand Islands once the refuge of outcasts, outlaws and runaway slaves, the Everglades noted in Seminole Indian warfare, the swamps, salt marshes and seacoast once haunts of our finest plume birds, the water bound keys where Conchs and professional wreckers once plied their hazardous trades. Your motorcar gliding over smooth highways will carry you to the doorsteps of these scenes of adventure, romance and history in southland's sun parlor where summer spends the winter.
When, in the course of human events, the states of Florida and Maine conclude in triumph the twin campaigns upon which they are now earnestly and cooperatively engaged, all the people in the United States will live in Maine in the summer and in Florida in the winter. This will simplify such problems as mail delivery, cross-continent transportation and what to do with the Western arm farm bloc; but it is going to crowd Maine and Florida some. - N.Y. Herald Tribune.
Day, Gene Harry. "Florida's City on Wheels."
Suniland, Nov. 1925, Vol.3, No.2., Pgs. 62-64; 182-185
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