Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our Final Days in Ocala, Florida

Sunday we attended St.Matthew Lutheran church who keeps a big welcome mat out, speaking figuratively.  It was like we were back at our home church, so many members came up and spoke to us.  One couple, Chris and Sally Mendola, discovered that we have a lot in common as they are on the road with their A-frame camper six months out of the year.  They invited us to their home for lunch after church where we talked further about our experiences on the road, as well as sharing information regarding our families and church life.  They showed us their camper and give us a tour of their home which they built themselves.  It has unique environmentally friendly features with an earth roof that needs to be regularly mowed.  Getting to know warmhearted people like Chris and Sally adds a wonderful dimension to our travels!
Chris is quite the craftsman, he received his bachelors and masters degree in Industrial Arts Education.  The Memorial Cross at St.Matthew was constructed by him, Sally also assisted him with this project.  Members of the church collected two thousand stainless steel forks of various shapes and sizes to be used as the construction medium.  The "heart and "halo" are made of knives and teaspoons as well as tablespoons, they "convey the holiness and purity of God through their symmetry and brilliance" (quote is taken from a church brochure which describes how the cross was constructed and it's many layers of symbolism).   
Switching gears here, on Monday we drove north from Ocala on scenic US 301.  Ocala's welome sign claims that it is the horse capital of the world.  The city is the heartland of Florida's Thoroughbred industry.  Rolling green hills greeted us on this stretch of the highway, instead of the usual scrub land of sand and brush.
Continuing north we drove through a section of the Ocala National Forest, which is said to have the world's largest of stand pine.  We ended our day hiking around Ravine Gardens State Park
The gardens were developed from 1933-39 to spur the economic recovery of the nearby city of Palatka.  Azaleas were to chosen as the theme flower of the garden because of their brilliant bloom, fortunately for us we visited the park while they are still blooming.  We hiked on a couple of trails down into the ravine as well as up along it's ridge, and beautiful blooming azaleas were everywhere, as well as dogwoods.  The whole park is quite moist and shady, besides azaleas there is an abundance of ferns.
In 1937 the gardens were declared "the nation's outstanding CWA Project".  Surviving structures still in the park include the main entrance, two suspension bridges, stone terraces and the Court of States with an obelisk dedicated to President E.D.Roosevelt. Today,Wednesday, we will be moving our home north.

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