Vagabond in America 2016 travel blog

My Home - Treasure Coast Edition

Not so subtle signs yet the tourists still can't follow them

Lions resting on their side of the fence

Curious ostriches

Very curious ostrich

Warning Zebra Crossing

Rhino is big enough to cause trouble if he wants to

Safari World

A lory lands on my hat

Another lory

I've frequently visited the eastern shore of Florida my entire life. Way back in the 1950s my grandmother became one of the first "snowbirds". She lived in Massachusetts in the summer and in Florida in the winter. Soon after, my father's entire family moved to Florida: his mom, his brother, his sister, their spouses and children.

The area around Palm Beach refers to itself as the “Treasure Coast”. The inhabited land is separated into long thin strips by a series of parallel transportation systems. Along the coast is Route A1A. Next is the Intercoastal Waterway. Moving westward you would cross U.S. Route 1, the railroad tracks, Interstate 95, Military Trail and then finally the Florida Turnpike. Property values along the coast are sky high. They quickly drop along the shores of the Intercoastal Waterway. After that, they continue to drop until there are very few people living to the west of the Florida Turnpike.

I've watched the area change over time. In the 1950s, Florida was highly segregated as were all of the southern states. The area near the train tracks were usually described using the “n” word. We were not allowed to even stop the car there. I remember that gas stations would have two drinking fountains side-by-side. The nicer one would have a sign for “Whites”. The smaller, dirtier one said “Colored”. It made no sense to me. My parents had to explain racial prejudice to me.

For many years, the blacks who worked at the luxury hotels in Palm Beach had to have a work permit to be permitted on the island. The police posted guards at the bridge to arrest anyone who stayed on the island past their curfew.

Florida no longer has any legal segregation but the communities still don’t intermix. Now, there are also Hispanic communities. In stores, I’m frequently the only “white” person around. Since I don’t know the communities, I don’t know until I get there what the dominant social group is. However, unlike long ago, I’m casually excepted wherever I go.

One of the problems with being a nomad is that I have no regular barber. Each month, I have to track down a new barbershop to get my hair cut. One time, the barbershop that I spotted was in a black neighborhood. All three of the barbers were black. All of their patrons were black except me. It didn’t seem to bother anyone. And, I got a good haircut!

Back in the 1970s, I remember going to Lion Country Safari. They billed themselves as the world’s first “cage-less zoo”. We drove our own car (a Pinto) through a simulated African plain. The lions roamed (apparently) freely. Lots of signs warned us to keep our doors shut and our windows closed. Forty years later, the park is still there but the up-close encounter is long gone. Now, all of the animals roaming free on the preserve are vegetarians. There is one small section where half a dozen lions live in a small, fenced-in area. The fence was added in 2005 due to irresponsible tourists who couldn’t manage to keep their car doors closed. When you have thousands of tourists, some of them are going to be incredibly stupid.

Now, the park's focus is the area that they call “Safari World Amusement Park”. It has more traditional attractions like boat rides, a carousel, giant slides, and miniature golf. At the petting zoo you can feed the goats. You can go inside the cage for the lories and the cage for the budges (both small parrots from Australia). You feed them from a stick coated with seeds. They will walk onto the stick if you hold it up to them. They’ll also land on your head and arms even if you don’t want them too. At another exhibit you can hand-feed large leaves to the giraffes. They stick out their elongated tongues to grab the leaves. So, you can still get up close and personal to lots of animals, just not the lions.

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