Day 5-7 Ocala, Florida   Leave a comment

Ocala is a beautiful area, home of 1,200 horse farms! Who would have thought. Ocala Horse Country Carriage Co & Tours provided us with a horse drawn wagon ride and lunch. Our “team” driver, Kimie, was also our step on guide on our Ocala City Highlights bus tour.

What a wealth of information she is and very entertaining. She was actually from Philadelphia and moved to Ocala at age 14 with her family to continue their horse business. She pointed out all of the big “millions of dollars” horse farms, gave us a lot of the “local tidbits” about the goings on of the divorces and sales of the farms. There are only a few areas in the world that are big horse country, Ocala, Kentucky, England and France. The abundance of limestone in the soil, which give the horses the nutrients they need to build strong bones (like calcium does for us), is the reason these areas are used to raise horses. Ocala has the largest population of horses per capita than any other place in the world.

The last horse from Ocala to win the Triple Crown, Affirmed, was in 1978. In order to win the Triple Crown, a 3 year old horse has to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont all in the same year. These races are just a few weeks apart and the horses have to be transported from Kentucky to Maryland to New York to compete against other horses who may not have run in a previous race, and beat them all. They would have to truly be a fast horse.

Kim explained how horses gain and lose value in breeding. It was interesting to see the breeder’s auction area right across the street from the Ocala Airport. This makes it convenient for someone to buy horses and fly out.

One of the farms we passed is owned by someone who started a small pet food company, which later became “PetSmart.”

The house is in a U shape, has an indoor swimming pool, which converts into a basketball court with the push of a button.

John Travolta is a “local” and regularly seen shopping at Kohl’s and Walmart. He is a night person, so his sightings are usually late at night, like Black Friday. He picked Ocala to settle in because it has the largest privately owned airport and he is able to land his plane without complaints. The property was owned by the Vanderbilt’s, who built the airstrip, but was eventually sold and is now a development. Pictured below is what we could see of the development (which was not much). The white wall to the right in the background is the sound barrier for the airport. Pictured below right you can see some of the airstrip, Jumbolair. We understand Travolta can hop out of his plane and in a few steps is in his house.

We had lunch on the farm

while Kimie saddled up the team.

We met her partner, who is the son of one of the stars on Mountain Men. So of course we lined up to get pictures with him.

She gave us a world-class horse-drawn wagon tour of the Ocala thoroughbred farms.

It seemed like every time we passed any horse in the pastures, whether it was on the bus or in the wagon they looked up at us. I can only think, they must be very curious.

The afternoon was spent at Silver Springs where we rode the glass-bottom boat and saw the underground springs (below left) and a cedar wood tree lying next to a boat artifact which they believe belonged to the Spanish settlers.

Silver Springs’ became popular after Hullam Jones invented the glass bottom boat in 1878. He installed a glass viewing box on the flat bottom of a dugout canoe, creating a window to an underwater world of fish, turtles, crustaceans and fossils more than 10,000 years old.

Film crews have been attracted to Silver Springs since 1916 when silent movies were filmed in the park. Many movies were filmed but it wasn’t until the 1930s when Tarzan, starring Johnny Weissmuller, made filming in Silver Springs a popular location. Six Tarzan movies, the Sea Hunt TV series, Horror movie “Creature From The Black Lagoon” were filmed here. The list goes on, including “Smokey and The Bandit 3.”

When television became popular in the early 1950s, Silver Spring became a location for some of the national talk shows and series: “The Jack Paar Show,” “You Asked For It,” “The Arlene Francis Show,” “SeaQuest,” and soap opera – “One Life to Live.” Even commercials like, Johnson & Johnson, DuPont, and Wrigley’s chewing gum.

Recent years, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel have filmed in Silver Springs.

We stopped at the Yuengling Brewery for a tour.

It is the oldest privately owned brewery. They distribute on the East Coast; they cannot produce enough to distribute to Western United States, but they are expanding.

It was interesting to learn that “keg” beer preserves the flavor the best, then cans, then brown bottles, then green bottles. We also learned that if the bottled beer is exposed to sunlight, it can change the taste of the beer in 10 minutes, and not for the good.

CHEERS!

We ended our day with a social.

This was not just any social. We enjoyed the company of 3 couples who we have traveled with in the past.

We love all our friends we’ve made thru Adventure Caravans!

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