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The Ultimate Road Trip: THE SILVER SNAIL : A solo woman's full-time RV adventure
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Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota is known to be Florida's cultural center and also home to some of our nation's best beaches. I hit all the tourist hotspots: the barrier island beach towns of Siesta Key, Anna Maria, St. Armands Circle, and wandered around downtown Sarasota and the Friday artwalk. Like the Tampa/St. Pete's area, there's lots of sprawl and congestion here too. The islands and coastline are a bit too crowded and developed for my taste, but the beaches are truly beautiful with the softest sand I've ever felt. Tom and Martha came down and we all went to see the vintage Airstreams at the Florida rally.

Tom and Martha at the vintage Airstream rally

Siesta Key, Florida
Siesta Key beach


Myakka River State Park
Myakka is one of Florida's largest state parks. It's got miles of hiking trails, a cool canopy walk and also some of the largest alligators in the state. It also happens to be a perfectly fine place to kayak.

Gators are all over the place here, and they can be HUGE. By the bridge is where they tend to socialize and that's where I found myself in the middle of a circle of five large gators...watching me. I can't share that video with you because it's a little shaky and difficult to watch. But, to commemorate my astounding bravery in the face of a most certain grisly dismemberment and possible death, I've created this refreshing cocktail: Gator Bait.

Here's another vid of the local wildlife:

Myakka Canopywalk
Myakka canopy walk

Linger Lodge
Linger Lodge is an old campground on the Braden River with lots of permanent residents and long-term guests. The roads are dusty, residents have formidable german shepards and monster trucks, neighbors have hefty pitbulls and Harleys (motorcycles), and the on-site restaurant's interior decor features stuffed dead animals. It's old cracker Florida...where the maintenance guy drives a beat-up old Ford pickup with the windows rolled down broadcasting classic country music. With his beat-up old cowboy boots and a beat-up old cowboy hat, he goes by the name of Cowboy. And when you need help with something, Cowboy's there in a flash and makes damn sure everything is in good proper order. If you need propane, he personally arrives at your site within seconds to get your tanks and then returns minutes later with the full tanks. People go out of their way for you here.

Linger Lodge - Cowboy's truck

A bonus to my stay was the live oak tree my trailer was parked under. It was shedding its small narrow leaves, and when they fall, they rain down like a gentle spring shower which sounds really wonderful on the aluminum.

Linger Lodge campsite

The restaurant is the real attraction here. Al Roker once commented on it being the strangest place he's ever been to. The stuffed critters that create its unique atmosphere are things like giant alligators, snakes, wild cats and roadkill. Some are real, others are fictitious man-made hybrids. It's like a local natural history museum. With live music on the weekends and consistently good food, it's a popular place. When the weather's nice, which it was every single day - glorious, in fact - you can sit on the screen porch and watch for wildlife on the black and narrow Braden River.

Linger Lodge - Braden River

Speaking of the weather - yes, it was finally perfect - High 70s-mid 80s. Warm and sunny with available shade. Yeah.


Ringling Museum of Art
The Ringling Museum of Art is one of Sarasota's shining attractions. There are actually three "museums" here - the ART museum, the CIRCUS museum, and the MANSION. Like a true circus swindler, the complex pulls the ol' bait and switch routine by attracting people with a "Free Admission Monday". After waiting in the long Monday line for 45 minutes you find out it only applies to the ART museum. If you want to see the mansion or the very cool miniature circus, you still gotta shell out 25 bucks. 25 buckaroos! Typical old-time circus scam. And still, I paid, and still, I walked away feeling like I had had a most interesting and enjoyable day there.

The miniature circus is the real highlight here. It's not a real circus, it's more of an art exhibit/diorama, showcasing how the circus operated back in the 20s and 30s...and words cannot do it justice. You walk around a gigantic miniature replica, starting at the train station where they unloaded, through the backlots and tents, to the midway, and sideshows and big top...all of it. And all along, there's a subtle background soundtrack that curiously follows you and brings the miniature set to life, while the lights go dim to suggest evening and then brighten again for the day's events. To help explain, there are small info plaques that briefly explain certain key features. You can easily imagine and feel like you are actually there, as a circus member or spectator. It's a very immersive experience, and truly delightful.

Ringling Miniature Circus

Ringling Miniature Circus

Ringling Miniature Circus

At the waterfront, the mansion tour offers a peek into the elegance and extravagance of the Ringling's wealth. But the real treat is sitting lazily on the veranda overlooking the bay.

Ringling Museum veranda

Ringling Museum Mansion


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All images and words © Sharon Pieniak
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