Friday, April 2, 2010

Weekend at Punch's (in pictures)

Tis the time of year when gearhead hearts are all aflutter as the racing season gets underway full steam.  That means it's again time for me to visit my old high school buddy Punch, yes, the same Punch of the infamous A Theatre of the Absurd, as we continue our tradition of attending the St. Petersburg Grand Prix and the kick-off of the Indycar season (Although they kicked-off this year a week earlier in Brazil)(Couldn't make that one).

The Grand Prix is the last of the triple-crown of automobile events we go to each year, the first being the Rolex 24hrs. of Daytona, which we didn't attend this year as it was cold and raining, followed by the Amelia Island Concours de Elegance, one of the finest car shows in the nation, and last but not least, the St. Petersburg Grand Prix in the beautiful town of St. Pete, Florida.  It's a great weekend and one I look forward to each year. 

Since Punch and I are both photographers, we thought it would be fun for each of us to do a post about the weekend, with no collaboration other than the post date, and see how our interpretations differ or resemble each other.

So here's a little travel log of my weekend at Punch's.  You can catch the flip-side at A Theatre of the Absurd.

The trip from Baja to St. Pete takes you through the heart of the state and it was a beautiful spring day as I set upon my journey.  My first stop was at a great little county park on Lake Lochloosa.  It's a regular stop for me on this trip as it's easily the most beautiful rest stop I know of.  The small strip of land between Lochloosa and its sister, Lake Orange, forms Cross Creek of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings fame.  By just breathing the air here, you can almost feel The Yearling come to life.

Continuing down Hwy. 301 I came to the little town of Citra, aptly named for the orange groves in the area and one in particular which surrounds a little Old Florida gift shop where the orange juice is fresh squeezed, right out of the grove.  Just outside of town I passed by a beautiful field of day lillies and had to stop and take a photo.

After that, it was I-75, a 75mph parking lot, all the way into Tampa.  I decided to go through Tampa, rather than the by-pass, on my way to Bradenton, where Punch resides, because I wanted to drive across Tampa Bay and the Skyway bridge, a truly spectacular drive.  There are two fishing parks with restrooms on the north and south shores made up of the remains of the original bridge which was destroyed when a ship hit it.  It was about 3:30 in the afternoon when I got there and it seemed like a good spot for a little nap before the final leg.

As a happy happenstance, the weekend of the Grand Prix is also the weekend of the DeSoto Festival in Bradenton.  It's a typical downtown street festival with vendors and music and beer.  What makes this one special is its location, on the beautiful Bradenton waterfront.

Punch tells me the highlight of this festival used to be a reinactment of the landing of DeSoto at nearby DeSoto National Park, where the conquistidors would storm ashore and rape and pillage the Indians. Just good ole boys never meanin' no harm. Fortunately, some time ago, political correctness won the day on this one and they now settle for drinking and dancing... and lots of seafood.

Saturday dawned bright and early as we prepared for our assault on the Grand Prix with a hardy breakfast at a nearby favorite diner.  It was over coffee and the newspaper that we decided there wasn't anything happening at the race on Saturday except a bunch of lower-tier support races that neither of us was interested in.  We figured we could save $30 each on tickets by blowing off the day and quickly voted to scrub the mission.

So, now what to do?  After a review of the options, we decided to revisit a really quirky attraction east of town called Solomon's Castle.  The last time we tried to go, we drove the 50 miles there only to find the place closed.  This time luck was on our side.

The castle is the life's work of an eccentric artist named Howard Solomon who was sold a piece of Florida swamp land about thirty years ago and who has spent the remainder of his life trying to keep it above water during the rainy season.  The place and everything in it is constructed of junk, scavaged from all over the territory.

The castle's siding is aluminum printer's plates that Howard gets from the local newspaper office.  The result is a gleaming castle befitting Camelot.

The grounds are covered by pieces of art, each constructed of junk.  If you look closely you can see that the Tucan below is constructed of a shovel head, two leaf rakes and a sling blade.

There's stuff everywhere.  We took the tour and the castle itself is full of Solomon's art, a lot of it quite good.  It's really dark inside and we couldn't use a flash so I was unable to get anything usable.  Punch had a faster lens so maybe he got something to show you.

Mr. Solomon's wry sense of humor is on display everywhere. 

Over the years, so many people wanted to see the castle that Solomon thought he could get rid of them by charging admission.  It didn't work.  So he gave in and opens the place to the public about 6 months of the year.  It's become a favorite tourist destination and in order to feed the herd, he built the pirate ship restaurant and terrace seen here.  We weren't hungry but were told the food is quite good.

Next stop was a favorite watering hole known as the Limestone Grocery and Country Club which is literally located in East BFE.

It's a quaint little place with no sign of groceries but plenty of beer and a great front porch on which to consume them.  Apparently it's a great biker hangout on Sundays when they serve the BBQ that was cooking out back.

The Limestone Limo.

On our way back into town, we passed by the local racetrack/dragstrip where there an event going on.  We peeled a hard left (As hard as you can in a Buick six) and decided to check it out having pre-determined that we wouldn't pay more than $10 each to get in.  Turns out admission was $12 and gave you access to anywhere in the park.  Done.  We had to get our racing fix since we blew off St. Pete.

I was really surprised at the quality and quantity of the machines there.  These boys are serious about this stuff.  A damned expensive hobby.

It's been many a year since I attended a drag race and I couldn't believe how fast they are, at least the fuel guys.  And also the motorcycles.  Christ, those fuckers are crazy.  And they run the full quarter-mile, not the 1,000 ft. the heavy metal cars do these days.

It was late in the afternoon and I opted to relax and enjoy the event rather than be a photobug.  I do wish I had taken some photos of the crowd however.  I expected a bunch of grease-covered rednecks and indeed, they were there, but not so for most of them, some really cute chickies and one old geezer in his favorite pose of holding up a building.

Race day dawned overcast, drizzly and cool.  Undecided about whether to spring for the $100 ticket (includes paddock pass) on a day that rain is forcast, we wandered the St. Petersburg waterfront where the sound of high-pitched racing engines filled the morning air.  Ahh... I love the smell of ethanol in the morning.

The waterfront was quiet, only a few crazies like us wandering around in the rain.  There are few cities in the country as pretty as St. Pete, even in the rain.  We looked over the bayfront where, among other things, we found great works of art.  Nothing like a naked fat girl to get a boy's blood moving in the morning.

Then the rain began in earnest and we headed for cover in a local bar where we could enjoy a couple of bloddy marys while listening to the few cars still running on the nearby street course, and enjoy the company of like-minded patrons and our delightful little 23-year-old bartender whom neither Punch nor I had the presence of mind to photograph.  (How's that for a run-on sentence?  Faulkner ain't got nothin' on me.)

The drizzle turned into rain, the rain into torrential rain, and the race was cancelled and rescheduled for the next day, Monday.  Had it been a bright sunny day, as last year, this is where we would have been.

As it was... this is where we watched the race Monday morning.  Older and wiser has its rewards.


  1. you little liars do nothing but antagonize...

    and you try to eliminate all the dreams and hopes of humanity...

    but you LOST...


    Einstein puts the final nail in the coffin of atheism...



    atheists deny their own life element...



  2. Hey wait a minute!@ Is the cat daddy DM sayin' I am proof of God! Cool, Yeah, buddy! and you, f*****g YOU call him an Idiot, yea verily a F*****g idiot. Well, maybe just maybe we need to back up a wee bit.
    Light or death????
    Einstein put a nail in a coffin??

    "eliminate all the dreams and hopes of humanity"
    who the f*** is the phat daddy??

    Jesus it was just a weekend of odd landscapes and fast cars, and exotic women. No, maybe it was a weekend of exotic landscapes, fast cars and odd women.

    Hey I could be wrong.
    But the cars were fast.
    No Shuckin'
    No Jivin'

  3. It happens every full moon. The attack of the Einsteinistas. Or is that the Chupacabra?

  4. Nice pictures from both of you. Seems like the top shelf booze only affected the low class assholes.

  5. Oh, this turned out so much better than Thelma and Louise!

  6. Jesus...what the hell were you guys doing to garner the wraith of the atheist busters? Was it those fast women...or those fine bloody marys? Or just because you look atheistic?

  7. JJ... I asked myself the same question, right before I told him to fuck off. But I suspect it's something to do with an earlier post. Now and then, some nut keeps wandering through contending that my vampire post wasn't really vampires at all but... and then goes on to tell me what a "real" vampire is. As a species, we've gotten far too fat and lazy. Maybe if once and a while, a sabre-toothed tiger was after their asses they would have something else to worry about.

  8. OH! K first I sort of looked at the pictures and then read the detail. I like pictures.
    (I sound "simple") but two things:
    1. The chunky lady statue has very dainty toes for having an ass the size of Michigan.
    2. That lamp shade is crooked. Bugging me.

  9. JenJen...1. the artist, Botaro, has a foot fetish; 2. Bugs me too.

  10. C, I got so worked up about the arsehole, that I forgot to tell you, I enjoyed the travelog...except for a couple of the pics...the ones with the gnome.

  11. JenJen: you have a good point. Please visit A Theatre of the Absurd. It is a link above. (I would link it now but it's just too much work) I had a good time with the post. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Mr. do tend to bug yourself. I would work on that.

  12. could i forget you? Oh yeah, just pretend I did not see your comment. Cool.

  13. Now if I could just get C to ignore me.

  14. Punch... bring em on. I have no intention of changing anything because of the reaction of some fringe lunatics, and that includes JadedJ.

  15. I haven't been here in a while but this was a good post to catch up on. What's up with the asshole in the first comment? He seriously needs to lighten up. Sounds like you and Punch had a fun time and the pictures are great. Wish I'd been there drinking with you two rascals.

  16. How good to hear from you Peach! We wish you were there too. Hope all is well.

  17. Peach...que pasa, we have missed you...but...but, we hope you are not one of those "little liars who do nothing but antagonize..."

  18. nice photos, my favorites are your road trip preamble. And you got me with "love the smell of ethanol in the morning." Damn.

  19. I'm really beginning to like this blog, so many pics. I think Punch was more into the fat chick than you were.

  20. Good to hear from you Dex and thanks Tex. Punch has always been into fat girls.

  21. LOVE the rake art.

    On another note, have you read Cross Creek? Never read the yearling, but Cross Creek is one of my favorites. What a brave woman she was. It makes that part of the FL landscape come alive, not just with the nature but with its people.


Sorry about the comment thingy folks. Too much spam.