Friday, February 20, 2015

2015 Biking Venice: Art, History & Culture with Road Scholar

This Road Scholar biking program, officially titled "Adventure on Two Wheels: History, Art, and Culture in Venice, Florida," was based in Venice at the Hampton Inn. Though Florida was experiencing an uncharacteristic cold snap this week, we dressed in layers and hit the roads and trails, and with a few optional rides, I managed 87 miles for the four days of biking.

Monday began with Sue Chapman of the Venice Area Historical Society portraying Bertha Palmer Potter, a wealthy Chicago businesswoman and socialite who first visited the Sarasota area in 1910 and was so enamored that she purchased 80,000 acres, and four years later added another 19,000 acres to her land holdings. The performance revealed the lifestyle, grandiosity, intelligence, business acumen, civic-mindedness, women's rights activism, and idiosyncrasies of Bertha as she took her inheritance of eight million dollars and more than doubled it.

Then we biked through the Venice historic district, stopping at Centennial Park, the old San Marco Hotel and Kentucky Military Institute building, and over to the arboretum/park.  After some free time, we re-grouped for a ride to the Venice Pier, and then back to the hotel.

On Tuesday, we biked to Clyde Butcher's Venice Gallery and Studio.  Clyde is called the "Ansel Adams of the Everglades" and we admired his black and white masterpiece photos.  Then his protege, Paul Tilton, gave us a tour of the studio and explained the extraordinarily technical and laborious process by which Clyde creates his photographs using large format film cameras, and then enlarges, masterfully improves every section of a photo by burning and dodging, and finally prints and mounts his photos. Here's a picture of part of his studio and some of his dozen-plus enlargers...

Next we biked to the Venice Train Depot where George Miller from the Venice Area Historical Society spoke to us about the history of Venice as well as the history of the refurbished depot...

Then it was on to Caspersen Beach pavilion for a picnic lunch after which we walked the beach looking for shark's teeth and watching the endangered gopher tortoises...

...after which we biked back to the hotel via the Venetian Waterway Trail alongside the Intracoastal Waterway...

...and enjoyed the murals depicting the history of Venice on the back wall of Venice Gondolier's print shop along the trail, just north of the school complex. Here's the first mural featuring early influential citizens (including Bertha), the turpentine industry, the railroad's arrival, and the Kentucky Military Institute's winter home. The second mural commemorated the airfield, circus, and train depot.

On Wednesday, we biked the Legacy Trail north and then turned west to visit Historic Spanish Point, and after watching the visitor center video, we explored the 30 acres of lovely gardens and historic structures located alongside Little Sarasota Bay. Then after biking to Casey Key for lunch, we biked back to the hotel. Here's a photo of the sunken garden at Spanish Point...

Thursday we boarded a motor coach for Myakka River State Park, part of the original land purchase of Bertha Palmer Potter. She passed away in 1918, and during the 1930's, the government purchased 17,000 acres for the state park as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal. It is one of eight Florida state parks developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930's, and it has been expanded to 37,000 acres.

At the state park, we boarded one of the two large airboats for an hour boat ride on the Upper Myakka River where we saw a number of alligators and wading birds...

After a picnic lunch at the pavilion, we biked back to the motor coach for the short ride to the Spanish American Riding School, home of the "Original Herrmann's Lipizzaner Stallions of Austria." Founded in the 16th century by the Hapsburg Royal family of Austria, the Lipizzan breed was first established by Archduke Charles at Lipizza.  The breed was saved from extinction and given protected status by General George Patton as World War II was nearing its end, when riding at night and hiding by day in a clandestine mission, Colonel Herrmann and his father (also named Colonel Herrmann) smuggled the horses from behind enemy lines. The story was dramatized by Walt Disney in the 1963 film "Miracle of the White Stallions" which we viewed before visiting the 200 acre ranch. Below is Herrmann's daughter who runs the business now.

Austria's original Spanish Riding School website (which celebrates its 450th anniversary in 2015)


Here's a photo of our intrepid bikers who prevailed over cold and windy weather  in usually warm Florida:

Front row (l to r):  Larry D., Kay C., Larry C., and Beth
Middle row: Julia, Carol, Kathy, Margaret, Nancy, and Marion
Back row: Richard, Chuck, Dick, Bob W., Marty, Bob T., Kay W., Grant, Allan, Trudi, Susan, and Gary
Not in photo: David and Louise

And our leaders, Mary and Larry...


Additional photos (which can be downloaded)

Here's a video of our week's activities:

No comments: