Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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The Five Restaurants

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Photo Credit: David July — Inside the Fleetwood Diner, High Springs, Florida, 18 January 2010 I have been thinking about classic diners in Florida after recently discovering a good one in High Springs. Since I could only think of two more, I will also recommend a nearby non-diner for each. But first a recap of High Springs' Fleetwood Diner, 615 NW Santa Fe Boulevard. As I noted before, Fleetwood (formerly Floyd's) offers classic diner favorites, homestyle dinners and breakfast anytime they are open. The meatloaf dinner with mashed potatoes and corn and the patty melt with fries are both excellent.
UPDATE: During my visit on 19 February 2012, I discovered the restaurant is now called Springs Diner. I had another patty melt and it was still good.
Within walking distance of the boardwalk, pier and typical Daytona Beach junk shops is the Starlite Diner, 401 North Atlantic Avenue. Featuring a medium-sized menu with breakfast, burgers, sandwiches and homestyle dinners, the Starlite sits in the shadow of modern condominium skyrises but maintains its charm with stainless steel and neon. I recommend the patty melt sandwich with fries, but also enjoyed the breakfast plate with ham steak, eggs, homefries and toast. A few blocks south is Hog Heaven Bar-B-Q, 37 North Atlantic Avenue. Like the Starlite Diner, Hog Heaven does a swift lunch business due in part to the nearby hotels with meeting spaces. The service was prompt and professional regardless. The menu includes BBQ favorites like beef, chicken, ribs and pork. I enjoyed the pulled pork lunch plate with fries, cole slaw and garlic bread. The indoor dining area is nice enough, but I recommend a table in the covered outdoor area. Two-hundred fifty miles to the south and not far from Fort Lauderdale beach is Lester's Diner, 250 West State Road 84. From their large menu of classic dishes, I took a chance on and was pleasantly surprised with the open-faced roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and corn. This diner classic is often fatty and drowning in gravy, but this version was great. The building was looking a little worn at the time and the waitress was grumpy, but good roast beef goes a long way. Down the street is the must-visit Old Heidelberg German Restaurant, 900 State Road 84. Featuring a comprehensive menu of old world favorites and import beer, Old Heidelberg is quaint, dimly lit and heavily decorated with art and beer steins. I still have dreams about the Oktoberfest combo: bratwurst, thüringer, knockwurst, smoked pork chop, meatball and kielbasa with red cabbage, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. The waiter was polite and attentive, plus the live accordion player was a nice touch. If you really enjoy your meal, walk next door and pick-up some sausages and meat from the Old Heidelberg Deli, which features the products served in the restaurant and much more. Please note it has been around five years since I last visited the Starlite Diner, Hog Heaven Bar-B-Q, Lester's Diner and Old Heidelberg. If you have more recent experiences, please share them.
Photo Credit: David July

The Camping Trip

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Photo Credit: David July — Moss growing on a tree along the River Trail at O'Leno State Park, High Springs, Florida, 17 January 2010 Last weekend I joined Mom and Ross for three days camping at O'Leno State Park. After a tumultuous drive on Interstate 10 through fog and heavy rain, I arrived at the park and drove toward the Magnolia camping area. The park ranger at the entrance had provided me a map, brochure and permit for my car before sending me to campsite 29. Unfortunately, Mom and Ross were set up in campsite 16 creating an interesting moment when I pulled into someone else's campsite and exchanged puzzled looks with an equally confused man.
See the accompanying photograph gallery.
Instead of grilling in the rain and 40 mile per hour gusts of wind, we drove to nearby High Springs and found the delicious Fleetwood Diner, 615 NW Santa Fe Boulevard (formerly Floyd's Diner). Their comprehensive menu includes classic diner favorites, homestyle dinners and breakfast anytime they are open. UPDATE: During my visit on 19 February 2012, I discovered the restaurant is now called Springs Diner. We used a break in the storm as an opportunity to build a campfire, something I had been looking forward to specifically. It was a fun time until the rain and wind returned, when hickory trees surrounding our campsite dropped golf ball-sized nuts on us like weaponized projectiles. We narrowly escaped the assault but my car and Ross' truck sustained minor damage. The next morning after breakfast at the campsite, we walked to the swinging suspension bridge (1938) and the River Trail trailhead. The trail included views of the Santa Fe River and the sink where it becomes subterranean, flowing southwest three and a half miles to River Rise Preserve State Park. We continued to the day use area and log pavilion, watched white-tailed deer grazing in the woods and hiked the Dogwood and Limestone Trails. We ended a perfect Sunday with Mom's chicken and veggie skewers, various beers from Republic of Panama, the early celebration of my birthday and a quiet evening by the campfire. On Monday we wandered down to River Rise, hiked the Yellow Trail and saw where the Santa Fe River resurfaces and continues west to the Suwannee River. Since we had already vacated our campsite, we once again visited the Fleetwood Diner to have another great meal. After saying our goodbyes, we drove out of O'Leno and headed home in opposite directions. The long weekend was such a success we plan to select another park and do this again soon.
Photo Credit: David July

The Winter Wonderland

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Photo Credit: Lauren Gleason Patten — Pyramid snow formations in the courtyard of Gadsby's Tavern, a result of the weekend blizzard, 138 North Royal Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 19 December 2009 Although the winter months here are normally cooler than the rest of Florida, the past few weeks have been ridiculous. Twice this week there have been references in the local forecast to snow, flurries and sleet. The low yesterday bottomed out at 16°F and it was about that cold this morning. If the rain forecast for the overnight actually comes and the conditions are right, it could be a very interesting morning tomorrow. Snow in Tallahassee, while unusual, is not unprecedented. There have been thirty-two occurrences, seven of which were measurable, from 1891 to present. The record for most snowfall in a twenty-four hour period was set on 12–13 February 1958 with 2.8 inches, visible in this photograph of FSU students outside Bryan Hall. The winter storm of 1989 provided the last measurable snowfall of 1.0 inch on 22–23 December.
Update: Friday, 12 February 2010, 1940 EST

Make that thirty-three occurrences. According to National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Barry, a combination of rain and snow fell late last night. I did not see any of the flurries myself but there were a few people at work today who said they did. It will be below freezing here soon and flurries are again possible, but I am not complaining too much considering the week the northeast experienced.
While in transit from Buffalo with the moving van in September 1989, Hurricane Hugo was lurking about and made finding motel rooms in the southern states, well, impossible. Later as we crossed the state line amidst a torrential thunderstorm, we laughed at the "Sunshine State" slogan on the Welcome to Florida sign. A few months later, my uncle flew in to see our new house in Altamonte Springs and enjoy Christmas with us. Some snow was reported in Orlando at the time, but what I remember are the power failures. It was nearly Christmas by candlelight. Despite the possibility, I do not expect any noteworthy white stuff. On the other hand, based on the beautiful sheets of ice on my car the past two mornings, any overnight rain will no doubt be frozen and slick just in time for my morning drive to work—with the 50,000 college students back in town this week, no less. My only hope is an increase in temperature for next weekend when I am scheduled to camp in O'Leno State Park. Camping in the winter is one thing, but when it is this cold in Florida it usually means the humidity is extremely low as well, causing Red Flag Warning conditions that make campfires inadvisable. More importantly, I'd like the chance to hike in the woods and otherwise be outdoors and so the warmer, the better.
Photo Credit: Lauren Gleason Patten

The Game Question

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Photo Credit: David July — Vines ascend the southwest corner of the brick wall of the former Havana Station (1939), 312 1st Street NW, Havana, Florida, 07 April 2007 People frequently ask me if I am going to watch this game or that game, referring to college football. These questions amuse me because, as you probably know, I could care less about sports. When it comes to college football, there is only one question that matters. Is it a home game? Living close to Doak Campbell Stadium, this simple fact is crucial when planning to drive anywhere on game day. Anyway, my favorite and often accurate response—"What game?"—generally provokes a stunned expression. The friendly Publix cashier on New Year's Eve, who had been happily chatting while scanning my items, said nothing further after I responded instead with a succinct "no." Honestly, I really enjoy this little game because the amazement others express at my answers equal my own amazement over everyone else's total obsession. I gave the standard reply when asked today about my interest in sports and plans to watch some bowl game tonight. But after a few seconds, an idle neuron fired in my brain bringing to the surface information I had apparently subconsciously obtained via NPR this morning. I quickly followed up by correctly identifying the Alabama Crimson Tide and Texas Longhorns as the opponents, surprising even myself.
Photo Credit: David July