The wonderful world of Justice and Mommy aka Mary!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

We Went To Graceland Baby!

Justice and I woke with great anticipation on one particular day of our spring vacation. It was the day we were to take our first trip to Graceland, visit the Citrus Tower in Clermont, pick oranges in the groves and go tubing down one of Florida’s pristine rivers. It was going to be a day full of firsts for us and we couldn’t wait for the excitement to begin.

Of course Graceland was first on our list. Ok, ok, I know it’s a tourist trap; but, what good American doesn’t want to see where The King laid his head to rest and at those famed peanut butter and banana sandwiches. We hopped in the car and drove twenty minutes southeast and WHALAA, we were there. Ok, so I know it wasn’t the really real Graceland; however, it was a pretty good replica in Orlando.

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Justice wasn’t quite sure of what we were about to look at; but, he was game nonetheless. He hopped out of the car with excitement and glee, then ran to the front of the house for pictures. As I began to snap a few shots, I happened to notice a lady exiting the side of the house. I waved at her and she waved right back! I didn’t want to be overly intruding and knock on the door, pick their brains and gather all the facts I could, so I was quite pleased with the opportunity to wave at one of Orlando’s Graceland residents. It was my way of showing my appreciation for the privilege of snapping a few photo’s while still respecting their privacy. If any members of the paparazzi are reading this- please try and learn from this.

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After we grabbed our shots, we piled back into the little Honda Civic and made our way out to Clermont. The drive was pleasant and enjoyable and the first view of the famed Citrus Tower was also quite enjoyable. I couldn’t help but snap this picture from the car as we continued onto the main entrance. It was our first glimpse of what we were about to experience.

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As we pulled into the parking lot, I couldn’t help but notice how the entranceway to the tower looked somewhat deserted. Actually I couldn’t quite determine where the entrance was and decided to take a chance on a side door. It was open and we entered. The metal door frame was like a time portal which transported us back to the 1960’s. We walked down a short, plain hallway with speckled tile floors and nondescript walls before we entered upon the main lobby. There were a few small tables, a white plate filled with free orange and grapefruit samples, as well as an overhead television spouting the day’s news.

There was an elderly, dark-skinned man at one of the tables enjoying a conversation with one of the local lady’s which set the scene for that day’s events. It screamed “Good Old Country People”, and that’s just what we had the pleasure of experiencing that day.

We had to enter Lilly's giftshop, to gain entrance to the tower’s elevator. As it turned out, there was a small fee to ride to the top. Six dollars for adults and two dollars for children. I happily forked over the money and Mrs. Lilly happily showed us the way to the elevator. The doors had been hand painted with interesting facts and scenes of the tower. The actual elevator was quite small and somewhat rickety. Having been stuck in an elevator for over thirty minutes myself, I was not encouraged by this; however, it turned out to be perfectly safe.

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When we reached the top and exited through the antiquated doors, a rare treat awaited us. Our eyes opened wide to take in the panoramic view of Florida’s farmlands from the height of 22 stories high. It was utterly breathtaking and yet calmly majestic all at the same time. It was the work of God and man in perfect unison. It was serenely beautiful as are we.

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As we gazed across the majestic expanse, we were quite silent. There are no words to describe the birds eye view of rolling hills and groves that we have been blessed with. It was like sneaking a view of Florida from heaven above. It was a gift from God.

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As we made our way around the observation deck, we were happy to find conspicuously placed signs telling us what we were looking at. This way was Disney and that way was the Apopka. That way was the Gulf of Mexico and this way was the Kennedy Space center and the Atlantic Ocean. It made me really wish I had a pair of binoculars to fully enjoy the experience.

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After making our way around the deck we noticed a large white and blue sign on the inner wall. It was a uniquely placed wising well. You could drop a coin down a metal pipe, through a small slot and listen to it drop down, down, down through another open ended pipe. I like the idea of wishes come true, so I am usually happy to dig a penny or nickel out of my purse so that Justice can have his chance at a dream come true….and me too, so that’s just what we did. We dropped our pennies down the pipes and listened to them CLINK, CLANK, CLUNK, all the way down. It was cool.

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Next we made our way around the rest of the smallish observation deck and took care to read each and every sign, telling us what we were viewing. It was truly breathtaking. As we neared the end of the circle I happened to notice Mt. Rushmore far below us. It was The House Of Presidents, another unique roadside attraction in Florida. I knew our budget wouldn’t allow for a trip there; however, I wanted to snap a few pictures before we headed to our next destination.

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Soon Justice had all he could take of the scenic views of Florida and was begging to go. I let him press the button and we waited for the tiny elevator to shudder it’s way to the top. The doors opened and we entered. After the longish trip down we made our way out to the same table where the locals sat earlier. They were still there; however, this time the store owner was sitting there as well.

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I took a moment to speak with her while Justice contemplated the tray of orange and tangerine treats to his right. “Do you get many visitors?” I asked.
“Oh, yes. Some day’s more than others- a-lot of school trips. We get quite a bit of business.”. I was pleased with that answer, as I happen to love “old Florida” and hate to see it’s original attractions fall by the wayside. I think they are the building blocks, or cornerstone of Florida’s tourism and what is a building without it’s cornerstone? Just a heap of rubble.



I mentioned that we had found the Citrus Tower on Roadside America then politely made our way down the same deserted hallway we entered through and walked to the car. I had Justice pose for a few pictures then got into the car and grabbed my keys….my keys….my - what! Where were my keys??!! Then it hit me, I had placed them on one of the support beams 22 stories above while I captured the beauty of Florida with my finicky camera.

As my keys sat unassumingly, encased by the concrete tower up in the sky, Justice and a made our way back into the building. I approached the owner and explained what happened.
“Oh, you just go on up there and get them, nobody’s been up there since, so they should be fine” she said with the slightest southern drawl. I was quite relieved. Loosing my keys would be a nightmare at this juncture in our vacation.


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Quickly, we made our way to the top of the elevator and retrieved the all important keys. Soon we were in the car and ready for our next stop. The Hall Of Presidents.

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I regret the fact that we were not able to go inside here; but, I will definetly work it into another visit. The outside was designed to look like The White House with it’s tall white pillars and Colonial windows. To the left was a replica of Mt Rusomore and to the right a Statue Of Liberty. The front of the building housed the Lincoln Monument and the actual 1973 parade limosine that held Nixon, Ford and Carter. If the outside held so many wonders, I could only imagine what was within it’s Presidential doors; but, we’ll have to save that visit for the next trip.
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posted by Mary Gerber at 5/06/2008

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