Saturday, 2 February 2008

"Way down upon...."

Today's posting starts with two musical 'clues' to help complete the title.......
First some Gershwin by Gershwin. Stick with it - it gets there after 30 seconds!

And then something with a more 'folky' feeling

Now that's what I call banjo playing though I'm not sure that the bass player in the background is in quite the same class!

It looks from the map as if Mark had a long day and covered quite a bit of ground yesterday so should be paddling in the Atlantic by later today! (St Augustine is hiding just behind the 'call out' of the GPS tracker).

However, the first part of yesterday's route takes us back to the title of this posting and the musical clues. Shortly after leaving Mayo, Mark crossed the Suwannee river. Despite the difference in spelling, this is the 'Swannee River' of Gershwin's song and Stephen Foster's 'Old Folks at Home' - the official state song of Florida.
At some point in the mists of time, I knew quite a lot about the geography of the USA. I have forgotten a lot of it but one thing that has always remained with me is the Okefenokee swamp. (I guess like the volcano Popocatepetl it just sounds nice and so the name sticks!). The Okefenokee is a swamp area in the south east of Georgia and it is the source of the Suwannee river which Mark crossed just west of Banford...

Apparently all river crossings of the Suwannee announce their connection with the Stephen Foster song, providing travellers with the first few bars....

...and rewarding them as well with beautiful views such as this

South of Branford, Mark followed the river for some distance before turning east towards Bronson. What is interesting when you look at the image left and the one below is how the agricultural land avoids the valleys and is concentrated on the drier interfluve areas, unlike all the 'green ribbons' in deserts where farming competes for a position beside the river, which we saw earlier in Mark's journey across the States .

The green ribbons in Florida follow the rivers and are the swampy, forested areas which are unsuitable for cultivation.
Bronson and East Bronson may only have populations of 964 and 1075 respectively (according to Wikipedia) but the number of entries in Google relating to real estate for both settlements probably explain the huge areas which look like this.... South of Bronson and past Trenton and Williston land use is predominantly pasture and forest but here and there, especially as you get closer to Ocala, there is evidence of something for which this part of Florida is known worldwide...

Zooming in closer gives an even better view..
Along Mark's route we have discussed location factors for quite a number of enterprises from observatories to steel mills and today it's the turn of Thoroughbred breeding and training!

" The rich grazing, rolling hills, and year round pastures not available in other states, contributed to the development of the Thoroughbred industry in Marion County. The first Thoroughbred farm, "Rosemere", was established in 1935. In 1956, an unknown three year old named "Needles" won the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, and Marion County became a focus for the racing world. Marion County boasts over 1,000 farms and training centers including approximately 450 Thoroughbred farms, and is home to nearly 50 different horse breeds. In 1999, Ocala/Marion County was recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture census as the "Horse Capital of the World" and as having more horses and ponies than any other county in the nation. Nearly 29,000 residents are employed in the county's Thoroughbred industry alone. This unique rural character combined with the Thoroughbred industry puts Ocala/Marion County in the elite company of Lexington, Kentucky; Newmarket, England; and Chantilly, France as the major Thoroughbred centers in the world. "
Apparently the Florida horse industry employs 72,000 people and is worth $2.2 billion to the economy of the state.

Despite an original plan to overnight in Ocala, Mark continued on east and camped in the Ocala National Forest - a vast area of forest, scrubland and over 600 lakes and ponds .The forest is riddled with slow-moving rivers and wet prairies as described in yesterday's posting. They are sunny, shallow expanses of water, usually ringed by cypress trees and filled water lilies and other aquatic plants. The largest is lake George, of which, more tomorrow.
P.S. If you are reading this on 02.02.08, you might be making the 10,000th 'hit'!

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