Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
9:35 AM EDT, June 27, 2013
Today's magic word is conveyances.
Within a few miles of each other in rural Lake and Marion counties, two museums are dedicated to different ways of getting around: One emphasizes stylish history, the other a more utilitarian style.
History is the focus at Grand Oaks Resort and Museum, a fixture (under various names) for roughly 15 years in a pleasantly slow-moving stretch of farm and horse country in Weirsdale. It's about an hour northwest of Orlando, just over the Marion County line.
The Grand Oaks Bed & Barn Resort features 26 country homes and cottages, equipped to accommodate horses into the guest experience. There also are 47 RV sites on Grand Oaks' secluded 400 acres, a setting framed by majestic oak trees that inspired its name.
Standing on the porch of the main visitor center, I imagined myself as J.R. Ewing in the old "Dallas" TV series, surveying my vast estate. Yeah, it's a mighty big spread.
For equestrian types, Grand Oaks (thegrandoaks.com) is a popular destination for shows, training and polo matches. For day-trippers, the big attraction is the Carriage Museum, touted as the world's largest collection of antique carriages and coaches.
The exhibit features replicas of everything from King Tut's chariot to prairie schooners, the covered wagons of the American West. The centerpiece of the museum's two large exhibit halls is the actual dress chariot of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. It was restored to its gold-accented glory in the late 1990s.
Although the European carriages looked more noble, I spent most of my time in the American exhibit, next to the colorful antique circus peanut wagon, stagecoaches and life-size cardboard cutout of Roy Rogers.
I think that old cowboy might have appreciated the nearby Paquette's Historical Farmall Tractor Museum (stewsihstuff.com), two warehouses devoted to antique International Harvester tractors, earthmovers and construction equipment.
The museum has been open for three years on a quiet street a few miles off U.S. Highway 441 in Leesburg. Look for the big billboard on the side of tractor-trailer near Whitney Road in Lake County.
These antique tractors are worth the $10 admission for anyone who ever wished that their Tonka toys were life-size.
Copyright © 2014, Orlando Sentinel