Friday, January 9

Cedar Key

I'm in Cedar Key (NOT part of The Keys) a little town on Florida's gulf coast about 150 miles north of Tampa. The tiny town's history has some interesting highlights: John Muir lived, worked and almost died in Cedar Key before moving on and becoming a well known naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness areas. Then the good news bad news cycle started. In the late 1800s the pencil was king, as two mills shipped large quantities of cedar "blanks" to major pencil factories in the US and Europe, alas, they cut down all the cedar so it is no more. Florida's first cross state railroad ran from Fernandina to Cedar Key which contributed to its becoming a major port - with ships sailing to Havana and New Orleans - alas, they moved the railroad to Tampa, no more sailings. It was also home to the Standard Manufacturing Company makers of the Donax wisk, a very high quality brush made of palmetto fibers - those brushes (if you are old enough to remember) that the salesmen in the finer menswear emporiums used to brush a newly purchased suit or hat as the final touch, alas, also gone. Its traditional fishing industry has also taken some major hits from weather (hurricanes) and pollution and was on the skids. Alas, the tide turned and today Cedar Key is a major center for clam farming - it's a big time, ongoing, success story!

Today's Cedar Key is a slow paced (which I like) tourist destination with two interesting museums, a neat little downtown and waterfront to walk around, several good restaurants, and some good hiking trails (which I like). If you visit, stop by Tony's Seafood Restaurant (which I really like). Tony's clam chowder has won the Great Chowder Cook-off in Newport, Rhode Island, three times (yes 3X, isn't that amazing) - even more amazing - it actually is the best chowder I've ever taken a spoon to. Think I'll hang around for a few days.