Monday, September 12, 2011

The Redland | A Slice of True Americana

A lot of inner city folk, like me, aren’t used to seeing much nature. So on Saturday, I went off in search of rural Americana - rolling pastures, never-ending farmland, old houses and shacks, maybe a couple of horses along the way – and to my surprise, I found it pretty easily. In fact, it was just a bus ride away.
   I figured the closest bit of pure nature would be found further down South. So after a light breakfast and a bicycle ride to the local bus station, I began my quest about a hundred or so blocks from Florida City.
     I stumbled upon one of the most rural areas in South Florida: the Redland. I first toured Cauley Square, the antique equivalent to modern commercial centers like Cocowalk and Lincoln Road. Little more than a block or two in size, this hidden shopping center features vintage shops offering anything from tasty food at the Village Chalet restaurant and the Tea Room to exotic birds at The Aviary.

              My adventure was just getting started, however. As I left Cauley Square, I initially saw large, suburban family homes: a common South Florida sight. But after I crossed SW 127 Ave, Burr Road, going east, real “backwoods” began to appear. I stumbled upon a trail that led out towards a riverbank, where I stopped for a sip of water. The spot would’ve felt completely earthy had it not been for a man driving a golf cart on the opposite side of the bank.

I began to feel like an adventurer as I turned onto Hainlin Mill Road, cycling on the rightmost side of a two-lane style street with trucks and SUVs whizzing past. The heat was rising, and after about thirty minutes, I entered the Redland Agricultural Area, and here’s where stuff became unusual.

Initially, I saw a lot wholesale florists and seed shops, but as I progressed, I finally found what I was looking for: rolling greens, fruit trees, more backwood trails, acres of undeveloped land … the feeling was delightful. I realized that rural America, at least here in South Florida, is alive and well, thought to be nonexistent by some (including myself) only because it’s hidden behind six-lane highways and too many commercial centers.

Continuing on Silver Palm Drive, I crossed the central intersection of the Silver Palm Historical District, host to decades-old Anderson’s Warehouse. It was amazing to see such an old commercial building still standing, but it was also somewhat disappointing to see that the culture has progressed while the buildings have remained. Right next to Anderson’s Warehouse, I entered a cafeteria and expected to find English-speaking natives and an American cuisine, but instead I found Spanish-speaking Hispanics and a menu boasting pan con lechon for $1.50. Nothing wrong with that, but it felt a little too much like home.

I continued. Although it was daytime and I’d brought my own food, I thought about how, after cycling for miles and miles, I hadn’t seen a single streetlight, bus stop, supermarket, library, main public school, gas station … from the adventurer’s perspective, it was thrilling. But I kept thinking about it all from the resident’s perspective. What must it be like to live here? To eat and sleep and watch TV in as much societal isolation as South Florida can possibly provide? I mean, sure, if you’ve got a car, some gas, and a knowledge of which street goes where, you can connect pretty quickly to Old Dixie Highway and the rest of “civilization”. But the feeling of being distant from it all, still remains.

I reached the end of my adventure at SW 187 Ave and 344 St, where I took bus route 38 all the way back to the Dadeland South Metrorail Station. I spent a wonderful morning in an odd place, where history was preserved in more ways than just old buildings and signs kept in good shape. The spirit of the backwoods somehow manages to stay alive amidst townhouses and expensive cars and pan con lechon. It’s a beautiful thing.

1 comment:

Alison said...

Whoa! Tomas, I didn't know Florida had its rural, nature side..I mean yea, there's the Everglades, that is not too far from my school if you keep traveling West, and that's about it. I have never heard of the Redlands. Thanks for sharing your experience!

p.s. is your bike was equipped with radio for entertainment? you know I mean there's no stores and gas stations, that's why I was wondering...