Another jam packed travel/sightseeing day! I love it when the first thing I want for us to visit is right there in the same town we woke up in. That happened today, as we spent the night in a really nice hotel in Estero, Florida. The only downside was that everyone there (and, honestly, a number of other people we’ve met on the western coast of Florida) were snobby. Maybe it’s because we booked our room through Hotels.com and got a fantastic rate, but both the person who checked us in and checked us out made us feel like they were doing us a favor by allowing us to stay there. *Shrug* That’s their issue, not gonna let it ruin our day. 🙂
Just down the road from the hotel was the Koreshan State Park. It wasn’t a typical state park, but has a lot of history attached to it. Here’s a brief run down.
In 1869, a young doctor named Cyrus Teed was doing an experiment with electricity. It knocked him unconscious. While he was out, he had a vision, and that vision changed the direction of the rest of his life. By the way, parts of that vision were incredibly progressive for the time period – he believed in complete equality among the sexes – but some were also a little “out there.” In a nutshell, he believed we were all living in a nutshell. Okay, that’s not quite right, but he believed that the earth was hollow and that we were all living on the inside of the crust, not the outside, which he described as, “a void.” He even conducted scientific experiments that proved this. I call that “confirmation bias.”
In any case, he changed his name to Koresh, and formed the religion Koreshanity. He collected a number of followers, moved to southwestern Florida, bought a bunch of land and started building his utopia. As these things go, it was pretty good. He didn’t build the society simply to enrich himself, or take dozens of wives, although there are rumors that he had a way with the ladies.
Everything went along swimmingly, until Koresh passed away in 1908. His followers fully expected him to resurrect himself. When that didn’t happen, the wind went out of their sails, although the last few stragglers carried on until 1961, when they deeded the land to the state of Florida.
Man, I love stories like this. Walking through the park, the story came alive. Here’s a model of the way Koresh saw the globe, with us living on the inside:
I know, I know, to our eyes it appears ridiculous, but have you ever closely examined the religious beliefs of a faith you don’t follow? To an outsider, they can be a little out there as well.
Here is Koresh’s home, which, while substantial, wasn’t epic.
Here’s what I mean about the progressive thoughts of his vision. His ruling council was made up of nine women, although he often had men who would meet with outsiders, pretending to be the leaders, although they were not. Here are the original nine leaders:
Here is where The Planetary Court met:
It’s impossible for me to walk through a historic site like this and not begin to think creatively. By the time we got back to our car, I had a complete new story in my head. Traveling is good for my muse! Now I just need a few hours alone with my laptop to get it out of my head and onto the page. 🙂
We left Estero and drove south by southeast, heading toward Miami. Along the way, I found another of those kitschy little spots that I love – the smallest post office in the United States, located in Ochopee, Florida. The original Ochopee post office burned down in 1953. As a temporary replacement, they used an old irrigation pipe shed. Sixty-three years later, the “temporary” post office is still open.
We couldn’t resist, and mailed postcards to the grandkids, just so they’ll have a postmark from the smallest post office in America.
Our last sightseeing spot was The Coral Castle, which represents a tale of love, obsession, and a total inability to “just get over it.”
In 1913, Edward Leedskalnin was living in Latvia, engaged to the girl he loved, Agnes Scuffs. On their wedding night, Agnes reneged on their engagement and told Edward that she wouldn’t marry him. Life is full of disappointments, but it’s always about how you react to them, right?
Edward reacted by moving to North America, where he did manual labor in Canada and the US, until he contacted tuberculosis, not a trifling matter in that era. He moved to Florida for his health, and eventually found his life’s work: building a shrine to his lost love, many thousands of miles away from her.
Where things get interesting is what he built, and how, using no electricity, and only the most primitive of tools. That didn’t stop him from moving rocks made of delicate coral, yet weighing many, many tons. Oh, the kicker? He did it all by himself, working only under the cover of darkness, and he never revealed his methods. Here’s a couple of shots from the castle.
Here’s a nine ton gate that he designed, that he could easily move by himself. When it went awry decades after his death, experts with modern technology were brought in to fix it. They could not, and it no longer moves.
Also, apparently the bell bottoms I wore in the early seventies are coming back into style.
Here’s one of the biggest pieces of solid coral that he designed, cut, and moved all by himself:
In case you’re thinking Ed was a big, hulking man of incredible strength, here’s a life size cutout of him, standing next to the 5’3″ Dawn Adele:
There are a number of theories about how Ed managed to cut and move thirty ton stones all by himself, but the truth is, no one knows how he did it. Ed himself said that he had discovered how the pyramids were built in Egypt, and he used the same system. Others say it is a strange form of magnetism, or alien technology. Me? I am happy to admit that I have no idea.
Ed’s story doesn’t have a happy, or even satisfying ending. He apparently stayed in contact with the girl he was obsessed with for years after he arrived. Eventually she stopped answering his letters. He died alone, having never married, or even another girlfriend, at the age of sixty-three.
As a man who was also in love with a long-lost girl for a number of decades, I can relate to how he felt. I did manage to just write a book about Dawn Adele, though, and resisted building an immense concrete shrine to her.
After we left the Coral Castle, we drove along the Florida Keys, toward Key West. We stopped for the night at the Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel, where we met the nicest woman at the front desk. She was friendly, and informative, and a perfect antidote to the snobby service we got in Estero.
Oh, before we got to our hotel, we swung off the highway to take a couple more sunset pictures. If I lived down here, I think our house would be covered with sunset pictures.
Tomorrow, we head to Key West, which I am considering the halfway point of our Lap Around America. We might have to have a little celebration.
Cheers, and safe travels!