Earlier this week I went to Bartow to do some research at the Polk County Courthouse. There's no really good or easy way to get from Tampa to Bartow, and although the odometer told me the entire drive was only 101 miles, it felt epic.
A few things caught my eye along State Road 60, including the Valrico fire lookout tower. Lookout towers used to help rangers keep an eye on Florida's forests and groves, but now development is squeezing out the trees. (Tampa completely surrounds the Hamner Fire Lookout Tower, which is a Hillsborough County historic landmark.)
East of Valrico, the fields are geared up, and roadside stands offer strawberries and poinsettias. I saw one of those yellow county land use hearing signs in the grove next to Ruby Williams' place. But I was on the highway,driving too fast to see what it said.
Each time I drive through Mulberry I think that I should visit the Phosphate Museum.
In Bartow, renovations of the Old Polk County Courthouse are continuing, with scaffolding spiraling around the cupola. The old courthouse is home to the Polk County Historical Museum and the Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library. I picked up some good research leads at the library, and some stocking stuffers at the museum's gift shop.