An hour’s drive south Friday afternoon took us from Sue’s parents house to Koreshan State Park in Estero, FL. We are about midway between Fort Myers and Naples, a couple of miles inland from the Gulf. Just another typical Florida state park with wide sandy camp sites carved out of the jungle with lots of privacy and shade. The Estero River, the north boundary of the park and really just a big creek, winds its way to Estero Bay and looks to be a great place to rent a canoe. It’s on our agenda for later in our six day stay here.
This is officially Koreshan State Park and Historic Site. The historic part is that this land was originally owned by the Koreshan Unity, a communal utopia formed in 1894 here in Estero, FL. Around 1910 there were 250 people living in the commune. Most of the original buildings remain or have been rebuilt to their original appearance. We plan to take the guided tour Monday and will no doubt have more info to post later. I bring it up now as its expansive village green is the site of an antique engine show this weekend.
The show was a mix of old hit-and-miss agricultural engines, some gas powered Maytag washing machines, a few old cars and a a handful of artisans selling their own jewelry, quilts, etc. Many of the old engines were running, making a chuff-chuff-chuff-pop sound. There is no throttle, only a governor that holds the exhaust valve open (chuff chuff chuff) until speed drops, the exhaust valve closes and the engine fires once (pop).
The really cool engine to see run was the 80 hp, two cylinder, two cycle diesel engine the commune installed in 1925 to generate electricity. The Koreshan volunteers gave a little history talk, fired up the engine, then turned it off and answered questions. It weighs 22,000 pounds and stands about 15′ tall. The red ring in the pic below is the 6′ diameter flywheel. It’s started with 175 psi air pressure applied to one cylinder while fuel is supplied to the other. The guy used a steel bar inserted in holes in the flywheel to move the starting cylinder to 10 degrees after top dead center, stood back, the other guy opened the air valve and it started right up.
One last old engine picture: this is the shop building next door to the power house. It has a 3 hp hit-and-miss gasoline engine (dimly visible beneath the window) powering the line shaft system. Henry Ford Museum has some exhibits like this but I got to see this one actually operate! It was surprisingly quiet for all the spinning belts and shafts. There is a clutch up on the main line shaft for each machine drive belt so individual machines could be turned on and off.
In the artisan section Sue had a nice chat with a local Mexican woman who was selling her cookbook, Mexican Food Made Easy, explaining how to make authentic Mexican meals from ingredients available in US supermarkets. Bonita Springs, the next town south of here, has a large Hispanic community and she told us about a Mexican grocery store and a great “real” Mexican restaurant Tortilleria La Rancherita. Both places really reminded us of being on Isla Mujeres, they were exactly like the places we visited there, including no English signs or food labels. Sue got some rice and black beans at the grocery and we got take out veg burritos to bring home for dinner.
Sunday morning we attended services at the the Unitarian Church of Ft Myers. Unfortunately, it must have been the start of pledge week as the sermon was about generosity delivered by a guest speaker from the UU headquarters. The church has extensive grounds with a nature trail and a meditation labyrinth which we walked afterwards. I have to share this picture of a young man and his friend we met on the trail.
We asked a couple of local churchgoers to recommend a good veg spot for lunch. The Mad Fresh Urban Deli (Mad is not a typo) sounded good but was closed. Right next door was the Saigon Paris Bistro, a great pan-Asian restaurant. Once again proving you often get something better than you ask for. We also got to a watch a car get repossessed. The people (sitting at the table next to us) went out and ‘talked’ to the wrecker driver but in the end he drove away with their Lexus in tow.
We returned to the campground mid-afternoon and just loafed until dinner time. Sue made a traditional Irish meal of boiled potatoes and vegetable, sans corned beef of course.
It’s nice with daylight savings time, now that it doesn’t get dark here until eight o’clock, we can eat outdoors and enjoy the gloaming. After dishes we sat around a camp fire for awhile then called it a day, actually a pretty darn nice day!