We sat in a room overlooking a pond with turtles. “I feel like I’m on a boat,” Frankie said.
“In reality, we’re on a screened-in dock,” our waitress informed him.
Strolling through the rooms after lunch, we came upon such odd items as a statue of a Japanese Samurai on horseback enclosed in a glass case outside a room dubbed the Swedish cocktail lounge.
As we pulled out of the parking lot in our rental car, a plane was landing on the property’s private airstrip. Apparently some people like eating at Chalet Suzanne so much that they actually fly there to do so.
There were other odd sights to behold.
Take Spook Hill, a small incline rumored to possess a supernatural force that makes automobiles move uphill. Legend has it that a great Indian warrior killed a giant alligator there and later was buried on the north side of the hill. A sign instructed us to pull up to the white line at the bottom of the hill, place the car in neutral and let it roll. If the legend was true, we’d move up the hill. But the car kept rolling backward, not forward. “Of course it’s going to roll back,” said Jennie, exasperated. “We’re uphill.”
We tried four times, but we never moved uphill. Maybe we were doing it wrong. We pulled over and watched a line of cars try. They all seemed unsuccessful, too. We gave up and drove away.
The Grove House, the visitors center at the Florida’s Natural orange juice plant, was far more interesting. We watched a video about the history of Florida’s citrus industry, then sampled juice and other, more unusual citrus-based drinks. Orange chocolate coffee was actually yummy.
To learn a little more about Lake Wales itself, we hit the Lake Wales Museum and Cultural Center, more popularly known as the Depot Museum. It held an eclectic collection that included furniture from the city’s original post office, the original city seal, old typewriters and a model train in an Alpine setting. Frankie was disappointed that the train, having recently derailed, wasn’t operating.
We stopped to talk to Mike Daily, a museum worker who was setting up a new exhibit of dollhouses. This is an important year for the community of about 12,000, he told us, because the city will be celebrating its centennial. He proudly showed us pictures of the four local businessmen known as Lake Wales’s founding fathers.
Few people know about this little museum, housed chiefly in a brick and pink stucco building constructed in 1928 as a passenger station on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. “We don’t do a lot of advertising,” Daily said. “A lot of it is word of mouth.”
Which, it seems, would describe all of Lake Wales.