A couple of months ago when we were parked in Sarasota, our good friend Becky suggested going out to eat at Linger Lodge. According to her the atmosphere alone was worth the visit. I researched the restaurant on line an learned it was named by Forbes as one of the ” Most Unusual Restaurants in the World”. Al Roker calls it one of the “top 5 weirdest restaurants in America”. So of course my interest was piqued. Unfortunately the lodge was closed for repairs, probably due to Hurricane Irma. Right around Christmas I learned the lodge and its adjoining campground were once again open for business. I updated Becky and we planned our visit.
Linger Lodge, located in a bend of the Braden River in Bradenton, began as a canoeing and fishing camp in 1945. The place is reminiscent of days past with its “Old Florida” look and feel. Huge Live Oaks dripping with Spanish moss and Resurrection plants amidst lush vegetation of native palms, vines, and ferns. It was purchased by Frank and Elaine Gamsky in 1968. Frank Gamsky, a veterinarian and amateur taxidermist, filled the lodge with Florida critters of all sorts. All taken from the camp’s original 100 acres. All except for the rare and unusual ones like the Alaskan Fur Fish, the Walking Catfish, and the Turkey Rattler, just to name a few.
The story has it that while protecting a group of school children from a large rattler, Frank was bitten by the snake. Before rushing off to the nearest hospital he threw the snake into a freezer. Eight weeks later he stuffed the snake! It is still on display in the lodge along with a photo of Frank’s swollen hand.
Displays greet you on all four sides of the lodge restaurant as soon as you enter but one particular item drew me immediately. A 16′ gator! Yikes!! When I first heard the story of how the alligator came to be mounted on the wall, I didn’t believe it. However I have been assured it is indeed true. Here’s how the tale goes…..
On a warm and humid summer evening, Ol’ Mike was boatin’ on the murky waters around legendary Braden River…not too far from the Linger Lodge. The night seemed unusually still, when he spotted two ruby red eyes piercing the dark air just above the waterline. Before he knew what was happening, a long tail whipped across the bow and knocked him plumb into the dark water. An enormous hungry gator grabbed hold of his leg and dragged him down into the blackened depths for dinner. It was a formidable fight, man against beast, as the gator rolled over and over with the leg in his jaws. While one leg was about to become the gator’s first course, on Mike’s other leg was strapped his favorite huntin’ blade called Big Boy. In a flash, Big Boy did his work and the gator’s jaws opened up for the last time. It didn’t hurt none that Ol’ Mike was 1945’s Gator Wrasslin’ Champ of the State of Florida. Coincidentally, the same year that the Linger Lodge was founded. The 16 foot trophy of that fateful night hangs on the wall at The Lodge….
I will say I’m glad we went. The decor and history of the place is very quirky and interesting even if it did give me the heebie jeebies and we did enjoy the opportunity to get together again with Steve and Becky. The service was slow though, very slow. We sat for quite sometime before anyone came to take our drink order. Normally one of us would’ve been peeved waiting for that length of time but the conversation was going strong, so it was just a minor nuisance. I really can’t say how good the food was as my anxiety chose this moment to flare up and I lost my appetite. I didn’t think to ask Steve or Becky what their thoughts were but Don said his meal was just so so.
After chapel the following morning Don suggested we take a Sunday drive to someplace we hadn’t been to before. We debated between a couple of destinations before deciding on Boca Grande. We’d been told the island beach was not only the closest one to our location but that the surrounding area was beautiful as well. That is an understatement!
Boca Grande is a small upscale beach town on Gasparilla Island. Being on the west side of Florida, it boasts the sugary white sand and aquamarine colored water the Gulf is known for. In spite of the threat of rain and the sky being overcast, the scenery did not disappoint, the water views were stunning.
Our first stop was Gasparilla State Park and the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse. The 1890 lighthouse is the oldest structure on Gasparilla Island. The light, still used for navigation, also serves as a museum and is open for touring. The surrounding beach is perfect for sunbathers but no swimming is allowed because of dangerous rip currents. For swimming it’s best to go to Boca Grande Beach near town. Only drawback to these beautiful island beaches is they are not dog friendly.
Next stop, Gasparilla Island Light. This light was originally located in Lewes, DE. Built in 1888, it was later moved to its present location in 1927. The park like area offers an easy paved walking path around the light structure and out onto the dunes. Signage along the pathway offers information on much of the visible plant life found here. After leaving the light we made a quick pass through the historic part of Boca Grande. We were searching for a dog friendly cafe in which to have lunch but the rain chose that particular moment to come pouring down. So, we called it a day and returned home to the Suite Pea instead. We are already planning our return.
Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…….