Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
November 26, 2011
I missed the sign when I first passed it on the stretch of County Road 42 that bridges Lake and Marion counties.
That's uncharacteristic, because the sign said "BBQ" and that combination of letters is pretty much always enough to stop me, even in the most unlikely or potentially embarrassing circumstances. Of course, I managed to investigate on the return leg of my journey from Seminole County to Belleview, a family errand that I initially regarded as a chore — until I started to look around.
This is a beautiful piece of highway, the scenery dotted with wooden fences, horses, a picturesque bridge over the Ocklawaha River and, yes, a dandy roadside barbecue stand.
Roadside BBQ, the official name, has been a culinary fixture for 10 years in a trailer that officially bears a Umatilla address (20973 SE County Road 42), but the vibe is more pleasantly next-to-nowhere. "We saw a bambi across the street this morning," the young lady at the order window told me, as I enjoyed my $6 lunch special (pork sandwich, with two small sides) and an iced tea.
The spotting isn't unusual, she said, because the land is part of the Ocala National Forest. There are wrought-iron tables and chairs for diners to eat and savor the quiet. There's a produce stand next-door.
If I missed the barbecue sign the first time, maybe it's because there are so many entertaining homemade signs along County Road 42:
"Jesus Rose from the Dead." "Fresh Oysters and Brown Eggs." "Happy Horse Rescue Farm." "Free Kittens."
Turn right when the road hits U.S. Highway 441 and there's another kind of commerce. The Market of Marion (themarketofmarion.com), about six miles south of Belleview on 441, is a flea market open Fridays-Sundays year-round. There's entertainment value even if you don't need a gnome dressed in NFL gear or a $5 pair of sunglasses.
This is also the place to go if you need an image of Marilyn Monroe or the Three Stooges.
Oh, there was some useless stuff, too. I almost bought the plastic Justin Bieber head on a stick, but I was saving my money for the barbecue.
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