Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
April 26, 2014
When the Prince hit "Little Red Corvette" started playing in my head, at least I understood the reason.
Standing in the showroom of Muscle Car City, a 99,000-square-foot classic-car museum in Punta Gorda, it's the logical song to accompany the view of dozens of vintage Corvettes. Museum owner Rick Treworgy has collected at least one Corvette to represent each model year from 1954-2010.
They are the cornerstone of a gleaming display of more than 200 vintage automobiles that have transformed an abandoned Walmart store into something close to hot-rod heaven. With an exhibit that also features collectible Pontiac GTOs, Chevy Camaros, Chevelles, El Caminos and Super Sport Impalas, the oldies-in-your-head soundtrack also could include a few Bruce Springsteen songs and almost anything recorded by Chuck Berry or the Beach Boys.
With my well-traveled 2003 Mustang parked outside, I was mildly disappointed that Muscle Car City (musclecarcity.net) doesn't show off a few Mustangs to balance its GM fixation. Still, this is a glorious museum for car lovers, as well as ground zero for monthly parking-lot swap meets and car shows.
Punta Gorda, south of Port Charlotte off Interstate 75 on the Gulf Coast, is a formidable 132-mile one-way commute from Orlando.
In addition to the car museum, there's a pretty, if tiny, downtown historic district and an array of waterfront diversions along Charlotte Harbor and the Peace River. Companies such as King Fisher Fleet (kingfisherfleet.com) offer a variety of full-day, half-day and evening excursions ranging from fishing charters to nature encounters and sunset cruises.
On my visit, I settled for a table with a view at Harpoon Harry's at Fishermen's Village, an open-air shopping plaza on Charlotte Harbor. While it's probably fair to call this place a mall, it's the most relaxing one ever.
In May, two annual festivals offer a chance to enjoy the view and sneak a peek at those Corvettes.
The Punta Gorda Hibiscus Festival (thehibiscusfestival.com) unfolds May 16-18 at Gilchrist Park. It features flowers and tropical plants, entertainment and food. On May 18, the Key Lime Festival at Fishermen's Village is a day flavored by pies, Key lime martinis and margaritas.
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