The Ringling – Part 1

We’re still sight-seeing and catching up with friends new and old from our Bradenton Horseshoe Cove home base.  The weather has finally turned cooler with a lot less humidity and we are very happy with that.

Our next outing takes us to The Ringling in Sarasota, home of the Museum of Art, mansion of John & Mabel Ringling as well as the circus museum.  This excursion came highly recommended and it is so far one of our favorite places in the area.

A bit about the Ringlings since this place is much more than just clowns and trapeze artists.  John Ringling was one of 5 brothers who founded the “Greatest Show on Earth”.  John started out from modest beginnings, son of a German immigrant harness maker.  Mabel was born in Ohio in a farming community.  John became one of the richest men in American and was thought to have amassed a fortune of $200 million dollars.  The two of them loved Venice, Italy, fine art and Sarasota.

The Grounds

The grounds are just lovely and we spent quite a bit of time on the paths before venturing into the circus museum.  One of my favorite trees can be found  on the grounds and I first saw one in Sarasota years ago.  It’s the Banyon tree and I’m enthralled with it because it just has to be the inspiration for the Baobab tree in Saint-Exupery’s “Little Prince”.  (Of course if you Google Baobab, they are nothing alike, but my childhood memory is different.  I stand firm in my Banyon/Baobab connection.)


Pat at the Banyon Trees.  Aren’t they just awesome?  Like they got too hot, melted and ran down each other.

Mabel established a rose garden and we stopped to smell quite a few.  I’m always disappointed by a beautiful rose with no smell, but most of them did not disappoint.  Here’s my artsy shot of my shadow as I take a picture of the lavender roses.  My mom had a bush with roses that color and you don’t see them very often.  Also loved this perfect mix of orange and pink roses.

There is also a great playground and that normally would not attract our attention, but there were these unique swings.  I just had to try one out and convinced Pat he needed the same experience.


Our peaceful swing

These swings were like laying in bag bowls so you were swinging looking straight up at the sky.  The rest of the place just fell away.  Ahhh, so peaceful and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.


John & Mabel Ringling built a home on 20 acres of land on Sarasota Bay and named it Ca’d’Zan or “House of John” in the Venetian dialect.  It was a Venetian Gothic style home that cost 1.5 million dollars.  Now before you scoff at that figure, remember this was in the roaring twenties and that was a flat lot of money.  Also a time of excess and people were in spend, spend, spend mode.  Sound familiar?

The home is on a breath-taking view of Sarasota Bay.  On this day it was closed, but we were happy to stroll around on the patio.


Saved you a seat…

They had statues decorating the grounds and I was particularly fond of the lions.  Took this shot of sailboats on Sarasota bay from a distance as we continued out stroll.


Circus Museum

I didn’t expect to love this part, but came away with a new appreciation of the circus.  Think about what it takes logistically to schedule and move 100 rail cars filled with animals, performers and everything to support them.  Now picture this move taking place every single day.  First wave of rail cars arrives at 3am for setup and before the last performance is over that evening, that same wave of cars is packing up and moving to be in the next town by 3am to do it all again.

The circus in the 20’s was the ultimate entertainment and schools and businesses closed down so everyone could go to the show.  They saw exotic animals and unbelievable feats, parades and bandwagons.  We laughed thinking about where the “get on the bandwagon” saying came from.  Everyone was on it, you know!

Oh yeah – wanted those long legs once upon a time.  A little spindly though.  Pat needs to get on that bandwagon.  He was very interested in the mechanism for shooting the guy out of the car cannon.  Apparently a closely guarded family secret so alas, he still doesn’t know how it works.

The Ringling’s traveled in style in their custom rail car and I think they were onto early RVing.  They lived very comfortably in high style in a small space, and traveled to new places almost daily.  Ahead of their time!

We were really enthralled with the hands-on portion of the museum.  I think it was meant for kids, but such fun!

Pat tried to get in the clown car.  I made it, but my legs might never be the same.  How do you like our acrobatic poses on the center ring horse?  Genius exhibit.

Finally this is where we get kicked out.  Pat and I are sitting on two little stools watching a video of a clown in rapt attention.  He is face-to-face explaining the how and why of clown make-up.  We got to the red nose part when we were informed that they had closed and we had to leave.  Looking around, we realize we’re the only ones still there.  Good times.

Thus the part 2.  We didn’t have time to see the Museum of Art, so that’s for our Monday adventure.

Other Outings


Here we are in the new toy.  Not.  This belongs to our new RVing friends Calvin and Renee.  They were gracious enough to let us give the Smart Car a spin before dinner out.  How about that.  Bitsy is the BIG car and we drove!

We were also treated to another great dinner at O’Bricks in Bradenton by old friends Barbara & Mike.  Love that Murphy’s on tap and fun company.  Iris & Paul treated us to a superb lunch at Hawker’s in downtown St. Pete.  Great Asian and we shared some really tasty dishes.  Pat and I can’t remember the last time we were this social!  We need to spend more time where our friends live.

Stay tuned for The Ringling Part 2 and keep these signs in mind…


If you can tell what’s yours and what’s not, that’s half the battle.  See you on the way.


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