It's blast-offs, not banjos, that come to mind when one thinks of Titusville.
Yet the home of the Kennedy Space Center also is headquarters for an internationally known instrument company that specializes in banjos — and a curious assortment of banjo hybrids.
Founded in 1993, Gold Tone Instruments (goldtone.com) is based in an unassuming 10,000-square-foot warehouse on North Hopkins Avenue in Titusville's downtown business district. It was the first stop on this week's Ferris Bueller-like work escape, a banjo and birds combo.
The Gold Tone shop isn't a retail music store, but if one calls ahead, the friendly staff is more than happy to offer a brief tour. You can gander at an assortment of the company's banjitars (a 6-string instrument tuned like a guitar), cello banjos and such as well as a workshop where about a dozen employees do assembly and quality testing of instruments made at another plant in China.
"We do all the designing here," says Tommy Sivert, Gold Tone's sales manager and artist relations director. "We come up with all the ideas here."
I had come up with an idea of my own: To stop for lunch at the famous Dixie Crossroads (1475 Garden St.). My selection, Southern shrimp and cheese grits, isn't officially on the menu, so I'm calling on everyone to order it as often as possible to make that happen.
Another must-see gem is the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, one of Central Florida's amazing free diversions. Stop at the Visitor Center (State Road 402, 5 miles east of U.S. 1) and check out the butterfly garden, hammock and wetland prairie. Take your vehicle on the 7-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive, a good spot to see more than 500 species of birds and wildlife.
One can spend a good part of the afternoon idling along on the gravel trail, spotting ospreys, wood storks, ibis and egrets and monstrous gators. A pleasant surprise on my visit was a bald eagle watch, in which four baby bald eagles were visible in their tree-top nest through a high-powered scope.
Now, I'm not a bird-watcher, but it was a rush to watch these babies, who were pretty big for four weeks. They didn't look like bald eagles, because it takes about three years for the white head and tail feathers to appear.
I'd like to return and see them then.