Yeehaw Junction

by Mike Miller
(Mount Dora, Florida)

Desert Inn 2003

Desert Inn 2003

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED AFTER THE DESERT INN WAS ALMOST DEMOLISHED BY A TRUCK CRASHING INTO IT ON DECEMBER 22, 2019.

IT'S PUZZLING IT COULD HAPPEN WHEN YOU REALIZE THE INN WAS ABOUT THE ONLY STRUCTURE IN YEEHAW JUNCTION THAT A PERSON COULD POSSIBLY HIT.

APPARENTLY THE TRUCK DRIVER WAS NORTHBOUND ON US-441 AND TOOK A LEFT ON STATE ROAD 60. HE SKIDDED OFF THE ROAD AND PLOWED INTO THE OLD ABANDONED BUILDING.

GOOD BYE, HISTORY.

FROM THE LOOKS OF THE WRECKAGE, IT'S DOUBTFUL THE BUILDING WILL BE REBUILT. IT WASN'T DOING ENOUGH BUSINESS TO STAY OPEN IN RECENT YEARS.


Follow SR-60 west out of Vero Beach and you will come to a genuine slice of Old Florida.

Yeehaw Junction is at the intersection of US-441 and State Road 60 between Vero Beach and Lake Wales. It is also the name of an exit on the Florida Turnpike. At one time it was a station on the now abandoned Florida East Coast Railway's Okeechobee branch.

Many theories exist about how it got its name, but Allen Morris's book, "Florida Place Names", says it a corruption of the Creek Indian word "yaha", which means wolf.

In the more than half century I have been driving through it, changes have been very few.

A couple of gas stations, maybe a motel that came and went, a new connection to the Florida Turnpike, a tourist trap souvenir shop, not much else.

One constant you could always count on was the Desert Inn, a unique combination of bar, restaurant and hotel that has been there so long it's on The National Register of Historic Places. It closed a couple of years ago, but still survived as a reminder of Old Florida.

The chili served in the Desert Inn used to be among the best in the western world. They also had some dreary rooms for the tired traveler.

In my early years in Florida, Yeehaw Junction was where you had no choice but to go if your car or truck broke down anywhere in the wilderness that exists on all four compass points.

Many years ago there was a service station in Yeehaw Junction that sold tires to replace those that might have blown out on a unfortunate traveler's vehicle. Those tires were the most expensive in the State of Florida.

Time stands still for no place, not even Yeehaw Junction. A developer has purchased many thousands of acres and is currently working on a long range plan to create a new town called Destiny.

Now that the Desert Inn is closed and nearly destroyed, the destiny of Yeehaw Junction might soon be nothing but a memory shared by Florida natives and long time residents.

The first picture above is of the Desert Inn in 2003. The others are after the truck plowed into it on December 22, 2019

Comments for Yeehaw Junction

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Dec 29, 2019
Curiosity
by: Lynne

I heard the driver was headed to Jacksonville if that's the case why didn't he turn right on Hwy 60 to get on the Florida Turnpike?

Dec 27, 2019
I'd like to read the traffic accident report.
by: Anonymous

I've driven from Tampa to Jupiter many times over the past 45 years. Always wondered why no one ever built other buildings in that area.
Now I wonder if the Inn was a hold up for the new city developer.
Not that it really matters now.

Editor says: I think the reason the junction never developed is because of the nearby service area on the turnpike. The majority of travelers get their gas, meals, etc. up there and never get off the turnpike. The partners in the new city have been embroiled in lawsuits between each other, and I am wondering if the "new city" will ever really happen.

Dec 22, 2019
Drifting on Rt 60
by: Dano

I drove Rt60 from Jupiter Fla to Tampa. Stopped at Yeehaw Junction. They had chicken crossing signs there. They said big trucks would slam on their brakes to avoid them. Got some history on the place. Built in the late 1800's. You could get booze, food, gas, sleep and a women of your choice choice.

Dec 22, 2019
Sadly, this just happened
by: Mahatma Randy

Sadly, this just happened. I hope they can rebuild it. I also hope everyone was ok.

https://cbs12.com/news/local/gallery/semi-truck-crashes-into-historic-hotel-in-yeehaw-jct#photo-1

Dec 22, 2019
Severe damage to Desert inn
by: Tom

On the morning of December 22, 2019, a tractor-trailer smashed into the Desert Inn, severely damaging the building. No report yet on whether the building will completely collapse when the truck is pulled out. The Desert Inn restaurant had been closed since 2018.

May 04, 2019
Horne's
by: David

Does anyone remember the famous Horne's Restaurant? I want to college in Tampa in the early 70"s and used to always a meal of a treat from Horne's. I had an occasion to help a stranded trucker park his truck and I told him he was parking in the original Horne's Parking lot.

Jan 07, 2019
Desert Inn closed. Will it reopen?
by: Russ

Moved back to the Tampa area in 2015 and would take Rt 60 to head to visit family and always made it a point to arrive at Yeehaw Junction in time for lunch and their great cheeseburgers.

Unfortunately they are now closed.

Does anyone know why or if they will reopen.?

Really miss the stop.

Jun 24, 2018
Information on Gulf station in Yehaw Yehaw Juntion
by: Sarah lambert

I was looking up information 0n Gulf Station that used to be there and have not been able to find anything. I was telling my daughter that I worked there as a teenager (1952-_1953).

I remember the building had a restaurant with a patio and the station also had a small place to work on cars. I worked for Red and Mary and sometimes babysit their little boys. They were really good people.

I always thought the building was bigger than the Desert Inn, at that time (that how I remembered it.) I lived there as did most of the help. We did not have cars to get back and forth. There were 2 small houses, one for young ladies and one for the young men. We were well supervised. We ate in the restaurant and were paid a salary plus our tips. (good help was hard to get.)

The money came in handy as I was the oldest of 7 children and our father had died when I was 13. I have always been thankful I was able help my mother out.

Aug 31, 2015
great site
by: dkaleky@florida.com

Love your old time feeling

Mar 16, 2014
People of The Junction
by: Anonymous

Raised in Vero since the 60's you can't help but know the kind southern people of The Junction. Don't confuse that with weakness. A lot of PBR Bullriders are from that area.

Florida Cracker Cowmen are still the make up of this area. My lifelong friends there have told me of the many motorists lives they have saved through the fire department. They will patch you up in a heartbeat. They are good at it, because there are no doctors for many miles.

Before Stuckey's ran their place into the ground, I would go in before sunrise during hunting season to eat. The place would be filled with local hunters all wearing sidearms. Turnpike motorists would walk in and freak out. I don't think they could have been in a safer place. No crime.

And when you are bleeding to death on the side of the road, don't worry: they always stop and help when nobody else will.

While at the Fellsmere Rodeo a couple of weeks ago. A friend of mine got off a bull and had his arm stomped on. Hollywood Harris, a local, and a PBR Rodeo Clown told the other bullriders that they where not doctors, to let the onsite paramedics look at him.

It is hard when instincts kick in. These Cowmen train on bulls at local ranches more than they compete on them. No doctors for miles. Most I know only stop riding because of injuries. Three of my friends owned service stations there. They drive thousands of miles a year trying to find parts for your broken down / ragged out cars.

Their favorite saying is - we're not the ***hole of the earth, but a lot of sh** passes through here.

I used to say, it's not one of the four corners of the earth, but you can see one from there.

Jul 22, 2013
Stuckys. Or is it "Stuckies?"
by: Kevin Long

I don't know if they still do or not, but the restaurant mentioned in the article used to have a live rattlesnake in a cage - not a tank - by the entrance.

There used to be a Stuckys in town which was literally the filthiest truckstop I've ever been in. I remember going there as a kid to use the bathroom, and coming out filthy just from walking around. I went there again in my 30s, and I honestly don't believe the bathroom had been cleaned in the intervening couple of decades. The bathroom door literally STUCK to your hand when you went to push it.

So basically it's an awesome place. I actually always looked forward to going there with my friends.

I don't know if it's true or not, but the rumor is the original name of the town was "Jackass Flats." When the highway came through, they decided they needed a more highfalutin' sounding name, and "Yeehaw Junction" was the classiest one they could come up with. That story may not be true, but if it isn't, it SHOULD be.

FLORIDA BACK ROADS TRAVEL COMMENTS

Kevin, thanks for sharing the memories of the rattlesnake in the cage and the restroom at Stuckey's. I'm not sure if the snake is still there, but I'm pretty sure the Stuckey's is there. I hope the rest room is clean these days. I think your version of the town name is correct. When the Turnpike came through in the 1950's, the politicos decided that the Seminole word for wolf - yeehaw - was a more interesting name than Jackass Junction.

Dec 23, 2011
Fort Drum Loneliness
by: Mike Miller

Go south on US-441 from Yeehaw Junction and you will come to an area a few miles south known as Fort Drum. Turnpike travelers will notice a Fort Drum service plaza, but here on 441 there are no such amenities.

Take a dirt road east from 441 and visit the Fort Drum cemetery. The absolute quiet of the place will astound you. This would be a good place to sit and meditate for awhile.

Dec 29, 2009
The Silence Around Yeehaw Junction
by: Glen Wagner

In the 1960's I had occasion to drive at night many times from Vero Beach to Tampa on State Road 60.

The stretch from Vero Beach to Yeehaw was - and still is - one of the loneliest pieces of road in the state.

There were deep canals paralleling the road most of the way, and once in a while a car would run off the road and disappear in the canal not to be seen again for months or years. A few missing person cases were resolved this way when the car and victims were finally found.

I loved to stop my car about halfway between Vero and Yeehaw and turn off the lights and engine. There would be no cars coming toward me for miles in each direction.

You could hear the song of the frogs and crickets, and now and then the roar of bull gators looking for a mate. Some evenings you could even hear the roar of aircraft engines being tested by Pratt & Whitney way down south in Palm Beach County.

My reverie could last as long as thirty minutes until finally I'd see the headlights of an approaching car, start up the car and head back toward civilization.

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