It’s been a long time since I posted. I haven’t forgotten about my readers. I hope no one is worried — I am fine. I’m actually on vacation, visiting my son in Florida. Right now I’m at Clearwater Beach and having a wonderful time.
I’ll try to find time to post tomorrow about my trip. The weather is supposed to be kind of crummy and rainy, so I might not be getting much or any beach time. I have a ton of pictures. The one you see heading this post is an actual sign in my hotel room. It’s a standard room, but has a cute beach decor.
In the meantime, here’s one of the sunset tonight. It got cloudy, but the sun peeked out from behind the clouds just minutes before it set.
I spent three days at Myrtle Beach and unlike last year, the weather was perfect every day! I would have loved to spend an extra day since the day dawned so gorgeous on the morning we left, but I don’t think my sunburned skin could have taken any more!
We didn’t do much, mostly just lazed on the beach, took long walks, and ambled along the boardwalk, but relaxation is what a vacay is all about, not staying busy every second.
I just love the ocean. It’s so soothing to my body and soul.
Myrtle Beach sunset.
Since Myrtle Beach is on the Atlantic Ocean, if you get up early enough, you can catch incredible sunrises. The second morning we were able to do just that. These photos were each taken about five minutes apart:
More than two months ago, my daughter and I spent 8 days in Tampa and Clearwater Beach, Florida. I never got around to writing about my trip, even though I kept promising to. Well, I finally got around to it. Better late than never, right?
Horseshoe crabs — one of them crawled right over my feet!
I got to see my son while we were in Tampa, even though he had to work most of the 4 days were here, but we did all go out to dinner a couple of times, spent some time lounging at the hotel pool and hot tub. On our last day together, we all went to ZooTampa. It was a bit pricey, but worth it. We got a late start, but still managed to see almost the entire zoo, except “Australia.” The sections we saw were “Florida,” “Africa,” “Asia,” and “Primates.” The zoo is very large so if you go, be prepared to spend lots of time walking! Stay hydrated. As we passed through the indoor reptile area (a welcomely cool respite from the heat), there were colorful decorations all over the ceiling that resembled deep sea creatures and looked as if they were made of glass — but they were actually sculptures made from recycled soda bottles and other plastic trash!
We loved seeing all the different animals (there were even river otters — my favorite — in the “Florida” section). My daughter seemed quite taken with the pink flamingos, who were very entertaining and funny. There were so many of them! We spent a long time just watching their antics.
One of the days my son was working, my daughter and I decided to drive to Tarpon Springs, a small Greek fishing village which is known as the Sponge Capital of the US. It was my third visit there. It’s one of my favorite places in the Tampa Bay area. On a whim, we decided to take the Sponge-O-Rama cruise out into the Gulf. It’s a two hour cruise and pretty cheap at only $20 per person. We had to wait a while for the boat (a sort of ferry) to fill up, but when we took off, the water was pretty choppy from recent storms, and I had to hold on. Drinks were served but it was hard to hold onto them without them splashing everywhere. After we got out into the Gulf, the dark water from the marina and inlet suddenly turned bright aquamarine. For a minute I thought someone had slipped some LSD into my beer! But this is the actual color of the water.
The boat’s captain, a youngish Greek man who had been raised in Tarpon Springs and worked with the boats all his life (his name was Atticus!) explained the reason why the color of the water changed so abruptly isn’t so much due to the depth, but because once you leave the river and enter the Gulf proper, the water changes from brackish (almost freshwater) to salt water. The mangroves dotting the area suck up the nutrients from the water, making it clear. He pointed out other things we were seeing along the way.
Finally, about three miles out into the Gulf, he pulled the boat over next to a large sandbar. This was part of Anclote Key Preserve State Park, a group of very small mangrove islands so remote there is no way to get there except by boat. The sandbar is a semi-permanent fixture, with a few low growing plants and grasses and a lot of seaweed washed up on the sand. The sand was absolutely blinding white, like snow, and surrounded on all sides by the clearest aquamarine water I’ve ever seen. In the shallow areas the water was so crystal clear you could barely see it. Our group (there were about 20 of us) spent about 30 minutes exploring, collecting shells, or swimming. We were each given a plastic grocery bag to collect shells in. I didn’t spend much time shelling. After a few minutes, I ran out into the pristine warm salt water and just let it engulf me. The whole experience was exhilarating, even though 30 minutes wasn’t nearly enough time!
The above photo is my absolute favorite. The juxaposition of the white sands, aquamarine water and fluffy white clouds stirs my soul. I have made this photo the background on my laptop!
Our combined seashell booty.
The marina at Tarpon Springs (notice how much darker the water here is)
We drove to Clearwater for the remaining 4 days. The 10 mile drive over Tampa Bay into Clearwater is very pretty. We stayed in a cute hotel right on the beach, but the weather during our stay could have been better. We only had two days of good weather, but being right on the boardwalk, there was still more than enough to keep us busy. Our first night, we ate at Clearwater’s most famous eatery, Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe. The beach was wonderful, and not too crowded. One day we decided to drive out to Treasure Island in St. Petersburg, even though it was raining. Hey, why not? It rained during the drive, and the entire time we were there, but the beach was still pleasant and the water warm. We didn’t stay long, but it was nice having the beach almost completely to ourselves.
Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe, Clearwater.
Treasure Island in the pouring rain.
The sunsets over the Gulf were incredible. I just can’t get enough of Gulf sunsets, and here are the pictures proving that.
Sunlight from sunset reflecting off the clouds to the east.
On our second day, we had beautiful weather (even though the morning forecast had predicted rain), so we decided to book the Pirate ship for its Champagne Cruise, which takes off in the late afternoon. There are two champagne cruises; ours was the first. The next one takes off at sunset. I would have liked to go on that one too, but we’d already had way too much champagne. Yes, I confess both my daughter and I overindulged (you pay your $40 for the cruise, and the drinks are unlimited), but we had so much fun, and the views from the ship were amazing (a few are pictured below). The pirate theme was fun, and the appropriately costumed staff were friendly. The nice young man pictured below (I can’t remember his name) even hung out with us on the upper deck for a few minutes.
Me with view of the beach in the background
One thing I noticed this time was how good I’m getting at finding my way around the Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater metro area. It’s my third trip to this area, but this time I was finally getting comfortable just driving around and finding my way from one place to another. I’m generally not good with directions and navigation, but because everything’s pretty much laid out on a grid here, it’s a lot easier to get around the area than where I live, where there are mountains and no grid to speak of.
It seems so much longer than two months ago I was in Florida, but in some ways it feels like it was just yesterday. To end this post, here’s a little video I made just after sunset of the patterns of the surf (it’s actually the first video I ever made from my phone).
I’ve been feeling more anxious and depressed every day about the political situation, and I don’t feel like any of our efforts are really helping. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind. It’s so easy to get bogged down in negativity, fear and hopelessness when the opposition is so nasty and overwhelming and you no longer have the slightest doubt of the horrifying reality that you are being held hostage in your own country — a country that is being run by the worst human beings imaginable.
I definitely need to clear my head and get away from all that for awhile. My annual trip to Florida to visit my son can’t get here soon enough. I leave tomorrow before dawn (I love driving before dawn on a long road trip — here’s an article I wrote in 2016 about that). Depending on traffic, we should arrive in Tampa (that’s where he lives now) late in the day.
Our hotel has a lovely pool and hot tub, and serves continental breakfast. We’ll be spending time with my son when we can (he can’t get off work). I think this time one of the plans is to hit Treasure Island! We had planned to go last year but never got around to it.
After four days there, my daughter and I are driving to Clearwater Beach and spending four days there, right on the beach!
The only bad thing about vacations is having to return to reality. I leave for home early tomorrow and will be driving all day. I like the road trip, but I still feel a little sad that I have to go, and then return to work on Monday. 😦
I *could* stay until Sunday morning and drive home then, but returning home late and then having to be up for work the next day would shock my system too much. I need Sunday to just relax at home, catch up on things, and ease into the work work.
I’ll enjoy today anyway (we leave for lunch in a little bit), but it’s still hard.
There’s something almost otherworldly about driving alone in the wee hours of the morning, just before dawn when the sky is still dark and full of stars. It’s a zen-like experience: the world is silent as it still sleeps, the stores are still dark and locked up for the night, and the highway stretches before you, tapering into a point on the horizon that seems like forever. It’s so quiet you can hear the wheels sing as they progress along on the road. You feel like you’re all alone in the world, but you’re not lonely. There’s just this silence and peaceful solitude, a quiet time to just center yourself and talk to God. It’s a spiritual time; a time to just be.
In about an hour I will be going to sleep. I’m already packed for my 700 mile road trip which will begin at about 4 AM. That’s about three hours before the sky even begins to lighten, since the days are getting noticeably shorter now. By 7 AM, when the sun begins to paint the sky with pink and violet, I’ll already be about 250 miles from here, somewhere near Columbia, South Carolina. Then the world will be waking up and I’ll be thinking about more worldly things, like what I’m going to eat for breakfast–McDonalds or a gas station muffin? I’ll be thinking all about the great time I’m going to have next week and the fun things I will be doing. But I also think this trip is going to prove to be a healing thing for me, a time to reflect, since my son has to work for part of the week and I’ll be spending a lot of time alone by the ocean.
I’ll be taking my laptop with me and posting all about the adventures I have next week, so you’ll still be seeing me around. I’ll probably take a lot of pictures too 🙂
The Florida Gulf Coast before a storm (credit: my son)
I haven’t taken a long road trip since 2008! That’s WAYYYY too long. But after 8 long years, I’m getting ready for another one. Today I got my oil changed and my tires checked to make sure my car is road worthy for the 700 mile trip. I took Monday off so I’m going to Goodwill to look for an inexpensive travel bag. (I also have an emergency appointment with my therapist).
Next week, most likely next Sunday when the traffic on the highways is a little lighter, I’m driving to Port Richey, Florida, to visit my son for a whole week. I saw him in April when he came here to visit for a few days, but I’m dying to see his place (he lives in a nice apartment complex with a pool and a hot tub). I’ll be staying there to save money instead of staying in a hotel. He lives close to the beach, so we will also be hitting the beach a few times. He wasn’t able to get days off from work, but his hours are variable and I’m sure we’ll have a lot of time to spend together. He’s as excited as I am, and is planning to take me to a couple of his favorite eateries, of course the beach, and also fishing!
The water looks like molten gold.
Hopefully the weather holds up. The Gulf Coast can be iffy this time of year since it’s the middle of hurricane season. I really need this trip, not only to see my son but also to get away and just relax near the ocean and see some new sights. The timing couldn’t be better, since I’ve been so triggered and upset lately. I think this trip is just what I need and will help me regroup and get my head and my emotions together.
I’m bringing my laptop with me because I will continue to blog while in Florida, and will post pictures every day of my adventures with my son. Gosh, I can’t wait!