Earl’s Dead….Cadillac for Sale

It was with great sadness, we pulled out of Indian Rocks Beach, and headed south this morning. We hated to leave the town, our hotel, and our new friend Lindsey. It was a great 4 days, and we are so happy that we extended our stay from our original 2 to 4 days. Indian Rocks Beach…we will be back!

Because we extended our stay in Indian Rocks, and decided to enjoy doing nothing yesterday, if we wanted to make a stop at Sanibel Island, today was the day. So we headed south this morning, traveling I-275 over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay, to I-75, through Fort Myers, past the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, right onto the Causeway to Sanibel Island.

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It was a beautiful day, and we saw some beautiful sights….then we got to Sanibel Island. The traffic on the island was beyond belief. I mean, it made changeover summer Saturday traffic at home in Ocean City look like child’s play! We’d heard that it was hard to find parking on the island, but we didn’t expect the bumper to bumper traffic to and from the causeway. So we stopped for lunch at the Sanibel Fish House. Susie and I split a Crispy Grouper Basket, and a Coconut Shrimp Basket. Lunch was good!

After lunch, we tried to drive around the island a bit, but the traffic seemed to be everywhere. We drove to the light house, but there wasn’t a parking place to be had. So, we decided to leave the island, since our day of traveling was not over.

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With today’s travels, we were done with the Gulf Coast of Florida, and we used the Tamiami Trail to traverse the state from west to east. If you look at the map above, you’ll see that we crossed the Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, and several smaller preserves as well as an Indian Reservation as we headed to the East Coast.

BAADE4FC-911C-4EB4-A2E6-CCDADB30572EThe Tamiami Trail is a road that looks to have not changed much since I was a kid, and we came to Florida each summer. One lane in each direction, little traffic, and all we passed along the way was camping grounds, entrances to state parks, picnic areas, and signs like this!

 

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I don’t know about you, but we decided picnicking or camping was out, if there were Panthers in the area!!!

By the time we got to the East Coast, the sun had set, and it was getting dark. Susie and I both agreed that we’d hate to drive across the Tamiami Trail in the dark. Unfortunately, there was a lot of construction at the east end of the road, and the estimated arrival time to our hotel kept getting later and later. By the time we pulled in at 7:30, it was totally dark. Glad we had a reservation at Florida City’s Home 2 Suites, as there was a gentleman in front of me trying to get a room. Seems like the whole area is sold out, and he was out of luck. I’d forgotten it was the Friday of the President’s Day Weekend, so I was even happier we had a reservation.

Since we’d had a large lunch on Sanibel Island, we decided to go Fast Food tonight. Take-out Taco Bell, back in our suite, washed down with Tito’s Vodka was our meal of choice tonight!

Tomorrow, it’s US-1, the Overseas Highway, down the Keys, to Key West! Hmmm…Presidents Weekend in Key West. Mistake or a good move? Tomorrow will tell. See you then!

We Did Nothing

So, what did we do today? We did absolutely NOTHING! We got up, checked our iPads for mail and the like, threw on some clothes, and went over to the restaurant for our included breakfast. Then we came back to the room, got ourselves ready, and headed to the pool. We proceeded to sit poolside on an incredibly gorgeous day for the better part of 4 hours. The temperature was great (think high 70s), the humidity wasn’t too high, and there was a nice breeze and shade from the palm trees. We had our Kindles, and iPads, we read and texted the kids, I slept, and we had a wonderful afternoon! If you don’t believe me, look at these pictures, and you decide!

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Now it’s about 4, and we are back in our room. Our plan for the rest of the evening is to shower, get dressed, and head down to Jimmy Guana’s, and sit at the Tiki Bar, where our favorite bartender Lindsey will be holding court. We’ll have a couple of drinks, order some food for dinner, have a couple of more drinks, and enjoy our last evening in Indian Rocks Beach (sad…). We have really loved our 4 days here, and Susie and I are so glad that we extended our 2 day stay into 4. We’ve fallen in love with Indian Rocks Beach, and are seriously considering finding a condo rental in this area for a couple of weeks next February.

So, I think that’s about it for today. Tomorrow we leave and head south. We hope to make a short stop at Sanibel Island, before heading across the Tamiami Trail, and our stop tomorrow night in Florida City. That will be our jump off point for our Saturday travel down US-1 (The Overseas Highway) and our weekend in Key West! The last time we were in Key West was in 1997, we had all the kids with us, and were driving a huge full size Ford Van. We think this will be a very different kind of stay for us, as our hotel is but one block from Duval Street. We’re looking forward to taking advantage of everything Key West has to offer!

See you tomorrow, when I promise to have more to say, because we won’t be doing nothing!!

Do-Over

Hello! Hope you had a great Valentine’s Day…we did! First of all, we encountered the Zamboni Man, doing his daily clean of our hotel. Who would have thought???

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Yesterday, I bitched about our trip to Tarpon Springs, and how we did not enjoy the trip, or what we found when we got there. Well guess what…we did a “do-over” today, and had a great time. First of all, I realized that I was a little hungover yesterday morning (thanks Lindsey), and hated the road we used to get there. We can blame that on our wonderful GPS, which took us the “fastest” way. We loved the trip home, along the water, through Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, and Sand Key. So, what did we do this morning?? We headed back that way, driving along the barrier beaches, and almost never losing sight of the water! When we left Indian Rocks Beach, it was overcast, and temps were in the high 60s, but soon the sun and blue skies appeared, and the temp went up to around 80! Perfect weather to drive with the windows down, and the sunroof open!

F05EE9D8-23D2-45F6-952D-9E721F73FA18For some reason (probably because I was in a better mood), Tarpon Springs seemed a lot nicer today. We parked in a lot for $5, went across the street to Yianni’s, and had a perfect Greek lunch. Oh, did I mention we started lunch with 2 for 1 Bloody Marys? Then we shared a hummus appetizer, and we both had a great Gyro Platter. How the hell do your pronounce that word??? I want to say “year ro”, but after years of calling it a “Gi-Ro” platter, it’s really hard to change. So what usually happens, is that you do half the old way, (Gi-Ro) and half the correct way (“Year-Ro”), and sound like an ass. However you pronounce it, it was very good!

Then Susie did a little shopping, but the highlight of the trip for me, was this great hat that Susie bought me at one of the stores she went into (I stood outside watching the people!) in Tarpon Springs. I will continue to wear it proudly…well maybe not in Disney World….during the remainder of our Florida Trip!

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Then we headed back to our hotel in Indian Rocks Beach, and recuperated for a bit in our room, after which we decided to go down to Jimmy Guana’s, and there was our favorite bartender, Lindsey, at the inside bar. We sat with her for a couple of hours, till she went off duty, and she transferred us to Brian. The restaurant had a big Valentine’s Day Buffet Dinner tonight, but we were happy eating at the bar and having a fish sandwich and a burger. Great discussions first with Lindsey, and then with Brian. Then we entered into discussion with Patrick, a patron at the bar, who lives in New York City, and is a former FBI agent! We finally called it quits, and headed to our room.

We are looking at a relaxing day tomorrow. Breakfast at the hotel, a couple of hours sitting by the pool reading or sleeping, and then a night with our favorite bartender Lindsey! Life is really good, and we are contemplating coming back to this area next winter, and renting a place for 2-3 weeks, because we love this part of Florida, specifically Indian Rocks Beach! No big philosophical thoughts beyond the fact that it’s summer (which we love), and we are in a place we are really enjoying, and we are together!!! A perfect Valentine’s Day for us!

Hope you had a good Valentine’s Day, and are as lucky as we are!!

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Well, we did it!

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I commented yesterday how much we loved this Holiday Inn in Indian Rocks Beach, and what a good time we had last night at the on-site restaurant, Jimmy Guanas. We loved what we’d seen of the town of Indian Rocks Beach, the style of the hotel, and did I mention the bar at Jimmy Guanas? This morning, on the way to breakfast, we stopped in at the office, and we were able to extend our stay two nights. So rather than staying in a Comfort Suites in the middle of nowhere in Fort Myers, we are staying here till the morning of Friday February 16th. The primary reason that we were staying at Fort Myers, is because Susie wants to see Sanibel Island, but we figure we may do a day trip from here one day, and would much rather come back to this place. Mission accomplished.

Today, we wanted again to venture to the past a bit. I know, didn’t yesterday teach us anything? I guess not, because after breakfast, we ventured up the road to a place we visited 20+ years ago with the kids, Tarpon Springs. We let the GPS guide us there, and that was our first mistake. She took us on 19, which was 8 lanes of traffic, with scenery straight out of the American Business Playbook! CVS, Walgreens, Publix, McDonalds, Buffalo Wild Wings, and many more that I’ve already forgotten! In a word, the drive was boring, and half way there, I was already falling asleep!

Was Tarpon Springs like we remembered? Absolutely not! We seemed to have in our mind a sleepy fishing village set against the Gulf of Mexico, but what we got was a very crowded 6 or 7 block stretch with stores on one side, and docks on the other. It reminded me of Cozemel, Mexico, with people hawking you to shop, eat, or go on a boat ride. We were very sorry we ate breakfast at the hotel this morning, because had we not, we would have loved to stop for lunch in one of the many Greek Restaurants we passed. We decided to pass on it today, and thought that perhaps we might head back there on another day this week for a nice lunch.

FAF2D7B3-B65E-4533-A836-977C9D8885A7Our trip back, however really hit it out of the park! We discovered Alternate 19 South, which was a lovely ride back to Indian Rocks Beach, staying on the water for the majority of the ride. We went through Clearwater and Clearwater Beach, and Sand Key, back to Indian Rocks. It may have taken a bit longer, but we loved the sights. Oh, did I mention that the temperature was in the upper 70s, and we had the windows and the sunroof of the Sonata open? It was wonderful for February 13th!

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For all our OC Family!

Since we were enjoying the ride so much, we thought we’d continue down the beach road to Treasure Island, a place where we stayed with the kids on that same trip. Back in the day, we stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment, right on the beach, at the Buccaneer Motel. It was a small place, surrounded by other small places, and we were surprised to find that many of those small places are still in Treasure Island, but not the Buccaneer. Susie found it’s former address on a web site, and there is now a big condo building at that address. Oh well, we did enjoy the ride!

We came back to the room, had a Rum and Coke, and got ourselves ready for a 6:30 dinner reservation I made at an Italian Restaurant just down the road, You see, the day before Ash Wednesday in my Dad’s family was always celebrated as Carnaval, or, Fat Tuesday! The last day before Lent started, was always an occasion to eat a big Italian meal, of all your favorite things you’d miss during Lent. Years ago, we started carrying on the tradition that I remembered as a kid, and we’d have family and friends over, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday for a full Italian celebration. Well, it happens that for the last several years, we’ve been on the road traveling, so be it in Las Vegas, or Disney World, or Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, we try and celebrate this day by eating out Italian, and remembering the years we put on the party!

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We never remember to take before pictures of food!

So now we are back from having a wonderful meal at Villa Gallace, right here in Indian Rocks Beach. First, great mussels, then Susie had Rigatoni Bolognese, and I had Lasagna. A restaurant that has it’s roots in an immigrant from Italy who settled in NYC, before moving to the Sunshine State! Excellent food, great service, and a perfect Carnaval celebration! Oh, and guess where we ended the night? At the Tiki Bar at Jimmy Guana’s! A perfect end to a nice day!

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So, that’s it for today! It was a good day, that Susie and I enjoyed, and as we’ve often said, it’s our vacation, and we do what we enjoy. Good, bad, or indifferent. We may not do what other people would do here, but it’s what WE like to do. No, we are not into sports or hiking, and spending hours on our feet sightseeing is no longer our desire. We question ourselves sometimes, but then remember IT’S OUR VACATION! We pace ourselves, and do what we want. How boring the world would be if we were all the same with the same tastes and desires. That’s why cars come in different colors!

The weatherman says that there’s a 60% chance of snow in Ocean City on Saturday, with a high of 37 degrees! The rest of the week in Indian Rocks Beach is forecasted to be warm, with highs in the 80s! That’s what we came south for!!

See you tomorrow!

PS…did you see what somebody in the graphics department at the ABC TV station in Chicago did? OMG!

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Kinda makes me want Chinese food!

Some Bad, and Some Good

If you are of a certain age, and ever vacationed in Florida as a child, you immediately will know the name, Weeki Wachee. Started in 1947, Weeki Wachee Springs was a tourist attraction featuring “mermaids” performing in an underwater setting, viewed by the audience in an aquarium like theater. I remember coming to it when I journeyed to Florida as a kid, (and Susie remembers coming with her grandmother in the early 70s), and know that when our three kids were small, we took them there, In fact, in 1959 the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) bought Weeki Wachee, and I think we got in for free when we came with our kids…just showed my ABC ID card!

Well, Susie and I stopped by today, and it’s nothing like we remember. First of all, it’s now a state park. Can’t find any information about how it stopped being a private attraction and became a ward of the state, but it was in 2008. I assume that like other Florida attractions, it couldn’t compete with Disney World, Busch Gardens, Sea World, Universal Studio and the like, and whoever owned it at the time, turned it over to the state. In fact, if you remember Weeki Wachee, you also may remember Cypress Gardens, which was known for women dressed as Southern Bells, the Botanical Gardens, and it’s water skiing shows. Well, it’s now LegoLand!

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7B1C4549-8F29-4AEA-9CD9-03D1A9CA5D8AWe were excited when we arrived, but soon discovered that the last time anyone spent any money on the upkeep of the place was probably when it was owned by ABC. Broken sidewalks, only 2 Mermaid shows a day, a lame Animal Show, and a limited schedule of boat trips on the river. We spent a little more than an hour there, and then decided that sometimes trying to go back in time isn’t the smartest thing to do. I wouldn’t recommend a visit to anyone who has been there before.

Then we journeyed to Pinellas Park, Florida, where Susie’s Grandparents lived. She remembered visiting them there, and had a pretty good idea where they lived, and in fact, remembered that we found it once, when we were in the area with the kids 20 years ago. Guess what? Things change, and she couldn’t find any trace of what she found 20 years ago. Progress!!

64B48CE6-BD80-4DC3-82B9-5DA0D5C292C5Then we traveled a short distance to our hotel. A very unusual Holiday Inn, on the Intercostal Waterway in Indian Rocks, Florida. It’s called the Clearwater Beach Harborside, in Indian Rocks Beach, and now we are in the good part of the day!! It’s a little more expensive, but oh so worth it! The hotel is built in a Key West Style, and even has a Key West type bar/restaurant called Jimmy Guana’s. Once we checked in, we decided to walk the place and explore, and we immediately gravitated to the Tiki Bar at Jimmy Guana’s, where we had two delightful Martinis! Then we unloaded the car, found our PJs,(so we could crawl into them later!), and headed back to the bar at Jimmy Guana’s, and the delightful bartender Lindsey!

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Our Original Drinks! (and no Michael…its not Windex)

We drank, we ate, we drank, we listened to music! We had a wonderful night. Our bill was just over a $100, and we’re considering seeing if we can stay here, and use this place as our base of operations for the next 4 days! Stay tuned, and see what we decide tomorrow.

886FE895-D7FE-4002-AED8-B3D783F8C6B4Our Room

 

08FC634A-0C5D-4AE6-AA31-A95D4C4B7346Our Rum Drinks

 

9C416012-42D0-4F3E-B651-834286AFEE75Our Dinner – The Guana Tower (and Lindsey in the background)

2611F59F-8AFF-4851-897D-3E35BB2AD490Great Entertainment

Welcome to the Sunshine State!

We had a lazy morning in Darien, sleeping in a little, and not even bothering to go down for breakfast, and left the hotel about 10:30. 205 miles later, we are in the Crystal River, Florida Hampton Inn, enjoying our first Rum and Coke (or Cuba Libre) of the trip!

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The weather was party cloudy and warm when we left Darien. After filling up with gas, Southbound I-95 was again our route. A little over 70 miles later, we’d crossed into Florida, approached Jacksonville, and said good bye to I-95, as we headed towards the western part of the sate.

We were on a couple of Interstates, as we passed around Jacksonville, but spent the rest of the day on Florida State roads. We drove through some gorgeous country, that looked to be mostly ranches. We saw lots of cattle and horses, and had another cheap thrill…since we had no breakfast, we lunched at another Arby’s!

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The weather is sunny and warm, and we love being on the west coast of Florida. Our days of long drives are over, and for the next week or so, we have a couple of two night stops planned. There will be lots of sightseeing, with short drives between stops, and as always, wonderful things to do along the water (perhaps even a drink at a beach bar or two). Right now, we hear that back in the Northeast it’s a cold rainy day. Not to rub it in, but wanted to share with you this picture of the Sonata’s temperature display as we approached the hotel!

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We’re looking at a Mexican Restaurant for tonight, but wherever we go, we’re loving it, because it’s summer for us!

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See you tomorrow!

Darien, Georgia = Shrimp!

78C46EAC-F927-4B7C-8782-C952E3DE43ABWelcome to Darien, Georgia! We traveled through North Carolina, South Carolina, into Georgia today. The day started cloudy and then the rains came, and that was with us for the first half of our journey. By the time we finished today’s 425 miles, and pulled into tonight’s Quality Inn, we’d made a stop at Georgia Peach World to buy some Peach products, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the high 70s! As I said yesterday, we’ll follow the sun. While Darien is like so many other towns along I-95, this is not our first visit here. Let me tell you about the first time we stopped in Darien.

Shortly after I retired from WABC at the end of January, 2016, we came up with the idea to head down and see a couple of the Met’s SpringTraining games in Florida. We figured it would be a good way to get away from the cold for a couple of weeks, and along the way, I could use my Disney Retiree Benefits (there will definitely be more about those in future posts). So without any particular plan, we left Long Island, and ended up stopping after dark, somewhere in Virginia. When we woke with snow blowing under the door, into the room the next morning, we decided that we’d stop earlier the next day.

A Comfort Inn in Darien, Georgia, stopping long before dark, was our destination for day two of our journey. As we usually did, we made a couple of drinks, and sat down to try and figure out where to have dinner. We’d passed a Ruby Tuesday as we got off I-95, plus there were a lot of fast food choices between the highway and our hotel, so it looked like we had lots to pick from.

We were in the middle of our research, when I got a Facebook message with a recommendation for us. I’d worked with WABC Account Executive Abe Goren for years, till he retired a couple of years before I did. We’d had hours of conversations over the years, and how could I not love a friend who in my 60s, still called me “kid”. Abe said he’d seen on Facebook that we were in Darien, and if we wanted a great fried shrimp dinner, we needed to go to B & J’s Steaks and Seafood. We found it on the map, and took Abe’s advice.

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We followed the directions and found ourselves in an industrial area, where everything was closed for the day. Then, up ahead, we saw a low building surrounded by cars. Yep, this was the place. It was small, the parking lot was crowded, and we had a substantial wait for a table. Turned out, it was well worth it. We had the most incredible fried shrimp dinner we have ever had. Fresh, perfectly cooked, incredible portions, at a great price! It was a real down home place, and one we promised ourselves we’d be back at again!

So, last year, when we again headed to Florida, guess where we spent night two? Yep, in Darien, Georgia, so we could once again eat at B&J’s Steak and Seafood, and have the most memorable plate full of shrimp!! I thanked Abe once again for the recommendation, and he told me that their fried chicken was as good as their shrimp. So guess what…day two of this year’s trip to Florida, and we’re once again staying in Darien! We decided to go early tonight as it’s a Saturday. There were people all over the place, we put our name in at 4:45 and they called us at 6:26. They were busy!

The parking lot was full, as were the benches!

Was it worth it? Oh yea! Take a look, and see what you think!

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Oh, and by the way…guess where we’re stopping in early March on the way back north. Perhaps we’ll be able to order the fried chicken this time!

Thanks again, Abe!!!