Miracle of Science – Part Three

To recap, Miracle of Science Part One was the weekend that having our Moderna Vaccine let us leave the state of New Jersey for the first time since March 14, 2020, and to journey down Interstate-95 to see our son Billy, daughter-in-law Lori, and our three wonderful Grandkids Layla, Henry, and Annabelle, who we had not seen since the end of January, 2020. Miracle of Science Part Two was the weekend that being fully vaccinated allowed our daughter Krissi and son-in-law Mike to not only come and spend the weekend in our house in Ocean City, but to be hugged and kissed by Susie and I for the first time in over a year. That takes us to Miracle of Science Part Thre

After we went down last weekend to Wake Forest, North Carolina for the dual birthday party of our two beautiful Granddaughters Layla and Annabelle, it was time to broaden our horizons, and to encompass the rest of our kids in this miracle, and towards that end, we continued our journey down Interstate 95 south, to the Sunshine State, the home of Our Boys, son Kenny and his husband Chris! We wanted to see them, we wanted to return to our Florida home of Pinellas County, and we wanted to keep our Florida visit record intact! So last Sunday, after the Saturday birthday party for Layla and Annabelle in Wake Forest, we headed south, and on Monday, we reached our goal!

Since I retired the end of January, 2016, a “winter” trip to Florida has been part of our yearly agenda so that we could sample a preview of the next summer. In 2019 and 2020, we rented a condo in Indian Rocks Beach, and immersed ourselves in the “Snow Bird” life style. Unfortunately, we had to cut our 2020 visit short due to the pandemic, and made no plans for a 2021 visit. However, now that we are fully vaccinated, and Kenny and Chris live in St. Petersburg, Florida, we decided that a brief trip was in order. We are not going to be here a month…heck we’re not going to be here a week, but we are in Florida, enjoying this early spring/summer weather, and we are with the boys

The first thing we were interested in seeing was their apartment, that we’ve only heard about and seen in pictures. Bottom line was we loved it! They have definitely put their spin on it, and with so many familiar things from our house, my Mom’s house, and Kenny’s life, we definitely knew we were on familiar ground! It was great and they feel very much at home!

After a brief visit, it was time to drive down the street and check into the hotel. We are staying in a brand new hotel, just 2 blocks away from the boys’ apartment. It’s called Tru by Hilton, and is a hotel of the new “industrial” style, but it’s very close, the room is comfortable, and the cost is zero dollars a night, thanks to Hilton points! We didn’t even get charged the $17 a night to park the car!

After we got all set in our room, the boys came over and it was time to get our evening started. The plan was that they were going to show us the area that they live in, the Central Avenue area of Downtown St. Petersburg. There are lots of new apartment buildings in the area, and an active bar scene, and looks like the perfect area for the boys. There is always something to do, and they are very much enjoying being just a couple of blocks away from it all. The boys walked us all over the area, including past Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. By the time we got to the venue they’d planned for dinner, we were ready for a seat, and a drink. We got both!

The boys had decided our first stop of the night was going to be the Burnt Ends Tiki Bar, a beautiful roof top venue located above a bar-b-que joint (hence the name). The weather was absolutely wonderful, and it was super to be with Kenny and Chris, to be in Florida, and dining outside!

After a couple of great drinks, and some excellent appetizers, we decided to venture downstairs to Dr. BBQ to sample some of the BBQ the boys had said was so good…and it was!

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped and had another drink at a place on Central Avenue called Ferg’s Sports Bar. This incredible venue encompasses nearly two city blocks, and is ground zero for game day pre-gaming, as Tropicana Park is just a block away. It was much quieter on a non-game day Monday evening, but it was fun to sit along Central Avenue and have a drink with the boys!

After a good night’s sleep, Tuesday’s plan was for the boys to show us around St. Petersburg some more (not on foot), and to ultimately show us where they lived for the first 6 months they were here. When they left Ocean City last July, it was to move to a furnished apartment they’d found online in St. Pete’s Beach. Although they enjoyed their time there, living in a furnished apartment without their “stuff,” they kind of felt that they were just visitors and they did not really get into a resident vibe. The area was also very transient, as most folks there were on vacation. It was a nice place, in a great location (just a little over a block from the beach), but when their 6 month lease was up, they were happy to move to their current apartment. Back in January, they rented a commercial van, drove back to Ocean City and emptied their storage unit. So now they are living with their “stuff” and loving the new location. We agreed that the beach looked interesting, but being on Central Avenue was the right neighborhood for them!

They did show us a bunch of local establishments they frequented during their time in St. Pete’s Beach, and one in particular was singled out as our lunch stop of the day! We’d been hearing about this place called Focheezy almost from the first days they were in St. Pete’s Beach. It turned out that it opened just days before the boys arrived, and from what they told us, and the pictures we’d seen, it looked like the home of the most outrageous Grilled Cheese sandwiches ever devised. Susie and I had to see what it was all about! We saw, and we tasted, and it was incredible! The sandwiches are huge, so the four of us split two sandwiches and some sides. Take a look and tell me if it doesn’t look incredible!

After lunch, we stopped and did a little shopping, and then returned to the boys apartment. A late afternoon and evening of hanging out, having a drink or two, talking and relaxing, and ordering some take-out food was the perfect way to end our second day in St. Petersburg!

Wednesday was a bit of a laid back day, with our plans for the day not starting till around lunch (or brunch) time. Unfortunately, Chris was a bit under the weather, so it was time for Kenny and Mom and Dad to venture out. Our plan was to go toTrip’s Diner, a place we’d enjoyed in 2020 when we were in Indian Rocks Beach. We were going to go to a location nearer the boys, and one that had outside dining, as the weather was superb. Unfortunately we were not the only ones that apparently had that idea, because there was a line out the door, and nary a parking space within a 2 block area! After a couple of passes, it was decided that Susie and I could have Trip’s tomorrow as we headed to Indian Rocks Beach, and we’d go with Plan B! Plan B was the Maple Street Biscuit Company on Central Avenue, and it was fantastic!!

Susie and Kenny had The Five & Dime and I had the Egg-stremely Risky Biscuit. We added Potatoes O’Ryan and something called Maple Sausage Balls, and we had a fabulous brunch! Plan B was good!!! Leftovers went home for Chris, and for safe keeping, Kenny made sure they were strapped in!

After a brief rest period back at the hotel, the four of us did a tour of the boys two favorite St. Petersburg breweries! The day was beautiful, with sunny blue skies and low humidity, and we enjoyed being outside, first at Three Daughters’ Brewery and then at Pinellas Ale Works! An interesting thing about Pinellas Ale Works…Chris is an artist, and later this year (July to September) he is going to have a showing of his work there!!

What a wonderful town St. Petersburg is, and amazingly, Susie and I both agreed that in our minds, it was a place we associated with old people, but today it is a wonderful vibrant community for young folks. We’ve loved every place we went with the boys, and see why they love where they live!! St. Petersburg is a wonderful community with lots of culture (museums everywhere), with art all over the place, with a vibrant bar and food scene, with a love of dogs, and seems like a wonderful place for Our Boys to live! We will be back, and we think they will be here for the long haul!!

On Thursday, for our last night in Florida, we were off to Indian Rocks Beach, and the place where our love of the area started back in 2018..the Holiday Inn and Jimmy Guana’s! This will be the 4th year in a row that we’ve visited IRB, unfortunately not for an extended period, like we’ve done the past two years. In fact, in this semi-post-pandemic year, this one night stay will be our shortest stay ever in IRB. Unsure about what 2022 will bring in terms of a new hip for Susie and my second new knee, our fingers are crossed that we’ll be back next year, but we were so glad that the boys joined us at the Holiday Inn, and a good time was had by all as we celebrated our last night in Florida!!

Friday morning, we were up and out of Indian Rocks Beach, and that afternoon bid a fond farewell to the Sunshine State! It had been a busy 4 nights in Florida, and we loved being with Kenny and Chris, seeing their apartment and city, and reconnecting with Our Boys! Farewell Florida…see you soon!

PS – Our stop Friday night was Darien, Georgia, and yes, we did get our shrimp at B&J’s Steak and Seafood, that we’d missed in 2020 when we “ran” home from Florida! It was wonderful as always!!! Thanks Abe!

Where are we?

 

img_1150

In case you’ve been wondering where we are, for the last week, we have been in Indian Rocks Beach on the Gulf Coast of the Sunshine State, in a condo on the beach we’ve rented for 3 weeks.  I know that many of you folks in the north are suffering through some incredible cold, but those of us who ran away from the cold north to Sunny Florida have been suffering too!  I know it’s 19 in Ocean City as I write this and 70 here in Florida, but it’s been a hard week…trust me!

So we arrived last Saturday afternoon at our condo, and even though the temps were not where we’d have liked them to be, it was sunny, and we liked what we saw.

img_1299

This is the complex at 1904 Gulf Blvd and we are in the front building on the left as you look at this picture from the street.  Here are some condo pics.

So, what exactly have we been doing here?  Too cold for the beach or pool, although there were some hearty souls trying to enjoy both this week wherever the sun was shining.  The sun was nice, the blue skies were nice, the view was nice, the temps in the 50s (as a high) and the 20 mph winds were anything but.  No, we stayed inside, and when we were out, we were in the car with the windows up and sometimes with the seat heaters on!  So, where did those car rides take us?

Well, one day they took us to Costco and we bought a couple of things, and we coupled that with a stop at a Total Wines and More!  Another day, the ride took us in search of martini glasses (none in the condo), and we finally found them in a local Bed Bath and Beyond.  We combined those 3 stops most effectively for one of our evening cocktail hours!

img_1685

Some of the rides have taken us nowhere…just exploring!

Another day the ride took us to a local movie theater, where we saw Mary Poppins Returns.  Seems like a lot of theaters here also make you pick your seat when you buy your tickets, and when we bought the tickets on line a couple of hours before we went to the movies, every seat in the place was open!  Easy to choose.  

img_1684

When we got to the theater, we discovered these very comfy chairs…in fact, they were motorized recliners that you activated by touching a button.  A little odd, and we wondered if we’d (all right…Susie wondered if I’d) stay awake during the movie.  Actually we found them very comfortable, and a nice way to watch a movie.  Oh by the way, we loved the movie and how it struck it’s own ground, but really paid homage to the original!  Good job.

So, what else have we been doing??  Well, we’ve seen some wonderful sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico from our balcony windows.  See what you think…

Oh, and we’ve gone out and eaten several times too.  We had a great dinner at Keegan’s Seafood Grill, just a couple of blocks down Gulf Blvd last weekend.  We also had a great breakfast at JD’s Restaurant, along with two Bloody Marys!  

Then last night, we returned to the place we fell in love with last year, Jimmy Guana’s in the Indian Rocks Holiday Inn.  That’s where we stayed last year, and Jimmy’s had been our go-to place, probably because the first night we went there, we sat at one of it’s many bars, and met our friend Lindsey Sterry, who was bartending.  Have you ever met anyone, and minutes after your relationship starts, you feel like they’ve been your friend for years?  Well, that’s the way we were with Lindsey.  Would love to be able to say that we had a wonderful time last night with Lindsey, but the last night she worked was the night before we got into town.  Unfortunately, Lindsey is at home recovering from the first of two surgeries she’s got to have for Stage 4 Sinus Cancer.  She’s already survived brain cancer, and now this!  She’s a sweet, wonderful girl, and it really makes you wonder why something like this happens to people like this, and not the many true SOBs in this world!  The poor girl’s got a long road ahead of her, but she’s a fighter, with many folks who love her pulling for her…including the two of us!  If you want to read the whole story, follow this link!      https://www.gofundme.com/hope-for-lindsey-part-2

 

We had a fun night, with some great food, good drinks, and entertainment.  Our waiter Mark was a good guy, and we will see him again before we leave…just not Lindsey…unfortunately.

img_1288

                                                The bar we first met Lindsey at!

Then today, we got to the beach!!  Sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s, the Florida we’d been looking for!!

Oh by the way, this is our condo’s balcony.

fullsizeoutput_42e3

So the temps are up, and we are going to enjoy every minute of the Florida weather, and our preview of the Spring of 2019, till the end of February when we return to the winter of 2019!  Stay tuned!!!

Well, we did it!

D30E56FD-0E9F-4427-80F7-F1ECF982D635

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!

CC46658E-DDA3-43F3-AF1A-77B27CCD1E9C

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!

B5CB2B5C-9609-4D5E-A71E-77381BD6C287

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!

4DCDCC57-E0A3-4030-8ECB-198B70329499

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!

97743806-BF11-4E96-841A-DE32F23B4A5C

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!

9B7FA971-9F77-4264-AF0C-D776BFD6FF0A

 

 

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!

3A36FF96-EFB3-4F7C-9E6D-435BA7B3CA6E

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