On the Road With Doris & Ez

We're going on a road trip!!!! Could be three weeks could be three years, we'll see. Read below to see where we are now.....

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Florida Gulf Coast - May 2007

After leaving behind the beautiful beaches around Panama City, I didn’t hold out much hope for tiny Old Town, Florida. It’s inland, so no beaches, and it’s small, so the WalMart is the only real happening place in town. All true, but this part of Florida has a charm of its own, and they call this The Nature Coast for good reason.

Our RV park was literally “way down upon the Suwannee River” in a pretty rural setting. A long boardwalk ran through the marshy woods from the campground to the river’s edge. Wildlife abounds, from the fireflies that flickered in the trees at night to the armadillo who went scuffling through the leaves when I surprised him one evening on the way back from the laundry. We watched a couple of crows harass the great horned owl who hung out in the area. Another day we drove through the pine wood forests to the coast to see what the historic seaside towns of Old Florida must have looked like. The variety of birds was amazing and we added several new species to our “life list.” Here’s Ez relaxing on the deck of restaurant that overlooks the coastal marshes in the town of Suwannee.

Next it was back to the beach at Palm Harbor just west of Tampa. We were looking forward to this stop because our son Todd and his wife Stephanie flew into Tampa to join us for a few days. Of course, as you can see, we spent one day relaxing on the beach and doing some people watching. We drove through the coastal communities of Clearwater, St. Pete Beach and St. Petersburg and checked out the beaches, the marinas, and the fabulous homes. This was all pretty grueling of course, so we had to stop occasionally at the closest restaurant with a waterfront deck for sustenance and the appropriate adult beverages.

One afternoon we drove into a part of historic old Tampa called Ybor City. This was originally a working area with factories, warehouses, and the homes of immigrant laborers from Cuba, Italy and Eastern Europe. Now it features shops, restaurants and lots of clubs – Tampa’s version of Bourbon Street. Cigar manufacturing was an important industry then and there are still plenty of cigar shops in the neighborhood, including the one where we watched this old gentleman rolling them by hand in the traditional way. Of course Ez indulged his favorite vice by picking up a few cigars to add to his humidor back at the coach. Ybor City is also where we had our best meal in the Tampa area. The Columbia Restaurant serves great Cuban cuisine and we loved the pitcher of mojitos our waiter prepared tableside using loads of fresh mint. Yummm!

Our last stop on the Gulf side of Florida was at Fort Myers Beach, another great spot to get in some beach time. Across the bay from Fort Myers lie the beautiful islands of Sanibel and Captiva. We spent a great day exploring the beaches there, having a quiet lunch, and checking out some of the beautiful homes – like this one.

Of course, not all the homes in Florida look like they should be featured in Architectural Digest. This little casa was just down the road in the RV park we stayed in – a classic example of mid-century modern meets Airstream!

Finally, while in Fort Myers Beach we had the quintessential Florida golfing experience. We were playing a round on a local course when a foursome on the fairway across the pond started shouting at us. After a moment of confusion, we saw the source of the excitement - an eight-foot alligator went scrambling across the grass and plunged into the water hazard! I was so surprised, I missed the photo, but when we came back a few days later I was determined to be better prepared. We searched the water looking for our alligator friend until we finally saw something suspicious sticking out of the water. I was quick with the camera this time – but all I came away with was a great picture of a half-submerged rock! Oh well, wish me better luck next time. .