Friday, March 23, 2012

Dinner at Don Cesar's

We grabbed a quick lunch at Bubba Gump's in Madeira Beach and came home around mid-afternoon. I packed my bag and went for a last swim.

This evening we had dinner at the famous Don Cesar Hotel on the beach. We didn't have any dress clothes -- nothing "casual chic" enough for La Maritana -- so I made a reservation at the Sea Porch, were we dined outside under cover, looking out at a courtyard that reminded me of the city square in Salamanca, spain. A guitarist from Colombia provided the entertainment, as did the the steady stream of hotel guestes heading back and forth between the hotel and the beach. The two large hotel pools were absolutely beautiful and I would have loved to go for a swim. Another time!

Bob had the salmon and I enjoyed four delicious sea scallops arranged around caribbean rice. We share key lime soufflé for dessert. After our meal, we walked down to the beach and saw the end of a beach wedding, a little disappointed that the sunset fizzled out on our last night. Too many clouds, so we left the beach, gassed up the car, cleaned out the fridge and finished our packing.

Home tomorrow!

Suncoast Bird Sanctuary

Late this morning, we visited Suncoast Bird Sanctuary in Indian Shores. I was a little afraid of seeing injured and rehabilitated birds, fearing a reaction similar to the sadness I felt at the Clearwater Aquarium. The entrance is almost hidden from view, on the Gulf side of Gulf Boulevard. We actually drove past it and turned around, wondering as we entered what was within.
The birds cackled and crowed as we walked through the very modest entrance. A couple of typical "birder" types manned the volunteer tables and many of the birds walked and flew freely through the sanctuary. Others were "behind bars" or in the hospital for treatment but it was altogether a very cheerful place.

We walked on very fine, white sand to the beach and watched free pelicans in the waves. By the time we were ready to leave, it was lunch time and pelicans were diving politely for what looked like ... once again ... mullet. Some birds were practicing their flying abd others were simply resting.

Many birds from the Gulf oil spill were nursed to health in this facility. This little sanctuary seems like a happy place.

Booked for 2013!

We took care of pre checkout details this morning and decided to book for next year: same unit, two floors higher, March 9-23. I'm ready to go home now but will be happy to be back here in 2013.

Sunrise Resort, #504.

St Pete Beach: Vacation Destination for ...

... just about everyone.

Empty nesters: lots of them all over Florida, of course. St Pete Beach offers great weather, golf couses, warm swimming pools, fabulous views everywhere, pretty good bird watching, good restaurants, excellent access to Publix, many liquor stores. Places of worship are not as numerous in the immediate vicity as I had expected, but St. Petersburg isn't far and supply seems sufficient. Most artistic venues are in Tampa and St. Petersburg, easily accessible via I-275 N.

Families with children: the main atraction is the water, of course. It's fun to watch the kids enjoying beautiful St Pete beaches. For the most part, the water seems safe for little ones, though the water can get deep quickly, especially at high tide. A good sunscreen is essential. Baseball spring training is nearby; in fact, we could go to a Twins vs. Yankees game today at George Steinbrenner Field.

Spring breakers: lots of teenagers and college age kids are enjoying spring break here. The celebrations seem "tamer" than the ones we witnessed in Cocoa Beach, a big spring break venue. Alcohol isn't permitted on the beach and, while I haven't seen any enforcement activity, the no alcohol ordinance seems well respected. Lots of live entertainment, especially on the weekend.

Water lovers: water and water activities everywhere. Swimming, boating, sailing, parasailing, fishing, shelling, deep sea fishing. It's all here and only minutes away.

This is a good holiday destination for anyone seeking water, beautiful views, lots of activities. I don't like the overbuilt environment (seems like a desecration) and traffic congestion is sometimes awful. However, we love St Pete Beach and will be back.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Record Heat in St. Pete Beach

Temperature records in Minnesota have been set since we arrived in Florida nearly two weeks ago. Our friends and family have suggested that we should have stayed home! We certainly would have enjoyed the unseasonably warm March weather in the Twin Cities, but here we've been able to swim at all hours of the day and you really can't beat Florida in the winter

Still, near 90-degree temperatures in March are record breaking in the Tampa Bay area. The days are a little warm and sunny for me! My fair skin doesn't respond well to this unremitting heat and and sun. I am blotchy, rather than tanned, and full of hives from the sun.

Bob and I have thought about spending our winters in Florida. I really don't know if I could stand this, day after day, month after month. Tampa Bay boasts of sun 360 days of the year! 360 days is a lot, when you start adding up the months and years.

I'm looking forward to a Minnesota spring, even if it is a bit early this year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day of Rest

My arms now look like two hunks of corned beef. Not sunburned, really, just irritated, wrinkled and red. We went to the beach this morning to avoid apending the hottest part of the day in the sun.

We've got the beach routine down pretty well. Two bags: a beach bag and one of my all-purpose Sportsacs. We carried two chairs and two beach umbrellas. When we got to our spot near the water, we set up the first umbrella. The wind was a little gusty and I was soon chasing the umbrella down the beach. Undeterred, Bob tied the umbrella to his beach chair, so that it shaded both of us quite well. We didn't attempt to raise the second umbella.

The gulf was a little colder today and the waves were more fun that the calm water last week. Very refreshing. After swimming, I walked up the beach to the Grand Plaza Hotel, a mistake since by then the sun was blazing in full mid-day glory. Corned beef arms felt crispy. We left the beach at about one and had roast beef sandwiches at home.

We picked up the new phone at Best Buy (yea!) and stopped at Publix for jumbo shrimp (yum!) and frozen pizza. Perfect supper on the deck. I watched the storm clouds passing over but decided that it was safe to swim in the pool. Thunder and lighting earlier in the evening dissipated and I enjoyed my dip.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why the Snowy Egret Cruises the Bushes

Here I was, only days ago, feeling sorry for the snowy egret chased from our little harbor by the big bad great blue heron. Turns out, that egret is quite happy to stay out of the heron's way. A buffet grazer, the egret has his own routine.
Dawn seems to invite him to a repast of minnows near the sea wall. The egret balances on the barnacles and gobbles up mouthfuls of them, or at least that's what I imagine as I follow his movements throughout the day. Fishing is available all day near the dock or in the shallows. Mullet are plentiful, if their energetic jumping is any evidence of the bounty in the water.

All too easy for the snowy egret. The real treat seems to be the gecko, ubiquitous here, but very fast. Some are quite small (bitesize, you might say), others are a little more meaty, appetizer weight for a hungry bird.

I didn't see the egret eat this gecko, but he hopped away looking mighty pleased with himself.

Magical Morning Cruise on Boca Ciega Bay

Spectacular sunrise this first morning of spring. The splash of clouds and sunshine created what I think of as a "circus sky", from a picture in the "Little Golden Books" compendium of circus stories. A circus sky is like pink lemonade with cloudy froth in it. Today the sky was pink and grey before dawn, and bright orange later on. I wore my white jacket outside this morning, because of the chill.

We sailed on Dolphin Landings' Fantasea at 9:30. We hadn't expected a sailboat so the morning was a thrilling surprise. It was great fun to sail on Boca Ciega Bay, where we now know many of the buildings and all the major landmarks. Our own condo building was very recognizable in the distance.  I picked out some acceptable "camps" ("cottage", in the Temiscaming lexicon) for Beatrice McGowan, our visitor last week.

Dolphin Landings promises dolphins so I wondered if Captain Clinton was getting nervous, after an hour into the cruise and no dolphin sightings. He said that he didn't worry too much unless the passenger list included children, who tend to expect brochure promises to be fulfilled. Almost immediatlely, two pairs of fins appeared. We soon saw several dolphins, including a baby born this season. Good enough to match Dolphin Landings' promises, if not passenger expectations.

Bob and I were happy to be sailing, with or without dolphins. It was a wonderul, exciting morning.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sea Critters

View from Critters porch facing Boca Ciega Bay
We were hot and hungry when we walked into Sea Critters at about 3 p.m., just in time for happpy hour. We sat in the covered porch and we e happy to be served by the same humorous waiter we met last year. I was happy to sit for an hour or so, finally out of the sun. The bourbon and diet coke hit the spot, as did my lobster roll (fresh, tasty cold water lobster served on a piece of toast), with a delicious tomato, lettuce and a dill pickle. Bob's fish and chips should have been shared. Pretty good too.

The male half of the couple beside us was getting dangerously drunk in the middle of the afternoon. And we think it's safe out there as long as night hasn't fallen yet.

Raucous Gulls

I love the beach at Fort De Soto: seven miles of sand, clear water, lots of sea life. I especially enjoy visiting the area where a section is set aside for migrating and nesting birds. A tidal pool attracts hundreds of gulls and other near shore birds, most of which just wade, swim, eat and generally mind their own business.

Not the sea gulls. Today as I walked near the tidal pool toward a large flock of gulls, a few of them started to complain loudly. I was at least 50 yards away, but soon the cacophonous, hoarse sounds filled the air. I looked up, thinking a hawk or other predator must be near. Could the large egret be evoking such a reaction? Don't think so: the gulls knew the enemy, and it was me! I had a vision of those long, strong beaks chomping on my body and pulling my hair, so I got out of their territory as soon as I had taken a couple of pictures. They drove me out in about 90 seconds.

The heat of the Florida sun was beating down on me by this time. It was a long walk to the car. One more stop at the beach facing yesterday's Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Where are the Frolicking Manatees?

Three or four manatees spent most of the weekend in our little inlet off Boca Ciega Bay. Two adults and one juvenile, I think. Maybe one more adult. I speculate that the juvenile is the calf that the two adults raised last year, when there was, apparently, at least one manatee baby in the bay.

When we arrived ,our manatees seemed to be the sleepy creatures I have noticed in the past, resting peacefully in the sunshine just below the surface. By Saturday morning, at least two of them were in front of the condo, rolling around very energetically and, on a couple of occasions, jumping right out of the water.

I am a little slow analyzing courtship behaviors, and it wasn't until yesterday morning that I realized what others had known for at least a day. Our manatees were not frolicking, but mating! Today, one is floating around just beyond the shadow of the royal palm. He seems very subdued, breathing occasionally without yesterday's enthusiastic snorts.

After reading about manatee mating on nearby Sanibel Island, I wonder if one female was being pursued by two or maybe three suitors. I wanted to post a link on manatee courtship, but the descriptions seemed borderline pornographic.  I think the party is over today!

Heather and Kevin's Wedding

I love weddings, either as a guest or an observer. After our meal at Spinner's, we walked out the rear door of the Grand Plaza to the beach deck. Nice pool -- a little small for my taste but empty, despite what appeared to be a full hotel.

Access to the beach was temporarily chained off because of a beach wedding. My second camera battery was quickly expiring but I managed to steal a few photos of Heather and Kevin's wedding. Sunset was still about 30 minutes away.

The light changed from brilliant to glowing as the couple exchanged their vows, a hybrid of conventional and personal language. The minister wore a white suit, a complement to the the bridesmaids' black dresses. The guests were an eclectic mix if ages, races and styles.

It was a delightful end to a beautiful day..

St Pete Beach from the Heights

The rose colored building on the left is our condo complex.
I wish we had known how beautiful the views are from the restaurant at the top of the Grand Plaza Hotel when Beatrice and Yvon Paquin were with us last week. We stopped at Spinners for appetizers but skipped right to dinner. The space itself is light and mirrored, and the outside ring where diners are seated turns a full revolution in in 80 minutes. Plaques between the picture windows identify the direction and the distance of destinations on all the continents.

The overbuilding is shocking and the higher view simply confirms my sense that the population density is much too high, and development has been largely unmanaged.

Our server seemed new (she put the twist in Bob's scotch but gave Bob my martini, who thought he was getting the water he ordered!), but our meals were beautifully prepared. Bob's strip steak was a little rare for his taste (delicious to me!) and my seafood cavatappi was full of shrimp, scallops and clams. Too much food for me so we have a pasta side dish in the fridge lunch or dinner today.

Skyway Bridge and Fishing Pier

The church was packed this morning, mostly with regulars but full of visitors as well. So far, Canadians (especially rom Ontario) seem to outnumber all others, but we've seen cars from dozens of states and provinces. After reading the excellent Tampa Bay Times (fka St. Petersburg Times), we had a bite to eat and drove the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to the Skyway State Fishing Piers, a state park. The story of the Summit Venture disaster that led to its destruction is especially chilling to anyone who remembers the Twin Cities' I-35W bridge collapse in 2007.

The approach to the bridge is a thrill well worth the $1 toll. The golden cables stretch far into the sky, visible long before beginning the uphill climb to the center of the span. The cost to visit the fishing pier as a sightseer is $3.20 for a one-hour stay. We parked at various locations along the pier to watch the fishing. Some bad sunburns! Last year when we were here, I saw dolphins but not so much as a fin was visible yesterday, though many were swimming in Boca Ciega Bay when we crossed the Pinellas Bayway Bridge.
The rest stop on the edge of the park has  the most beautiful views I've ever seen, anywhere - no admission required.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Afternoon in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, Florida is named for Saint Petersburg, Russia, where the city's founder spent much of his youth -- a city I hope to visit some day.There are occasional hints of a Baltic influence, but St. Petersburg looks much like the Sunbelt city that it is, priding itself on 360 days of sunshine a year.I've noticed a lot of Greek names in the news, and there is a Greek Orthodox church here, Saint Stefanos, still on my list of places to see.

This year, we knew where we were going and stopped at Vinoy Park, where park benches are strategically placed in the shadow of a row of palm trees. Large crawfish (or at least that I think they were) crawled quite energetically on the sandy bottom. Fish jumped. A small ray swam back and forth in the plankton and algae. Some manatees floated close to shore, much to the delight of passers-by and beachboard paddlers.

Hunger drew us to the bayfront area and we parked near Vladimir's, a collectibles shop that looked intriguing, but not today. We had fish & chips for lunch at Bella Brava, where the server split our shared meal into two large plates. We sat at a high table looking out at a busy sidewalk.

After lunch we walked a few blocks to the St. Patrick's Day celebrations, which could have used some Irish music rather than a rock band!

A fun afternoon. Unfortunately, sunscreen doesn't seem to keep my skin from developing a sun rash. I'm sitting on the balcony on Sunday morning before church, with a long sleeved shirt on. Seems wrong!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thompson Cigar Company

Thompson Cigar Company snares customers with small ads in men's magazines. Soon, the box of bargain cigars with a free humidor arrives at the door and the fish is hooked. Catalogs appear in the mailbox about once a month and emails offer free shipping and 2 for 1 offers.

Despite my opposition, Bob likes to smoke a cigar on the deck and even I like a whiff of fresh cigar smoke -- on occasion.Last winter, when we vacationed in the Tampa area ob was eager to visit Thompson Cigars but we didn't make it to the showroom.
Today, we plugged in the GPS -- now indispensable -- and drove to Tampa, past George Steinbrenner Field (winter home of the New York Yankees) and soon we were at the factory outlet. Bob browsed for 30 minutes or so and came out with a few of his faves. I don't think he saved any money but he was very pleased with himself, and that's worth something.

Coffee and Laundry

I love coffee -- stong and hot -- and doing laundry as soon as I have enough clothes to make a load. This holiday, I'm indulging in two of my favorite things.

At Christmas, I was ready to tear open the box of 1.76-oz coffee samples, beautifully packaged in a Starbucks gift box from Sonia and Jim. To my dismay, Bob wanted to save the coffee for Florida, a very bad idea, I thought. This week, we've looked forward to a different, delicious coffee every day. Feels like Christmas in March!

Who knew how great it would be to have the washer/dryer combo right in the condo? After my swim yesterday evening I wasn't ready to settle down so I did two loads of laundry in short order. No heavy laundry basket up and down two flights of stairs. No monsters under the basement stairs to grab my ankles in the dark. This morning, I threw in a load of sheets and went downstairs to take some pictures.

One-floor living has its advantages.

TPA 87, MSP 79

I insisted to Bob that we shouldn't go to Florida before the middle of March, because I loathe coming back to winter. Seemed reasonable at the time, and I've been right in the past. Not this year!

Temperatures in this part of the Gulf are hot but not record. Yesterday, records fell all over Minnesota, including the Twin Cities. No matter. If I had been at home, I would have been at work. A bonus this morning: Mary Hennessey Norman was sleepless in Clovis, California, so we chatted on Facebook for awhile. It was 48 degrees in Fresno (!) and raining harder than Mary has ever experienced in the 25 years she has lived in the Fresno area. That part of California has usually seemed very parched to us, and getting quite warm by now.

Still happy to be enjoying Florida sunshine!

Friday, March 16, 2012

BBY Trading at $25.32

Many years ago Bob bought Best Buy stock at about $50/share. The share price has rarely made it to $50 since then; today, BBY was trading at $25.32. I may have an idea why, and also know I was somewhat less enthusiastic about Best Buy as a "Minnesota company" today.
This afternoon, we went back to Best Buy to pick up Bob's new phone. Or at least that's what he thought. Turns out an error was made on Wednesday and his protection plan was registered in the name of Ana X, whose name I remembered from our BB visit on Wednesday. Dakota wasn't working today, so we were "helped" by Tee instead, who did his best ... for at least an hour.

Bob produced his driver's license three times, once to prove identity, once to write down the number, and the last time because all the same information was required for another screen. Tee wrote our various phone numbers two or three times. All the related Hennessey profiles (many! - more than there are Hennesseys) were checked to make information hadn't been inadevertenly merged or attributed to the wrong Hennessey. Meanwhile, some paying customers couldn't get served. The new iPad was sitting on the counter, but not all the apps were installed.

In the end, Bob was issued a "loaner" and his new phone should be shipped on Monday. There will be at least one more trip to Best Buy next week. Of course, we know the way quite well so at least getting there will be easy.

Sunset on Passe-A-Grille Beach

In St Pete Beach people appear out of nowhere to watch the sunset. Yesterday evening, we were among them on "historic Passe-A-Grille Beach". We drove south to The Wharf for dinner, where we had eaten last year when we were here. The parking lot and restaurant were crowded when we arrived at about 6:30 and, rather than wait for a table, we took a patron's advice and sat at the bar. I thought wistfully of the dolphins we had seen from the rail outside last year, but after Bob reminded me that smoking is allowed outside, I realized inside is a good place to be and I was soon happily downing a martini.

Our meals (hamburger for Bob, tilapia sandwich for me) were good rather than great. I did enjoy my choice of side (beans and rice); Bob opted for fries that didn't look any better than OK. Bob's left side neighbor, a retired teacher from Boston, was chatting him up throughout the meal. She seemed to be trying to interest him in one of several condos she owned and rented out to visitors. Around the corner of the bar were a father and his two kids from Toronto (lots of Canadians here)! As we left the restaurant, I was struck by the quality of the light, reminding me of sunset in Venice, when the canals and buildings sparkle in the facing sunlight of early eveing.

Sunset was close by the time we parked on the west side of Passe-A Grille. As I took pictures, Bob found a bench and chatted with a local resident, a transplant from Tampa who moved to St Pete when he and his wife divorced a few years ago. Some sunset seekers walked on the beach or waited reverently by the water. Children played in the sand. Seagulls looked for leftovers from beach picnickers and I happily took pictures.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Beach and Sun

Yesterday, the Tampa area was the fourth hottest in the country (don't know what cities made up the top three). Apparently the temperature reached 87 degrees, but it didn't really feel that hot. Today was another matter, because we headed over to the beach for about three hours. Fortunately, we arrived shortly before 11 and found a parking spot.

We had two of those very low beach chairs and I warily slipped down to the sand, wondering if I'd be able to get up. The two-year-old right knee is fine but the left tends to slip in and "out of joint" so I had my doubts. Fortunately, I was fine. The gulf felt chilly after the somewhat oppressive warmth of our swimming pool, but the water was clear, clean and very refreshing. I had my swim goggles so was spared the burning, stinging eyes.

We were both in and out of the water several times and left the beach around 2 p.m. Had lunch on the deck and, for several hours, watched three manatees float just under the surface in front of our resort. The shaded deck provided welcome respite from the heat of this sunny afternoon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Temiscaming Girls Reunion

Beatrice (McGowan) Paquin and her husband Yvon drove to St Pete Beach from Fort Myers to have lunch and spend the afternoon with us. Bea and I haven't seen each other for 40 years but we had a wonderful time reconnecting and reminiscing about the people we grew up with. Many of us have become Facebook friends in recent years, so it is easier to "catch up" when we/ve had the opportunity to re-situate ourselves in each other's lives, all because of social networking.

Bob and I were just arriving back from Best Buy and grocery shopping when the phone rang, and Bea announced that they were pulling into our parking lot. We sat on the deck (hot in the late morning!) for an hour or so and then went out to lunch at Daiquiri Shack, discovered yesterday. The food and drinks seemed better yesterday, but the company was definitely a plus today.

Unfortunately, the traffic was horrendous so we didn't really go too far. The beach near our condo was unbelievably crowded but Land's End, at the south end of St Pete Beach, was not. The dolphins we had ordered up appeared at just the right time. The Paquins had a couple of hours of driving back to Fort Myers, and it was already late in the afternoon, so we didn't get our swim.

A very enjoyable afternoon!

Best Buy - a Minnesota Company

Dakota from Best Buy got Bob on the path to resolution this morning. We spent about an hour at Best Buy and Bob should have a new phone soon. Meanwhile, my pay-as-you-go phone seems to be doing the trick.

Best Buy - a loser for us on the stock market - does a great job on branding and pretty well on customer service too. I felt kind of proud of this Minnesota company.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Make Way for Manatees

A great day! After the swimsuit purchase was out of the way, we decided to explore a little and drove over to Treasure Island, a community just north of St Pete Beach. I took a few pictures and made a mental note that this would be a nice place to swim. Not many people, good views, sandy beach.

By this time we were getting hungry and I was ready for, well, let's be honest, a drink. Daiquiri Shack proved to be a good choice. We had fish and chips for $8.99 (shared) and two rounds of "daiquiris" (really, one round of daiquiris and one round of margaritas) for $10.00. Pleasant atmosphere. Great view of the water, an inlet leading out to the Gulf of Mexico.

When we got home, I was in a snit because Bob didn't want to go over to the gulf for a swim (needed to try out one of those new suits). Instead, I sat on the deck and worked on my pictures, and toward the end of the afternoon, went down to the pool for a swim (which is where Bob dunked the cellphone).

We sat out on the deck and watched a pair of manatees playing near the wall for about an hour. They attracted quite a crowd but their faces appeared only briefly, every couple of minutes. Still quite a thrill! Just before the sun set, we saw a dolphin swimming in the bay. He made a quick tour of our dock, where the fishing seemed to be particularly good today, if jumping fish are any indication.

It was a fabulous day on Boca Ciega Bay.

Indecent Exposure Charges Averted

When I packed my bag on Friday evening I couldn't find my swimsuit (maybe left at a hotel last fall?) and had to throw in my backup suit. It's seen better days and by this morning I was feeling very uneasy. The suit looked as though it could fall apart at any time and leave me in a compromised ... if not compromising ... position.

I have thought about Hazel Morse a lot over the last couple of days, as the suit's fragile state became increasingly evident. Miss Morse was an older lady in my home town of Temiscaming who loved to swim, usually the early morning or late afternoon, always around the area we called "first pier" at the Temiscaming waterfront. Miss Morse was not so fat as she was elderly and flabby. She wore a bathing cap with a large flower on the side but Miss Morse's real distinguishing feature was her bathing suit.

The garment was extremely large but it fit loosely over her body, such that I always wondered if it would stay up and on. Morever, the fabric was full of holes. The item looked as though it had been chewed by moths, and as the years passed the holes increased in both size and number. And yet Hazel never got a new suit.

Today, my own "spare" mercifully made it through my morning swim. We headed up to St. Petersburg to Penney's this morning and I had two new swimsuits in a matter of minutes. I am not a JCP shopper (or, really, any kind of shopper) but I was in no position to be fussy.

Now I don't have to worry about being the next viral sensation on YouTube. The old suit is in the trash.

Is it OK to swim with your cellphone?

A few weeks ago, in preparation for our trip, Bob bought a new cellphone to replace his 4-year-old phone. The new phone -- not "smart" -- was similar to the old one, but the menu was a layer or so less deep and the camera produced good pictures after a couple of clicks. Oh yes, the sound quality was a great improvement and, of course, a new battery stays charged a lot longer.

Note the use of the past tense. Late this afternoon we went for a swim. As he got out of the pool, Bob felt his pocket vibrating. Oh oh. It was not a call. Just a warning. The cell phone was dripping wet. Chris gave Bob detailed instructions on the rice treatment (bury phone in rice, which will absorb the water in the phone). We have no rice, and did not head out to buy any. The phone was separated from its battery and both are now drying out.

Just in case, I looked up Verizon Wireless and VW suppliers. I foresee a trip to Best Buy tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2012

John's Pass at Madeira Beach

We drove out of Clearwater as fast as we could! The city seems overbuilt, overpopulated and unevenly resourced. Back down the coast to have lunch at Bubba Gump's in Madeira Beach. We didn't know that the John's Pass area is a village full of shops, restaurants, activities on the water and lots of wildlife in the ... wild.

For a chain restaurant, Bubba Gump's does a great job with food, food presentation, beverages and services. Bob and I shared a shrimp cocktail (delicious) and a plate of fish & chips (pretty good). Bob had a margarita (great) and I let myself be persuaded into ordering a "Corona margarita", a concoction that combines a conventional margarita with a short Corona beer that drains into the margarita, such that the first sip is pure margarita and the last is pretty much all beer. Interesting and good. I was given a margarita shaker as a parting gift for ordering that drink, which was OK but not something I would order again.

We were happy to dine inside the cool restaurant. After lunch we walked the Boardwalk, very alive and full of people (tourists?) of all ages. A family of dolphins frolicked in the bay in the wake of a boat just as my camera battery fizzled out. The spare in the car did me no good, but I did enjoy watching these healthy looking dolphins after the downer I experienced at the Clearwater Aquarium.

We stopped at Publix for a few victuals on the way home and dragged ourselves back to our little casa. An interesting day.

I'm watching night fall and listening to the kids in the swimming pool. I'll hit the pool myself in 30 minutes or so - always a good end to a warm Florida day.

Clearwater Aquarium

Friends with young children all know the movie Dolphin's Tale, filmed at Clearwater Aquarium. We headed there this morning, expecting a venue similar to the Florida Aquarium we visited in March 2011. I realized right away that the Aquarium has limited capacity for visitors when I saw the trailers installed as restrooms in the parking lot. We waited in a long line to buy our tickets and entered the facility through what looked like a makeshift cafeteria in an army encampment.

The aquarium is populated by rescued aquatic animals, including Winter of movie fame. Winter has a prosthetic tail, constructed using a technology that is now used for human prostheses as well. Other rescued animals include sea turtles, river otters, sea lions and other dolphins. The animals live in conditions that seem inadequte to my critical and uneducated eye. I simply felt sorry for the residents and wondered if rescue efforts that bring animals to the aquarium are are simply a futile use of resources that could be deployed more productively elsewhere.
Staff soldier on in their education efforts, proselytizing cheerily over a cheap and irriting sound system.The animals themselves ranged from the pathetic to those simply unable to fend for themselves in the wild. I felt sad, though the hundreds (thousands) of children and their parents seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.

In this economy, a new aquarium seems unlikely anytime soon. Some of those hard-working staff and volunteers must dream wistfully of an venud like the beautiful Monterey Bay Aquarium, integrated with Monterey Bay itself. The Clearwater Aquarium doesn't even seem to make this list of aquariums in the United States.