Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Back From The Chilly South

We just got back from a nice visit to Florida, to take in a few sight-seeing spots and spend time with my family back in my hometown.  James and I headed on down the road as soon as he got home from work on that Friday.  We wanted to get up early enough on Saturday, and be able to get to the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, with time enough to see it all.  We were there two hours and frankly, we could have stayed another two just to read all the info and see every little thing.  The man collects!  He was actually there at the museum when we arrived, but we didn't realize it.  When an attendee told us, James ran out to find "Big Daddy" but he was already gone.  Bummer.

We made it to Tampa Saturday night, just in time for a nice hard rain shower.  Nonetheless we hugged the buildings along the sidewalks and traipsed over to have dinner at The Taco Bus.  Worth it!  Sunday afternoon we went to the Tampa Bay-Atlanta football game.  I love going to Raymond James Stadium.  They actually built the new stadium after I had moved away, so all my memories of going to Bucs games were of the old stadium.  I've only been to the new one maybe 2-3 times now, but it's super cool with the pirate ship at one end.  It was military appreciation day, so they had a lot of very nice presentations and introductions all throughout the day.  My Bucs tried, but they just couldn't beat James' Falcons.  After the game, we made our way down to Bradenton, where we stopped in for a late outdoor burger at the Shake Pit, one of those great spots that has been in my hometown since before I was born!

It was chilly for the Gulf Coast, in the 60's and some 70's.  Locals were bundled up in jeans and jackets, but I guess my blood has thickened in the 19 years that I've been gone.  I was still wearing crop pants and T-shirts!  James and I walked the beach a few mornings, although that last morning it was cold and damp and blustery.  We spent one day on a long drive over to Lake Okeechobee, where my parents go fishing.  For my dad, it's a once a month trip over there to hang with his buddies and fish.  It was a beautiful day there, sunny but cool, and the water was as blue as any lake I've ever been to.

As we always do when we go see my family, we spent an afternoon on their boat, fishing and zipping around the Manatee River and Tampa Bay.  This trip I asked my dad to take us over to Egmont Key, a small island that has a wonderful lighthouse, so I could get close-up photos of it.  We caught a total of 40 fish of all varieties, but everyone made it safely back into the ocean.  We only fish for fun when we go down there, although my dad said a lot of the grouper and bass we caught were good "eating" size!  James and I snuck in one day of antiquing over in Arcadia- we were there for a few hours and didn't even make a dent in all the little shops on their main street.  We'll have to go back again next time to check out the rest of the stores.  It was a nice little find.

Of course no trip to the beach in Florida is complete without fresh seafood!  And we had plenty of it.  We had a lot of great meals- particularly the dinner at Star Fish while we sat on the dock and watched the birds- and I know James really always loves eating the bounty from the Gulf.  I love seafood too, but nothing anywhere else can compare to eating fried fish that just came out of the water that day!  It still tastes like the ocean.  We came back home to below freezing temps, but no matter, I was happy to be home to the cats.  I always miss them when we travel, even if we are having fun and enjoying ourselves- my kitties are never far from my thoughts.  I'm always relieved to get back to them!


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