19 March 2010

The Dream

This is the dream I had the night I woke Alan up yelling. Apropos of not much, if you’re curious about that sort of thing, here ‘tis.

It was similar to a Twilight Zone episode Alan and I saw in the last year or so. It was one that starred William Shatner as a man just recovering from a nervous breakdown. He’s flying in a heavy rain storm on a long flight and has a window seat.

All’s well until he looks out the window and sees a hairy creature on the wing…basically man-shaped but hairy all over, like a small Wookie. He sees it several times and calls it to the attention of flight attendants and his wife but, of course, by the time they look, it’s gone. Eventually, they lose patience with him so he quits mentioning it but then he sees it opening the engine compartments and pulling out wires and suchlike. By then, he’s frantic…he’s afraid the plane will crash but no one will listen to him, again, about the thing on the wing.

In my dream, William Shatner was also worried about a creature. He, I, and a number of other people were at some sort of estate with a large building(s) in a clearing surrounded by trees. There was a bonfire over by the tree line in one corner which is where we were. William was warning us all about the creature and how we had to prepare…we needed bright and flashing lights. I took him all the lights I had…my camping headlamp, a penlight and a couple of flashing things I had designed for joggers. He said, no, those weren’t bright enough, we needed BRIGHT lights. I went to the house to see what else I could find. The door was all panels of beveled glass and the wall around it was all beveled glass panels as well. The door was locked so I rang the doorbell. As I did that, I looked to the right and saw 3 of the creatures at the tree line. They were smaller and thinner than the one on Twilight Zone and I paid no attention to the 2 on the left. The one on the right was The One we had to be concerned about. I turned to yell at it the way I used to do with farm dogs as a kid if I’d be walking or riding a bike past the place and they came charging out. I tried to yell, “Go away! You go away!” but my mouth wouldn’t work right and it came out sounding like gibberish.

That’s when Alan woke me up.

License Plates

I started to notice license plates shortly after we got there in a couple of respects.

One was the places that they were from. I saw plates from almost every state east of the Mississippi river. The most remote were from Texas and Michigan.

I also saw a number of Canadian plates from Ontario and one from Brunswick.

The most surprising plate was from Romania. It was on the front of a car parked in our hotel lot. I walked around to the back to see if it had a Romania plate there, too. It didn’t…standard Florida issue.

Speaking of Florida issue…I have no idea how many plate designs Florida has but I saw a bunch with animals: puma, marlin, sea turtle, barracuda, tropical reef fish, dolphin, and manatee. Standard issue must be oranges. There were also some sports team pennants in team colors, one with stick figure kids in bright colors and one solid pale green plate with dark green numbers. That's at least 12...

Romanian license plate on car in the parking lot.

Homeward Bound

I did not sleep well. Dunno why.

We were up and on the road by 6:45am. We decided to go to the airport a different way, via I-275 and it was a lot better. We returned the car to the rental lot and dropped the keys in a box at the counter.

We ended up being there the recommended 2 hours before departure. We spent most of it standing in the security screening line. Everything else when smoothly and fairly rapidly but the screening took forever. When we got to the gate, they started pre-boarding a few minutes later.
We got on the plane and arrived home by noon central time. It was a completely uneventful flight…just like they’re supposed to be.

Disc Golf and Kite Flying

We really slept in…9:20.

Looking out on the beach, there is almost no one out there. A few joggers…that’s all. It’s overcast but the palm trees are hardly moving. No wind!! Perfect day for disc golf.
I showered, we had some bran cereal then headed to the Village Inn for coffee/tea and eggs benedict. Once outside the room, we could see that it had rained. Probably explains the lack of wind…

The Village Inn was a bit of a disappointment. Alan said the coffee was really bad. My eggs benedict was only fair. But then, I’m rather spoiled by Alan’s egg benedict. It was busy and the service was so-so. However, our waiter was helpful in trying to find out where Maximo Park is…our disc golf destination for the day. If he’s right, it’s really close…just across the Pinellas Bayway bridge.

We went back to the room to get sunglasses, hat, water bottle then struck out. We just happened to have exact change for the toll bridge. Once we got across the bridge, though, we were clueless. We stopped at a convenience store to ask directions and they seemed simple and clear enough.

However, we’ve been having issues with street signs some times. Sometimes the signs at intersection give you the block # of the street you’re on and sometimes it’s the cross street.
The directions we got from the store were good but we misread the street signs and ended up on the Sunshine Skyway ($1 toll) headed south. We went until we could turn around, turned around and paid the toll to cross back north. We stopped at the rest area/fishing pier at the north end and discovered that we could have turned around there and at least avoided the second toll. Oh well.
We got back to the intersection where we misread the signs originally and followed them correctly this time. We found Maximo Park and followed the interior signs to the disc golf course.

We found the first tee and started throwing. It’s a gorgeous course and park! We couldn’t find the 5th tee and stopped some guys with disc bags to ask them. They said there wasn’t a 5th tee and hole anymore. Or 8th. They had been built on Indian burial sites and removed. To make up for the missing holes, you play “6b” which tees off a painted spot on the sidewalk toward another hole. I forget the make-up for hole 8 but it was something similar. You end up getting 18 holes but unless you just ‘know’ how it works, you’d never figure it out. If we hadn’t run into the course regulars, we might still be looking for the 5th tee…

We managed to find most of the rest of the holes…we skipped 10-12 and never did find 18. Alan went into the water hazard on 17 (twice) and I hit it on my putt. But it was a lovely, sunny 71 degrees. THIS is the Florida we came for!

We went back across the Bayway to the Cuban place for lunch. Alan got coffee and proclaimed it most excellent.

We took half my sandwich back to the room for later, picked up my kite, Alan texted Eric, then we hit the beach to fly. We found an open spot south of our hotel’s beach and set up. I bought this kite the last time we were in Florida (about 2 ½ years ago). The kite I’d taken with me that time had been my trusty flier for a dozen or so years but it popped a seam on that trip. I took it to a kite shop in Clearwater but they said it wasn’t repairable. I bought this kite then, but this was the first time I’d actually flown it.

The sky had scattered clouds and the wind had picked up a bit. It was fabulous flying with pure, clean wind coming off the Gulf. Alan said the only thing missing was some kid to wander up the beach and say, “Wow…can I try that??”

Enter George.

Alan was flying, I’d gone out to launch for him when George came up to Alan. Alan got him started and I just stayed out at the launch end. After a few crashes, George was off to the races. We guessed him to be in the 12-14 years range. Kids that age are just fearless. He was doing amazingly well after just a few minutes.

I didn’t talk to him, I’d stayed out to launch the crashes, but I could see the huge grin on his face and have taught enough people to fly to know how it was going. At one point Alan came out to where I was to ask what a kite like this one costs ‘cause George was asking all kinds of questions.

A little while later, George’s dad came along. He declined to give it ago but watched a while before the 2 of them walked off the beach. I’m sure the dad will be hearing a LOT about kites in the near future. George told Alan with enthusiastic sincerity that flying the kite was the most fun he’d had ALL week.

Alan and I flew a little while longer then packed it in. It was completely overcast by then and the wind had picked up some more. It was looking stormy off to the southwest again.

While George was flying, he and Alan couldn’t see this but I noticed a plume of black smoke. It looked like a ship was on fire…there was a thick black trail from out on the Gulf toward shore. No idea what happened.

There were a number of parasailers out over the water. It looked like fun but getting wet then going way up in the cold wind just wasn’t what I wanted to do right then.

There was also a Hitchcockian scene a couple of times. At one point, several young women were walking onto the beach from the hotel where we were flying and they got mobbed by a flock of seagulls. We thought it was really odd until it happened again to another group of people. The only thing I could think of was that there was a garbage can where they were walking. If the birds were congregating there and the people came through, I could see where agitation and chaos would ensue. But it really did look like something out of The Birds.

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at a beach bar to listen to a musician singing and playing guitar. He had a nice voice and did old 70s stuff like America and Beatles tunes. The bar had those outdoor, propane-powered heaters. We sat under one to listen and it was wonderful.

As we were entering our own hotel area, Alan suddenly stopped in his tracks and said, “I know those people.” then backed up to make sure. He confirmed and we went into the beach bar where they were seated to say, “Hi.” Turns out it’s another family from the Waukee school district. They have 2 boys that are the same age as Alan’s and are all on the track team together. Alan also knew the boys from when he coached soccer. Anyway, they had just arrived in St Pete Beach and their food arrived as we were chatting so we didn’t stay long and left them to their meal.

We chilled in the room a bit then started our evening planning. We had leftovers from 3 meals in our fridge that it was ‘now or never’ on, but we needed a microwave to reheat them. We stopped at the registration desk to ask if there were any around that we could use. The one woman said, “No.” as the other said, “Sure!” She directed us to the employee break room and we went to find it. We did and went out looking for a bottle of wine, having finished the one we bought Monday.

There’s a liquor store almost directly across the street from our resort so we walked over. As we were perusing the wine selections and discussing the options, a woman at the end of the aisle said, “Be careful…buy that one and someone may tell you to ‘go fly a kite.’” She was one of the people on the beach while we were flying earlier and made a ‘go fly a kite’ comment then, too. Then, on the way out of the store, we ran into the Waukee family again. Small world!

We walked back to the room, gathered up our food and headed for the break room. We had seafood alfredo from Alan’s supper Monday night, half of my Cuban sandwich from lunch and 2 pieces of triple-berry pie from our ‘free pie Wednesday’ visit to the Village Inn for breakfast.

In the break room, we nuked the main courses and were discussing the fact that neither of us found any cups in the place. We’d decided to just swig from the bottle (classy, eh?) when an employee standing in the room watching TV pulled out his cell phone and called somewhere to request ‘two clean drinking glasses to the break room.” He hung up, told us glasses would be there momentarily, wished us good evening and left. Sure enough, a few minutes later another employee walked in with 2 glasses and handed them to us. What service!

We ate and talked and sipped then decided to head back to the room.

It had rained while we ate and was chilly. We decided a moonlight walk on the beach probably wasn’t a good idea. We did, however, admire the sliver of a waning moon hanging out over the Gulf from the relative protection of our balcony.

Alan read, I journaled and we planned (we had to get quite stern with ourselves…) that we would go to bed at a reasonable hour and not sleep in the next day. The time changed the day before we arrived so we didn’t have time to adjust to it then, we lost another hour when we got to Florida and the sleeping in was going to make Friday morning’s departure time come really early.

On one of our forays out and about, we saw a Lamborghini in the parking lot. Neither Alan nor I are really “car people” but how often do you actually see a Lamborghini in person? We were looking at it and a couple other people stopped by to look at it when we hear, ‘Hey! Get away from my car!” coming from a 5th floor balcony. We looked up and it was a group of college guys laughing their heads off. Still, you gotta wonder why someone who drives a $350,000 car would be staying at the same hotel as us…

Alan warming up before we hit the course.

Alan sinking a putt.
Alan contemplating how to get to the 6th tee.
What an awful lie! That's my disc in the foreground and, of course, the hole is on the faaaaaaar side of the bridge.
Alan flying the kite on the beach.

George's dad, Alan and George (flying).

The Lam...

18 March 2010

MOSIing Along

We had breakfast at the hotel today. Alan had coffee and proclaimed it good. I had tea. While we sipped, Alan read the local paper and I did the puzzles. The Tampa Tribune daily paper has at least 3 crossword puzzles, 2 cryptograms, a Jumble-like thing and a Sudoku. You think people there spend a lot of time doing what we were doing?

I was just getting ready to start the 3rd crossword when I suddenly started to feel nauseous. I sat for a minute to see if it would pass and when it was clear it wouldn’t I went to find a bathroom. No idea what that was all about but I right as rain afterward and for the rest of the trip.

We went back to the room, had cereal then stopped by the concierge desk to ask about the Museum of Science and Industry that I’d read about on the ‘net. She told us it’s in Tampa, which is why I couldn’t find anything in the St Petersburg phone book. We headed out and arrived there about 50 minutes later.

The big deal at the MOSI was a DaVinci exhibit. It was fabulous. We spent almost all of our time there in that one exhibit. Looking at his inventions, it’s no wonder a lot of them didn’t actually work…had he ever tried to build them…but the ideas he had were innovative. His emergency temporary bridge was genius. There were also several short films about various parts of his life…painting The Last Supper, his relationship with his patrons, examples of his experiments and codices, etc. What a man and life!

We briefly looked at some of the other exhibits but they weren’t anywhere near as interesting.
On our way back to St Pete Beach, we stopped for mochas at a mall and decided not to stop at The Pier in St Petersburg or the disc golf course.

We chilled in the room briefly then went for one last walk on the beach before heading out to meet with Alan’s nephew and family. The beach was still very windy but it was partly sunny so it wasn’t completely bone-chilling. The interesting thing about the walk was the string of these little fish-egg looking things. Maybe they were eggs…maybe they were plant parts. I have no idea but there were probably millions of them in an almost unbroken line at the high-water mark on shore.

Egg things on the beach.

16 March 2010

Honeymoon Island Park

Well, mostly dead. Apparently, at one point I started yelling in my sleep. Alan put a hand on me to calm me, I woke up and he asked if I were ok. I said it was just a dream and went back to sleep almost immediately.

In the morning, I asked him what I’d been doing before he asked if I were ok and he said, “Screaming.” In the dream, I’d been yelling at some sort of creature, “Go away! You go away!” but in the dream, my mouth wouldn’t work properly and I sounded like Frankenstein’s monster right after animation…inarticulate. Alan said that’s exactly what I sounded like when I woke him. Weird. I don’t think I’ve ever yelled in my sleep before.

We got up, I showered and we walked to the Village Inn for coffee/tea. We had a coffee maker in our room, which would work for Alan, but I had no way to make tea. (If you’re thinking, “Duh…use the coffee maker.” you are obviously not a tea drinker…)

We picked up the paper outside our door and took it with us. We sat and sipped and read for a while then shuffled off back to the hotel room. Alan left a message with his nephew to arrange a time for us to get together. We headed out for Honeymoon Island. We wanted to look for the tiny little crabs we’d seen the last time, look for shells and generally beachify ourselves.

We got there a little before noon, paid our $8 park fee and headed into the park. We stopped at the main beach and walked over the dunes (via the approved, raised walkway) to the shore.

The beach here is powdered white sand and there numerous wooden benches backing up to the dunes. We walked along the packed part of the sand looking for interesting ‘stuff.’ We found lots of sponges left out of the water by the receeding tide, lots of broken shell parts and piles of sea weed.
We walked around the bend of the shoreline and the wind was cut a bit by the dunes. The breakers got a little smaller and it was a little more pleasant.

We found the spot where we think we found the crabs but it was all under water. The tide was a lot higher than the last time. We walked back to the car and decided to eat lunch at the café there, kill some time to let the tide go out a little more, then head back to crab hunting.

We had the Cuban sandwich special (tasty!) on the deck of the café bldg. Then drove to the other end of the island to see what’s there.

We took a nature trail through various ecosystems on a spit of land. We saw several osprey nests and ospreys and Alan got some fantastic footage of an osprey on its nest then taking wing from it.
We spent over an hour walking along the trails. We sat down once so Alan could text his kids and we stopped several times to admire ospreys or read the plaques. Mostly we walked.

We got back to the park/playground area where we left the car and headed back to the other end of the island to crab hunt.This time we put on beach shoes so we could wade through shallow water if needs be.

We crossed the dunes and headed down (up?) the beach, same as before. The water hadn’t dropped a lot but we did find more shells and ‘stuff’ along the water’s edge.

The biggest excitement was when I saw a fin arcing through the water off shore. My first thought was, “Shark!” but no…it was dolphins. Alan and I stood and watched them until we couldn’t see them any more.

We continued on and found the crabby spot. The water was still pretty high. We saw hundreds…maybe thousands… of the little holes with their piles of sand balls outside the entrance but didn’t see a single little crab.

We gave up, returned to the car and went back to the room. We showered and chilled a bit then headed out to supper. We decided to try The Lobster Pot, a restaurant recommended by a colleague of Alan’s. Besides, we had a coupon.

We found the place. No wait! It didn’t look like much from the outside but inside it was white tablecloths, a single fresh rose and candle on every table with quiet piano music wafting through the rooms.

We were seated at a table and perused the menus. We split a bowl of lobster bisque…very odd…I’d never seen brown lobster bisque before and it tasted more like beef gravy than lobster. It was tasty…just odd.

I had red chili, honey-glazed salmon and Alan had Maine lobster tail. Both were phenomenal. The herbed vinaigrette dressing on my salad was fabulous and Alan said his bleu cheese was too. After last night’s gluttony fest, it was nice to have a ‘lighter’ meal and not leave feeling stuffed.
We got back to the room and chilled. I journalled, Alan read more of his boot for the trip…Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys. Periodically, he’d break into laughter an dread me a section out loud.

Joe (Alan’s nephew) called and we made plans to get together with them on Thursday.The end of our first full day!

Alan on one of our rest breaks while on the Osprey nature trail.

I'm guessing this is why it's called the Osprey trail.
There's actually another bird in the nest but you can't see it in this picture.

15 March 2010

Touchdown and 'freebie' day

We left home about a quarter after 9 and dropped the dog at the boarder…conveniently located right en route to the airport. At the airport, we checked in, cleared security and went to the gate to wait for our flight.

We had seats together, 2nd row from the front. The plane was packed…not an open seat was left. This was the first time I’d ever been on a plane where the seats did not recline at all. There was almost no knee clearance and we had to sidle into the seats. I don’t know how people larger than us would have fared.

We arrived at the St Pete/Clearwater airport and picked up our rental car. It’s a Toyota Corolla…uh-oh…Alan informed me that if the accelerator sticks, it’s my job to shift it into neutral. We headed out.

We were both starving so we agreed to stop at the first fast food place that presented itself. That turned out to be a Checkers…sort of like a B-Bops except with a nearby, semi-attached building for eating in.

We got a large, seasoned fries, large drink, and spicy chicken and crispy fish sandwiches. I’m sure hunger added to our opinion of the food quality…we both thought it was great.

We ate in the car on the way to the Sirata resort, checked in and settled into our room.
First on our list was a walk on the beach. We could see the Gulf from our room and couldn’t really tell what it was like out there. There were about equal numbers of people fully clothed in long pants and hooded jackets and those in swim suits.

We decided to take jackets, ball caps and stick to jeans and tennies. Good call! The temp was in the mid-60s but it was wicked windy. We started out walking into the wind so that we could walk back with it behind us. Another good call!

There were a few people actually in the water (briefly) but they were far hardier souls than I. There were people jogging in shorts and Ts but they were working up a sweat.

There was one guy out on a kite board almost the entire time we were walking. We marveled at this stamina and strength. There were times he’d leap the crest of an incoming wave and remain airborne for up to 10 seconds as the kite held him up. He tacked in ad out on the same stretch of surf so it was easy to watch him for a long time.

Having flown a traction kite in moderate winds that picked me up off my feet, I know what it takes to fly in wind like that. My hat’s off to him!

After our walk, we decided to go in search of a grocery store to get some comestibles for the week…cereal, milk, half-and-half, and some wine. I called the hotel operator to ask about a local grocery and he directed us to a Publix about 4 blocks up the street. We set out on foot, noting potential eating spots along the way.We found the Publix in a little strip mall and went to check it out. Unfortunately, all the wines required a corkscrew…which we didn’t have and didn’t want to shell out the $$ to buy.

There was a Dollar Tree next door so we decided to check there. I forgot to pack sunglasses and needed an el cheapo pair anyway. While I picked out glasses, Alan looked or a corkscrew…which they didn’t have. I got glasses and we went back to the Publix. We tasted some lemon thyme chicken with sautéed squash ribbons that they were giving out samples of (I got the recipe…). We picked up the goods we came for and decided we’d ask at the hotel if they’d open it for us.
We got the wine opened and relaxed a bit then decided to head back out for supper. The southwest sky over the Gulf was looking gray and threatening. Part of the problem with being in a strange place is not knowing the weather signals. We decided to head out Gulf Blvd. on foot and take the first likely looking place.

That turned out to be the restaurant at the top of the hotel next door. The Spinner is a 360-degree view, rotating restaurant about 10 floors above street level. We took a glass-walled elevator to the top and got a table. Our table moved almost one complete revolution in the time it took us to order, have an appetizer, salad/soup, and entrées…shrimp and scallop scampi for me and seafood fettuccine for Alan.

The food was fabulous and we could see the city lights a long way away, in some directions. On the Gulf side, there was nothing but the reflection of the interior lights.

We walked back to our hotel, fell in to bed and slept like the dead.