03 January 2010

florida '09

I looked through my old drafts and found this one  - Florida'09.  never published it. I Will now. We are destined for same place this March '10...but one of the cottages with 2 bedrooms - Ez has made it clear he will no longer sleep in a walk-in-closet. Here's my old post:

We went to Florida for March Break March 13-22 2009. We will keep doing it till the novelty wears off i think. There is something about the not-so-very luxurious and cheap holiday in the sun. Began florida trecking last year  in the panhandle thinking we'd avoid the big Tack that is the mainland of Florida. But it was a little cooler (temp) than we wanted, and the pools were not heated, a bit of a ghost town (but still very interesting and nicer than staying home). So this year we opted for Gulf side, in an old Florida styled '50s cottage, 30 seconds from the beach, a pool and spa shared with other cottagers. We embraced the ticky tack of Florida and fell in love. We have been in grieving mode since we got back. This week is better, (no more lingering over photos), but I am still wearing flipflops in the house, when I am cold I just suck it up.

Started to drive south after Caleb's hockey game on a friday night. Made good time. Early morning found us driving through the mountains of Virginia in the dark and in the brain-fog of auto-pilot. Must make a driving CD for next year ( i have no ipod). I can only take so much Kentucky blue grass and Crooning Christianese. McDonald's coffee in America must not have any caffeine... Stopped in West Virginia rest area around 3:30 am, as I could not take it any longer, bug eyed...knew we'd be in peril if I didn't...hmm, A few planted palm trees...looks like we are still heading south so we are not lost. Robert kept sleeping/snoring under the high pressure sodium lighting of the ultra safe rest stop - along with many other Ontario plated people. I tried to rest, which, though not fully sleeping, was better than driving. Rest Stop areas are patrolled and heavily populated so even though we were in gun country, we felt fine as most of the guns were drawn on our behalf.

Robert and I took turns driving and sleeping all morning.
Entry into Florida. Looks like Georgia. Ends up being a long long drive down 301, but nice for the markets and orange groves and fruitstands.

Getting hotter in the van but cannot bring ourselves to put on air conditioning. Late afternoon entry into Tampa and we are surprised at how the concrete jungle never abates into real jungle. ever. super hiways right down to the beach almost. There is no let up of concrete and planted palms. American paradise always includes planted palms and the ever ready, ever car -friendly concrete.

Get to Indian Shores which is on a key on the Gulf across Tampa Bay ...on a very fast hiway. Bottoms out onto the Gulf Blvd. which is the only major road on the key that runs from Clearwater to St. Petersburg and PasseGrille. It is saturday night, and it is as busy as Lundy's lane Niagara falls, eveyone over 60 and under 31 are cruising. We are a bit shocked but park in front of our cottage, unload a bit and go over the bridge to the beach. Ahh. Jonah turns around and says, Huh, just like all the other oceans we've been to.

He and Caleb are eager to go inside and watch sports on TSN on the foldout futon. We don't have Cable or a dishwasher at home, so when on holiday, they are luxuries to be enjoyed to the fullest. I don't really find the dishwasher an addition to my holiday, however. I locate hotodogs, pop, cheap Corona's and lime, OJ and milk at a corner store. Bliss. We took two gianormous boxes of cereal over the border, as well as some ground coffee beans in prep for an easy first morning. We all sleep. Wake up to a quiet Gluf blvd. It remains lazy and quiet for the rest of the week. Phew.

We have our own bedroom with palm bushes brushing up against the front window, Caleb and Jonah our teenagers have the open conept living room/kitchen with a mattress and Futon, Ez had the walk-in closet which we retrofitted into a bedroom with a mattress. He made a point of saying that  in case we wanted to live here instead of Oakville, (he was making plans) he wouldn't want this bedroom forever. Here is a pic of the sleeping cottage as I drive off to Winn Dixie for groceries Sunday morning after I had coffee on the beach. I begin to relax.

Winn Dixie girl does not allow me to buy my carefully chosen alchol products of Corona or wine before 11 am as it was Sunday...some Florida law leftover from the dry days of prohibition and deep south temperance movement no doubt. No alcohol before 11 so you can come to church at least soberish and no hair of the dog while hung over. I decided it was just as cheap at the local variety store as I did not want to wait for an hour and a half. Bought 5 striped beach chairs. Watermelon and subs for lunch. we sat on beach on our new chairs, soaking in the warmth. We realized that night that more sunscreen and umbrellas are in order.

Ezra did not sit on his chair once that week, not even to eat. He was too busy creating things in the sand. castles and forts and moats mostly. He enjoyed letting the increasing tide lap them up. We learned to park our chairs and umbrella right inbetween the pool and the beach. perfect.

Jonah is oblivious to Robert's Hulk routine...

Thats some sort of palm shaped evergreen - soft and lush.

Robert fished all week and caught baby sharks he threw back, and then there was this guy (below) that always showed up when he saw people manouvering sticks in the water - smart, hungry birds that adapt easily to new environs.

Here we are at PasseGrille - a little walk-thru burgers, fish and fries deal right on the beach, such a lovely spot. We drove further south one day to see if there were secret spots that were even better than what we found. Came up empty, but satisfied that we had already found THE spot. Will surely return to it next year.

Some places we'd drive by had a number of closed hotels and such. I particularly loved this two story classic motel - flamingo pink, planted palms, old sign advertising the luxuries to expect (colour tv!) Parking lot up front, beach out back.

The two oldest often skim boarded the afternoons away while their parents read, swam, fished and drank Corona and observed their progress. I should take a blender next year for limey frosty blendy drinks.

One evening we went into the concrete wilds of Tampa - Robert and the boys sat in the sweet seats I bought for them at a Leafs/Lightning hockey game (the cheapest Leafs seats I will ever find) while I went into the old Tampa harbour to Ybor City - Tampa's latin quarter. It was St. Patrick's Day. I had a beer across from this place and observe the street life get greener and wilder. Lucky for me I was wearing my green scarf - I had offers of free beer. Ybor city was very nice and vintagey feeling. More brick than concrete.

We rented boats with Robert's brother and family one day (they happened to be in St. Pete's about 30 min down the key) and we explored a few islands, one that reminded me of Gilligan's Island as it was lush and rather preserved other than the abandoned military buildings from another century - of course this is probably what 10, 000 other Canadians think when they get there too.

Everything in Florida is so combed over that they call one island Shell Island as you can actually find a few shells the size of your palm there, if you dig around. I just leave them be, esp. if there is something still living in it, but I will pick up some tiny little remnants and rest them under the mirror in our bathroom - a reminder of our relaxing vacation but also a reminder that we too are colonists, taking over Florida for a week or a season with thousands upon thousands of others - using it all up , using up all the goodness until it no longer has one single palm tree that was not planted by human hands. Thank goodness for nature reserves and the everglades. But we intend on visiting the everglades next will thousands.

 Can't keep humans away, trying to touch everything, put their defining fingers over it all - a way to control things as opposed to letting them BE what they are, rather than BE for whatever use humans want them for. I am conflicted with my kitschy love for Florida. It is such a monument to manufactured paradise, and yet, I find that endearing, hopeful somehow - odd I know - maybe its the youthful, brash hope of America. Maybe I will be able to put my finger on it next March. Robert, somehow, has put his fingers on it already.

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  1. makes me even more determined to get back there, tacky signs, sand and sun... do we really need anything more?

    happy family is good, too.

  2. We are not going to Fla so we can use our allotted vaca time for the Grand Canyon.


    I am so pleased you are blogging again. A new years' resolution?

  3. Grand Canyon sounds goood though Linda - we'd like to make it out there, probably next summer.. both of you can give me some advice...