~ 2021 ~
Pandemic Trip to Florida

The Plan:
     THERE, you’ve done it again! You’ve mentioned, politely inquired or created some small indication or vibration to indicate an interest, however feigned, in reading about my winter travels. This year, unwanted in foreign lands and mostly locked down in our state, I looked South where restaurants are often open, though with serious considerations for virus prevention, and decided to visit Florida. I have rented a house for three months in St. Petersburg where my eldest son has recently moved. My wife and I will drive there, she plans to accompany me this year, taking our time and the back roads.
     I will update on the road South and whenever interesting things or bumps in the road present themselves. I won’t be sitting still, basking in the sun; that’s not my style. Golf, fishing, museums, and exploring the Sunshine State will all probably get a share of my time.

Photos - New 03/26/21


December, 2020:
25 26 27 28 30

January, 2021:
03 10 17 26

February, 2021:
02 08 15 24

March, 2021:
05 15 26

12/25/20 - Norfolk, Virginia
     Thought I’d better write the updates before they’re gone from my memory bank, so I’m writing this year’s first update en route.
     Began this year’s adventure lugging baggage (for two) down three flights of stairs to pack the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica for the long journey to our destination, St. Petersburg, Florida. Our building’s elevator has been inoperable since the end of September and repair and modernization of the 40-year old lift will finally begin after the first of the year when the made-to-order parts finally arrive with a crew from Delaware knowledgeable enough to attack the job. It has been a trying four-month ordeal for everybody in the four-floor condo building, but we’re all in better physical shape than when the elevator was working.
     Vehicle finally loaded after six trips up and down the three flights of stairs, you’re now wondering why I used the collective pronouns (we/our) for what is usually a solitary trip to some far-off land. No, Schim is not going along; he lives in Orlando, after all. No, this year my wife, Joan, is accompanying me. Unable to visit her 99.5 year-old, sweet mother in the nursing home because of the lockdown caused by the Covid virus pandemic and able to return home quickly if needed, she decided to join me for the three-month trip. Like a bad penny, though, Schim is likely to turn up on my doorstep if the vaccine finally makes a dent in the pandemic.
     Why St. Petersburg, you may also wonder? With the pandemic surging wildly around our country, few foreign lands encourage our visits to their soil. I might have returned to the Baja in Mexico, beautiful Sicily, exciting Portugal, or even Argentina, but good luck getting out of our country or into theirs. Instead, I started planning a trip to St. Petersburg where our oldest son, Gary, a bachelor with dog, relocated in July to a house on the shore of Tampa Bay. After significant research, now with help from a newly- interested spouse, I rented an entire AirBnB house fifteen minutes from our son’s new abode. Our son now works from home and decided that three winters in Chicago were enough for him; though he loved the city, he definitely didn’t appreciate their frigid winters. The answer was to move to St. Petersburg and he is now in the process of renovating the new house, adding a pool, and installing a dock and boat lift. That sounded like something that might be fun watching.
     First stop this Christmas morning was near Skippack, PA, where son #2, his wife, and five children reside. Exchanging gifts on their driveway, opening them in the frosty garage with the door wide open, and all wearing masks, (more COVID precautions), we began our journey South after the twenty-minute exchange.
     We navigated the Delmarva Peninsula in frigid, 35 degree, blustery weather, ate our Christmas dinner of fried chicken in the van in the parking lot of a Royal Farms gas station on the way, and crossed the long, Chesapeake Bay bridge-tunnel into Norfolk at exactly 5:00 p.m. Searched for a hotel, since I don’t enjoy driving after dark when there is little to see, and located a Delta by Marriott near the Norfolk Airport. Very reasonable, only two years old, and immaculately clean, it was a perfect, first -night landing spot.
     We’ll surely get an early start in the morning, since we were in our room by 5:30 and asleep by 8:00 without ever turning on the TV. A long day of driving exhausted these two seniors, but that status got us a great discount at this beautiful hotel. The lease on the AirBnB begins on December 29th, so we have a few days to meander South from here, down route 17 along the Atlantic coast. Our next landing target is Wilmington, NC, but we’ll stop when tired and hole up where we can find a clean (COVID again), safe room, wherever that may be.  Ciao!

12/26/20 - Murrell’s Inlet, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina:
     Another long day on the road, departing Norfolk at 8:20 a.m. and arriving in Myrtle Beach around 6:20 p.m. We only traveled 400 miles, but got lost several times during the meandering process. For a while there I thought we might spend the winter lost on the coastal back roads of North Carolina. We brought no maps, a mistaken oversight, and only had “Isabella” on our GPS, the van’s compass, and the route signs to guide our way. First, the three guides agreed; then there were route 17 signs AND business route 17 signs. Sometimes, “Isabella” guided us on business routes and other times she took bypasses around town centers. Then, she took us off route 17 on what we figured must be a scenic shortcut to Wilmington. NOT! When the asphalt ended and we faced what looked like an endless dirt road, we decided to follow the compass rather than go off-road. Florida is South, right?
     We kept plugging, though, and blew right through beautiful Wilmington, NC. We would have reached Myrtle Beach in daylight, but I took a wrong turn, thinking I was on the relief route that avoids the horrendous King’s Highway that is always bumper to bumper and traffic light after traffic light on the Grand Strand. I probably went 40 miles out of the way and got a little testy with Joan as we both attempted to manipulate “Isabella” to find our way through the maze that is Myrtle Beach. Why anyone would want to live here is beyond me; OK, 100 golf courses, a beautiful beach, a long boardwalk, and tens of thousands of restaurants from which to choose may draw some here. The traffic, though, is horrendous; I described it to Joan as Ocean City, MD, on an overdose of steroids.
     We stopped for breakfast at a funky, little, coffee shop in Elizabeth City, NC. There were only a few people inside, all wore masks, and we were a good 20 feet from anyone as we drank our coffee and finished our banana bread and pumpkin bars. Delicious! Lunch didn’t work out quite so well. We stopped in New Bern at a seafood restaurant and both ordered the BBQ platter, the day’s special. The hostess wore no mask, but our waitress did, hopefully keeping us safe. The BBQ was not so good, the only sauce a hot pepper-infused vinegar; my rice drowned in brown gravy was bland, Joan’s fries were just average, but the free, basket of hush puppies were outstanding, certainly the best by far of any puppies in our past. The restaurant was almost empty, we could see no other diners but one distant diner on the other side of the large booth dividers sneezed loudly several times, making me nervous. This Covid surge has me all but paranoid!
     The thousands of restaurants on the Grand Strand, large and small, buffet or with table service, had jammed-full parking lots we observed as we passed through, searching for a hotel in the dark. We finally found this wonderful Hampton Inn, were upgraded to a suite, and decided to eat snacks in our suite (I love saying that), rather than risk the crowded restaurants. There have been no restrictions on restaurant dining in South Carolina since May 15th!  They may have had outside dining during the summer, but nobody was dining outside in the 36 degree temperature that they suffered through as we arrived at the hotel.
     Tomorrow, it will be an early start for another long drive to Charleston or Savannah where we might spend an extra night. Who knows what will happen when you’re in the meander mode.

12/27/20 - Just Outside Savannah, Georgia:
     After a short run from Myrtle Beach, we took a quick trip through Charleston to refresh memories of previous visits to the gorgeous city. I often said that, when I become too old for foreign travel, I would like to winter one year in Charleston. How exciting it would be to live for three months like a local in that historic city. The city’s streets were crowded with tourists, many sitting outside having lunch in the 55 degree temps. The tourists don’t seem to mind the cool temps, but the natives were freezing.
     We had lunch sitting outside in a bar/restaurant across the bridge from Charleston. We weren’t going to chance mingling with the tourists and found a safe corner in the restaurant that had plastic covering surrounding a few tables with open, outside access for the waitresses to duck under - plenty of ventilation. Food was just OK, then we jumped back in the van to meander Southward, driving mostly on two-lane, alternate route 17 (thanks Isabella).
     We crossed over route 95 as we approached Savannah and noticed gridlocked lines of traffic, often extending to the top of the on-ramp, a full half-mile from the merge lane. Many folks must have been heading home after the Christmas holiday. Isabella and the GPS got many thanks from us as we buzzed by on the overpasses averaging about 60 miles/hour on the lightly-traveled back roads.
     Arriving in the historic center of Savannah, I checked the price of a nice Hampton Inn but, even after some of my serious bargaining, I could only negotiate the nightly price to $200, which didn’t include parking and taxes. Refusing to pay that much for a solitary night of sleep, I ordered Isabella to head us toward Jacksonville, FL, figuring we’d find a less expensive hotel along the way. Sure enough, not far out of town, we located a Baymont by Wyndham ($69) that was clean and recently refurbished. After check-in, a short trip to a 4.5-star-Yelp-rated, Korean BBQ restaurant produced a delicious meal and a great dining adventure.
     After a good night’s sleep, we’ll head out for Jacksonville and, probably, Gainesville in the morning. After a chilly 36 degree start, the high temp reached 60 degrees today. Methinks, we’re heading in the right direction. Ciao!

12/28/2020 - Bushnell, Florida:
     Whose idea was it to take five days and meander South to Florida? I know: it was mine, but the derriere is sore and the patience is wearing thin. I might be getting too old to do this stuff; there goes my idea of driving to Skagway, Alaska.
     We left outside of Savannah in a leisurely fashion, actually simply a late start, but wasted 45 minutes hunting for a coffee shop to breakfast on the run. Finally ended up in a creepy gas station where Joan got her coffee and a Krispy Kreme cinnamon bun, but I opted for a couple of vanilla Oreo cookies packed from home and a Starbucks Frappuccino from the cooler in the van. I thought the place too grimy for me.
     Isabella guided us on back roads where there was almost no traffic and we could average almost 60 mph. Saw an enormous amount of clear-cut land and long logs on trucks headed for pulp mills. Eventually, the traffic picked up as we neared Gainesville and cruised by the campus of the University of Florida. Go Gators!
     Continuing South through the low hills of horse country around Ocala, we stopped at a Pilot Travel Station for a bite, eaten in the car, and finally bought a map - of Florida. We should know where we’re going now that we’ve almost arrived. Twenty minutes South of Ocala, we quickly passed through a couple of The Villages which were lovely, but the lifestyle didn’t appear to be our cup of tea. We started searching (thanks, again to Isabella and the GPS) for a hotel around 4:00 p.m. and finally found a decent Microtel near Interstate 75 a little before 5:00. We are only two or three hours from St. Petersburg and should make it there for our afternoon check-in tomorrow. The meander will finally come to an end!

12/30/2020 - St. Petersburg, Florida:   
     After a late start yesterday to allow time for the bodies to recharge, we drove a couple hours through rural, central Florida before popping out on heavily-commercialized, coastal route 19, jammed with traffic and traffic signals. An hour or so of that was more than enough, so we looped over to alternate route 19 which really is a coastal route with many views of the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The going was slow, through famous Gulf towns, like Tarpon Springs and Dunedin, but with much less traffic and fewer traffic lights. Only a traffic jam crossing the high bridge from Clearwater to Clearwater Beach slowed our way South but, hey, with those views, an outside temp that the Pacifica showed to be 82 degrees, and throngs of skimpily-attired young folks exercising along the bicycle paths, who could complain?
     At the recommendation of our son, now a Floridian, we stopped in downtown Dunedin at a lovely fish market/restaurant for lunch and a respite from the rigors of driving. Joan, not a big seafood lover, opted for a fresh, Gulf shrimp skewer and potato salad, while I went for a grilled Grouper sandwich (lettuce, tomato, & tartar sauce) after sampling a tasty conch fritter as a starter. Both meals were delicious, but my sandwich registered a 10 on the food Richter Scale! The grouper was almost still wiggling with freshness and was grilled perfectly, making each bite drip with the subtle flavor of the sea. Did I say it was absolutely spectacular? Thanks for the tip on the restaurant, Gary!
     We arrived at our rental AirBnB right at the scheduled 3:00 p.m. check-in time and Gary met us and assisted in the unloading of the van. He was accompanied by his unbelievably-friendly labradoodle, Kacey, fresh from her trip to the grooming salon. We apparently brought enough clothing, food, golf and fishing gear, towels, and electronic equipment to make this move permanent, but we finally got the van unloaded. The house is perfect, certainly much better than the doomsday horrors Joan was envisioning, and with all the amenities we’ll require for the next three months.
     We then followed Gary to his recently-acquired house on the small island in Tampa Bay, only a tiny bridge from the St. Pete mainland and with a beautiful view of the water. The small house was lovely, but the yard is undergoing excavation for the pool that should be ready for use in February. The house will be a show stopper once the pool, the dock and boat lift, and the yet-to-begin building renovation are completed.
     After the tour, Gary led us to Gulfport, a nearby neighborhood or contiguous, small town for dinner at an Italian restaurant. Sitting outside, listening to the live music of a guitar-playing vocalist under strings of lights and unnecessary propane heaters with Kacey lying peacefully by the table made for a great welcome to St. Petersburg. Oh, the food was great, too!
     Isabella directed us home through the confusing maze of the city’s streets and we collapsed exhausted in a very comfortable bed. The remainder of the unpacking could wait another day. Ciao!

01/03/2021 - St. Pete, FL:
     The New Year holiday has come and gone rather uneventfully here in the Sunshine State, unless you consider fireworks and loud explosions until 3:40 a.m. New Year’s Eve an event. We are located on a relatively busy street in St. Petersburg that suburbanites might find a tad noisy, but permanent residence in our downtown condo on the regular fire truck, police, and ambulance route has made this noise level seem almost bucolic. No sirens screaming by under our windows at any hour of the day or night and able to hear the anchors on the network evening news (no, not the Fox Network) had us enjoying the peace and quiet until, that is, New Year’s Eve. Observing roadside fireworks vendors along almost every route we traveled on our way South, it should have come as no surprise to hear some fireworks on the holidays; here, however, the cacophonic celebration seemed like an artillery barrage beginning as soon as the sun set and continuing through the night. Window shaking explosions that sounded like no other fireworks we have ever heard and seeing no colorful, overhead flares made the event seem even more like an attack. On New Year’s Day, we even found metal washers and nuts on our front driveway; were they shrapnel from the previous night’s onslaught? We have no idea, but couldn’t find damage to the van that sat outside all night during the barrage. Oh, well, Happy 2021!!
     We enjoyed the traditional pork and sauerkraut dinner on New Year’s day, prepared by our bachelor son as he has managed to whip up every New Year’s since having a home of his own, whether in Wilkes Barre, Bridgeport (near King of Prussia), or Chicago, all places he has lived before moving to St. Pete in July of this year. He apparently loves the German dish as does his mother who drove over and joined us for the evening repast. I can eat it, but an annual meal is plenty of the kraut for me.
     Before that meal and very early (8:30) in the morning for Joan, Gary picked me up; he’s only 15 minutes away. We stopped for coffee and donuts and at a local bait shop for live bait (grass shrimp), then proceeded to his house on Coquina Key in Tampa Bay. We set up a couple of canvas lawn chairs on top of his sea wall, rigged our gear, and started fishing on the incoming tide. Many of the shrimp apparently committed suicide, but four wound up in the bellies of fish that were brought ashore. They were small, but each was a different species:  Mangrove snapper, Ray, Pinfish, and Ladyfish, a type of Bonefish. Nothing much to brag about, but loads of fun and a great morning opportunity to talk with our oldest son, whom we haven’t seen in ages.
     The following day he took us to the colorful, outside, Saturday market (masks required) in downtown St. Pete, which also happens to be called the best dog city in the country by a recent magazine and I think all the critters go to Saturday market. It was an interesting market with quite a few items for sale that one could only find in a tropical environment: freshly-squeezed orange juice, basil plants, Cubano sandwiches and other delicious-looking Cuban dishes, herbs & spices, and too many other items to remember. The market is a great morning tradition, one that I’m certain that I’ll repeat. Though she made the trip that day, it’s a little too early for Joan to be repeating the visit, however.
     We followed the market visit with a trip to Tampa, 30 minutes away, to a place called Top Golf. A three-tiered, inside/outside golf driving range run like a bowling alley and impeccably sanitized, where even the clubs are wiped down after each group. The range is set up and used by golfers from beginners to aged veterans (like yours truly) with unusual games that can interest all. We ate lunch, sitting in our “alley,” separated from the next “alley” by ten feet or so and a plastic divider that is also wiped down after each use. It was a great, re-introduction to the golf swing for those of us who haven’t touched a club for a few months and even un-athletic Joan enjoyed hitting a few balls. Sophisticated computers tracked every shot, awarded points for targets hit, and kept all involved. An enjoyable activity, one engaged in by many young people who also thoroughly enjoyed the three bars in the place. From the traffic the day we were there, I’d say the chain is a huge money maker in locations around the country. Don’t know how they adapt to cold weather locations, because our activity was almost entirely outside. The nearest locations to us at home are in southern MD and in NJ across the river from Philadelphia. I won’t have to return to Top Golf; I located a nine-hole public golf course with driving range only 10 minutes from our house. I can get there, hit a bucket of balls, and return home before Joan is even out of bed in the morning! Ciao!

Photos - New 01/10/21

01/10/21 - St. Petersburg, FL:
     Quite a few activities to summarize since I last updated, so I’ll get right to it this Sunday morning:  I made several recent trips to my son’s new home on the shore of Tampa Bay, just 15 minutes from our AirBnB rental that is only half-a-block off of busy, heavily-commercialized route 19 along Florida’s Gulf Coast. It turns out that our street is a great location, not nearly as frenetic as 34th St. (route 19), but close to the many businesses just around the corner, like pharmacies, groceries (Winn Dixie, Publix are the big ones here), restaurants, gas stations, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and bait shops.
     Bait shops, you no doubt ask? Yes, two of the trips to my son’s house were, unaccompanied by spouse, rather early in the morning to fish from his sea wall. A stop at the bait shop yielded two dozen, live, grass shrimp for bait and the hook rigs used locally. The fish seemed to enjoy the bait, only two remained in the bait bucket after more than 60 (bait shop employees don’t count well) were offered over two days to aquatic life in the canal that enters the bay at my son’s property line. A total of five creatures (photos on the way) were careless enough to end up on our hooks during the sessions that lasted a total of six hours, but a great time was had by yours truly, my son, Gary, his dog, Kacey, and the well-fed creatures of the deep.
     Joan and I made an early trip to tour Gary’s house and I made another visit to be certain the construction crew was installing the pool properly. Photos of the progress in pool construction are also on the way.
     I made one trip last week to the public golf course 10 minutes distant from our driveway to hit balls at the driving range. I purchased an overflowing, small bucket of balls and only hit a quarter of the bucket before deciding that a gradual start in reviving my golf muscles was the right course of action. I hit about a dozen balls with my driver using the low rubber tee on the mat and only one was poorly struck off the heel of the club. I also hit a dozen eight irons off the mat itself. I couldn’t believe how well I struck the ball after the long layoff and I didn’t bounce any hits off the mat, a common problem when hitting off mats. Wow, I impressed myself, as well as a couple of elderly hackers on either side of me. I putted for 10 minutes on the well-kept green and called it a day after explaining my use of the long putter to three women who, apparently, had never seen such a weapon.
     A fortunate occurrence this week was recovering Joan’s jacket that she left in the hotel in Bushnell, FL, several days ago. This light, pink jacket was one that I purchased for her several years ago on my solitary, road trip to Santa Barbara, California, and one that she only recently started wearing more frequently. It was a favorite of mine and the many compliments she got about the coat had begun to make it a favorite of hers. We brainstormed where she might have left it - restaurants? rest stops? hotels? We finally decided that it must have been in the Microtel in Bushnell. We had the receipt, checked for a phone number, made one call and - bingo - learned they had it. It was a problem for them to mail it to us, so we headed back to Bushnell, making the trip on the interstates and it only took 70 minutes to get there. It must have taken us four hours to make the same trip using secondary roads on the way South. A very lucky recovery!! Oh, we stopped for lunch at the Fish Market/restaurant in Dunedin on the way back and the same delicious grouper sandwich was my reward for making the trip.
     Although we will get little sympathy, we are suffering through a two-week cold snap that is very unusual in these parts. A high temp of 54 degrees today made it a tad chilly sitting outside at the Tiki Restaurant at the marina for lunch today. Brr, but the food was good and the ambiance unbeatable! Hasta luego!

01/17/21 - St. Petersburg, FL:
     The pandemic is certainly dampening our activities in Florida but, thanks to the warmer weather, outside dining is possible. When we don’t eat outside, we (Joan) cook at home or get take-out. We are trying to be very careful and avoid contact with others, but passing people safely even in uncrowded grocery stores and outside restaurants is difficult. Hopefully, the masks required by every business we enter and the limited contact in passing will be sufficient to avoid the recent, highly-contagious, mutations of the Covid virus. So far, so good, but a close friend, also wintering in Florida was not so fortunate and is currently in the hospital battling the virus and pneumonia. We are praying and pulling for his recovery.
     My son had hernia surgery last week and is recovering remarkably well. We transported him to and from the hospital for the laparoscopic, day surgery and spent his first two nights of recovery with him. We’re back home (AirBnB) and have returned to our daily routines.
     My routine is a relatively early morning visit to the coffee shop in Gulfport where I sit outside with a decaf-au-lait and a small sweet for breakfast. This morning, wearing shorts, a golf shirt, and a fleece sweatshirt to ward off the chilly, 57 degree temp, I was very comfortable watching the myriads of people walking their dogs. I can see why St. Pete was called the best dog city in the USA. Departing the coffee shop, I drove to the municipal parking lot overlooking a small beach and the bay and enjoyed watching the pelicans diving not far offshore for their breakfast. Plenty more dog walkers passing by, too.
     Joan’s morning is a little slower, although this morning she was up early to Zoom-attend (a new verb?) her church. Usually, she arises much later than I, makes coffee, toasts an English muffin, spreads it with honey peanut butter and watches the Today Show, with whose stars she is, apparently, on a first-name basis.
     Yesterday, the two of us and our son went on a Saturday drive across the magnificent Skyway Coastal Bridge to Bradenton. While driving we remembered the Facebook posting of one of our friends who was enjoying a blackened grouper sandwich at Tide Tables, an outside, bayside, seafood-shack kind of place and, feeling hunger pangs, we headed there. Securing a picnic table two or three feet from the bay, I enjoyed a cup of curried grouper stew and a blackened grouper sandwich that was sensational. Gary had a fried grouper sandwich and Joan, never a seafood lover, went for the grilled shrimp. It was a delightful stop although quite windy on our table by the bay.
     Gary and I went fishing a day or two before his surgery, but we didn’t go “catching!” I caught a nice Ladyfish, but that was the only fish we were able to land in a couple hours of lashing the water. The fish apparently enjoyed the grass shrimp they repeatedly stole off our hooks and we called feeding fish our good deed for the day. Ciao.

01/26/21 - St. Petersburg, FL:
     Though I’m not much of a professional football fan (I hate the taunting, lack of sportsmanship, and childish celebrations) I have watched the Super Bowl in several different countries. In Portugal, Spain, Argentina, and Mexico where the broadcasts were in Portuguese or Spanish and where the halftime entertainment was very different, I enjoyed the game, especially the colorful differences of foreign TV. I remember in Mexico the halftime show included Mexican cheerleaders in short skirts dancing on a bar in Mexico City. Can’t figure out why I enjoyed that memory so much. Never, however, have I been as physically close (fewer than 30 minutes drive) as I will be to this year’s Super Bowl in Raymond James Stadium. I imagine that the restaurants will be jammed, the streets crowded, and the fan base enthusiastic, but I’ll stay at home to watch, provided the broadcast will be on one of the five or six channels we get on our TV. We don’t get ESPN so, if that’s who is carrying the broadcast, I’ll impose on Gary and watch on his GIGANTIC big screen TV.
     The warmer weather of Florida winters has returned many of the outdoor activities I enjoy in the summer at home. I have found a very nice, 18-hole, public golf course about 20 minutes away with a wonderful driving range where you hit off the grass (not mats) and a great practice green with well-manicured sand traps from which to practice the very infrequent shots I must make out of the sand. There are also two, giant, putting greens where my long (very long) putter creates curious looks of envy from other poor putters looking for a solution to their putting woes.
     On my one trip there, I may go again this afternoon or tomorrow, I hit a small bucket ($6) of balls, using only my eight iron, five iron, and a half-dozen with my driver. This time, the swing was not as solid since I got too “handsy and wristy” as I tired. I then took the last 10 balls in the bucket to the nearby chipping and sand trap green and hit a few balls from the trap and from the fringe. Almost completely worn out, I got a couple (2) balls from my bag and spent 10 minutes, no more, on the wonderful putting green. My back could take no more and I called it a day after a trip to the second-floor pro shop to inquire about greens fees. Turns out the rate, including cart, is a relatively reasonable $53. When my game is ready, I will head there as a single to see if I can hook up with a group of golfers looking for a fourth. I’m also certain that my son, Gary, and I will play a couple of rounds there after the surgeon gives him clearance to start swinging a club again.
     One morning during my morning explorations, I spotted a softball game on a meticulously-maintained field in a lovely, bayside park in downtown St. Petersburg. As a former fast-pitch, softball player of some renown, at least in my own mind, I seized the moment (carpe diem) and swung into the big parking lot between the competitive swimming pool and the ball field, and climbed the beautiful, covered stands behind home plate to watch the action. Turns out it was a league of old players 50-74 years of age. No windmill or whip pitching allowed, the pitchers’ hips must always face home plate. The large, modern electronic scoreboard immediately brought me up to speed on the status of the game, played with two home plates to avoid collisions and minimize pandemic exposure. No bunting or stealing was permitted and it was very enjoyable watching the boys of yesteryear re-live their athletic dreams, though with significantly reduced skills. They have printed a glossy program with photos of all the players from the rosters of the four teams, explanations about their program, and an extensive listing of the previous year’s statistics. They play a (gasp) 60-game schedule and, though I saw no home runs, one player hit 75 dingers over the handsome, yellow-topped fence the previous year. I only saw a couple innings before the game ended, but returned a week later and watched another couple of innings.
     The well-known “Kids and Cubs” team of players 75 and over (no age limit) also plays on the same beautiful, grass-infield diamond twice a week. This old timers organization plays games around the country, I think that they have played in our city in years past, and I can’t wait to watch one of their games. I have picked up information about tryouts, just in case I get the urge to play one more time. I’m sure I’ll dazzle.
     Most of our dining has been at home or takeout, but we have ventured forth, usually with Gary, to a couple of interesting places that have outside dining, the last on the dock of a marina very near the famous, humongous, pink, Don Cesar Hotel on St. Pete Beach. The sea food has been very fresh and the restaurants’ precautions very comforting to our group of paranoid diners. Tonight we plan to venture forth again to an Italian Restaurant (Verducci’s) in St. Pete Beach that has great reviews on Yelp. Temps have reached the 70’s the past week or so, so we should be good to go on outside dining there. Ciao.

Photos - New 01/27/21

02/02/21 - St. Petersburg, Florida:
     Early Saturday morning, early for Joan, that is (9:30), we headed South on an all-day, day trip to St. James City on Pine Island near Cape Coral and Ft. Myers. Slightly less than a two-hour drive if I had taken Interstate 75, the trip stretched to four-and-a-half hours on the coastal, scenic route, but well worth the investment of time. Zipping through Bradenton where we recently had lunch, we hit the gorgeous bay front park of downtown Sarasota and took a few photos that I will share after composing this update.
     Then, it was on to Siesta Key, recently judged the most beautiful beach in the country by some national magazine and advertised that way on many roadside signs. Having been on the gorgeous beach previously, but wanting Joan to experience the fine, white sand on the broad beach, I searched hard and still couldn’t find the beach access that I remembered from years past. I finally did locate an access point and parking slightly outside of the town’s center with very white sand, even though the beach itself lacked the charm of the beach in my memory of the town’s center. Photos to be included.
     Escaping the traffic of Siesta, we headed South again to charming Venice where a Saturday market blocked our path to the jetty park we had enjoyed in a prior visit. Not to worry, we pointed the van South once more, passing the outskirts of Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte before reaching Matlacha, on the quaint, narrow sliver of land that is the gateway to Pine Island. Lunch outside next to the canal with the sun shining brightly and a live, three-piece band playing oldies was a great experience, especially the fresh grilled grouper sandwich that I enjoyed. I also had a cup of one of the best New England clam chowders that I have ever eaten. Joan had a crab cake that was OK, but certainly no match for the Chesapeake blue crab cakes with which we’re familiar.
     After lunch, a trip to the mobile home on Pine Island that I once rented for a winter of fishing with my brother and a few drop-in friends and relatives who periodically joined us. I drove straight to the place without a wrong turn (the memory loss must not yet be Alzheimer’s), and caught the new owner, a Canadian, at work shoveling a load of stone into a wheelbarrow. Eager for a break, he engaged us in an informative conversation about his renovation of the property. Done entirely by himself in the last year-and-a-half, the entire interior has been gutted, re-configured and renovated. New windows and siding had the place looking almost new. To avoid the Canadian Covid lockdown, he had flown South and shipped his car. Apparently, there is always a creative and completely legal way to skirt the law. He did jokingly ask that I not contact the local building inspector about his concrete (stone) project.
     We used interstate 75 and buzzed home in under two hours, arriving on our doorstop in the last few minutes of daylight. One long day on the road, but an enjoyable way to wile away a winter day in 70 degree temperatures.
Sunday brought the best Italian meal of the trip when son, Gary, invited us to partake of the fresh pasta (made in his stainless steel pasta machine with hand crank) and shrimp in a very light Parmesan and butter sauce. Scrumptious!
     Other than hitting another bucket of balls and chipping and putting an additional time, that pretty well wrapped up the time since my last update. Not all that exciting, but I shoveled no snow and scraped no windshields. Ciao!

Photos - New 02/02/21

02/08/21 - St. Petersburg, Florida:
     The excitement of this week was last night’s Super Bowl and the victory by the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers! We are living this winter in adjacent St. Pete, fewer than 30 minutes from Raymond James Stadium and have been bombarded for a couple of weeks with TV reports of preparations for the big event. We watched the game from Gary’s (eldest son) house on Tampa Bay and aside from the game on his 70” screen and the delicious meal of Peri-Peri chicken, rice, and broccoli salad that he prepared for us, the big thrill was spotting from his backyard the flyover military jets above Tampa Bay as they approached the stadium. Gary and Joan both captured the event in photos I’ll share later today. We had to root for the hometown team, especially because Chris Godwin, a former Penn State star, started at wide receiver for the Bucs. Driving home after the game at 11:00 p.m. on a Sunday night should have been in extremely light traffic, but traffic was rather heavy as locals headed home after watching the game elsewhere. Safely home, I collapsed into bed, having broken considerably this winter’s record for late night living.
     Most of the remainder of the past week was pretty routine: up in the morning, coffee shop (OK or donut shop) for coffee and a breakfast sweet, then hitting the bricks for a morning walk. Not wanting to push the fragile knees too quickly, I have hit 1.5 miles only once in my morning efforts. Pretty hard to beat the scenery, though, walking immediately beside the harbor on the walkway that curves for a couple miles on the sea wall of the bay in the huge, beautiful, downtown, public park. I usually then cruise at a snail’s pace through one of the adjacent neighborhoods where large gorgeous homes are interspersed with old, tiny, one-story bungalows that one could probably pick up at a bargain basement price under one million dollars. One gorgeous neighborhood is on Snell Isle where there can’t be any properties under a million. Prone to flooding, we’re informed by our son, we decided not to resettle there. Nearby neighborhoods in Old Northeast St. Petersburg, had many beautiful homes that also impressed. Slowly traveling through the old, oft-times-brick streets produced many beautiful views of the tropical landscaping and breathtaking homes. The routine often includes returning home, picking up Joan, going to an outside dining cafe, then re-exploring the neighborhoods I had discovered earlier.
     One morning as I headed home, I discovered an arboretum included in the magnificent public park along the bay. That day, this past Saturday if my memory serves me correctly, I took Joan to the park and we strolled through the beautiful arboretum. I have included too many photos of that visit, but I was impressed with the botanical experience. Next up, after the Super Bowl crowds disperse, is to visit the Sunken Gardens, one of the oldest tourist attractions in St. Petersburg and now owned by the city.
     “Mask Up!” Is still our modus operandi whenever we leave the house or the van. We almost procured an appointment for a vaccination last Wednesday at the big southern grocery, Publix, and could have gotten one in an Atlantic Coast county that would have taken a 3.5 or four-hour drive to get poked. We’re hoping that things will open up here shortly and we can get vaccinated nearby. We’ll keep trying and keep protecting ourselves until then. Hasta luego!

Photos - New 02/08/21

02/15/21 - St. Petersburg, FL:
     We experienced partial success this week as Joan was able to obtain an appointment for a Covid vaccination and we successfully made the trek about an hour inland to Plant City (strawberry capital of the world, they say) where she had it administered. It took us two hours to get there, since I eliminated expressways on the GPS and the route took us through heavy, Saturday, Tampa traffic, right past Raymond James Stadium the site of the recent Super Bowl. The return trip, using expressways, reduced the trip to an hour that we will have to repeat when it’s time for her second Moderna shot. Unfortunately, the older of the two of us has been unable to get an appointment, though about 10 hours of my time have been spent watching the iPad screen and seeing the available shots tick off until there are no more available. The most available shots are given at the Publix grocery chain, a major contributor to the state’s governor’s political campaign. He is a Trump supporter and appears to be a little bit of a loose cannon. Walmart and Sam’s Club, only a few blocks away from our Airbnb, have started giving shots, but have yet to have an opening that I can secure.
     On a bright, sunny afternoon interrupted by some brief, heavy showers on the way, we headed to Sarasota and visited the Ringling, a museum focused on the famous circus, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey. The beautiful mansion and property were donated in his will by John Ringling, the last surviving of the five Ringling brothers and is a great experience if you are into circuses or miniature replicas thereof. I am neither. Joan enjoyed the place much more than I, but I never saw a Christmas train yard I liked, either. One whole floor of the museum was devoted to the miniature circus/train display of a man named Tibbals who has spent the last fifty years or so making a humongous, scale model of the Ringling Circus. Mr. Tibbals is still alive and probably still making miniatures of circus life in what appears to be an obsessive compulsion. Old films of the circus and informative signs around the miniature display made the visit a little more tolerable for me. On the ground floor, Mr. Ringling’s lavish, personalized, train car and two or three circus wagons were more interesting. Best of all was the lunch we had, overlooking a beautiful pond with splashing fountain. Joan enjoyed one of the best hamburgers of her life and I had an encrusted tuna, Niçoise salad that saved the day.
     Yesterday, Sunday, Gary joined us for a short trek to Tarpon Springs where Greek sponge divers still ply the waters for sponges and where souvenir shops and Greek restaurants line the streets. Gary had never been to Tarpon Springs before and for Joan it was a return visit. On previous trips to Florida, I have visited Tarpon Springs four or five times but, with family accompanying me, it was again a memorable experience. I’ll hate myself for saying it, but the best part of the trip was the delicious, Greek meal we enjoyed in the fresh air on the back porch of a restaurant that was chock full of tourists at the inside tables. My grilled octopus and the flaming saganaki (cheese) and spanakopita (spinach pie) appetizers were outstanding. We were overlooking the water on a porch visited by seagulls looking for a meal. A very nice day trip.
     Speaking of birds looking for meals, though, then there was Georgie, a night heron that visited the deck of the Seabreeze Restaurant on Treasure Island where the three of us had ventured forth earlier in the week once more looking for sustenance. Georgie must be a regular there and an interesting specimen, because the waitress called him by name as she repeatedly chased him from the premises. Georgie is very photogenic and I will share several photos of him.
     The great thing about staying this long in one place is the flexibility in schedules. Actually, there are no schedules. Day trips are pretty much spontaneous; hopefully, the Sunken Gardens and the Salvador Dali Museum will soon spontaneously appear on a morning’s plans. I’ll let you know how they turn out. Hasta luego!

Photos - New 02/15/21

02/24/21 - St. Petersburg, FL:
     Plenty to pass along this week. First the big news: we have now both received the first Covid-19 vaccine! Joan got hers the Thursday before last in Plant City and I got mine in Largo the following Tuesday. She received the Moderna vaccine and I got the Pfizer. There was no waiting for her shot; she walked up to the pharmacy window at the Plant City Publix store and the pharmacist asked, “Are you Joan?” She sat on a nearby chair and the drug was administered, no problem at all and no line in which to wait. We were watching TV on the following Monday evening when Joan got a text, informing her that there was a shot available for her the next morning in Largo, but that she would receive no further alerts. Since she had already gotten hers, she proceeded to enter my data into the registration forms. Job done, I reported to a local government center just after lunch the following day, stood in bright sunshine on a warm, sunny day at the end of a long, winding line that barely moved for 10 or 15 minutes, but which then moved steadily until I was checked for my temperature, had my age verified on my PA driver’s license, and was admitted into the building. They did ask if I had a lease to prove my long term residence in a rental in Florida and I did, but they never glanced at it, accepting my word that I qualified for the shot. Bing, bang, bong, no pain at all and the whole, well-organized process only took an hour of my time, including the 15-minute wait to check for an allergic reaction. Well done, Pinellas County! Well, except for the more than 10 hours I wasted on the computer trying to get registered. Interestingly, Joan’s second, Moderna shot is scheduled for March 13 and my second, Pfizer shot on March 9th, even though she got the first shot first. I was fatigued the next two days, but needed to hunt with my other hand to find any soreness at all at the vaccination site. I feel a little more protected already!
     While recuperating from the vaccination process, remember my fatigue, we toured the Sunken Gardens of St. Petersburg. Beautiful tropical plants of all sorts, lovely pools of Koi, a flock of flamingos, other tropical parrots in cages, and even a couple large tortoises made an interesting hour or so, but really wore us out in the heat of the day. I needed a couple stops at the many benches provided for people to take in the gorgeous environment. An afternoon well spent, but I was tuckered out at day’s end that occurred shortly after 7:00 p.m.  You can view the new photos in Album 6.
     I also wanted to mention a word or two about the driverless, tourist shuttle that plies the downtown area, moving trusting tourists through the lovely bayside area. I say trusting because it is very unnerving to see a 10-12 passenger, pink, bus-like vehicle moving through traffic with absolutely no driver in control. One of these days, I’ll have to jump aboard to have a round-trip go with the phantom driver.
     Last night brought a very unique experience, another one that even I couldn’t make up! We spent the night with a strange cat prowling our house. I was awakened by Joan about 10:00 p.m. with the news that the feline was on the loose. We had seen the pretty, young, gray, feline with white facial markings skulking around bushes in the neighbor’s yard and occasionally in ours, but it was very skittish and frightened by our passing presence. Apparently yesterday, when I took out a bag of trash to the can 20 yards or so away in the back yard and failed to close the back door, the curious cat seized the opportunity and skulked her way into our house. Joan was watching TV from the sofa, noticed some movement, looked, and saw the poor creature sitting in the middle of the living room floor looking at her. A word or two sent the feline dashing for safety in the back, unused (by us) bedroom looking for cover. Still half asleep, I rumbled through the entire apartment, never catching a glimpse of the poor thing, and crawled back in bed to face the issue in the morning.
     Early, very early, this morning, we both heard noises, but not really cat noises (you know, meow, meow) through the bedroom door we had closed securely to prevent unexpected company in bed. Just noises like the cat was going through the refrigerator, pouring itself some wine, or something, and we decided to have a go at the creature again. Located under the living room love seat and lovingly encouraged by Joan with a long stick to go toward the front door that I had opened, the cat jumped through the old, misaligned, vertical shades on the front picture window sill. Aha, got it! NOT! I quickly opened the shades with a pull of the chain, shooed the frightened feline off the sill and toward the open front door that it flew by at, I’d estimate, a good 40 mph straight through our now-open, bedroom door. Finally trapped! NOT! It hunkered down in the farthest corner under the spare single bed in our room and refused to budge, occasionally meowing curse words at Joan who was still on her hands and knees gently nudging the poor thing. I, of course, was standing guard with two pillows in the living room, waiting for the creature to rapidly emerge from the bedroom. No, I wasn’t going to offer it a more comfortable surface to nap; I was going to try to gently steer the flying cat toward that open front door.
     Joan ran out of gas before the cat did and we decided to close the door and let the cat have a private bedroom while we discussed the issue in the living room. We decided to wait until a more respectable 9:00 a.m., then go and request that the neighbors come get their cat. That’s what happened. Stacey, our neighbor, said that she hadn’t seen “Normal,” the young cat, since early yesterday and that’s probably who the trespassing creature was. Stacey got on her hands and knees and coaxed “Normal” who had migrated under our bed into her arms. Another successful adventure concluded, I even petted the poor feline as it finally headed in Stacey’s arms out the open front door.
     Looking forward to a better night’s sleep tonight. Adios!

Photos - New 02/24/21

03/05/21 - St. Petersburg, FL:
     Oops, I got carried away living life in the sun and forgot all about keeping you advised about my activities. I hope you’ll forgive me if, indeed, you’re still reading at all.
     Activities have actually been reduced in the last week or so to my daily walk in the morning, now reaching two miles on most days, and afternoon odysseys to nearby scenic points of interest after Joan is up and rolling. Sometimes these trips extend into the evening and we barely make it back “home” before darkness overcomes us. A recent trip took us to Spanish-American-War-era Fort Desoto on a point protruding into the mouth of Tampa Bay and now a huge Pinellas County park with people beaches, dog beaches, camp grounds, and two humongous fishing piers that jut a long distance into the bay, busy with fishermen even as we approached sunset. It is to this dog beach where Gary takes Kacey, his labradoodle, to endlessly retrieve balls thrown into the water. It certainly must be the lab part of this wonderfully-trained canine that loves the water so much.
     Another afternoon-into-evening trip took us, in response to a Facebook advertisement, to Safety Harbor, a small town on the bay next to Clearwater. One Main Street full of restaurants, bars, gift and antique shops and a few, beautiful neighborhoods that Joan and I quickly decided would make a great place to which to retire, if we ever reach retirement age. It helped that the elderly lady (our age) out on an exercise walk warmly responded to my query, “Can you tell me how to get to Florida from here?” She immediately inquired about where we were from and, when she heard PA, she quickly said, “Oh, you just have to move here! The southern lifestyle is just amazing!” It was obvious that her endorsement of her new hometown was enthusiastically sincere and Joan and I soon agreed with her assessment. Now, if we can only win the lottery!
     Upon hearing that Spring Break was here and that beach towns have changed regulations to attempt to force college-age, immortal Breakers to be more compliant with the pandemic protocol of masks and social distancing, we cruised the beaches of Clearwater, St. Pete (the new #1 beach in the country), Pas A Grille, Treasure Island, and Indian Rocks, to see how many Breakers are in the area and just how compliant they are. The beaches were crowded, but seemed to be more socially distanced than in previous trips through the popular, white, scenic beaches. Walking young folks seemed less compliant with the masks as did the cars full of young folks celebrating their free time. It is always impressive to view the quality of these recreation areas and how fully they are used.
     I have hit a bucket of golf balls a few times, the last time not very well, but have still not played a round of golf; I’m apprehensive of playing with strangers whose compliance with pandemic protocol is unknown. I have scheduled a visit in a couple weeks with a college buddy, the catcher of my offerings in my prime as a baseball pitcher, to the orange grove area of central Florida. I am really looking forward to that reunion and feel it safe to make the trip since we have all had the first Covid shot and both Joan and I will have gotten our second shots by the time we hit the orange groves where my buddy and his wife have a winter home. We may even hit the links for nine holes while there since he is recovering from back surgery and is probably unable to play the full 18.
     I have also scheduled a fishing trip with a local guide next Sunday to ply the waters of Tampa Bay. My son and I are eager to learn about areas to fish, equipment and bait or lures to use, and generally to pick up the tricks of the trade from a local expert. There are many fish common to these waters that I have never caught - snook, red fish, snapper, and cobia, for instance. Who knows what will be in season in these waters, but we are excited to learn.
     My son’s pool installation, dock and boat lift construction, Florida room renovation, and lanai construction is right on schedule. The dock and boat lift are installed, but missing a boat that may or may not arrive on a trailer behind the truck of my brother who is rumored to be transferring ownership of his boat to his nephew. The pool decking and pool filling are awaiting the completion of the outside work of the Florida room and lanai construction before its installation and implementation. I’m guessing that all work will be complete by the time the summer heat hits the area and there is still an outside chance that we will see the final product before heading north at the beginning of April. There are still many things to see and adventures to experience before our trek back to the tundra. Hasta luego!

Photos - New 03/06/21

03/15/21 - St. Petersburg, FL:
     It has been 10 days since I last updated and, for those few of you still following my winter antics, you may have wondered “whazzup?” Several things have interfered with writing during those 10 days, including a second Covid shot for me and another for Joan, each followed by a day of side-effect fevers, body aches, and, for Joan, sporadic headaches. My problem after the Pfizer injection only lasted about six hours, whereupon I was able to renew my normal activities. Joan’s Moderna reaction is lasting a little longer, but she seems to be in the final stages of recovery as I write.
     On the day of her second shot, Joan and I headed to Plant City, location of the famous, annual, Strawberry Festival and the nearby Publix grocery store where her second shot was scheduled. Ten dollars each to enter the Festival, another ten to park nearby, thirty dollars we needn’t have spent, because it was like every state or county fair you have ever visited, differing only with the one, single stand we could find (with a very long line) that sold strawberry shortcake ($4.50). This was a huge fair with Ferris wheel, roller coaster, Midway, music amphitheater, and stands selling every ready-to-eat food known to man, almost every one devoid of a strawberry special. For lunch, we settled on a stand where we could sit and try to enjoy the worst cheesesteak of our lives. After that, we searched for an ice cream stand to try to enjoy some strawberry ice cream, but were only able to locate soft ice cream offerings. We ended up leaving after only about an hour’s stay, swearing never to return. There were plenty of strawberry farms evident as we approached Plant City, but almost all had harvested their crops and planted new plants. We even unsuccessfully searched for ice cream on the way home, but were defeated in our search to savor the flavor of the season.
     While Joan was battling her side effects, son Gary and I headed across the bay yesterday to board the boat of Capt. George Jonah for a half-day fishing excursion. As unsuccessful as the Strawberry Festival was, the fishing trip was just as rip-roaringly successful! Gary hooked the first fish on the first cast of the day off the beautiful Key West boat with flying bridge, a big, gorgeous Spanish mackeral! Who knew that Spanish mackeral get that big, strike that hard, and fight so fiercely? Not I! These were to be the first of that species that I have ever encountered. Somehow, I thought they were small things that were pickled like herring and were too oily to eat otherwise. Not! We caught more than 30 fish on the half-day trip, mostly Spanish mackeral and large sea trout, but also brought in at least one specimen of Ladyfish, bonnet shark, and leopard fish. We spotted numerous BIG snook, but were unable to get them to hit our offerings and also spotted a small pod of dolphins, including two juveniles, one manatee that swam within 10 yards of our boat, and numerous sea birds of many species.
     The captain cleaned our keepers, feeding the offal to the huge flock of pelicans fighting for the remains at the cleaning table. We only kept four, large mackeral, because sea trout are out of season and we simply needed no more fish. Captain Jonah filleted the mackeral which produced a couple pounds of filets that Gary took home. His mother is not a fish eater, with rare tuna a notable exception, but her side effects kept her from even sampling the delicious filets that Gary sautéed after coating them with light flour and seasoning. If anybody offers you Spanish mackerel filets, I highly recommend you accept. They were delicious. The captain cautioned us that mackeral doesn’t freeze well, so we should eat them fresh. Did I say that they were delicious?
     Tomorrow, we expect to head inland to the Lake Wales area of Central Florida in orange grove country to visit my college baseball buddy and his wife. They own a double-wide home in a manufactured home community and insist that we look at some homes there that are very inexpensive and the community has made a wonderful winter retreat for them. Who knows, I could become a Floridian and a landowner. Ciao!

Photos - New 03/15/21

03/26/21 - St. Petersburg, FL:
     Apparently, I understand writers’ block pretty well, because it has been another 11 days since my last update. Many times during those days I tried to convince myself to sit down and “git ‘er done,’’ but never had the “get up and go” to “git ‘er accomplished!” Plenty has occurred since I last updated and there is a lot about which to write, but streaming Phillies spring training games, a visit with my college buddy in central Florida, and a short drive-through by the phantom of Orlando, SCHIM and MJ, his significant other, seemed to always get in the way or provide a good excuse not to set fingers on keyboards.
     I can procrastinate no longer! We spent three wonderful days and two nights visiting the catcher of my college pitches, Tuffy, and his wife, Sandy, in central Florida. The days were full of reminiscences and tall tales of years gone by. Times spent with married college couples in games of Charades, played because we had no money for any other form of entertainment. Reminiscing about vacationing together in Mt. Greta, PA, with young children and wives very pregnant again. All of these past experiences while the husbands studied for college courses, worked summer jobs, and played and thought mostly about baseball. We did not lack for conversation during our visit!
     We went out to dinner one night, about a 30-minute drive away, on the shore of one of the many, many fresh-water lakes of central Florida, and passed through acres and acres of orange groves whose trees bore enough ripe oranges to fill Lake Michigan with juice. There were also humongous, ripe, strawberry farms where the sweetest strawberries we ever tasted were on sale for $3.00/gallon, if you picked them yourself, and $6.00/ gal., if you bought the buckets they picked. That was a no-brainer, although Tuffy and Sandy insisted that with the higher strawberry bushes here it would only take 10 minutes to pick a gallon.
     We also got in nine holes of golf one day, with three of us playing and Joan driving my cart, keeping score and taking photos of the beautiful surroundings. We only played nine because Tuffy is recovering from back surgery and he is still struggling with what may be permanent pain. He is even considering giving up the game which would be a real tragedy. OK, I shot a blazing 54, finishing strongly with a nine and an eight on the final, two, par four, holes. Let’s hope there will be better days ahead!
     We headed home on a beautiful drive through central Florida and many more orange groves for a quiet weekend at home before Schim and MJ’s announced arrival in our neighborhood. Those who have read my past blogs knew that, somehow, Schim would show up and he certainly did. We enjoyed a great day of touring St. Petersburg like Schim has never before seen it with two tour guides who have lived like natives here for three months. We enjoyed dinner together in quiet Gulfport, another area neither Schim nor MJ had previously visited. We bid them adieu after dinner, expecting to see them the following day, only to learn that they were touring other nearby places that we had recommended. We never saw them again - could it have been something I said? We have since communicated electronically, so we may still be on speaking terms.
     We have been keeping track of the steady progress of our son’s construction project, hoping that we would see the final work completed before we left town. Unfortunately, though his project is winding down, the masons who will lay the final decking around the pool and “fill ‘er up” will not be able to get the project finished until two weeks after our departure. We may have to make another trip to get a final view, but there are always photos.
     The days of this winter’s hiatus are winding down - there are only four more nights of sleep in Florida - and it will soon be time to turn to the North and put the “pedal to the metal!” It has has been a different kind of winter adventure for me, having Joan along to enjoy the weather and the surroundings, but it has been very enjoyable and far less lonely than previous trips. There has also been far less Spanish language utilized and I missed that. Who knows? Perhaps, there is one more winter adventure left in these bones.
     I do not plan to update again, unless on the meandering trip North something memorable and worth sharing occurs. It’s possible I guess, since we’re plotting a route through the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive to get back to PA. So stay alert. I will also add the final photos of the trip.
     If you stayed with me all winter, thanks for the additional company. I hope my scribblings helped you endure what seemed to be a cold and snowy winter. Adios!

Photos - New 03/26/21

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