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updated: Dec 18, 2010, 7:12 PM
OK, enough of Florida. Time to wind it down. We just needed to swim in the Gulf to verify its famous warmth. We could check it out; have another seafood dinner, lunch in Tampa and head for an airport hotel.
We were also headed for a little trouble, but didn't know it yet.
In the bright morning we stopped by several well-known islands, such as Sanibel, and found them lovely, but too crowded. Sanibel's a big elongated suburb somewhat reminiscent of the record-breaking tract area that stretches from Mission Canyon to the west Goleta Valley. There were only a few jammed parking areas for beach going, with paid parking. Three dollars for an hour and a half was OK, but we decided to press on. We were looking for a more leisurely beach visit.
The architecture along the coastal areas was fine, but what kind was it? Faux something? Mediterranean with some twists? Is that art deco? We'll call it modern Mediterraneo - graceful orange and cream-colored buildings basking in the intense sunshine. Miles of new construction in all directions, all gleaming, all sturdy and promising warmth forever.
As long as it wasn't in the heat of summer, this area was fine - very fine.
We got a room at a pleasant old motel in Treasure Island overlooking some part of the Golfo de Mexico. Lots of water out there. Florida's many miles of beaches were beginning to look alike. Yep. Time to go home.
The water was 74 degrees, warmer than the warmest I'd been in at home, but much cooler than prime time in the gulf. We'd heard that the shallowest water can reach 90 degrees at mid-summer. The water looked a little brown, I suppose from the color of the sand, and was as flat as a pond.
Then, after a lobster dinner, we got a swift mood changer - an email from our friend Beth, who was watering our plants in our absence: She requested a phone call, saying only that there was "a problem."
The problem was burglary, with a loss, we determined later, of three computers, a TV, a good camera, a printer and my small jewelry box, a fine wooden box that was a gift from Sharon, and my collection of pinkie rings therein, one of them quite valuable - also a gift from Sharon. The morons even took my hearing aids, I guess because their box looked like a little jewelry box.
We experienced the usual emotional reactions and attendant clichés about "invasion of privacy" and "personal space," but I was comforted somewhat by how soon one can recover from such invasions. I was relieved that the bad news wasn't a fire that ruined everything.
Almost back to normal (if we can call it that) by morning, we toured Tampa's main attraction, Ybor City, and had one our best lunches ever at its famous restaurant, the Columbia. A superb restaurant, crowded despite the almost ghost-town appearance of Ybor City.
Condensed from Wikipedia:
"Ybor City (pronounced EE-borh) is a historic neighborhood in Tampa, Florida located just northeast of downtown. It was founded in the 1880s by cigar manufacturers and was populated by thousands of immigrants, mainly from Spain, Cuba, and Italy. . . (It's now) a night club and entertainment district. . . In 2010 Columbia Restaurant was named a "Top 50 All-American icon" by Nation's Restaurant News magazine."
That evening, near Orlando and the airport, we were downright "very merry and jolly" (as a Russian friend once called us), having had a satisfying dinner at a steakhouse. BUT - the unsettling news continued:
After my evening email check in the motel office, where there was Wi-Fi, I returned to our room to find Sharon sitting on the bed with the phone in her hand and a sad but somehow animated look on her face. On hold, she explained the problem in only a few words: "We missed the plane. Our flight was THIS morning, not tomorrow."
Oh. . . embarrassed and awkward silence. . .
United Air*&^line$ wanted an insane amount of money for two one-way tix for us "valued customers," but Montecito Village Travel's Helen Reid, world's greatest travel agent, was available into a half hour of overtime and got us very reasonable tickets home with Frontier Airlines, which we'd never heard of, but will check out again.
So the trip was a few hundred dollars more expensive than we'd thought. Who cares.
I DID care, however, that our connecting flight home from Denver was an hour late owing to our plane's being de-iced over in Salt Lake City. A bad omen? We had just leveled off in the flight home when I fretted some more: The captain announced, in a voice I thought was just a bit nervous, that we had flown through a flock of geese and needed to go back to Denver for a routine safety check. Maybe someone had to vacuum goose feathers out of the engines. Poor things (the geese). The routine was lengthened by quite a few minutes which the captain apologized for, saying it was necessary "paper work."
Finally. Homeward bound. I figured we'd fared better than the geese, as we weren't headed for Mexico for the winter. I began to sing, softly, an old Frankie Laine popular song, believe it or not:
"My heart knows what the wild goose knows,
I must go where the wild goose goes.
Wild goose, brother goose, which is best?
A wanderin' fool or a heart at rest?"
I got the familiar elbow in the arm, our signal for "Quiet!" So I finished the trip the way I started it: very sleepy and dozing a bit.
"I liked Florida," I said before nodding off. "Me too," Sharon said. "Good trip."
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