|Ten days of Florida sun
It was the last day of our most recent Florida excursion, a trip that was a gift from our nephew, Sean. Our plans had been to stay here on Pumpkin Hook for the winter. This has been a long cold winter and the getaway was a welcome break, even if was only for 10 days.
Sean met us at the Tampa airport and drove us to the house in Dover where he and Cyrenia reside with their 4 horses, three dogs and several cats and fish. Am I glad that I didn’t have to drive and negotiate through that traffic. We never see traffic like that on Pumpkin Hook. While Sean showed me around the area and did some geocaching, Mariel, Cyrenia and her mom went to Plant City for fresh strawberry shortcake. The nearby strawberry fields were a buzz with pickers. We had strawberries at every place we visited throughout the trip and enjoyed every berry.
A few ibis take a lunch break beneath the mangrove trees. (Photo by Mariel Richardson)
The next day Sean suggested that we explore some of the waterways in the Tampa Bay area. After the kayak and canoe were loaded into the truck we left for our outing. The launch site was on Weedon Island on the shore of old Tampa Bay. We started down one of the two paddling trails but soon found that the tide was still out. Not wanting to get stuck in the sand, we retreated and stayed along the shore. The shore was lined with red mangroves, which are often referred to as “walking trees” because of their long prop roots. We were able to get close to the native birds that were feeding in the shallow water and Mariel took close up pictures of Egrets, Ibis and Herons as we drifted along. Leaving the water we drove two miles to the Weedon Island Cultural and Natural History Center. This was a wonderful history and educational center but sadly, we arrived 10 minutes before closing. We will have to check this out in more depth at another time and also walk the trail to the observation tower.
Sean loaned us a car so we could visit other relatives and friends over the next four days. The first stop was in Cape Coral to visit our sister in-law and niece. Mariel took advantage of the condominium’s swimming pool both days. All the units open right onto the canal, so I enjoyed watching the neighbor’s grandchildren catch fish. The real excitement came when one boy hooked onto a sting ray. His dad had to help him land it. Mariel got a picture of course. Following church on Sunday we drove to North Fort Myers to visit Mariel’s college roommate and first year teaching friends, Freda and Charlie Cooper. Freda was also a bridesmaid in our wedding. After lots of reminiscing and a great lunch we returned to Cape Coral.
Our next venture was delayed an hour when I inadvertently locked the keys in the car while it was running. AAA to the rescue! We then went out onto the highway and made our way north to New Port Richey to visit snowbirds, Ron and Barbara Barnes, of Canadarago Lake. Because of the windy weather, Ron was unable to take us fishing as planned. It was a big disappointment, but we still had a great visit.
We left the fishing paradise and headed for Zephyrhills. We had a short visit with my cousin. Only two miles from his house live our good friends, from earlier days in New York, Ron and Doris Short. We enjoyed seeing them again.
The following day it was back to Dover. Sean had reservations for us at a Spanish restaurant in the Ybor City section of old Tampa that evening. Ybor City, (pronounced E BOR), was the new home to Cuban immigrants in the late 1800s. It was the cigar-making capital and where Casimiro Hernandez opened a corner café. More than 100 years later, the tradition of the Columbia Restaurant continues. The current restaurant seats more than 1,700 in fifteen dining rooms, is still operated by the Hernandez family, and is now known as “Columbia, Gem of Spanish Restaurants”. The decor includes hundreds of hand-painted tiles depicting the fanciful world of Don Quixote. Flamenco dance performers entertained the evening diners. The Spanish cuisine was outstanding. After dinner we went to the nearby Laughing Cat Café for dessert and coffee. Before retiring for the night we relaxed in the hot tub under the stars–what a way to end our last evening in Florida!
Back to our last day and fishing trip on Tampa Bay. We launched from the boat ramp at the end of Cockroach Bay Road. From there we paddled south along the Mangroves and in the channel leading towards Cockroach Bay. We turned around before we reached the bay and headed back past the boat launch following the channel out into Tampa Bay, where we fished the “flats” and watched a beautiful sunrise. The famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge leading to St. Petersburg seemed deceivingly close but was, in fact, ten miles away. The St. Petersburg skyline of high-rise building was clearly visible in the distance. The fishing was not good but the company and scenery were worth the trip. It was so calm and serene sitting in the canoe that it was hard to imagine the hubbub taking place on the streets of St. Petersburg and Tampa and the roads leading to them.
After packing back at the house for our departure, Sean and Cyrenia took us to Pass a Grille Beach, St Petersburg, where we walked along the water’s edge and managed to fill our pockets with small seashells to add to our collection. There were a lot of sun worshipers and children enjoying the warm day. Before leaving for the airport, we had a scrumptious lunch including shrimp appetizer and Grouper sandwiches at the Wharf Seafood Restaurant, one of Sean’s favorite beach-side eateries. The entertaining pelicans added to the atmosphere. We arrived at the Tampa airport about three hours early and had a smooth flight home. We were a day ahead of the snow storm that came up the east coast, thus ending another memorable adventure.
The Richardsons reside on Pumpkin Hook, Van Hornesville.