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Zigzagging Florida's West Coast

We're headed south again to St. Petersburg. No trip to this city is complete without visiting The Pier at the end of Second Avenue. The site has been a landmark since a railroad was connected to the half-mile wharf in 1889. There actually have been many piers here, but the famed Million Dollar Pier was replaced in 1973 by today's five-story, inverted pyramid design. It houses specialty shops, galleries, boutiques, various eating establishments, bars, and an aquarium. Pier visitors can fish, rent surrey bikes, hop a sightseeing boat or charter one, hand-feed wild pelicans, or get married on the water. The building is bathed now bathed in Super Bowl colors (blue and green), but will shine red or gold after Sunday's bowl winner is decided.

I bought an artist-signed, clay pot made in Ecuador from an archaeologist/shop owner who tells of great digging expeditions. It's the most expensive piece I own now, but clearly the most unique.

Moored to The Pier this month is the HMS Bounty (a replica) of the famed Mutiny on the Bounty writing and movie. Actually, it's the vessel used in the making of all the movie recreations of Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian's confrontation is 1789.

Hubby and I boarded her, and I immediately decided that the old gal wasn't big enough for me to sail a sea or two. I fought claustrophobia below deck and stood where some sunlight could find me. Our personal guide explained life at sea, sailor superstitions, and modern day sayings that have origins on the briny. After listening to him, I think the saying out on a limb should mean the captain is using the bathroom. This is a family website so I can't write how the saying shake a leg supposedly originated.

We pointed the grill of our Ford F150 north for approx. 35 miles to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. It's 210 acres of home to native Floridian creatures, and one of few places you can see West Indian manatees at close range 365 days/year. The park is named for the freshwater spring that produces millions of gallons of clear water an hour and whose outflow creates the Homosassa River.

Educational programs for both adults and children are offered daily. The Fish Bowl floating, underwater observatory allows visitors to see manatee and thousands of fish in their natural habitat. We were there at feeding time which is when keepers throw tons of leafy vegetables into the water next to the observatory windows. I got some great pix of the manatee chomping greens inches from my lens.

The park is a rehabilitation center for injured and orphaned manatee to re-acclimate before being returned to the wild. There is 1.1 mile of paved trails and boardwalks, and Pepper Creek Trail is a 1.5 mile, wheelchair-accessible path enjoyed by birdwatchers.

Hubby was excited the day we drove 48 minutes southeast to Tampa for adventure at the NFL Experience and a tour of Raymond James Stadium. The 18-year-old Experience is squatted in a parking lot adjacent to the venue and is a mecca for football fans of all ages. It's a festival featuring participatory games, a football card show, displays, kids' clinics, autograph sessions, food, entertainment, and pricey souvenirs. The NFL donates the proceeds to two sponsored Youth Education Towns (in Tampa) offering education and recreational facilities designed to improve academics and physical fitness, and job-related skills to at-risk kids.

Since we're old people, our most strenuous activity here was to have our picture taken in front of the Vince Lombardi Trophy. I liked the showcase full of passed Super Bowl rings. Talk about gaudy!

The stadium was Hubby's fav. The arena's bowels looked much like the ones I saw on a tour of Heinz Field. Once you've seen one, you've seen them all, I guess. Surprisingly, there are several areas that are unfinished with dirt floors and exposed ceilings. I think someone ran out of money.

Hubby commandeered the camera and snapped his way from the lofty 200 luxury suites to the gridiron, inside and out. Good thing it's a digital because the cost of film developing all those photos would equal the price of a Super Bowl ticket.

RJS opened in 1998 and normally seats 65,000. However, additional, temporary seating has been installed in the end zones for this game. I was disappointed that our tour didn't take us to Buccaneer Cove and the pirate ship. That's the only thing I wanted to see! The public balcony in front of the vessel was being readied for the media who will broadcast from there.

Hubby snagged up some blades of grass from the newly laid sod (we were told not to even step on it!) when no one was looking. He mailed them home to our green-thumbed daughter, asking her to grow a patch of Super Bowl history for him. When our son-in-law first saw the curious contents of the baggie, he commented that if it was marijuana we had sent them, we'd been really cheap!

Betwixt our day trips, we golf Hudson's surrounding courses and take lessons. Consequently, I have blisters on my fingers covered with white, medical tape. Add my arthritic thumb wrap and I look like a Tigress Woods. OK, maybe more like a physically handicapped player.

We've had some cold weather by Floridian norms - below 32 degrees at night and 50's - low 60's by day. BURRR! Right, Beaver Countians? Natives have had to uncloset the hooded parkas and thermal underwear. Fake fireplace logs are a hot commodity at Wal*Mart. The good part is that cool, windy days give me more time to read and write.

This post first appeared on The Balancing Pole, please read the originial post: here

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Zigzagging Florida's West Coast


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