Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gulfing Around

The Gulf Coast gave us some time to unwind which was a delightful change of pace after the past few months; it really was our first down period since Toronto. A large aspect being in part to the area not being as pet friendly, lots of smokers, and the difficulty of getting around; driving just didn't seem worth the effort some days. The experiences we had were fun, but this place failed to make a big impact on us as a place we’d want to settle for the long term. For us, a lot of it was lack of refinement, for a better word; honestly speaking, the place was a little too "Magic Mike" for our liking, driving past "Jugs and Mugs" type places every mile or so just wasn't our thing. 

So what does one do when they land in a place that makes it a little harder to get around and adventure with a pet, well my research and hunting for merriment just goes into overdrive! I am determined to make great family memories come hell or high water, even if Ethel forgets within five minutes of the experience, Tom and I remember.

The Intracoastal has some great little places for those traveling by boat to stop and dine; besides St. John’s Pass there is even a McDonald's with a boat dock so you can stop for an ice-cream break. The idea of not seeing this seaside view seemed like we’d be missing out on a big experience on the Gulf side, so it was put high on the priority list as a crusade that needed to happen while we were there. With a little tenacity I found Island Marine Rentals, and they were just as thrilled about letting Ethel join us on the boat as we were, so we splurged and rented a boat for the day.

Captain Tom looking cute as ever
Captain Tom slowly navigated our boat up the Intracoastal while we scoped out the mansions of the stars, the random beach islands and the shops lining the waterway. Once we hit the Gulf of Mexico, Tom opened up the engine and we skipped across the waves, feeling the ocean mist as it kissed our cheeks and taking in the beach from a water perspective. It has been ages since the three of us have been on a small boat, so I had forgotten how much you feel of the bounce as the boat jumps the waves and the wind burn as you zip along at high speeds; the nostalgia hit me like a wall of bricks and I remember all the joy I have spent boating Lake Powell and now I want a boat again!

Ethel and I channeling our inner Grace Kelly
One of our favorite cities that we spent the day in was Tarpon Springs, watching as the sponge boats brought their haul in for the day and strung versions of SpongeBob himself out to dry. I tend to forget that a sponges come from the sea, I am used to the store bought loofahs. Learning the aspect of how they are harvested, then strung to dry was quite an experience for me. It really made me appreciate the moments in the bath and using nature as a cleansing device, quite refreshing and now more appreciative of all of Mother Nature’s gifts. Plus not to forget the huge influx of Greek immigrants that have settled in Tarpon Springs and influenced part of their economy. They are the ones out diving for sponges, creating bakeries and eateries to accommodate residents and a major driving force for this tourist destination.

SpongeBob out to dry
Then there was the beach for sunny and clear days. Some spent basking in glorious rays of sunshine, creating shell art or taking in the inspiration and creation of others via the sand.  Many days I took advantage of getting out to take photographs, taking some time to play with lighting and of course any excuse to be outside on the warm days to make up for the colder fall moments we experienced here; a brutal realization that winter does happen everywhere. Even in Florida! And although, the inclement weather is few and far between, it still makes you appreciate its warmer days.

Artist in the midst of carving sand
Just before we left we were able to witness “Sanding Ovations”, a sand sculpting contest, and we just amorously stared in awe at the hard work and persistence that goes into one of these works of art, it was mesmerizing. The participants spent three days creating sculptures out of sand, the patience and vision that go into them in unimaginable, not to mention if they have a collapse. Ugh, I can’t even imagine how they calmly recover, I would be the one kicking the sand and yelling awful obscenities, but they don’t, they calmly recoup and continue on! Watching something like this and seeing the end result has been one of the bucket list items and now I get to cross it off; next step I guess is learning to do it myself, in fact it might teach patience and that would be a good lesson.

Tools of the trade and recovery from a collapse in progress
Regardless of the mobility of getting around, we did manage to have scads of fun, but know now that the Gulf isn't the place for us. Next up Hilton Head for the holidays and until then I bring you photos from Indian Rocks Beach.