Day #7 – Heading Back Home

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Since it had started to sprinkle, we headed back to the hotel and sat on the covered balcony, talked, and watched the different excursion boats come and go.

We decided to eat pizza for dinner. We called one that was close to the hotel and advertised that they delivered – Roundabout Pizza which was on the first floor of the same building that housed the Marina Cantina.

However, when we called in our order, they said they were too understaffed to do any delivering. So, Brian and I walked over there to pick it up. We got there just as it was being placed into the brick oven. When we got it back to the hotel, we seemed to inhale it. Excellent pizza. Very nice staff. Hope they get some more staff as I am sure they lose business when someone really wants a delivery.

We continued sitting outside until it started to get dark. Lisa and Brian had two more days of sun and surf, but we were looking at a 9 – 10-hour day on the road so we soon called it a night.

We got up at 6:00, ate the hotel breakfast, zipped up the suitcases, and left at 8:15. Traffic was terrible in Tampa – bumper to bumper and horns blaring – trying to get to I-275. Finally reached I-75. Made me want to consider checking flights to Tampa for our next trip here.

We stopped for gas in Ocala at 10:30 and to change drivers. Traffic was heavy but manageable. We had finished the Craig Johnston audio book and were listening to John Sandford’s Righteous Prey. Definitely helps to pass the time.

We stopped for gas and lunch at McDonalds in Vienna, GA at 1:45. We changed drivers. Our next stop was at an exit near Griffin, GA. We changed drivers again.

Traffic slowed to crawl at exit 212 in Locust Grove and continued like that until past the Eagle Landing’s exit 224. Never saw the problem that may have caused the slowdown but that is not unusual. We were able to enter the HOV lane before getting into Atlanta and traffic was flowing fine until we reached the downtown area. Then, all lanes slowed to a stop and go tempo.

A surprise to me was that the end of the HOV lane used to go for a mile or so until it merged to the right but now it abruptly ended not long after the HOV was no longer in effect. You had to merge right quickly into the fast lane. It was hard today even when the traffic was going so slowly. I bet it is very difficult to merge if you are going quickly, especially if you are not expecting the abrupt ending.

We stayed at a crawl until we finally got past exit 285 – Lake Altoona. Exhausting.

I was glad when we were able to get off on our exit. I was glad that it wasn’t yet dark, but we were looking into the setting sun. Annoying. We finally made it home around 7:15 – 11 hours on the road. Definitely going to look into flying.

Pumpkin must have recognized the slamming of our car doors as he met us at the kitchen door fussing at the top of his lungs. Sure sign that the trip was officially over.

Good times. Great memories.

Day #6 – Down Memory Lane

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Once we had finished with the beach pictures, we went back to the hotel and got Chuck. We then walked in the direction of the bay area to the Marina Cantina for dinner. We chose to sit inside because of the humidity outside and the nice air conditioning inside. They also have a big outdoor seating area if that’s your preference.

They had a wide selection of Mexican and non-Mexican dishes. I had the carne asada dinner and Chuck had the shrimp and scallop ajillo. We also got a side of crispy Brussel sprouts to share with the table. All the food was excellent, but the portions were large. The service was very fast and friendly.

After the short walk back, we called it a night. Chuck and I sat out on the balcony watching the lights of Clearwater come on.

We were up at 7:00 this morning and I felt like I was back to my old self. About 10:00, we drove over to Dunedin to visit Nana and Grandad’s house. Lisa has been wanting to visit ever since she started reading some of Grandad’s journals. Dunedin had certainly grown since we last visited in the 1970’s. I kind of held my breath as I wasn’t sure what kind of condition the house or neighborhood would be in. We had such good times there so I hoped we wouldn’t find it in disarray.

We were pleased to see that the house and yard looked well kept. We could see that the house had undergone renovation – new roof line, new color, new landscaping, expanded driveway, etc. Some of the surrounding houses did look somewhat run-down, others looked nice. The road was no longer a dead-end and the orange / grapefruit orchard was gone. The street had speed bumps installed.

We asked a woman walking her dog if she knew the owners or if she remembered our grandparents (long shot) but she did not. However, a woman from a couple of houses down walked over. She said her name was Margie, she was 72, and she said she had lived in her house since 1960. She did remember them if only vaguely. She told us about the current owners and how the neighborhood and Dunedin had changed over the years. It was nice to be able to talk with her.

We took some pictures and then headed for our next stop – Dunedin beach where they used to take us in the evenings every once in a while to feed the gulls. We never remembered swimming there. They always took us to Clearwater Beach for swimming. I do remember Grandad taking us to fish at least once off of the bridge near the beach.

We entered Dunedin Beach in the GPS and were surprised to find that it led us to Honeymoon Island State Park. The area looked familiar but neither one of us remembered a state park. Oh well, we were here, and it looked as good as any place to feed gulls.

Our first stop after paying the $8.00 entrance fee was the Visitor Center/Gift shop. It was very nice. Had some interesting displays of the area, a movie playing about their efforts to help the sea turtles who nested on the beach, lots of gift items, and very clean restrooms.

I bought a Christmas ornament and we happened to mention Dunedin beach to one of the two Visitor Center volunteers. He said we were in the right place. He said the state bought the land in 1978 from the private landowner to keep the owner from building high rises on it. Once the state developed some trails, put in some amenities like pavilions and paved parking, and cleared some more area for more beach, it was ready for the public. I’m glad it was a state park. I would have been disappointed to see high rises. You see enough of those in Clearwater.

The Visitor Center had a wrap-around deck, so we walked behind the Center to look at the oyster bar where a lot of birds had gathered. Brian spotted three fins in the shallow water. We debated on whether they were dolphins or sharks. They never made the undulating movement like dolphins and floating birds scattered any time the fins got near so we think they were sharks.

Our next stop was the farthest beach out. There were several people on the beach near the parking lot, but the crowd got sparser as we walked down the beach. We found a spot away from others to feed the gulls. It was just like I remembered – feed a few and the rest will come. Fun times.

We also did see some dolphins in the distance. They put on quite a show. I was never able to capture their antics, but they would breach and spin. We watched them for quite a while. I also liked watching all the sandpipers running on the beach.

I would have liked to have walked a couple of the trails, but it was getting close to 1:00 and we were getting hungry. We drove back into Dunedin and stopped at Frenchy’s Outpost bar and grill. I had a bowl full of peel and eat shrimp and a cup of she crab soup. Great food. Good service. Seemed to be a popular place.

Once we got back to the hotel, we decided to wander over to the Pier 60. If you want to walk all the way out, you have to pay $1.00 each. It costs more if you want to fish. There were several people fishing. Only saw a few people catching anything.

One guy accidentally snagged a gull that had tried to snatch his bait. From the signs that were posted, apparently snagging a bird happens quite a bit off of the pier. He did everything right. He got the bird, grabbed his pliers, and took the hook out of the beak. The bird then flew away. I hope he remembers not to grab bait that is flying through the air again. We also saw a number of pelicans and one large crane that were waiting for the perfect moment to snatch a caught fish.

Two guys said that they saw a manatee floating by earlier. Brian spotted a nose that was poking out of the water. Never got close enough to the pier to see the whole body but it definitely could have been a manatee.

We spent a while there until it started to sprinkle. Time to head back to the hotel.

Day #5 – Hole in One

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

We went up to the top floor of the hotel to Jimmy’s Crow’s Nest bar and grill for drinks, food, and to watch the sunset. They even have a countdown clock over the reception desk in the Lobby and one outside the restaurant. And as the time runs out, the crowd starts the final countdown, and the bar tenders ring the bell at the moment the sun sinks into the water. They then turn on the twinkle lights and turn up the music.

I had some excellent wings for dinner. We had a big night of drinks and laughter. Fun times.

However, I wasn’t laughing this morning. When I woke up, I didn’t know if I had a migraine, the Flu, or Covid. But I felt bad! Finally decided it was a self-inflicted nasty hangover. It’s been a long time since I have had one of those afflictions. Ugh.

While Lisa, Brian, and Chuck went to the pool, I took Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, put a cold washcloth on my forehead and stayed in the bed. I declined the offer to go out to lunch. However, about 1:00, I rallied and was ready to go when they got back from lunch. Chuck bringing me a piece of homemade carrot cake from the restaurant helped also.

We went to a near-by mini golf course. I liked the course because each hole was different and challenging. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was able to putt a hole-in-one and ended up with the best score of the four of us (two over par).

After we finished, Lisa paid to hold one of the many alligators they had on property. This one was named Sparkle. We all got to pet it. She said its belly felt rubbery. The handlers said they keep their alligators until they are four years old or four feet long, whichever comes first. There are several alligator places around Florida that will take their big ones.

Once we returned to the hotel, I went with Lisa and Brian over to the beach to take their picture together. They looked very cute.

Flowers from the golf course:

Day #4 – Heading South

Monday, October 10, 2022

We spent a couple of hours at the pool with the rest of the group before dinner. After the majority of the group headed for the beach, Chuck and I ordered a pizza from the resort bar and grill for our dinner.

We got our suitcases repacked and then spent some time on the balcony enjoying the ocean sounds before calling it a night.

I was up at 5:30 and we were on the road by 8:00. We stopped for gas before we left Ft. Walton and were soon on I-10 heading east toward I-75 south to Clearwater.

We stopped for lunch at a Wendy’s in Lake City, Florida. We continued listening to the audio book – Hell & Back by Craig Johnston – as we kept making our way south which helped pass the time.

As we got closer to Tampa, the traffic got much worse plus we were going into the western sun. Miserable. It stayed congested all the way to our destination – Pier House 60 Marina Hotel in Clearwater Beach, arriving at 4:00. 8 hours.

We finally found a parking spot on the fourth floor of the hotel parking garage. The lobby of the hotel was above the garage. We had a standard two queen room with a small refrigerator and microwave. Our balcony overlooked the bay.

We had a towel animal on one of the beds. Another reminder of cruise life.

We let Lisa and Brian know that we had arrived and were ready to relax.

Day #3 – Just Chilling

Sunday, October 9, 2022

I can’t remember the last time I had to drive in the dark – especially in an unfamiliar place. A perk of being retired. I like Ubers but from my understanding, Ubers, Lyft, and Taxis are unreliable in Destin. So, I found myself behind the wheel to take Chuck, Beverley, the bridesmaid, and me to Lulu’s.

Unfortunately, I misread the GPS and turned too soon on the way to the restaurant. Took me a while to get it straightened out, so we ended up being the last of the group to arrive. However, we were still there way before our table was actually ready.

The restaurant was large and open, so it was very breezy. I should have brought my sweater. A couple of people in our group had to buy hoodies because of the chill.

When the table was finally ready about 8:30, Chuck and I ordered a seafood platter to split – fried shrimp, fried oysters, and a piece of fish that we ordered blackened. It was all very good. I got a piece of key lime pie to go. We finished dinner at 10:00. The videographer was there the whole time. She said she’s being doing weddings in Destin about 20 years.

Before we left, I bought a Destin Christmas ornament. Then, I drove us back to the condo, and at least I didn’t get us lost coming back.

I’m not surprised that I had a worse night than the one before. Despite taking two antacids before going to sleep, it was no match for all the fried food. I used to have a cast iron stomach. No more. I hope I don’t start having to eat dinner at 4:00. Will not be able to deny that I am officially old.

Got up today before the alarm and watched the sun rise from the balcony while I ate my key lime pie for breakfast (I did save some for Chuck). There were already people on the beach.

Chuck and I went to the pool about 10:00. Water was cold but the sun was very warm. We spent a couple of hours just relaxing and soaking up the sun. After having lunch, I did a load of laundry. Perk of staying at a condo versus a hotel. However, there is nothing like having someone else do it for you while you are relaxing on a cruise ship.

Day #2 – The Big Day

Saturday, October 8, 2022

We spent a while last night over at Nikki and Kevin’s two-bedroom condo. They were only a few doors down from us. They have a much larger balcony also. We ordered pizza from the resort bar and grill. It was definitely not a late night. We were all tired from the travel.

Unfortunately, I had a restless night. The bed was comfortable, but I tossed and turned most of the night. Just got on up at 6:30 to see the sun rise.

After we finished our coffee, we decided to walk on the beach. Kevin and Nikki joined us. The sand was warm, but the ocean was cold. I could also see some small jelly fish in the water too. No swimming for me.

Once we got back, Chuck, Kevin, and Kyler decided to go to the hotel pools. One of them was advertised as heated – Chuck said neither was heated. I stayed in the room and got cleaned up.

At noon, the women met in Nikki’s room for mimosas and primping. I met Nikki’s best friend who was the matron of honor and her two daughters – one who was the bridesmaid and the other was the ring bearer.

The men tried to watch college football in our condo but our TV, which had no cable but only worked on WIFI, kept giving them an error message. They left and went to the groomsman’s room. Kevin would be getting ready over there.

At 3:30, the videographer arrived to start filming Nikki’s final preparations. I came back to our room to finish getting ready. At 4:00, Chuck was able to see Nikki in her gown. He got choked up which got me teary-eyed. Thank goodness for waterproof mascara.

At 4:15, Chuck, Beverly, Kyler, his friend, and I rode to the wedding venue together – Henderson Beach State Park. Kevin, his groomsman, his best man and his wife were already there. The wedding planner and the pastor showed up at 4:45. Nikki and her attendants were there but waiting in the car. The pastor took the wedding party men and the guests to the designated beach area. The wedding planner kept Chuck there and went to get the women.

Soon, it was time to get the groomsmen and best man in position to escort the women down the beach. We could see Nikki and Chuck at the end of the boardwalk. I held my breath that Chuck’s knee and/or ankle would not give out on the steep steps or in the sand. However, they made it fine.

When Kevin turned around to see Nikki for the first time in her dress, he started crying. Caused tears in the rest of us too.

A number of people on the beach stopped what they were doing and watched the ceremony. Everyone was respectful and did not walk through or behind our designated area.

The ceremony was very moving and afterwards the videographer and the wedding planner took many photos. It was a beautiful day. The only fly in the ointment was literally “flies” – small, nasty, black biting flies that attacked our legs almost immediately. We were not warned that they were a possibility. Extremely annoying.

The videographer had some oil that was supposed to repel them – it did not. I had a can of Off back at the condo and was so wishing I had brought it. It was weird that they only seemed to bite our calves and ankles.

By the time we were finished with photos, the moon was just coming out. We were headed back to the condo to change clothes. Our table at Lulu’s was scheduled to be ready at 8:00 pm.

Day #1 – Florida Bound

Friday, October 7, 2022

We were up at 6:00 a.m. to prepare for our road trip to the beach. Weather looked perfect for travel – partly sunny with no rain.

We took a risk and let Pumpkin back outside after his breakfast. I had calculated how late we could leave if he took a while to show back up. Luckily, he came back in at 7:15 to finish up his breakfast. Time to stay in.

When he noticed the suitcases, he went under the couch to sulk. We were able to leave at 8:15.

We immediately ran into construction on I-59 which has been going on for months. We were down to one lane for miles.

We stopped for lunch at Chick-fil-a and gas at North Prattville, Alabama and changed drivers. The Chick-fil-a was busy, but the service was friendly and efficient. The restaurant was very clean.

The GPS routed us off the Interstate soon after getting through Montgomery. The travel was going well until we had to start following a detour because the route that we were on was closed at one point. Once the detour was over, the GPS picked up the route again.

However, soon after we were back on the route, the GPS tried to take us down what looked like a dirt road – Nope, No thank you – I kept going a mile or so and was able to turn onto a well-traveled state road. We did see the other end of the dirt road come out on this road so I guess it was a legitimate short-cut, but it looked too sketchy for me. I could have picked up a nail or worse.

Once we reached the beach area, the traffic became bumper-to-bumper. We finally got to our condo resort at 3:30 central time – Ariel Dunes of SeaScape, Miramar Beach – 8 1/2 hours on the road.

The room wasn’t ready, but we were able to park the car in the lot and went to the on-property bar and grill for a cold beverage. Fifteen minutes later, we got a text that the condo was ready, and we were sent the access code.

As we were unloading our car, we saw Kevin, Nikki, Kyler, and Beverley unloading their cars. They had been in town since 10:00 that morning but had spent the day exploring Destin.

The one-bedroom condo’s cute with a nice view of the beach and on the 10th floor. In addition to the bedroom with a King bed, it has two bunk beds built into the hallway way, one full bathroom, one half bathroom, a full kitchen, a living area, washer and dryer area, and a balcony. Description said that the couch was also a pull-out bed, but we didn’t try it. Perfect for a couple or a small family.

%d bloggers like this: