|Tuesday, February 3: St. Pete Beach
We took a walk on the beach first thing this morning. It was chilly at around 55 degrees and very windy, but at least there was no snow like back home!
St. Pete Beach
Fort De Soto Park is just a short drive south from St. Pete Beach. The 1,136-acre Pinellas County park occupies five keys, the largest of which being Mullet Key. If you think about it being named after the hairstyle rather than the fish, it's much funnier.
Fort De Soto Park
We walked around the beaches for a while and gathered shells, but, MAN, it was cold! It just got windier and windier, and the temperature was falling. My greatest shell find was a complete sand dollar - not just sand change, but a whole dollar! It probably would already have been scavenged by someone else if the cold hadn't kept the early beachcombers away, so some good came of the bad weather after all!
Fort De Soto, named for Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, is at the southwest corner of the park. Construction began during the Spanish-American War, but the fort never saw any battle. Fort De Soto was abandoned in 1923 and sold to Pinellas County with the surrounding 271 acres. During World War II, the U.S. government bought it back to use as a bombing range. Then in 1948 the county repurchased the 271 acres plus an additional 613 acres for about $26,500. What a deal!
Defending Tampa Bay
After visiting the park, we left Pinellas County via the impressive 5.5-mile-long Sunshine Skyway spanning Tampa Bay. The current Sunshine Skyway opened in 1987, replacing the old Sunshine Skyway that failed spectacularly in 1980 when a freighter collided with a bridge pier during a storm, causing 1,200 feet of the southbound lanes to collapse, killing 35 people who drove into oblivion.
Across the bay, we stopped in Palmetto at a Subway for lunch, where we encountered the first of many German tourists we found on holiday in Florida. Obviously, Florida has targeted some heavy advertising into the German market. Why Germany I don't know, but it seems to be working, so much so that many signs in Florida are trilingual, in English, Spanish, and German.
It was a slow drive south on Highway 41 in heavy traffic through Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers, and finally to Naples, but it beat taking the boring old interstate, and we managed to find a photo op or two along the way.
In Venice we stopped at the Venice Area Rookery, where the spectacle of the photographers was almost as great as the spectacle of the birds. It was very cold, so we didn't tarry long.
Venice Area Rookery
Finding a decently priced hotel in Naples tuned out to be a big ordeal, but after a lot of irritating driving around, we were very pleased with our room at the Sea Court Hotel for $98. We secured our room and then went out for an awesome dinner at Empire China.
Later, we were surprised to learn that the hotel didn't have wireless Internet, but we were able to get an intermittent connection from "somewhere," and Tom made a hotel reservation for the following night in Florida City, so we wouldn't have the same annoyance of finding a room tomorrow.
Sea Court Hotel