Florida 2006, Part I
We gave our summer a nice jump start with a 10-day shot to central Florida. This time (our third in four years), we hit both coasts, as I had a speech to give in Tampa, and we wanted to spend qualiy time back on the Space Coast.
The trip took more than a few unexpected turns, but the forces of good travel were with us, and every change in plans seemed to work out for the better. Take our first stop, for example -- the car rental counter. They couldn't give us the full-size car we were supposed to get, and so they upgraded us, for free, to a van with a DVD player. We had a heck of a time getting the movies to work, but they did operate well on our three longest drives, keeping the munchkins content.
Our first night, we cruised to St. Pete Beach over on the gulf. I have long wanted to stay at the Don Cesar Hotel over there, and given that I was spending someone else's dime this time, we checked right in. The next morning, however, we awoke to the shocking news that there was no water in the entire hotel! When it would be restored, no one could tell us.
Needless to stay, we were concerned. I had to make my grand appearance before the expectant audience late that afternoon, and after the long trek from Portland, I was beyond grubby. A sponge bath in a public restroom wasn't going to cut it. Maintaining calm as best I could, I demanded that the room be comp'ed and that we be moved to the nearby Tradewinds as quickly as possible. The Cesar is run by the Loews hotel chain these days, and they do a nice job. They reserved us a penthouse at the Tradewinds, wrote off our brief and waterless night, and sent us on our way.
The Tradewinds was great, especially with the little ones. I got a brief dip in at the pool and stuck my toe in the gulf before dressing up and heading over to Tampa. But first, for 10 bucks I checked in on the internet to read the mostly dismal Portland and Oregon election results (the one and only charge we paid for wi-fi). Then back onto the Sunshine State highways I went.
Florida should be renamed the Toll Booth State. Particularly in Orlando, it's ridiculous. Tolls are so backward, so regressive, we're going to hate them once they get to Oregon. Easy pass, schmeasy pass, it's still a pain in the a*s. Anyway, Tampa at rush hour has its challenges, like any other city, but with the time that I allowed myself I was the first to arrive at the Tampa Club, one of those white bread business clubs atop the obligatory office tower. The audience was swell, the food was great (I ate so much fish this trip I'm sprouting gills), and they even threw in a little extra dough. The no-water-at-the-Don story was a nice icebreaker.
Everything was copasetic back at the penthouse, and we enjoyed a fine evening overlooking the gulf after I got back. The kids had gone to see the Pirate Red Beard show, and the next morning we took a spin around on the paddleboats before hitting the road for the long ride over to Cape Canaveral.
For the first time in a year, I had no work in front of me for a solid week. At this point the Jimmy Buffett soundtrack was rolling pretty good. (To be continued.)