Friday, May 6, 2016

Florida 2016

Remember Florida? That nice place far away from the cold, the snow, the dreary New England winter? Way back in February we went back to Safety Harbor for a month. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and I conscientiously  took notes about our trip so that I could write a blog post about it when we got back. But here it is, well into May, and I am finally getting around to posting. Better late than never!

For the first time we have an uneventful trip trip down south. No snow, no accidents, no strange snafus. This year we spend our first night in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Except for the gigantic piles of snow it's very nice. We have oysters for dinner and take our time getting on the road. We spend the second night  in Florence, South Carolina at the same La Quinta we stayed at last year. There are lots and lots of dogs at this La Quinta and that gives Cosmo fits. He's growling suspiciously at every little sound. We take a nice long walk through a nearby industrial park, and that helps calm them down. The dogs are so good and patient in the car. They are wonderful travelers! We have BBQ for dinner of course, very good even if they do get the order wrong and forget to give us sauce or eating utensils.

The next day it's on to Florida. It's a long drive but the weather is warm and sunny. We arrive in Safety Harbor around 5 pm, walk the dogs, go to Whistle Stop for dinner. We're so happy we're here!

On Tuesday I do my first Florida run,  six miles that get me very hot and sweaty but it feels great running in shorts and a tshirt. This year we shipped some things so that we didn't have to use the cartop carrier. Our boxes arrive so we can unpack.

On Wednesday I go take my first class at the Safety Harbor Spa, boxing and conditioning. Box, bike, planks, jump rope and more. By the end my legs are shaky but it's a fun workout. More oysters at Bar Fly that night. We certainly have been obsessed with oysters lately!

On Thursday I do another 6 mile run. It's 70F and humid. I'm not used to this yet! At around 3 a front blows in with rain and dropping temperatures. We take the dogs for a short walk and we all get wet. Lows in the 40's and 50's next week, highs in the 50's and 60's. Good thing I brought some sweaters with me!

On Saturday I run the Best Damn Race 10k/5k challenge. The 10k is @ 6:45 AM.  I'm up at 3:45 so I can eat well before the race. It's cold for Florida, 48F. I wear 2 fleeces and don't check them until the last possible minute. I run the 10k by feel and it works really well; I match my 2nd best ever 10k time. I have an hour before the 5k. It's warmed up but I'm sweaty and I get very chilled. The 5k goes by quickly. It actually feels good, I don't push myself but still manage to run an okay race, slow but not embarrassing. There's lots of food and beer at the post race party but after I retrieve my fleeces and get my challenge medal I'm ready to go home. 

I'm hungry and actually sleepy that afternoon. I take two naps, just drifting away on the couch. It feels great! We go out to a new sushi place in town, Happy Salmon. Overall the sushi is very good; the dumplings are excellent. Lee should not have ordered the mackerel however. It wasn't fresh and there's nothing worse than old mackerel. Also the nigiri were gigantic, which makes them more finger food than chopstick portions, but that's okay.

We are in for a couple days of cold Florida weather and brisk winds. We are very relaxed and lazy. We take dogs to the big Enterprise dog park one day. They just love it, playing with other dogs, chasing balls, and even doing a little agility.  I really should do agility with Harper. She loves it, and is good at it too. But she has a lazy owner....

My running is going well. I have new coach. He is okay with run/walk and works with older women. He still has me run only 3-4 days a week,  but every run is very focused and more demanding, both longer and faster. After a week of going wtf! I'm really enjoying this new training and hopeful that I will get faster without getting injured.

Thursday February 11th is sunny and a little warmer. Once again I'm so relaxed, eating cookies, drinking coffee, hanging with the dogs. Think I'll work the NYT crossword puzzle online....

Friday February 12th. It's time for a bike ride in the beautiful sunny Florida weather. Then that night we eat at Green Springs Bistro. I have risotto with scallops and shrimp, Lee has shrimp and grits. We share some gumbo too, it's really, really good. And we have a good bottle of Pinot Noir too. This is our Valentine's celebration because Eugenie will be with us on the 14th. 

Saturday February 13th. I do a 5 mile run so that my Sunday progression runs starts on tired legs. Interesting all the new types of running exercises I'm doing! Eugenie arrives that afternoon. We just hang out and relax. She is stressed from driving her brother's big truck by herself all the way from Delray Beach.

Sunday February 14th. This is something called a progression run. I start the run slowly and gradually get faster. I basically kill it; I nail my paces all the way and do it all by feel, just occasionally checking my watch to see how close I am to the expected pace. It's an awesome feeling to do one of my coach's challenging runs correctly. 

We take Eugenie to Whistle Stop on Valentine's Day. We have delicious Margaritas and one of our usual wandering conversations. It's strange; we have known each other so long, we know all of each other's stories, our quirks, foibles, etc. It's like we're related. Oh and later I get a metal lobster yard art hanging as a Valentine's Day present. We might hang it  in the gazebo, I don't know yet. 

After Euge leaves on Monday it's a foggy cloudy day. Its a good day to drive around in the car for a change so we go for a drive, first to get bahn mi sandwiches at a place called Seasons in Pinellas Park. I get the pork meatball, so very very good, worth the drive in itself. Then it's on to the crazy Italian market, Mazzano,  for truffle cheese, good wine, olives. That place is always just packed. Then we go to Bill Jackson's, the giant sporting goods store. I got Lee a gift card to this store for Valentine's Day, but he can't find anything he wants there, so I buy warm running gloves with His gift card and then we go to West Marine and buy him a new hat.

Tuesday February 16th it's off to Clearwater beach. It's a cool, cloudless, sunny day. We eat tacos at Pearly's, take a walk along the shore, talk, play with my camera.

Wednesday we go to the St Pete Runners' Store, cause we're both due for new running shoes (or walking shoes in Lee's case) . We both get a very thorough work up before we purchase our shoes. What a great store; I wish they were in New England! I end up with very comfy Sauconys and a few more suggested exercises for strengthening my feet and improving my balance. I swear eventually I will be doing more exercises than running!

Thursday evening Catherine shows up. With her birding interests, by the time she leaves I know two new birds - Fish crows and a wood stork - and I'm suddenly hearing birds all over the place. She identifies a lot of birds by sounds. The mockingbird in the back has quite a range! The builders next door are cutting concrete all weekend. Concrete saws are very annoying; I'm ready for them to finish. Next year those two houses will be built and we will have new neighbors!

After Catherine leaves things are quiet for a few days. We go back to our lazy ways. We meet Fateh and Barbara, friends from 3M days, in St. Pete. We sit outside at a Cuban sandwich place called Bodega and catch up on things. We are all becoming snowbirds more and more. We stop at Craft Cafe on the way home. We like their coffee!

I take my last boxing class on Wednesday February 24th. Of course now that we are leaving I'm getting the hang of it. Maybe next year I will at least buy some wraps. They protect your hands, and the communal gloves are pretty gross. 

On Friday we go to Parts of Paris, a nice French restaurant in town. We went there last year and the food was great, but we had terrible service. The bartender was doubling as our waiter and kept forgetting to take care of us. But we wanted to give them another chance and I'm glad we did. The food is wonderful and this time we had a good waiter, although he did forget to bring Lee's apology he gave us both an extra drink, which I did not need. I should have said bring me a free dessert instead, but really I was too full for dessert anyway.

On Saturday we drive down to Gulfport for their Get Rescued annual fundraiser. Gulfport is the town where we spent our first Floridian winter getaway. It's such a darling town, much funkier than Safety Harbor. Get Rescued is a street fair with lots and lots of dogs. Some people are just idiots with their pets....I don't think ours are all that well behaved but they are absolute angels compared to some dogs. It's not the dog's fault either, it's their owners.  We go to get bahn mi sandwiches at Seasons again. They are soooo good, but we had to sit outside because of the dogs and it was ccccccold. I had the hood up on my parka.

Sunday, our last day in Florida, was a lot of fun. In the morning, early, I ran 15 miles at a fairly fast pace for me. I didn't have any trouble and felt quite proud afterwards. Then at around 12:30 we hopped on our bikes and rode over to the Phillies baseball stadium for their first spring training game of the season. They were only playing the University of Tampa so it wasn't very competitive, but we enjoyed it anyway. We ate junk, basked in the sun, walked around the stadium, and even watched the game a fair amount. Then we rode our bikes back home. We go to Bar Fly for oysters and tacos one more time and that's it for this year.

Our drive home was okay...but the La Quinta in Florence went dramatically downhill since we stopped there on our way down. It was filthy! I mean we found dog poop in our room!!! Disgusting! We changed rooms, but we won't be back. The Kimpton in Baltimore was of course wonderful as always. We got in right at 5 pm and made it to happy hour for our free glass of wine with minutes to spare. We ate at their restaurant again, it's great and we were exhausted anyway.

On our last day we stop for lunch at a rest stop. Our dogs are often magnets for all kinds of comments and interactions, but this time a little old man and woman stop by. She is in the early stages of dementia and all she wants to do is just sit there and pet our dogs. The little old man can barely tear her away. He looks at us apologetically as they leave. So very very sad.

Now here we are back in New Hampshire. We know we have a couple more months of winteryish weather before spring starts to make an appearance. We have an inch or so of crusty snow on the ground, and the weather is cold, but the sun is shining and it's great to be home.

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