Vagabond in America 2016 travel blog

My Home - Tampa Edition

Campground's pool next to the Bay

A hot tub, finally!

St Petersburg Skyway

The old Skyway is "for the birds"

Dueling billboards

That's a BIG tow truck

John Yarbrough Linear Park (aka bike path)

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

After nearly three weeks at Walt Disney World, I was exhausted! Even though I slowed down my normal race from attraction to attraction, I still walked mile after mile each day.

I needed some time to catch up on all those boring, routine aspects of life: balancing the check book, doing the laundry, catching up on the news. Even though I’m now a full-time tourists, I still need to run my life. No one else is going to do it for me!

My next two stops were Tampa and Ft Myers on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I’ve been to the East Coast of Florida many, many times. But, I’ve only been to the Gulf Coast once, back in 1974. Boy has it changed! Forty years ago, almost all the land was agricultural: orange groves, tomatoes, cattle, etc. I distinctly remember driving across the state on “Alligator Alley”. It was a two lane road with deep canals on both sides of the road. If you deviated from the road just a little, you would up in several feet of water. We were warned that, with the light traffic, it would be a long time before rescue could arrive. I remember a crop duster spraying the fields. As he flew from a field on our left to a field on our right, he didn’t even bother to gain altitude. As he flew back, he barely missed our car. It was so scary that I still vividly remember that event forty years later! Alligator Alley still exists and it’s mostly rural. But, now it’s a four-lane Interstate highway with wide breakdown lanes.

The biggest change is near the coast. Back forty years ago, there were a few small towns and an occasional retirement village. Now, the entire area is jam packed. Every inch of the coastline is filled with housing developments, with the exception of a few state preservation areas. The cities are congested; the parking lots are full.

It was extremely difficult to find a campground. The first fifteen RV parks that I tried had no vacancies. Fifteen! As I soon discovered, the retirees and snowbirds like to be near the water. The farther you get from the coast, the less developed the area is. I finally found a vacancy forty miles inland in the small town of LaBelle.

The Gulf Coast cities do have lots of bicycling and other recreation opportunities. Bicycles are not allowed on the lengthy Sunshine Skyway Bridge to St. Petersburg. But, they are allowed on portions of the old Skyway Bridge (which no longer spans the bay, due to a collision in 1980).

I saw an interesting pair of dueling billboards on the side of the highway. Next to the gun show ad was anti-gun ad. Specifically, the second ad says, “Buy a gun for someone who can’t, buy yourself 10 years in jail.” Almost like it should be required to post that on the first sign, somewhat like cigarette ads.

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