St. Petersburg!

3/31/22

Wow, what a full day!

I awoke at my Tampa hosts’ place, joined them for a bowl of oatmeal, said goodbye to them and their amazing dog Louie, and headed out by bike to St. Pete, about a 17-mile journey.

Unfortunately, it was a very windy day. I do not enjoy biking in the wind. It feels unpleasant, takes more energy, and can be scary if I feel like it’s blowing me around on (or off!) the road. But thunderstorms are forecast for the next three to four days, so today seemed my best bet to make the crossing.

The wind persisted all day, but fortunately I never felt very scared, just mostly annoyed. The temp was about 82 all day, with humidity about 70%. Oof. I need to keep getting used to this; I suspect it will be my “new normal” for much of the rest of my journey.

The Gandy Bridge is long! (See photos.) I wouldn’t have minded a rest halfway across, but traffic was whizzing by, and there was no shade, so it was less unpleasant just to continue.

I did see some beautiful sights on either end, such as that tangled-root tree in the water.

On the St. Petersburg side, I pedaled several miles through pretty neighborhoods. At one point I stopped to rest on a bench in a park, feeling the effects of the weather. In addition, the wind on the bridge had sent stinging small grains of sand all across my sweat-and-sunscreen-coated skin, so I was feeling grainy and grimy. But after a few minutes in the shade, I was ready to move on.

I met my new Warmshowers host, Tracy, who helped me disassemble and carry my rig up the stairs to his second-story apartment in a wonderful central area of town. We chatted for a while, and I learned that he had at one time planned a car-free intentional community of 10,000 residents in rural Maine! Sadly, he was unable to raise all the funding he needed to get the project off the ground, but I loved the idea, and we then discussed Culdesac Tempe, Arcosanti, and other intentional and planned car-free communities.

Then I headed out to explore the city before the rains descend tomorrow. At the suggestion of last night’s hosts, I pedaled through Vinoy Park, which was absolutely beautiful (and surprisingly reminiscent of Chicago’s Promontory Point Park).

As I rested on a bench in the park, a few curious things happened. First, I saw a man feeding squirrels and other small animals, calling to them in a way that suggested this was a regular routine for him. The squirrels ate straight from his hands.

Then, unsurprisingly, I discovered a squirrel feeling very bold around me and my bike. The squirrel was adorable, and I took a few photos to capture the moment.

And then, despite the heat and humidity—virtually unchanged from the morning—the wind became so overpowering to my internal thermostat that I needed to put on my sweater to avoid goose bumps! I was glad I had brought it, even though as I had headed out I chided myself for “being ridiculous.” (It did come in handy later for air-conditioned spaces, which had been part of my reasoning.)

I marveled at the beauty of the beach and the palm trees. At one point, I happened upon a free palm-tree arboretum, right in the middle of the park! Despite the obvious differences, I felt it reminiscent of the cactus garden in San Diego’s Balboa Park. (As some of you will recall, that is one of my favorite places.)

After the park, I visited the vegan grocery in town, Black Radish. They had lots of delicious items, including some peanut butter cups made by a new company in Salem, Oregon! I was shocked for two reasons: 1) I keep up on such things—vegan companies, and especially Oregon stuff—and I had never heard of this product nor company; and 2) Salem, despite its relative proximity to Portland, sadly remains a bit of a vegan wasteland. I was delighted to learn of this new entrant into the scene there!

After the shop, I found my way to an Asian-fusion restaurant for a quick dinner of tofu and vegetables, before making my way to the Salvador Dali Museum! I hadn’t been aware of this museum until a few hours prior, when my host had mentioned it. I’m usually not much of a “museum person,” but this sounded intriguing enough that I looked up admission prices. Oof, not cheap! But then my host suddenly remembered that they offer half-price admission on Thursday evenings, after 5:00. Wow! That seemed like a sign that I needed to go.

I enjoyed the building and its contents, and then managed to leave and make it home before dark and before the rain started—whew!

Tomorrow I’ll be meeting with a local client, and hopefully also exploring more of this beautiful area, weather permitting.

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