Time for the St. Auggie exodus. Were were bummed about leaving, could've happily gotten stuck there for another week without phoning for rescue. But Sarasota and the Gulf of Mexico were calling out, the white-powder sand and 90 degree sea tugging us towards with her tractor beam.
|4 hours to go|
We loaded the Chrysler 200 rental for the 230 mile trek from east to west coast of the boot. The hamster engine had 100 hp less than my 4-wheel-drive turbo wagon back home, yet it somehow managed worse gas mileage. "Detroit is back," the domestics still can't figure out why they chapter 11'd.
Break time burger load at Five Guys for lunch. Hot moist meat (that sounds gross), gooey cheddar flowing everywhere, a brown sack of fries that could feed a family of five and 50 lb. piles of unshucked peanuts sandbagging the counter. I was in a happy cholesterol coma.
We arrived in Sarasota early afternoon, AirBnB.com lobbed us a shy guest house hiding behind the owner's home, with a direct view to the bay. We snooped on the assessor site, this $85 a night rental was on property worth $3.5 mil'. The grandparent-era owners greeted us with warm smiles on arrival, showed us around and told us to knock if we needed anything.
I can't really go back to hotels after a BnB pampering.
Our Sarasota visit focused on three beaches: Lido, Siesta Key and Anna Marie Island. Here's a bite of each, turn up the dial and chill:
I'll roll them out in order of preference. Lido wins.
The roundabout at St. Armands Circle twirls like a centrifuge, flinging from its core art galleries, surf shops and Lido Beach.
We walked St. Armands and found San Francisco instructor Edgardo Garcia and son, Walfrido, painting all things aqua. His works sell for thousands, I was surprised when he handed Pigtails the brush and asked her to lay a couple strokes on the koi.
Brain freezes, reading glasses, purses and ungodly expensive belts, we looked but didn't buy at St. Armands. Except for the ice-cream, that fit our budget.
|brain freeze = sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia|
|now 2.25 times better|
|purse or murse?|
Everyone knows high end stores have the cleanest crappers, so we entered a snooty white column looking place to leave behind a surprise. I noticed a $300 belt, now come off it, must be pleather or something.
That belt was the last straw, time to get outta here and into the water.
The Atlantic over at St. Augustine was cold, mud colored with concrete sand that didn't sift when you kicked your toes through it. The Gulf side has infinitely more shells, so many that the town crushes and spreads them like gravel along the sides of the road.
The sand clouded to powder in the wind, like baker's flower and soft underfoot.
The water was clear in the shallow, green in the deep and a bathtub 90 degrees.
Pigtails becomes quiet when she's intrigued by something. She went mute for 90 minutes as she combed the beach, then goggled up and dove again and again for conch, whelk and other treasures.
We floated in the surf until 9:00 at night, staring up at one thousand foot cloud columns, then later, the moon. Repeat the next evening, then again.
We returned to St. Armands the next day to chow down at the Columbia. Featuring Spanish and Cuban cuisine since 1905, it has all the right components: open air seating, mounds of shellfish and smoky paella, washed down with crimson sangrias.
|she eats raw butter if the food doesn't hurry up|
Curls ordered iceberg rabbit food. The wimpy leaves would never fill me.
Crowd density weighs heavily into rankings. Bleached sand beauty teaming with fat dudes in Euro-Speedos is not a win in my book. I think a less crowded and slightly less perty place ranks higher.
Thousands flock to Siesta Key, probably because it's touted as the #1 beach in America. If you want poopy swim diapers, hairy backs and large butts bending over near your face, then Siesta Key is it.
|didn't matter which direction I gazed, there was always a hiney up in the air|
|and babies everywhere|
At least the buns we packed were not disappointing.
Looking for a break from the sun, we found an offbeat cinema showing foreign and level B flicks, just the way we like 'em. The Queen of Versailles ranked favorably on Rotten T., into the Pepto pink A/C box for a couple hour nap. The show was decent, the true tale of a billionaire family dropping to millionaire status with the economy slap of 2008.
|that's our ride|
Anna was the least populated and slightly dumpy on the drive there. Something was off with it, can't put my finger on it. Buxom and easy on the eyes, but we didn't want to spend time with her.
Mote Marine Lab
We figured out the beaches are less swarmy if we arrived mid-afternoon, after the crowds fried and died down. So we'd entertain ourselves inside early to stay fresh for the white powder later on. The Mote Aquarium in Sarasota kept us busy, gallons of sharks, jellies and gentle sea turtles.
I've never close encountered a sea turtle before. Entranced, we loitered for an hour as these 300 lb. reptiles flapped their limbs like wings through the water, severing fish with hooked beaks. Hawksbills can live to 80, bomb the sand with 250 eggs per batch, and the sand temp determines if the hatchlings will emerge as male or female teenage mutant ninja turtles.
Enough playing with crabs, back to the sun to blister our pasty Iowa skin. We were hungry, there's an app for that. Urbanspoon slotted Toasted Mango Cafe high on the hog, bread and butter boring on the outside, made from scratch awesomeness inside.
I pulled a guac' veggie omelet with buttermilk biscuit, apple jam and hot potato patty. The 'Spoon was spot on, plus the owner made the rounds to ensure we were happy.
Shut It and Just Show Me the Pics
Some of you will likely be reading this Monday morning from work. You're probably grouchy, need a bucket of coffee and want me to stop blabbing. So I'll do a SanDisk photo dump and be done. The following torrent of photos maxed out my 1GB Blogger limit, Google made me purchase more cloud storage just to get through the rest of this post. These are a mix of Lido and Siesta Key.
Lido and Siesta Key are only a few miles apart. The sand and water are the same, more shells at Lido and the crowd and hotels lining the shore are fewer, which makes it the winner in my book. We even saw a pod of dolphins surfacing for air a couple hundred meters from the shore.
|daughter tried to fix her typo|
|"daddy, my hair feels weird again"|
|sushi for lunch|