Dec 9, 2012

Sally Snags Seashells Along Sarasota's Seashore

Curls, Pigtails and I lazy looped Florida last August.  Here's the 3rd and final leg of our trip, a warm slog along the sugar Gulf coast. 

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, 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.

Lido Beach

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.

Siesta Key
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 Maria
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.

We swung a right into the Beachhouse parking lot, I hankered for a grouper on sourdough.  Despite looking the part, it was a sketchy meh. 

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



  1. Excellent pictures, thank you for sharing. They made me forget about the third day of gloomy weather here in MD.

    1. A winter nip moved into Des Moines this weekend, now seemed like the right time to share some warmth.

  2. Did someone say Five Guys? Watch and weep with laughter:

    1. That bro' takes his burgers to the next level, "ya bite the fries, the fries bite you back, dayum!"

  3. I am totally a west coast beach snob. Grew up on that coast and prefer it a million times to the Atlantic. That side is good for waves, I'll give you that, but nothing beats the Gulf in my mind. My parents live in Port Charlotte now (about 45 minutes south of Siesta). Siesta Key is perfect April/May ish when the snow birds (read: northern residents) are gone and the summer crowd hasn't started. Crowds can definitely make or break it. Parents live five miles from Englewood beach but we drive an additional two miles (at 15 mph speed limit) to get to the stretch of beach that is less populated. Totally worth it. And p.s. LOVE MOTE! Please tell me you guys took pictures with giant manta ray, I have quite a few good ones of him attacking the fam. The dolphin exhibit across the street is also good... the bird section, not so much. Thank god my dad has season passes so we didn't pay extra.

    1. Central for The Mouse, east coast for history and surf, west for chillaxin'. That's how we rolled, I'd be up for a repeat next year.

      What happens if you drive 23 mph instead of 15?

      That manta ray was massive, I bet when alive the staff tossed in half a hog each morning so he didn't turn into Cindy.

      We'll give your parents a call next year and stay with them at Port Charlotte, tell them thanks.

    2. If I drive 23 mph by myself: nothing. If I drive 23 mph with my dad in the car: I get yelled at and told that the cops are going to pull me over at any moment and give me a ticket. I'll let you be the judge.

      Just realized my default picture was taken at Mote, total coincidence, I promise.

      I'll let the 'rents know to expect you, just be warned, my mom feels a compulsion to cook non-stop when people come to visit. Ironic considering she works for Weight Watchers... so at least it will be healthy food?

    3. Haha, your dad barking at you to brake while your mom lectures about not tapping out the WW points. I'd break down in 5 minutes under those conditions.

  4. I know they aren't related but Pigtails' nose and chin look just like Curls'. They look like they could be related!

    1. You're the second person to mention the two pretty girls look alike.

  5. Great post! I love the depth of field in the photo of Pigtails, closeup, wearing her swimmers. Some really great pictures and some tasty looking food, even if only by sight! Mmmm,Fish burger anyone....?

  6. Thank you, those disposable cameras do a decent job, huh?

  7. You had me at Five Guys! Their Cajun fries are my favorite. It's 5 degrees here today, so guess I'm craving some heat! Spicy fries and pictures of Florida will do the trick...

    1. No Five Guys around Des Moines. Guess we'll have to fly to Florida again to try those Cajun fries, I guarantee.

    2. Well, I guess Five Guys is one thing Omaha has that DSM doesn't! It's usually the other way around. I was like 3 when that commercial came out, but I do remember it! Dis is Cajun spice!

  8. You caught me... foggy Monday morning in NY at work with gallon o'coffee... vastly cheered up by your lovely sunny photos and equally sunny smiling daughter! PS - I just got hit up for extra blog photo storage too!! hate that... but in my opinion a blog without loads of photos is useless!!! Thanks for sharing your travels. Hankering for a Vaca' now!

    1. I'm glad the post warmed you up, your comment makes that extra cloud storage pain worth it.

  9. Y'all took some gorgeous photos - The ones of your human subjects are great but I especially love the ones of the beaches and water under different weather. Shots of beautiful beaches on beautiful days are always beautiful, but the ones of the different clouds, sky colors, water colors, and even rainbows are really interesting and even complex. I looked at some of them for a long time (not what my boss would want to hear on a Monday morning but at least it's my lunch break!).

    1. People cleared the beaches at the first glimpse of a raincloud, I did the opposite and ran towards with my D40 flashing to capture the beauty. God is good, those gray and white clouds over the green ocean are pure eye candy, placed there simply for our joy.

  10. About time you popped the question to Curls don't ya think? :) :) Love her and how comfortable Pigtails is with her (judging from the pictures).

    1. Good question, two thoughts:

      Pigtails' mother is likely in the final days of her fight against brain cancer. My daughter may lose her soon, this will be difficult for her to deal with. Now is not a good time to introduce additional big changes in her life.

      Curls and I need to align on a couple fundamental items, otherwise it will be stress on both of us. I'm unsure how compatible (70%? 80%?) a couple needs to be for it to be "good enough."

  11. Keep it simple, Beard, put it to a reader vote. Haha. How'd you like US deciding your future? Totally kidding, of course. Just curious, what are your and Curls criteria? My husband and I felt these were most important to us: philosophies about money (spending, saving, budgeting), faith and religion, politics, beliefs about what the commitment of marriage means, dietary choices (we're a pesicatarian household), retirement expectations, how many children & parenting philosophies. Not a short list, but it's what we came up with and so far so good. I think the commitment of marriage definition is a biggie, because times do get tough. VERY tough. Especially with kids. Parting ways just isn't an option for us (agreed upon exception: cheating & beating), so while the rest of the country is lining up for divorces, we ride out the waves.

    1. What you mention, plus a few additional topics, and mostly communication.

  12. Looks like you had a good time all around, and good food, too! I'm mostly eyeballin' that Five Guys cheeseburger though... Give me that over fancy seafood fare any day! ;)


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