Wed. Sept. 20, 2017:
Miami to St. Petersburg, FL:
I had some how managed to forget to pack a razor. This combined with the fact that there was no in-room coffee meant it was time for a trip to the Walgreens around the corner. On the way there I spotted an Italian bakery across the street. A hot cup of brewed coffee beats out a bottle of overly-sweetened iced coffee any day. However as I crossed the street to head over I noticed another café down the street. I assumed that the Italian bakery would serve LaVazza coffee or Illy, both of which I dislike I opted for Les Moulin La Fayette instead. Boy was I wrong. They did not even have any milk for the coffee, all he offered me was Coffee Mate. I had to get the guy to pour me some from the carton they use when making lattes. On my way back I still stopped in at the Italian bakery, I needed something for breakfast. In the window I noticed what looked like pączki. When I asked what the flavour was it sounded like the guy said vanilla, but what he handed me did not look like vanilla. It looked like the polar opposite: chocolate. Turns out I had misheard him, he said Nutella. I ended up having to scoop some out because there was way too much of it in the middle. The donut part was really good- but it was not a pączek. It also turned out that the Italian café did not serve crappy coffee, they even made latte art.
In keeping with the theme of the trip thus far, Despacito (radio version without Justin Bieber) came on the radio in the cab on the way to the car rental place at the airport. It kind of sucked being at the airport, our vacation had just started. It was an incredibly long walk to get to the tram to get to the car rental place. We had been dropped off at the Air Canada terminal where we would be flying out of later- which is all the way at the opposite end of the airport. I had never been on so many moving walkways in my life.
We had a slight delay at the car rental place as they directed us to an empty parking spot and had to wrangle a new car for us. Once in the car it felt so good to finally listen to Stuff You Should Know again. It had been two weeks of saving them for just this moment.
Our first stop of the day was the Everglades Holiday Park for an airboat tour of the Everglades. As we pulled into the parking lot a giant tour bus unloaded. Crap we thought, it would be a long wait. The peacock was smart, he was hiding in the shade under the deck and away from all the people. I was happy to see that after all these years he was still there (I assume it’s the same one as last time). The tour group must have had a pre-scheduled tour because we waited less than 10 minutes. Our captain’s name was Charlie and it would be an understatement to say that he was energetic. On our boat ride we saw turkey vultures, cormorants, and fish. And of course, we saw some alligators. Two were circling each other, one was in the other’s turf- except he was not much of a menace given he was missing a leg and was aptly named Scar. They were within arms reach of the boat. One alligator eventually swam almost right up against the boat. The captain also stopped the boat so that he could feed some birds and fish, allowing us a close look at them. We saw an alligator gar fish with a long pointy nose. On our way back we spotted one more gator but he was further away.
After the airboat ride we watched the alligator wrestling show. It was really not that interesting and it was super hot outside. Regardless, we stayed until the end. It was awkward seeing people leave mid-show. The line after the show to get a photo taken with a baby alligator was too long and it was way too hot to stand around. We watched two racoons play in their pen. One sat on a toy tent and chewed on it and then the other grabbed it and started washing it in his water bowl. One of the racoons was albino, making them both seem that much cuter. The giant tortoise was having an afternoon nap. It was hot outside, but in the car it was unbearable. Adding to my discomfort, in addition to being dehydrated I was also hungry.
Eventually we spotted a sign on the highway for a McDonald’s, having missed the exit for Burger King. We did not realize we were in a part of Florida that had been hit harder by the hurricane. We tried to go into the McDonald’s but there was a sign on the door saying that they were under a boil water advisory and that only the drive-thru was open and only with a limited menu. We ended up ordering one of each. Really it was a small menu: 20 piece nuggets, quarter pounder with cheese, medium fries and two cans of Coke. We sat in the car in the parking lot and ate our lunch. It hit the spot.
The mid-afternoon rain was right on schedule, around 4 in the afternoon and soon after you could not even tell it had rained. We could see the baseball stadium on the horizon long before we were in town. We still had to cross a giant bridge into St. Petersburg where the Tampa Bay Rays play. Once in town we realized that literally just about everyone around was wearing Chicago Cubs shirts. The Floridians were outnumbered. We wondered how many Rays fans there would be at the baseball game, compared to Cubs fans.
On the way to the hotel, via a series of one-way streets, we were further detoured by a condo construction site that was inexplicably blocking multiple streets surrounding it. All for one lousy construction site. We walked to a nearby liquor store. On the way we saw a guy jaywalking and joking that he should try and get hit by a car so the lady driver would have to nurse him back to health. Then we passed a guy flirting with two girls by allowing them to use his cherry-picker to take selfies. St. Petersburg was a weird town full of weirdos. We walked by a free shuttle bus stop to the stadium but it was only a 30 minute walk. At the liquor store I ended up getting an orange Fanta, a new bottle cap for our collection.
Walking to the stadium we passed some more weirdos. There were two guys in a parking lot playing catch. One of them was barefoot, wearing white overalls, and a black undershirt and black shorts that were sticking out from under the overalls. Like I said, weird people in St. Petersburg.
Tropicana Field was giant. We had no idea which entrance to go to. In line we saw a few Rays fans, true Florida stereotypes: tanned, leathery and plenty of bad tattoos. We watched a girl try to chug the rest of her Bud Light and subsequently drop it. She tried to brush it off as not wanting it anymore. We got there just in time for the game to start. Our walk around the concourse would have to wait. On the way to our seats though I did manage to snag a free beer coozie and a squishy baseball. Only when we sat down did I see it was branded with something.
I kept getting distracted from the game because a family a few rows down from us kept getting kicked out of seats they had assumed were empty. There was a lot of shuffling and pointing at tickets. So much so that I missed a stolen base. I was assured that the player who did the stealing did not first do a dance to tease the pitcher, who inexplicably could not throw left. We had surprisingly good seats given we were sitting in row W. I had assumed we would be way back, but the rows start from the back of the alphabet. If we had Z we would have been the ones kicking that family out of our seats.
In the first inning the Rays got a home run. The home team got a home run and there was nothing: no theatrics, no mascots, barely even any cheering- though this was probably because the ratio of Cubs to Rays fans was about 9:1. They could have at least made the Tropicana orange in the stadium sign squirt some orange juice. There was nothing. I was very disappointed, except for the fact that at every game we have been to thus far, the home team has gotten a home run. Brent pointed out the tank of stingrays by the outfield and my first thought was of concern for their safety. What if a home run is hit there and the ball splashes down in the tank? I tried to float the idea of little baseball helmets for the rays and I was overcome with how cute it looked in my mind. In the 2nd inning a guy proposed to his girlfriend on the jumbotron. It was lame.
After the 3rd inning we went for a walk around the concourse. On a TV screen they were playing a video of Rally Cat, the cat dressed as a DJ in a Rays uniform. It elicited more than a few awws from me. The internet said that the pork nachos were really good, however it failed to mention that they were served in a bar in the stadium. I went across the way and got two tacos from Taco Bus instead. The marinated steak was sold out so I had to settle for pork and chicken. Meanwhile Brent waited in line for beer. On our walk we were on the lookout for a stand selling Italian sausages. And another one selling frozen cocktails. We passed by a craft beer place that was selling 3 Sisters key lime cider. That was clearly way better than a frozen cocktail! As I waited in line the guy behind me was standing way too close to me. Inevitably he bumped into me and apologized. But then rather than moving back a bit he just kept standing there, and again bumped into me and apologized again. I was so irritated. Why didn’t he just step back a bit?!
Finally we got to the rays tank. We took turns looking at the rays. They were all crowding in the corner and impossible to pet. Although it did make for a great photo op, because it looked like they were watching the game. I saw part of a sign that said grill and I was about to say that maybe that stand sells the Italian sausage but as we rounded the corner I saw that it was Budweiser Grill- no way they would sell good food I thought. Turns out I was wrong. We did not realize how big the concourse was. During our walk we had missed two innings. The concourse had no sightlines of the field because we were basically walking under the bleachers. My tacos were cold by the time we got tour seats, but still delicious. But the Italian sausage was better.
There was a kid in the first row of our section who was so desperately trying to get on TV during the whole game. He had a sign saying it was his first game. The Cubs had been losing miserably, and in the 8th inning they scored. And the stadium erupted in cheers. Everyone started clapping and chanting Lets Go Cubbies. We left soon after because we had an early morning the next day.
Walking back we passed by the weird art bar where the guys had been playing catch in the parking lot earlier. Now there was a poetry reading going on inside, with about 4 people in attendance. We passed a bar where a guy was crappily singing a song that I somehow managed to recognize as Where’s The Love by Hanson. This was the second Hanson song in two days.