Modified Florida: Day 4

30 Sep

Fri. Sept. 22, 2017:
Clearwater, FL:

I slept very poorly, in fits and starts. It was especially frustrating because it took me forever to fall asleep and then I would immediately wake up. Things really turned around when Google said there was a Dunkin’ Donuts a 5 minute drive away! Finally, a chance for real coffee! There was a sign on the door saying they had a new flavour: maple pecan. I was way too excited about it. They had bags of coffee for sale but just the regular cadre of boring not-so-great flavours. They also had t-shirts and mugs for sale but the shirts were only giant sizes and the mugs did not have the DD logo.

To go with my coffee I got my beloved coffee cake muffin. The maple pecan was a sweetened flavour shot- way too sweet for me. I decided that the next day when we went back I would get the other new seasonal flavour: pumpkin spice. We were in no rush to head out. I had time to make a cup of tea using the coffee maker to boil my water and then to enjoy it in bed while reading.

On the way to Sanibel and Captiva Islands we stopped at McDonald’s for lunch. We ordered at the kiosk and no sooner had we sat down, an employee came up to inform me that- shocker- the ice cream machine was broken and would I like a fancy iced coffee instead of my desired Turtles brownie ice cream sundae. I shrugged and asked for an iced vanilla latte.

Back on the road, on the next block we saw a Culver’s. We had just eaten lunch, so we decided that Culver’s would be saved for dinner. Who can say no to a butter burger? Plus at least with my dinner I could have an ice cream.

We started out at Sanibel Island at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. It was cool to see really large intact shells, you rarely get to see such specimens on the beach. After browsing the collection and learning about shells and about what makes Sanibel such a hotspot for seashell collecting we headed to the activities room. They had it set up so that you could make crafts using shells. That is how abundant the supply of shells is. That they provide bins of them, all sorted by size and type, to create little sculptures. We each made one but Brent placed his among the museum examples to inspire future creations.

Up next we drove to the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. I could never get the name of it right. It had just reopened a few days ago and we were unsure of what to expect. The nature drive was closed on Fridays, but it seemed like even if we had been there any other day it would still be closed after the hurricane. We went on the short nature hike to the lookout. It was unbelievable how hot it was, even in the limited shade. I was barely able to function, my thinking felt impaired. We applied sunscreen, knowing that up next we were going to the beach. On our nature walk we saw: a red-bellied woodpecker, a little blue heron, some white egrets and red-headed ducks. On the walk back we heard a bird crying off in the distance. After looking around we finally saw it: an osprey sitting atop a streetlamp in the high school parking lot next door. There was another osprey circling overhead.

We drove to Bowman’s Beach to see if in fact Sanibel was a seashell collector’s paradise. Turns out they undersold the sheer volume of shells. It was incredible how many shells were washing up on the beach. There piles and piles. Shells everywhere. Our worries of finding some interesting shells like conches were quashed. We found so many. Brent even found a giant one that had smaller ones attached to it. We found shells in a variety of colours: yellow, red, purple, even pearly ones. One was so thin it was translucent. As we turned to walk back we were worried that we had been so caught up in walking and searching. It felt like we had been walking forever and now were going to have to trod back in the heat. Turns out we did not actually walk that far. It just felt that way because of how long it took us to walk, as we kept stopping to look at shells. I was very dehydrated by the end of our walk. At the start I had tried to drink from the water fountain but the water was warm. On the way back I noticed another drinking fountain and was about to drink when I realized, to my horror, that there was a spider on it. And the vending machine would not accept a $5 bill, it kept spitting it out.

We drove to neighbouring Captiva Island to have a look at their seashell beaches as well. They also lived up to the hype. I was starting to fade by the time we got to the second beach. I was dehydrated, covered in sweat mixed with sunscreen and just so uncomfortably overheated. Walking back to the car over a bridge we saw a needlefish in the water and I saw a fish jumping out of the water.

On our way off the island we stopped at a liquor store. They did not have any singles, but Brent got a six pack. We stopped at Publix on the way to grab some evening snacks. The first time we went I had forgotten to grab some of my beloved Biscoff cookies. Alas, they were nowhere to be found.  I did find Dunkin’ Donuts mocha flavoured Oreos. I also grabbed a Stella Artois cider for the bottle cap. On the way the afternoon rains were much lighter than the past days.

The dinner at Culver’s was just what I needed after a long day in the sun. I downed my fake Sprite in no time. And yes, it was my second cheeseburger of the day, but heck, I was on vacation. I ordered the fries instead of the cheese curds. They are delicious but I was not about to spend the rest of the evening feeling sick. Instead I swapped a few fries for a few cheese curds from Brent. I immediately started questioning my decision. They were so good, why did I not just get them?! I had ordered a small burger, leaving room for ice cream. I had ordered chocolate custard with salted caramel ribbon and Heath bar. They gave me vanilla. It was still delicious and the place was full of weirdos- I wanted out of there.

Our motel faced a canal, I guess that is why they had “on the water” in the name. We sat on the patio deck overlooking the water and enjoyed our drinks. I had a chance to catch up writing in my notebook. The Best Damn Cream Soda cooler I had was ok, it fit the bill for patio drinking- but it was not the best damn cream soda. It was average. There were some cute little lizards running around nearby.

Afterwards we watched TV in bed while munching on snacks: spicy BBQ Lays and the Oreos. The lemon-lime Seagrams cooler was just awful. Why would they make it malt liquor and not vodka based?! Who does that?! I nursed it but gave up on it. It was terrible

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Posted by on September 30, 2017 in The Roving Reporter, Travel


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