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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tampa: Days 1 & 2


Yesterday, Ian and I flew to Tampa for the UCC's General Synod XXVIII.  We settled into a motel just outside of the city and took a short drive to Ybor City, a section of Tampa started by a Cuban cigar manufacturer by the name of Ybor a little over a century ago.  Over time, Ybor City became the center of cigar manufacturing in the US, though that industry has all but died out, with only small shops offering hand-rolled cigars instead of industrial scale operations.  These days, Ybor City  has become a tourist area featuring lots of tattoo parlors and nightclubs, and is served by a streetcar that runs into center city and has three other connecting lines.  After dinner of Cuban sandwiches at Carmines, we returned to the hotel and turned in.

This morning, Ian and I picked up some sandwiches and headed up to Canoe Escape, where we loaded into an old school bus and headed out to for a paddle trip on the Hillsborough River.  We put in at Sargeant Park and spent about an hour paddling upstream of the put-in, where we saw and photographed several alligators, snowy egrets, herons, and other interesting wildlife.  Shortly after we turned around and went downstream from the put-in, we heard thunder rumble and the rain soon followed.  Undaunted – well, slightly daunted – we kept paddling, making our way down the beautiful little river, passing palm trees and live oaks hung with Spanish moss, passing a school group huddled under umbrellas and complaining about how they were tired and wet, and finally reaching what would have been the half-way point of our trip, Morris Bridge Park.  Given the thunder, we decided to cut the trip short and arranged a pick up by the Canoe Escape shuttle.  

Since we finished the canoe trip earlier than we had planned, Ian and I had to improvise plans for the afternoon.   We crossed the 4.8 mile long Howard Frankland Bridge across old Tampa Bay and went to Haslam’s Bookstore  in St. Petersburg, not planning on buying anything, but with the hope that we just MIGHT come across a hard-to-find book or two that needed to come live chez Bryant-Smith.  Though Haslam’s is, according to one brochure, the “destination bookstore” for new and used books, we still didn’t find anything that we simply couldn’t live without.  It is, however, still a place where, if I lived in the area, I’d end up spending an inordinate amount of time and money.

Haslam’s isn’t far from Gulfport, so Ian and I made a quick trip to that town’s municipal beach, which opened onto a bay separated from the Gulf of Mexico by a series of barrier islands, Ian and I decided to head over to the beach at 130th Avenue in Treasure Island, which was on the Gulf itself.  We parked and made our way to the beach, taking off our shoes and socks before stepping onto the soft, white sand.  On the drive over, we had seen several rain squalls blowing across the area and one of them was making its way down the beach toward us, so we dipped our toes in the water, took a couple pictures, grabbed a few seashells and hightailed it back to the car, accompanied by a stream of folks who had hastily hauled down their umbrellas before the rain hit.

Back in the car, Ian announced that he wanted barbecue for dinner.  We checked Yelp! and found Smokin’ J’s Real Texas Barbeque, for which I’ll write a separate post.  Ian was amused that I was the first Facebook check-in and had to create a listing for the restaurant.  My commentary, which turned out to be the new description for the restaurant was, “Great pulled pork, ribs & brisket.  LIFE CHANGING wings.” 
After dinner, we returned to the hotel, where we were treated to a gorgeous rainbow before settling in to watch TV and blog.  Tomorrow will be an early start.  I’ve got to return the rental car and we’ve both got to get checked into the Marriott and attend the first events of Synod in the afternoon.

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