|The calmness of Fort De Soto Park|
|Gotta love that crystal clear water|
Using my handy iPhone equipped with a US roaming data package, I was able to find a highly regarded beach bar called Bongo’s in nearby St. Pete Beach. It covered our criteria of great seafood options and an ocean-view patio. This was actually the in-house restaurant of a popular beach resort complex. Good eats, drinks and cigars followed and as usual I received a healthy dose of “props” from the boys for this clutch find. After lunch we decided to take advantage of what would be our final hours of sunshine on the trip by catching some more rays on famous St. Pete Beach.
|Little lunch action beach-side at Bongos|
Aside for the equally impressive white sand and clear water, St Pete Beach was nothing like the bustling Clearwater Beach. It’s possible that the fact that it was quite windy and a Monday could have had a lot to do with it. We took our waterproof camera into the ocean and got some great shots while avoiding the sandstorm that was building on land.
|Going for a TD pass at St Pete Beach|
Once back in Tampa for the evening we chose to head back to Ybor City, as there seemed to be quite a bit going on there a couple nights earlier before we had to leave for the game. We started off the night yet again at Tampa Bay Brewing Co. for some more cider wings and other assorted apps. While deciding where to head next we were approached by a group, led by two suggestively dressed women who advised us that there was a great karaoke night happening at a bar down the street. The single friends in our group were instantly sold, and we headed on over.
|Tampa Bay Brewing Co. - One last time|
The bar, Dopple Decker, was a tad divey, but had a decent crowd and reasonably priced drinks so we decided to stick around. My buddy John, riding high on 'liquid courage' asked me to sign him up for some karaoke, which I did. What followed was a decidedly awful, yet hilariously entertaining rendition of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”. (R.I.P Kurt, 20 Years). We stuck around for a few more songs after that, before heading back to the hotel to try and make a little more of a dent in our in-house booze stash as we were now in our 2nd last night of the trip.
|A 'legendary' performance, and by 'legendary' I mean 'drunk'|
We woke up the morning of our final full day in Tampa to cool temps and a steady rain. As we were expecting this, we had made plans to drive out to Ellenton, for a little outlet shopping. A combination of crappy weather, big crowds and lack of any significant deals caused us to tire of the shopping experience rather quickly. As we were in line at the mall’s disappointing food court, my iPhone and data plan once again came to the rescue and we were off to an authentic BBQ joint only a few minutes away.
Hickory Hollow provided us with some delicious southern BBQ fare including pulled pork, ribs, rotisserie chicken, and of course delicious corn bread! We were soon stuffed beyond proper function and returned to the hotel in preparation of the main event of the trip. A (sadly, nearly meaningless) hockey game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and our hometown Toronto Maple Leafs!
|The boys are ready for game time!|
After cleaning up from the beach and indulging in a few pre-game adult pops in the room we headed down to the hotel’s happy hour for a couple bites and of course the free beer. We had the front-desk call us a cab, and we were advised it would be up to a 45min wait. Well over an hour later (with the free beer still flowing) there was no sign of our cabbie. Eventually one pulled up looking for “Shane”. Since no one else was in sight we decided ‘what the hell’ and jumped in with our incognito coffee cup brewskis.
|Lots of coffee consumed on this trip|
We arrived at the stadium to a large crowd and some pre-game festivities out front. As beer prices were through the roof, we just decided to head to our seats a bit early. Our group had to split up into two packs of three, but all of us had awesome seats to the game. We passionately belted out O’Canada, but unfortunately that’s where our cheering ended as the Leafs were bounced 3-0 in a rather dull affair. After the final buzzer we made our way back to the Bud Light Party Deck for some more of their famous $2 draughts. While drowning our sorrows we met a couple of friendly locals. One of whom was a Lightning fan/season ticket holder who was originally from Toronto, and now is living and working in Tampa. We also met a chick who came to the game solo after her friend bailed on her and she kindly offered to take us to some hot spots downtown.
|Loving their seats|
|Making friends @ the Bud Light Party Deck|
First stop was Hooters, which was closed (common mid-week theme apparently)… so we sauntered a little further to a really cool adult slushie bar. Basically a room that looked like a high-end ice cream parlor with about two-dozen flavors of alcoholic slushies. Being the frozen drink connoisseur that I am, this was quite the find. We stayed here as long as we could until they (politely) kicked us out. After that we hung out on their patio a little longer before heading back to the hotel. We spent our final hour with a few more drinks, before retiring for the night and catching a flight back to reality in the morning.
|Alcoholic slushie anyone?|
Random Musing – with a return connection in DC, I realized that the North American terminal @ Ronald Regan National Airport is a joke. No duty-free, under 5 food options, tiny and crowded.
Mike @ Palms & Pints