Not every adventure has to be big or far away. In most communities there are small hidden places of solace if you know where to look, both official and unofficial. In Sun City Center is the Window in the Woods, a bird observation shelter sponsored by the Eagle Audubon Society, an organization formed in 1982 dedicated to preserving wetlands and conservation education. They often do field trips. The unmanned shelter has windows on all sides as well as a deck with benches. It is surrounded by various birdfeeders and birdhouses among the trees. A short distance away lies a pond where I have seen in past visits a turtle, an alligator, and an anhinga. On my most recent trip I only saw blue jays, cardinals, and a bright red dragonfly.
The trail to Window in the Woods begins next to the RV storage place in back of the community garden off Del Webb. It runs along a raised bed of sand and shell fill next to swamps and along a golf course for part of the way. Continuing past the bird observation shelter, there are a few benches alongside on which to rest. One overlooks another pond. One sits in the shade of moss-covered trees. The trail finally ends behind the health center of Freedom Plaza, an assisted living community. If you live in Sun City Center and just need to get away for a couple hours, this is the place to do it.
1516-A Del Webb, Sun City Center, Florida
The Downtown Dunedin Deli and Grill names all its burgers, sandwiches, and salads after American states. There is the Connecticut grinder, the Massachusetts salmon wrap, the New Mexico cemita, the Virginia seven-layer salad, the Louisiana muffuletta burger, and more. I was hungry after exploring Hammock Park all day and decided on a Connecticut grinder. It was much bigger than I expected. It came with salami, capicola, provolone, lettuce, pickles, banana peppers, and minced olives. It was very good – much better than Subway (don’t tell Subway I said that). I also had an ice water and a Kahwa espresso with cream. It was the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. I was unable to finish my sandwich and took it home along with some coleslaw. I suspected that it was not really all that good and I only thought so because I had been running around in the hot sun for hours, but after pulling it out of the refrigerator for a snack that night I realized it really was good.
730 Broadway Street, Dunedin, Florida
Some parks have playgrounds and some have pools (liquid playgrounds). Highlander Park in Dunedin, Florida has both a pool and a playground. It also has a collection of giant, whimsical water sprinklers. I watched as a yellow trough repeatedly filled with water and turned over, splashing the ground below and restarting the process, creating the potential for a game of timing. Water meanwhile fell in a continuous sheet from a mushroom-like object. I imagine it might be used a special zone in tag safe from the dreaded “it.” It could also serve as a sort of “cops and robbers” jail. So many ideas of how it might be used in play come to mind. Where were these places when I was little? Why have I never seen anything like this before visiting Highlander? I suppose there can only be one. Highlander Park is also home to several ball fields and the office of the Dunedin Nature Center. It is near Hammock Park and the Dunedin Fine Art Center.
1937 Ed Eckert Drive, Dunedin, Florida
When I have business in the area, I like to walk through the William F. Poe plaza to look at the plants, fountain, and architecture. There are many semi-secluded nooks at different levels connected by stairs. I don’t usually stop, but others do, sitting on benches or at tables outside the café. There is also a covered footbridge overhead connecting the bank and the leasing company. This area is mostly in shade and surrounded by trees. It always makes a nice place to spend one’s lunch break.
What I did not know until recently is how much Tampa history is connected to the place. It was the starting point of the 1909 auto race from Tampa to Jacksonville. Later in 1980, a forgotten Seminole-War-era cemetery was discovered during construction of an adjacent building. Finally, the plaza was built and named after the former mayor Bill Poe.
The plaza is located between East Jackson Street and East Whiting Street and between North Tampa Street and South Florida Avenue.
Located at the intersection of North Tampa Street and East Kennedy Boulevard, Solstice is a twenty-eight foot metal sculpture created by Charles Perry. I always think it looks like it is about to unravel or roll away. I can definitely picture some mad scientist harnessing lightning with it to open a rift to a dimension full of goblins or something. Could this have been Perry’s plan all along? Placing it in a place like Tampa known for its frequent thunderstorms? I can almost see the goblins now climbing up the sides of the surrounding skyscrapers, cackling and stealing babies. I really should pay more attention to traffic.
I like the flow and the symmetry of the piece. It is rumored to be named Solstice because it casts a perfectly circular shadow on the solstice. That seems harmless enough.
See list of public art in Tampa
Every night Miami Avenue comes alive with music and dancing while patrons enjoy wine, beer, and snacks. This is a place to celebrate the arts and there are paintings, jewelry, and crafts for sale. New is the book nook, celebrating the art form of literature and providing a platform for local authors from across the Tampa Bay area to show their work. This provides value to the community in two ways: It provides readers with new reading options they might otherwise miss and it provides authors with an easy way to build up readership and prestige before they make it big.
311 First Street, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
Written By Daniel Noe, InkDoodler.com
Just off the Skyway Bridge are two fishing piers and a park that I had been meaning to check out for a while. I finally visited just the other day. First, I stopped at the rest area on the southern side of the bridge. I walked along the water where there was a tiny forest of seaweed just a few feet out. Strange flashes of light beamed out from this mysterious landscape. They turned out to be small fish that were very nearly invisible until they turned at just the right angle to reflect the sun into my face.
Later, I drove along the strip of land that connects the southern pier to the mainland. There were a few vehicles parked in the grass and a few palms, but mostly it was empty, leaving plenty of space to sit and watch the clouds. Of course, being me, the clouds did not satisfy for long. I walked along the cracked concrete at the edge of the water, looking for life among the weathered, hole-riddled rocks on either side. The nearby pavement had large holes in it, too. There were numerous scurrying isopods that were incredibly camera-shy. Finally I managed to photograph one of them. I also saw a pretty snail. It was an incredibly hot day, but there was a strong breeze from the south that kept things tolerable. It was much better than the rest stop side.
Reaching the pier, I walked to the end and back. There were many people fishing and there were many birds fishing. They were of all ages, races, and sexes and mostly friendly. One guy from New York explained how easy it was to get into the hobby. Apparently one only needs a cheap pole from Walmart and some bait and they can have dinner in minutes. I’ve never really had the opportunity to go fishing before. Perhaps I’ll look into it. There is more than enough space for everybody if they don’t want to be too close, and there is also plenty of space if they do want to be close. This also means plenty of space for parking. There are also restrooms and a bait shop. The clerk told me that I’d be surprised how many people show up unprepared without bait, ice, poles, or snacks. As for myself, I forgot to bring water when I left the house and so I bought a coke. God bless capitalism!
Driving to the north end of the bridge, I explored both sides. On the southwestern edge there are numerous shady spots to park and sit by the water. Unfortunately, the ground is rather bumpy here and there are deep puddles. On the northeastern edge there is a large sandy beach. Further down is a walkway leading along the bridge to the city. While I’ve never seen a path that I haven’t wanted to take to see what’s on it, I’ve also never seen a path that I haven’t wanted to leave to see what isn’t on it, so I took a minor detour under the bridge to cross over to the southwestern edge again. The wind on that side was incredibly refreshing as I sat in the shade of the bridge, getting out of the sun for a while. I never did make it to the northern fishing pier. By this time I was tired and thirsty and wanted to head home.
Instead, I made a spontaneous adventure decision (S.A.D.). I stopped at a gas station for water and snacks and returned to the southern park to place my chair on the grass and watch the sunset. I sat and waited and read a little and doodled in the sand with my toes. There was something burning on the horizon sending up a plume of smoke that wrapped around the bay. I thought when the sun went through this that I might get some interesting pictures. Instead, the best pictures were behind me. First there was a rainbow as a cloud went overhead lightly sprinkling on me. Then at sunset there was a cloud whose very top was still in sunlight, reminding me of a stack of pancakes with butter on top. Just before I left, a thunderstorm started in the north, creating a light show better than any fireworks display. This is Tampa Bay.
The last time I visited Hillsborough River State Park, I wasn’t able to take all the trails I wanted so I went back. I first thought that I would take the Old Fort King Trail south to see the parts of it I missed when I visited John B Sargeant County Park and walked north. I was surprised to find it overgrown with grass and open to the sun. It was very hot. I walked for a ways and passed a sign. I don’t know what the sign said, because as I stopped to read it, a gigantic black fly two inches long landed on it right in front of me. It looked much like a horsefly on steroids. I removed myself from the area very quickly. Looking it up later I believe it must have been a type of Mydas fly, which are harmless and also kind of rare – lucky me! Further down the trail, it was still very hot. I considered turning back, but at that exact moment I saw a patch of flowers (see top). That was when I knew I had to keep going. There were many flies, bees, dragonflies, moths, and beetles in more colors than I could ever name.
Finally I reached the shade of the woods but soon found that it was a mixed blessing. Not five seconds after I stepped under the trees I was assaulted by about fifty mosquitoes. I pushed on for a while, but eventually had to turn back.
The Seminole were patient and clever fighters that used the swampy terrain and subtropical climate to their advantage, but they eventually lost to superior numbers and superior firepower. Also, the Floridians sometimes approached under the guise of truce in order to kidnap chiefs. Of course, the Seminole were no angels either; they even kept slaves.
15402 US 301, Thonotosassa, Florida
Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa is a popular route for joggers, bicyclists, and those who just want to stroll by the sea. It also serves as daily driving commute for many. Fortunately for everyone the Boulevard’s median is magically sprinkled with strange and wonderful works of art. One of these is called The Wave – a metal sculpture roughly ten feet tall created by Mary Ann Unger (1945-1998). It is supposed to represent a crashing wave, but people see different things in it. I like to think of it as a gelatinous sea creature sucking water through its body and filtering out plankton. When I see it, which isn’t often, it feels like an old friend.
Art of all kinds is important because otherwise what is the point of life? Do we work in order to pay the bills so we can continue to work? Or do we work to pay the bills in order to have time to play? Our art and our artists are local treasures.
List of public art in Tampa
One of Tampa’s local treasures is also a national treasure that connects us to the past. When the Navy cargo ship American Victory was sitting in Virginia destined for the scrapyard, Captain John C. Timmel arranged for its rescue to live on as a floating museum. One of only three WWII-era Victory-model ships still fully operational, it is open most days of the week for self-guided tours. Not only does it connect us to the past and provide educational benefit, but it serves as a reminder of the efforts of those that kept American soldiers fed, armed, and equipped in Europe, the Pacific, Korea, and Vietnam.
I went to see it and my first impression was that it looks like the game pieces in the Axis-and-Allies board game – only bigger. Once up top, I was surprised how many floors it had. One can see across the channel or look down at the kids playing in the water park nearby. I wandered around the deck, seeing the giant anchor and big guns. Inside I saw the kitchen and insulated food storage. Somewhere a radio played 1940’s-era music. At first I thought that there seemed to be a lot of toilets and showers, but now I think it appropriate based on how many beds there were. My guess would be one bathroom per eight beds. I didn’t count. I suppose when one is on a ship, one doesn’t need to worry about running out of water. Another thing I noticed was that the deck seemed rather smooth and slick. I can only imagine what it would be like rolling back and forth in a storm once it gets a little bit of water on it. It seems like a safety hazard. Is this normal on ships? I should have called ahead to schedule a guide to ask questions (yes, you can do that). Down below there is a collection of various model ships, artifacts, and information placards. I saw giant bullets and shells taller than most children. Wow.
A history of the ship can be found on the website, including the tale of how American Victory broke up sea ice for other ships while leaving a Soviet port despite not being designed for it.
To get to American Victory, take Channelside Avenue in Tampa to the rotary and turn into the entrance for the Florida Aquarium. At the stop sign, take a right and head for the water. Free parking is just around the corner.
705 Channelside Drive, Tampa, Florida
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