South/Southeast Road Trip: Florida – Gulf Side

Thursday, January 3, 2019


At the beginning of the trip we had some grand ambitions about making it down to Miami. Fortunately, we decided to cut the driving down to a more reasonable number of hours. Jeremy isn’t really a beach person, and instead prefers to see it from the car or by walking. I still remember our first trip to Hawaii. He told me he could watch James, so I relaxed on my towel, closed my eyes, and started to enjoy the sun. A few minutes later, Jeremy said he was ready to go. Why? “Well, if you are just going to lie there and sleep, we should go do something fun.” Umm. Okay. Many years later we managed to add 500 miles to the rental car while on the island of Kauai.

This time the boys sided with me, and we decided to compare Atlantic-side Daytona Beach with Gulf-side Clearwater. With a flight out of Orlando, this seemed to make much more sense.

The Hotel

Unfortunately, last minute beach-side balcony rooms were a bit harder to come by than in Jacksonville, but we did manage to find a hotel, Pier House 60, one block away from the beach that turned out to be fairly nice. The beds are fine if you sleep on your back, but slightly hard if you sleep on your side. Otherwise, we have a fairly nice balcony with a water view, breakfast was mediocre, and the rooms super clean. And who can resist the amazing towel dog they left for us!


Early-bird Jeremy was up in time for sunrise, again, while the rest of us slept in. Beautiful!


Scoping out the Beach

Once the rest of us got up and we got breakfast, we decided to go scope out the beach. I loved the walking path and the kids loved the giant turtle.


Given that the beach across the street from our hotel looked awesome, our walk didn’t take long. We went back to our room, changed into our suits, grabbed our flip-flops, and headed out for the day.

The Dolphin

The sand was perfect for the boys! They really enjoyed making a dolphin.


And since the beach was littered with beautiful shells, they had no problems with decorating it.


The Water

The water was cool, but not frigid, so the boys were quite happy.


The Walk

Jeremy enjoyed walking down to the pier, and both of us enjoyed our beach umbrella, which we rented for the day.


More Time in the Water

The boys thoroughly enjoyed the water.


The Attack of the Seagulls!

Not only did they spend hours running through the water, but during lunch a flock of seagulls attacked us. Jeremy noticed a McDonalds a 5 minute walk away, so he brought us back some food. As soon as John’s burger was out of the box, a bird discovered it. After playing tug-of-war with his hamburger, John took off running while they swarmed around him. He ran in circles, finally dropping off his mangled hamburger on my beach table, where the birds triumphantly carried it off. By this time, we had safely put the rest of the food back in the packaging, and nervously ate the rest, being careful not to have any food exposed for longer than a few seconds. The sea gulls gave us the evil eye, occasionally circling like vultures, and kept trying to get close, but we managed to fend them off until Jeremy was able to dispose of our trash. Too bad no one had presence of mind to pull out a video camera.


The Sand

When the boys got cold, they would occupy themselves in the sand. Not sure how I feel about this almost complete mummification. Luckily there was no sand in the eye.


Happy, but Tired

All in all, it was a good day. By 4:30pm, the fog was rolling in and everyone was ready to head out, so we went back to the hotel for showers, journaling, and rest.


For dinner, we found a relatively mediocre waterside restaurant.

Thursday, January 4, 2019

The Beach Stroll

After sleeping in a bit, we had a so-so hotel breakfast, then headed down to the beach for a stroll. With an evening flight, we didn’t want to get too dirty, so decided to confine ourselves to the walkways. Quite fun! The beach was very pretty.

St. Petersburg

We made it back to the hotel a little before 11, checked out, and started driving towards St. Petersburg. Very different from the Russian version, although there were plenty of references to the Russian founders. We even found a cute Russian art store and the boys admired a bunch of animal figurines.


Our walk started with a stroll through Demens Landing Park. I could have spent a long time there, but since everyone was getting hungry, we headed towards downtown. We have been a bit tired of heavy food, so we decided to try a sushi restaurant, even though most of the wait staff was non-Asian and there were no Japanese customers. The resulting food was passable but so-so – probably the best dish was James’ [non-Japanese] General Tso’s Chicken. But still was good for variety.

After lunch, we wandered around the downtown, stopping to get a new battery for my watch, an overpriced caramel apple for James, and gelato for Jeremy and John.

The Drive

As we headed back to the car, we checked traffic to Orlando, and soon realized that afternoon congestion was worse than expected. The trip to the airport was tighter than would have been ideal, but we were pleased to see that the car rental return was connected to the terminal, check-in was quick, security not terrible, and we made it to our gate with time to spare.

San Diego

There are definitely non-stops from Orlando to San Francisco. But since we booked only a few weeks in advance, we found a much cheaper fare (maybe by half?) that had an overnight layover in San Diego. So, we booked a hotel a few miles from the airport, which we Ubered right after arrival. Since our bags were checked through to San Francisco, we didn’t need to deal with luggage, and were able to get about 7  hours of sleep before heading back to the airport.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Flight Delays, turbulence, then a diversion

Given that San Diego is relatively warm weather place, we were expecting an easy 1.5 hour hop up to SFO on the first flight of the day. But that wasn’t the case, given the rain and fog in the Bay Area. First a 15 minute delay, then 1 hour 45 minutes. We left about 2 hours late.

In the air, the turbulence was quite bad. During landing the turbulence was so bad that the pilot aborted the landing attempt, and up we went. The whole plane was feeling mildly nauseous. I had my airsick bag open. Then we tried again on a different runway that is rarely used at the SFO airport. This time, Jeremy pulled out his bag. The woman two rows ahead of us filled up two bags. Then someone pushed the call button and the flight attendants asked them to push it again if it was an emergency. On the light went. It seems like it had been a while since the seats were restocked with new bags, so flight attendants came rushing down the aisles, passing out more bags to anyone who had their hands up – must have been 30-40. More vomiting ensued and the second landing attempt was aborted.

Diversion to Sacramento

The pilot came on the loudspeaker and informed us we were heading to Sacramento. So much for only being 2 hours late. Fortunately, the landing there was uneventful. We were told that they were going to try to fly there later in the afternoon, or we could deplane and make our own way home.

Quickly pulling up the Expedia app on his phone, Jeremy found a one-way car rental for only $47 (less than the Uber home from SFO), so we decided to deplane. A reliable 2 hour drive and no more scary landing attempts seemed worth it. Originally, they told us that they would take our bags off the plane, but later changed their minds to deliver to our house. Sigh. We later checked the arrival times, and found that we got home in the rental car about a half hour earlier than the plane eventually landed in SFO airport. “Win!”

James thought the landings were a grand adventure. John was so engrossed with the TV that he didn’t even notice the poor landing attempts and was surprised when we landed in Sacramento.  Even with the “adventure” getting home, it was still a really fun trip!

Keep reading our travel blog for more travel ideas in the American South/Southeast:

Here are some more blog posts from this particular road trip:

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