Traveling up the Gulf Coast
After three days we pulled out of the campground on the Tamiami Trail and headed west to Naples, then up I-75. We stopped briefly in Fort Myers where Melinda’s dad used to live and tried to contact some of his friends without success. Then it was north to Clearwater. We knew we were getting close when the Skyline Bridge loomed in front of us.
We landed in a campground just north of Clearwater, actually Palm Harbor. It was a former KOA and had seen better times. It was, however, perfect for us. It was literally around the block from Chris’ brother and sister-in-law’s home. The rest of the place may have been tired, but the washers and dryers looked new. After a month on the road we needed to run several loads of laundry.
Every evening we visited Dave and Karen and their live-at-home son, Gregory. Melinda has an aunt that lives in Clearwater, so one afternoon we drove down there to visit Aunt Margaret. She moved down here in 1984 and her husband died in the mid 1990s. She had just turned 90, and we think she was really pleased by our visit. Melinda’s dad always looked after her. Now it looks like we’ll be taking over that job.
Pinellas County has the Fred Marquis Pinellas Bike Trail which is a linear park and recreation trail currently extending from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs. It was created along an abandoned railroad corridor. It stretches for more than 45 miles. Chris has biked the whole length on prior visits to his parents. Melinda had yet to give it a try. We rode our bikes over to the trail and went north to Tarpon Springs.
Tarpon Springs is a community founded on sponge diving by early Greek immigrants. Today it is still a thriving Greek community that is definitely an attraction. They still harvest the sponges, as well as commercial fishing, but the tourist trade might well be driving the town’s economy. We enjoyed lunch in one of the many Greek restaurants lining the docks.
On the way back from Tarpon Springs we stopped at Wall Springs Park (nothing to do with this Wall family). The property in and around “Wall Springs” was purchased by Charles F. Wall in 1884 and remained in his family until 1927 when the property was sold to Harry W. Davis. The spring became known as “Wall Springs” during ownership by the Wall family. Once the property was sold to the Davis family, the spring became known as “Health Springs” and was used as a health spa. When the property was purchased by the Cullen Family in 1948 the spring name changed back to “Wall Springs” and the area was used as a recreational area until the mid–1960’s. The spring and adjoining pond were used as a spa & bathing area from the turn of the 20th century until the mid 1960’s. Pinellas County began acquiring the Wall Springs property in 1988 and is now approximately 210 acres in total size. It is a very peaceful and pretty piece of property adjacent to the gulf. Located right off the Bike Trail, the park has its own paved trails that we also explored. With the spa and pool now gone, the area is reverting back to its natural appearance. I’m sure the birds and other wildlife find that especially appealing, as the surrounding area has been absorbed by commercialism.
One afternoon we all went in Dave and Karen’s boat out on Tarpon Lake and motored up to the Tarpon Turtle, a restaurant located right on the lake. We tied up and had a great lunch on a nice sunny day, and then boated back home.
The last time we were on the lake was several years ago. It was overcast and pretty cold. We literally saved a family that had been sailing in the middle of the lake when their recently purchased sailboat tipped over. They were stuck out there in the water a good mile from shore with only two life jackets for three people. Dad was about to swim to shore when we arrived. They couldn’t have been more ecstatic. We ended up towing them to shore and righting the sailboat. They tried to pay us, but we refused. The father asked for our names as we pulled out. Chris’ brother shouted back “Clayton Moore.” He has always been a quick thinker.
On our final evening we went up to Sunset Park near Tarpon Springs to watch the sunset. It isn’t the first time we’ve gone to a public area at sunset time, where we always find a crowd coming together. Not just for the sake of picture taking either. For us, we don’t get to see them that often in Terre Haute, especially with the sun sinking into large masses of water. And, of course, it’s really enjoyable standing out there in shorts and T-shirts.
From the waters of the Gulf,
Chris and Melinda