The next stop on our escape from the cold was a big Airstream Rally in Sarasota called Alumaflamingo. It started on Tuesday and ran through Sunday morning. We didn’t think there was any hurry in getting down there from Cedar Key, so we didn’t pull in until mid-afternoon. As it turned out, the party had started without us. We were one of the last to arrive. We got parked way down at the end of a row, at the far edge of the field.
Our location turned out to be a blessing in disguise–all of the action and partying was far far away. Soon after we were set up with some lights and our main flag pole, we went off to explore the huge camping area . . . row after row of all makes and models, looking like one big Airstream dealership.
Another bonus of our location was having a very nice couple for neighbors. Over the next 5 days we made the acquaintance of John and Harrah, who had traveled all the way from Maine. As we were wrapping up our travel through Florida, theirs was just beginning. We enjoyed learning about the plans they had laid out, somewhat envious that we couldn’t follow in their tracks.
Everyday there were numerous seminars and events planned. One was a seminar on Dutch oven cooking that Chris attended. He claims to have picked up a few tips. We already do a fair amount of Dutch oven cooking, weather and time permitting. Sometimes we would split up and attend different lectures. Chris attended one on keeping in touch while on the road. All sorts of computer information and discussions of networds, VPNs, routers, amplifiers, etc. He’s into the tech stuff. Melinda hit one concerning camping in our National Parks. There were tech talks on caring for and maintaining an Airstream trailer. Chris learned several things at these seminars.
Breakfasts were provided each morning; a good place to congregate and make friends. There were a couple of open grills for the dinner meals, and a big catered dinner on the last night. Just about every evening there was live entertainment of some kind. One night Chris went down to listen to a Bluegrass band. It was a fine way to end an evening.
Other evenings we’d wander around looking at all of the Airstreams. We were told there were more than 250 in attendance. As a point of interest, we took note of where they were from—35 different states, also Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
Is it no surprise that sometimes Airstreams get referred to as “Tincup Trailers”?
Many rally members got into the theme of the event—it was surprising where these guys would pop up.
Just none of them were real.
One couple owned an Airstream called a Sky Deck. There were only about 26 made in the early 2000s. They didn’t sell well, so the last 18 made were stripped inside and made into hospitality suites. The couple that owned this one had an open house every night. You could actually go up on top where there was a huge party area. They apparently went to a lot of NASCAR races, so it was perfect for them.
The Rally also provided excursions around the area. Instead of joining up with a group, we headed out on our own one day. The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium sounded interesting to us. An easy drive away, we followed the signs leading to Longboat Key along the Gulf.
Part aquarium and part laboratory, the Mote Marine compound was founded in 1955. An independent nonprofit organization, it has 7 centers for marine research, as well as an education division and the public aquarium. Combining the best qualities of each facility, we found the aquarium to be a very interesting learning experience. Docents and volunteers were on hand at each observation tank.
There was a huge tank for a couple of adult manatees, Hugh and Buffett, and one giant sea turtle, Harriet. We had just arrived in time for their breakfast feeding—that was something to see.
They were being fed kale and Romaine lettuce . . . a few hundred pounds worth. It was obvious to us that the manatees preferred the kale and the turtle was very happy to eat the lettuce. They really are like sea cows, gently moving along munching on their veggies.
Harriett was a little more aggressive about grabbing her food. You wouldn’t want to get caught between those jaws.
There were other exhibits to take in. They brought us closer to life in the underwater world. Some pretty amazing displays . . . filled with some equally amazing creatures.
Just to illustrate a few.
Later in the day, we headed further afield. We enjoyed a scenic drive going up the length of Longboat Key. Great views of the Gulf and more fabulous mansions fronting it. North of Sarasota along the water, we came to the small town of Cortez. With a reputation for being an authentic fishing village, we figured the odds were in our favor that we could find some good seafood for lunch . . . or an early dinner.
The Swordfish Grille fit the bill. A casual, laid-back kind of place located right on the harbor waterfront, its outdoor dining area was what sealed the deal for us.
The food was great, the live music was mellow,
the place was filled with vitality. But it was the surroundings that made it such an ideal place. The foggy atmosphere softened the views we had.
In one direction there were boats slowing pulling out to open waters . . .
While on the opposite side we had a feel for what a real fishing town Cortez truly was.
. . . and where there are fish, the pelicans are not far behind.
Good food . . . good times . . . and did I mention the desserts were homemade?
Back at the rally, things soon would be winding down. Tomorrow the trailers would all be rolling—scattering to the four winds. I think everyone must have been touched with a degree of melancholy . . . it had been such a time of camaraderie.
And then, to set things off in a perfect light, wouldn’t you know this day ended in another warming glow? One thing for sure you can say about Airstream trailers . . . they do know how to reflect the colors of their surroundings.
We were surprised how quickly our time here had passed. We thought 5 days could be way too long, but it passed quickly. From here we turn our course toward the north, slowing but surely making our way towards Indiana.
From the sunny and warm Alumaflamingo.
Chris and Melinda