We are back in Clearwater Beach, an old haunt for us since the late 1980s. Our trip got off to an odd start, a one hour ground hold on the runway in Omaha due to a very slow moving thunderstorm. The scramble to rebook soon-to-be missed flights started even before we left the ground and continued as we passed through Chicago. There was a stampede to get off the aircraft. We were not affected by the delay given that we were on the same aircraft (a new Boeing 737-800—capacity 175 passengers) for both the Omaha to Chicago and Chicago to Tampa flights. The Boeing 737-800 is a great ride from a passenger perspective, although one crew member told us that there was little room for their gear.
Air travel has always been exciting for me. As a very young person, I first flew from Chicago (Midway) to New York (La Guerdra). I have visited the cockpit (in the old days), have been on an aircraft hit by lightning, have been diverted from landing in Bejing to a military base in China, have been greeted by dozens of heavily armed men on the tarmac in Budapest, have been on a four engine plane when an engine was shut down (TWA flight), watched one of my cousins make good use of a paper bag, and have landed in a driving snowstorm (Chisinau to Bucharest on Air Moldova) when no U.S. airline would have flown (the airport was actually shut down when we landed). Airports have become even more interesting, and annoying, in recent years. The new TSA rules have complicated and extended, for good reason, time in the airport—no more being dropped off 30 minutes before a departure. Moreover, the new rules have brought out some of the strangest behaviors. The TSA Instagram site indicates that in the last two years the following items have been confiscated (yes, you knew the items would be scanned) as passengers were going through security checks:
- Stun grenades (Memphis), Elvis?
- Hatchet (Boston Manchester)
- Samurai Sword (Boston Logan)
- 81 pounds of marijuana (Oakland), traveling to Colorado?
- Fireworks (several airports)
- Flare gun and five flares (Portland, OR)
- Novelty alarm clock (Kansas City)- the clock was made to look like several sticks of dynamite with a clock timer
Our time at the beach has been great. It’s hot a very humid most of the day (we like that), and rain is always falling somewhere in the vicinity at this time of year. The water temperature is in the high 80s this time of year, right now it is 89 degrees (Fahrenheit), providing a great factory for heavy thunderstorms, strong winds, and fabulous lightning shows. Bigger storms will follow as the summer progresses. And this rain is not the gentle kind with a few drops here and there. Downpours, frog stranglers, gully washers…arrive and people scramble for cover.
The beach is also wedding central at this time of the year. We saw five weddings one evening, and at least one almost each evening. Wedding planners have to anticipate the rain, the odd soccer game, and some folks who appear to be oblivious to their surroundings. Some of the ceremonies are fancy affairs, complete with temporary seating and rose petals that mark the route the bride travels through the sand. No, I did not make that up. The largest wedding we saw had 73 chairs for guests. The guests sat there for a long, long time in the late-day sun waiting for the show to begin. Think hot, sweaty and facing a very hot sun.
We also went to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. The museum is new, 2012, and is well-designed for viewing on your own or with groups. The structure itself is a fine piece of art, complete with a funky glass exterior and a spiral staircase in the middle of the building. The impressive collection has been in St. Petersburg since 1982, and was once displayed in a refurbished marine warehouse (I went there twice). The Morse’s from Cleveland, Ohio began the collection with their first purchase of Dali art in 1943.
The museum holds the largest collection of Dali art, over 1,500 pieces, except for the museum that Dali created himself. The St. Petersburg Dali museum contains 7 of 18 of his masterwork paintings (largest collection in the world). It is in these works that one can see the brilliance of his concepts and the finished product. Wow! We also visited the Ringling art museum in Sarasota, Florida—they have a great collection of paintings by Ruebens.