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2006-03-22 - 9:22 a.m.

Monday and Tuesday the University gave off to staff for Spring Break. Whoohoo! So instead of spending it recovering from Gulf Wars or going to MTA, Alan and I flew down to Florida to visit my folks. But first we spent Friday night with Rob and Wendy celebrating St. Pat's Day with take out fish and chips from the Royal Mile Pub, and watching some Elvis movies to prepare for Bob's Party. First we watched King Creole which was astonishingly good, with hints of Tennessee Williams... Then I was lured by the absurdity of Harem Scarum which lived up to its reputation of bad. But watched mostly on fast forward, with pauses to get the "plot" it was at least entertaining with bad costumes, non-arabian arabian horses, improbable plot twists, and typical singing and dancing... Whoa.

Alan and I had an early flight on Saturday morning to Tampa, which we missed by 5 minutes. sigh. We obviously underestimated the other spring breakers that made traffic and security more dense than we expected. I've never missed a flight before, that sucked. So we got on another flight two hours later to Orlando instead. That was frustrating, but what do you do? When we finally get to Florida, we find out that winds on Tampa Bay were low, so our delay, while annoying, was actually a bit lucky. So we went directly from Orlando to St. Petersburg to hop on a sailboat.

Mom had an offer from one of her patients to go sailing, so she siezed that opportunity for our visit. Walt and Susan have a lovely 38 foot catch (two masted sailboat) that we took out into Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The winds picked up in the afternoon and were great. Alan and I helped out Walt a bit, and even put Dad to work. Walt was pleased to have Alan to put at the helm, which allowed him to relax. They bought the boat in NC and sailed it home to St. Pete's. The boat was built in 1979, which isn't old really, and it was in great shape. It was lacking some of the newer luxury features such as rope biting winches, but sailed like a dream.
(To clarify: they make plain winches that simply give mechanical advantage, but you have to maintain tension on to secure when done tighting a line. They also make "self-tailing" winches which give you a place to lay the rope/line that holds it while you can tighten etc. Standard. Self-Tailing.)
The winds were great, Alan got the boat up to 7 knots of speed a few times, with a 15 degree heel. We spent all afternoon and evening sailing and had dinner on the boat anchored back in the bay. Susan was an excellent host providing pressed Cuban sandwiches with edamame, fruit salad and chips and salsa for lunch, and steamed shrimp, spinach and asparagus salad and stuffed shells for dinner. We killed a couple of beers and bottles of wine and in general had a grand time. We got back to the parents' house late on Sat night, and crashed easily.

Sunday we got to sleep in and celebrate Mom's birthday with a nice brunch at the clubhouse, visiting some of their friends on the walk back and getting blessed with yummy cookies, and spent the rest of the day watching NCAA games and hot tubbing. It was an excellent relaxing day and we didn't use a car the entire day.

Monday we had a tour booked of Florida Southern College's campus in Lakeland to see the largest single collection of Frank Lloyd Wright's work. It was great to see that collection of buildings, and the weather was gorgeous for spending outside. The detail and design of the buildings, initially built by the students around WWII, is very impressive. We also got to walk down to Lake Hollingsworth and see some of the wildlife, as well as taking a peek at the Hindu meditation garden. The smell of the orange blossoms was wonderfully overpowering.

Then we went and poked around Walt's pottery collection at Glades Pottery and Gallery store in downtown Dade City. He does this lovely crystal glaze which creates an interesting texture and pattern on his works. Alan found a lovely plate for our mantle, and my folks scored a lamp for their living room. Finally we had an excellent dinner out at a nice Italian place called Benedetto's in Land O Lakes. The food was amazing. I had escargot for an appetizer, yummy emusified raspberry vinegarette dressing on the house salad, delectable almond encrusted grouper, and polished off with a yummy chocolate mousse cake. Alan and my folks shared the Mound of Mussels, and he had a Shrimp and Crabmeat Bianca dish. They also plied us with pink wine (my choice) and Alan with martinis. Oh dear, we left that place pleased and full. They also had a nice piano bar player/singer who was pretty good and took requests so we enjoyed lovely ambiance as well.

Yesterday was the flight home, which we made, and unpacking, napping, Spike channel watching, and continuing relaxing. Now, back to work...

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