Greetings, Turkeys. Thanksgiving 2017.

Hello. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent ours in Indianapolis at our very favorite extended stay hotel because it’s a work week. This is our second Thanksgiving in a row at this hotel. Not that we’re counting. It’s actually kind of awesome being here around the holidays. Everything is pre-decorated. We roll in from wherever and, BAM, it’s a winter wonderland in the lobby.

As an added bonus, my birthday was just a few days ago and my mother sent me a holiday package which included a big Happy Birthday balloon. This tipped off the staff and they created a birthday surprise for me.  At 7 am.

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It really pays to be a regular.

We spent the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving tooling around Florida.  Spent some quality time in Gulfport and hit up a truly stunning mid-century modern architecture tour in Sarasota. For people without a house, we love a good house tour.

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Jennifer trying to imagine the sunken living room as a hurricane bunker. We’re still wearing the booties. They’re very comfortable.

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That amazing bar was shipped piece by piece from…Stockholm, maybe? In case you’re still bar shopping, Wills. And, yes, we are frequently the youngest people in the room. By decades.

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Our plan was to work our way back to Indianapolis via Tallahassee so we could visit Jennifer’s dad.  We ended up stopping along Florida’s Forgotten Coast. It’s a stretch of Florida between the Gulf of Mexico and something called the Apalachee Bay. We only went there because we read about a chill campground on a barrier island. It was crazy amazing. White sand beaches. Beautiful campsites. Pet friendly. Not freezing. We ended up staying for a few days.

 

 

Also, we love food but we’ve decided we can’t eat at one more restaurant with artisanal ice cubes. Not for a while, at least. Because of this, we’ve been hitting up some more out-of-the-way spots. This part of Florida is very well known for it’s oysters but a little research (an article titled “Deadly Harvest) revealed that eating those oysters can result in death if they’re not properly handled. After tons of discussion, we decided we’d only eat the cooked oysters. Then we came to our senses.

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Seriously some of the best oysters ever. At a place without a hand-crafted cocktail menu, but WITH an honor system beer cooler. We’re moving in the right direction.

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This is another solid establishment. FYI: smoked fish is staple in Florida. Lots of these places had smokers outside and super delicious smoked fish spread on the menu.

We also entertained our first dinner guest. In the van. Jennifer’s dad is a trooper. Plus, he’s a flight instructor and we got to spend the night basically on the runway. Our Travato fit right in.

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That’s about it. Right now we’re packing up to get back on the road. We’ve got about two weeks to amuse ourselves. We’re going to point the van south until the temperatures become acceptable and figure it out from there. We may go back for more oysters and we might end up in New Orleans. We’ll let you know.

 

Sweet Spice Down. Irma Update.

Well, it’s official. Sweet Spice, our island paradise home is gone. We’re still stateside and so we haven’t seen the damage in person, but the words that have been used to describe it are “destroyed”, “totally destroyed”, “missing”, and “not much left.”

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Weirdly, one of our neighbors found our high-quality sign in the rubble. It outilved the house.

We’re fine. We’re in Indianapolis where Jennifer is finishing up a week of work. We were supposed to head back home in a few days, but that can’t happen now. Not just because we don’t have a house or any possessions left, but also because the whole island is just devastated. I mean, really devastated. The pictures we’ve seen and the few messages we’ve gotten from friends, neighbors, and the coconut telegraph have been totally heartbreaking. As far as we can tell, it’s just a complete disaster zone. Here’s a picture I stole from an interweb page about our neighborhood.21761666_10209811717829745_5002246930315855434_n

The media coverage of the Virgin Islands was super sparse, especially in the first few days  after the storm but there are some reports coming out now. Like this article in the Washington Post about how the people in our neighborhood, Coral Bay, are coping. Read it. It’s totally amazing. And speaking of things that are amazing, almost everyone we can think of has been accounted for. If you see the pictures, you’ll know how crazy that it is.

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Before

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After

And then maybe if you’re feeling generous you could make a donation so that the people in STJ can buy chainsaws and diapers and tarps and mosquito repellent, and hopefully maybe some beer because my neighbors have been huddling under mattresses in a Category 5 hurricane, dodging power lines and dead donkeys, cutting each other out of barricaded houses, and just generally surviving for 8 days already and I think they deserve some beer. This is St. John we’re talking about after all. Withdrawal is a real consideration.

As far as our plans go, we really don’t have any yet. I think we’re a little shell shocked. We just sold our Winnebago, by the way. That was actually one of our goals when we planned this trip. Things were going so swimmingly with all the improvements at Sweet Spice we decided to just focus on the house. Good timing. Go us.

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Coachese in happier times.  So long, Coachese!

I don’t know much about blogging, but I’m pretty sure I read that it’s really important to pick a specific subject and stick with it.  That’s going to be fairly fucking tough since this blog is supposed to be about our travels in our Winnebago and our life in our house in St. John…and we don’t have either of those things anymore. So, unless you’re super stoked to read about whatever it is that we end up doing from here on out, feel free to un-follow us or de-subscribe or whatever. Who could blame you?

Our post-Tuesday reality will most likely involve driving down to Florida to stay with family while we figure out what’s next. Ultimately, we’ll rebuild and live in STJ. We know this. We just have to figure out how. I mean, we’d like nothing better than to go home on Tuesday. Because clearly what St. John needs right now is two more homeless, middle-aged ladies. And their dogs.  Probably not. So for the immediate future we’re completely open to suggestions. Seriously. Ideas currently being batted around include: another RV (that actually works), a tent on our property, a container house. We’re spinning. Who has ideas?

 

Gulfport, Fl. In Excruciating Detail.

We’re spending quite a bit of time in Gulfport trying to decide what our next move will be, road trip-wise. We’re having a pretty good time down here so we thought we would share the hits with you guys, in case you ever end up in the Gulfport/St. Petersburg/ Tampa area of Florida. Basically, Will and Olivia, this one’s for you for the next time you visit Mom and Dad. You’re welcome.

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Gulfport

Things to know. Gulfport is a quirky little town on the beautiful Gulf Coast of Florida. It’s basically right next to St. Petersburg which is extremely close to Tampa. Very confusing. Anyway, it’s a beach town with a sort of shabby-chic Golden Girls vibe. Think hippie-meets-hip-hop-meets-hip replacement. With lots of random strip malls, gorgeous bays, carpet stores, independent motels and palm trees. Needless to say, I can’t get enough of it. Here’s some stuff to do and/or eat:

Dali Museum: Yes, as in Salvador Dali. So random that it’s here- but it is. It’s right on the water in downtown St. Petersburg and the building itself is incredible. We’ve seen the permanent collection, which is impressive, as well as a temporary exhibit about the relationship between Dali and Disney. Totally fascinating. Next up is an exhibit revolving around  the food of Ferran Adria (El Bulli) and how he transformed gastronomy in the way Dali transformed art. You see how this works. They’re doing a good job over there, keeping it interesting.  Plus, there’s a very solid Spanish-centered cafe on the ground floor.

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Inter-species love in downtown St. Pete (near the Dali museum, of which we have no pictures). Whoops.

Tarpon Springs: This is a little cuckoo. It’s a town settled by Greek sponge-divers. It’s still very Greek. People speaking Greek, Greek restaurants everywhere, Greek coffee. It’s like a legit, cheesy, tourist town in Greece with no passport required. Not a bad little day-trip. We heard good things about the whole fish dinner at a place called Hellas, but didn’t get a chance to try it. About an hour away from Gulfport. Take alternate Rt. 19 for a nice drive.

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Not one passport.

Ringling Museum: Yes, Ringling as in  The Circus. This place is so spectacular I don’t even know where to begin. We actually became members. Not even kidding. There are basically three attractions at the Ringling campus: The Circus Museum, The Art Museum, and John and Mabel Ringling’s fully-restored 1920’s palacial Florida home which is called Ca’D’Zan. It’s bananas. In case you were wondering, Ca’D’Zan means John’s House in some obscure Italian dialect. John Ringling was a big fan of naming everything after himself, which I enjoy immensely.

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The basics.

Anyway, make Ca’D’Zan your focus and do it first. Definitely do the tours (get the whole package so you get into the third floor and onto the roof). This is not a huge commitment, maybe an hour and a half total, but you get the whole history of the Ringlings (who are now solidly placed on my mental list of  The World’s Greatest Childless Couples) and really sets you up to appreciate the whole campus.The guides are stellar. Ours was dressed up and kept insisting it was 1924, which was a little awkward because the only other couple on the tour clearly wasn’t that into him. Luckily, they cheaped out on the extended tour so we ended up with a private guide after the 2nd floor.This happens to us a lot. Don’t cheap out.

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Ca’D’Zan. Yep.Craziness.

After Ca’D’Zan, definitely walk over and check out the art museum, it’s beautiful. It’s another John Ringling creation. He built a world-class art museum in a swamp in the twenties, basically as a gimmick to get people to buy real estate in Sarasota (my interpretation). I love everything about that.

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Art museum. Very subtle.

Finally, swing by the Circus museum. I thought this would be my favorite part of the whole thing, and it definitely is cool, but it kind of gets overshadowed by the other stuff. (This might be because part of the Circus museum was closed when were there because of some HVAC crisis.) The one real “can’t-miss” exhibit at the Circus Museum is the miniature circus. It sounds ridiculous and boring, but it’s weirdly fascinating. This guy, who’s name I forgot, has devoted many years of his life to building a complete model depiction of the circus in it’s heyday. Every detail is covered. The big tops. The stables. The commissary. The backlot. I know this is a tough-sell, but really- go.

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Partial view of mini-circus, from above. For a mini-circus, it’s enormous.

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My brother was the World’s Biggest Gunther Gebel-Williams fan when he was a kid. So fabulous, so odd. Here you go, Will.

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Jennifer kicking it with some depression-era clowns. I laugh every time I see this one. Very convincing.

Bodega on Central: Cuban coffee and sandwiches served from a walk-up window in the very cool Central Arts District of St. Petersburg. Definitely trendy (there’s a juice bar), but the Cuban sandwiches are Sofa King amazing and the staff is top-notch. Seriously. They know what they’re doing and they crank it out. I love it. I’m very tired of going to too-cool-for-school places that have great food and an absolute inability to make change, keep a line moving, or wipe a counter. Also, all the seating is outside and it’s dog-friendly.

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World’s Best Cuban Sandwich in St. Petersburg

Mangia: healthy lunch option in Gulfport. Good salads, lots of vegetarian options, dog-friendly patio. It is our go-to lunch pick because it’s close to home and we never feel gross after eating here. This can be sort of a french fries and cole slaw town, and after a while those just don’t count as vegetables. Mangia is our solution.

Locale Market: This place is basically a gourmet food-court/grocery store combo. My suspicion is 95% of their patrons are there for the prepared food and the groceries are mostly for decoration. It is very hip, and very confusing and almost impossible to actually buy something. Still, we went a bunch. High quality meats and seafood. Also, it’s right next to the movie theater.

Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish: Weird roadside fish stand, very close to Gulfport. Apparently, it’s a Florida tradition. They basically have platters of smoked fish, german potato salad, and beer. You should have lunch here.

Fort DeSoto State Park: Huge state park with an amazing dog beach. They have very nice human beaches, too. And an interesting fort. But really, it’s like dog paradise. In addition to the dedicated dog beach, there are couple of enormous, fenced dog parks with dog showers. Love it.

 

We had a lot of fun. Thanks Mom and Dad!

*Sorry for the long post. Turns out we probably should have posted as went. The youth are trying to sell us on using Instagram. We’re considering it.