[Photos related to this post will appear in a separate gallery post.]
I confirmed yesterday that our awning windows would not be reinstalled until Friday, which left us free to go do something today. We made sure the office had my cell phone number and then left around 9:20 AM for Dunedin, Florida about 30 miles south of where we are currently “camped” at Suncoast Designers. Most of the drive was on US-19 with road construction and moderate-to-heavy traffic the whole way. US-19 from Weeki Wachee south to St. Petersburg is just not an interesting or pleasant drive.
The destination was worth the drive, however, and we arrived at the eastern edge of Dunedin around 10:30 AM and parked near the Serendipity Café. Over the next hour we walked through Dunedin’s historic downtown area to the marina on the Gulf of Mexico and back to the car. Dunedin is the sister city to Stirling, Scotland and the historic downtown area reflects some Scottish heritage; at least the Scottish Heritage Center is there.
It was a gorgeous spring morning for a leisurely stroll with clear skies, bright sunshine, and temperatures around 70 degrees F. This was the sort of day that shows a town like Dunedin in its best light. Dunedin had a nice look and vibe to it–a bit upscale yet funky at the same time–with an assortment of unique restaurants (no chains), shops, and art galleries. It was visually interesting without being pretentious.
We were back at the Serendipity Café a little before 11:30 AM. We got a table for four and Donna and Michael arrived shortly thereafter. They had suggested this restaurant because it was approximately midway between our respective locations and it had some vegan items on the menu. Donna and Michael are members of our FMCA Freethinkers chapter and spent a few nights at Williston Crossings RV Resort in early January where we had a chance to finally meet and get acquainted. They have been vegans for a very long time, so we also have that interest in common. We were glad we could arrange another get-together with them before we left Florida.
We lingered over lunch for 90 minutes enjoying good food and good conversation. I had a “Green Monster” smoothie made with spinach, pineapple, mango, and papaya. Linda and I split the Asian kale salad which included carrots, red pepper, and roasted pumpkin seeds in a ginger/sesame/tamari dressing. We then split the Penne Fresco; brown rice penne pasta with tomato, zucchini, kale, capers, white beans, olive oil, and dill. The ingredients formed a light sauce that tasted like butter. Served slightly warm, it was pleasant and delicious. We split a muffin with dried cherries in it for dessert. It’s always a treat to find a nice little restaurant with vegan choices and even better when we can share it with friends. BTW: every dish at Serendipity Café is organic and gluten-free.
Donna and Michael had been on the Holistic Holiday At Sea cruise in early March so we compared experiences. They were on a different/newer ship than the one we sailed on so we could not directly compare notes on that. They found the educational aspects of the program very informative and decided to drastically reduce the amount of oil they use in their cooking. They were less impressed with the dining, finding many of the dishes bland compared to how they cook, the serving sizes too small, and the meals generally lacking in an adequate quantity of fresh vegetables. They ended up supplementing the special vegan dining with vegetables from the regular buffet. I think that IF you want to go on a cruise, and IF you are a vegan, and IF you would like to take something home from your experience other than a few extra pounds, then the HH@S cruise uniquely meets those requirements. If you are not really that interested in a cruise and/or gourmet vegan dining then VegFest in Pennsylvania provides the same or better educational experience for a lot less money.
We left the cafe around 1:00 PM and made the 3 mile drive north up the coast to Causeway Blvd, so named because it crosses two bridges on either end of a sand bar to form the causeway that connects Honeymoon Island to the mainland. We had to wait briefly for the drawbridge to lower to get onto the island, which got its name when someone many, many years ago built 50 cottages there for honeymooners to use. The first part of the island has some commercial development, but most of the island is Honeymoon Island State Park; the reason for our visit.
We used our annual Florida State Park pass to get in and headed to the nature center to rendezvous with Donna and Michael. The nature center is elevated, probably as protection against hurricane storm surge, but as a result it provides an unobstructed view of the park and surrounding water from its wrap-around deck. We got some good tips from the ranger about an active Bald Eagle nest and a Great Horned Owl at the north end of the Osprey Trail. We also noted the cautions about Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes that inhabit the island in significant numbers. The largest North American rattlesnake, it is one of the six venomous snakes found in Florida.
We drove to the trailhead, parked, and headed out, but not before changing lenses on my DSLR. Any chance I had of capturing wildlife images would require my 100-300 mm zoom lens. The trail out was level, dry, and firm but not hard, with adequate shade. The trees were mostly shorter palms with occasional taller pines, and a light breeze found its way in from the water. The Osprey Trail was appropriately named. We saw at least a dozen Osprey nests, most of them occupied with immature birds. We eventually found the Great Horned Owl roosting high up in a pine tree. The Bald Eagle nest was at the very end of the trail, by definition, as the park had closed off the entire tip of the island to keep human visitors and their pets from disturbing the birds. The pair of adult eagles had successfully hatched two eggs and the immature birds were already fledged and out of the nest. We only saw one adult bird soaring high up and far away, but the nest was impressive enough even without the eagles in it.
We took part of the Pelican Trail on the return hike thinking it might run along the water, but it was separated from the shore by high, thick vegetation. The trail was sandy and lacking in shade, making for a slightly more difficult hike. The air temperature was only 77 degrees F, but the sun was very hot, and we were all glad to get back to our cars. We chatted a while longer in the parking lot, said our farewells, and went our separate ways. Well, initially we went the same way; we were on an island after all, and there was only one way off.
Causeway Blvd becomes FL-586 which we followed east for about five miles to northbound McMullen Booth Road. We followed McMullen Booth Road, which became E Lake Road, north for about 10 miles to Trinity Blvd. Trinity Blvd cut ENE to the southern terminus of Little Road, which we followed north for about 12 miles back to New York Ave. From there it west just a mile or so back west to Suncoast Designers.
We were surprisingly tired considering that it had been a relatively easy day. Linda had some Tofurkey brand “fake bacon” made from tempeh so she made vegan BLTs for dinner along with a simple green salad. We went for a walk after dinner and strolled around the Suncoast property with Bill and Nancy who own the Newmar Essex next to us. A Country Coach Affinity 770 pulled in after we got back and the owner, Steve, came out and joined the conversation for a while. As dusk turned to night the air temperature dropped. We all started to feel the chill and retired to our rigs.