I’m a little slow getting to this, because we’ve been busy!
Our week at Alafia State park was spent in glorious weather – cool nights and warm, dry days. The park itself was absolutely beautiful, and mostly un-crowded. The parking lot at the bike trailhead got busy on weekends, but the campground was never full.
We spent quite a bit of our time simply staying and playing in the park. Jeff romped on the bike trails and I explored most of the 20 miles of equestrian/hiking trails. Stepping outside my door onto hiking trails was a true pleasure. As hiking trails go, they were pleasant, but not spectacular – mostly flat, some parts wooded, some parts grassy field.
We did explore areas outside the park as well. One day we hopped on the motorcycle and drove to St. Petersburg beach for lunch. On the way there, we swung into Lithia Springs Park, an out of the way gem that boasts a swimming area filled by a crystal-clear flowing spring welling up from the ground. At a constant 72 degrees year round, I can see how this swimming hole would be a popular place in the summer! The park also had a campground which was beautiful, but probably a bit tight for our big rig.
Our good friend Jose drove up from Miami on Friday night to join us for the weekend. After romping on the trails Saturday morning, the boys kicked back and watched the many college football games on the big screen TVs – first inside and then transitioned to the outside TV as the sun set. A campfire behind you, big screen football in front of you plus a beer in your hand = big boy heaven!
On Sunday, the three of us traveled over to historic Ybor City, just northeast of downtown Tampa. It was founded in the 1880s by Vicente Martinez-Ybor and other cigar manufacturers and was populated by thousands of immigrants, mainly from Cuba, Spain, and Italy. Today Ybor City is a shopping and entertainment district that retains much of its old-world architecture and charm. After wandering through a local cigar festival and stopping for a quick beer at a nearby Irish pub, we ate dinner at the Columbia Restaurant. Founded in 1905, the Columbia is Florida’s oldest restaurant and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. The photo shows the dining room we ate in – one of 5 that are each distinctly different in décor. My Basque-style grouper was tasty and the sangria hit the spot!
Before leaving Ybor City, we made a quick stop at the Coppertail Brewing Company. Jeff had discovered their beer at the local Publix grocery store, and picked up a six-pack of their “Unholy” brew. He bought it because he liked the name, but we both liked the beer! You have to be careful though, because at a 9.2% alcohol content, it can quickly make its unholy effects felt! We had the opportunity to taste some of Coppertail’s different offerings, which were widely varied and creative.
The next morning (Monday), we packed up and headed to Orlando, where we are currently parked at a KOA. The next two weeks are devoted to theme parks!!