Life seems to be in fast forward lately. I’ve blinked and it’s November. In a flash, E. has already finished the first of many, many marking periods of her schooling and I feel like in about five more minutes, we’ll be filling out college applications.
I really wanted to take her away for a little adventure toward the end of the summer, but, and I hate to even say this, there just wasn’t any time. When I saw on the calendar that there’d be no school for two days in October, I decided to make that our long overdue Mother-Daughter adventure time. We would have loved for it to been a full Jovi family adventure but my husband just couldn’t take the days off.
But what should we do? I considered staying in town and hitting the Disney parks nonstop but just decided that a) we do that enough already and b) if we did, then the temptation would be there to do other, less fun stuff, like dentist appointments or house projects.
I did what I always do when I have a problem I can’t solve — I took to Twitter to
whine seek counsel. And as usual, Twitter came through in a big way. One of my goals was to try someplace new. I’ve lived in Florida for 10 years now and there are still many (many) beaches I’ve never been to. I actually have an idea of finding some master beach list somewhere and knocking off every one. Anyone ever see anything like that? I mean, if you’re going to be a Floridian, you might as well Florida up, right?
After a lot of thought and great suggestions from Twitter, I finally settled on a place that Jen Cook, the one person who actually does WAY more stuff than me, suggested: the Bilmar Beach Resort in Treasure Island.
It was exactly what we were looking for. It was about 2 1/2 hours from Orlando, located just north of St. Petersburg Beach. And thanks to it being off-season, they were running a nice Florida resident rate.
E. and I got up Thursday morning and finally hit the road around 10. For a nice change of pace, I hit no major traffic between Orlando and Tampa.
Thankfully our room was ready early. Based on Jen’s advice, I chose a Gulf-view room and I’m so glad I did.
The room was very clean and updated and had a nice little kitchenette with a mini-fridge, stove, sink and microwave. But best of all? It had a balcony.
Our room was on the fifth (of six) floors, and as you can see, the view was spectacular.
There was only one major hitch in our plans. After months and months of sweltering heat, guess what arrived the day we left for our trip? A cold front. Now I know you northerners are scoffing at me, but on the day we got there, it was only predicted to hit 74 degrees and I doubt it ever got anywhere near that. It was COLD! But we soldiered on.
We started with a quick lunch at the Sloppy Joe’s downstairs (you can see its deck below, but we ate inside since it was so cool). I was so excited that I saw there was a Sloppy Joe’s at the hotel. As you may recall, Key West is a place very near and dear to my heart. Sadly, even though it carried the name was clearly affiliated with the Key West location, it was a pale imitation. I think we were there at a bad time (early afternoon with a skeleton crew) but the service was awful and our food wasn’t great. And my favorite Sloppy Joe’s order, the coconut shrimp, wasn’t even on the menu.
After lunch, E and I decided a) we wouldn’t be returning to Sloppy Joe’s and b) we were going to try and brave the pool. Well, one of us was.
She kept trying to convince me that “you’ll get used to it, Mommy!” but her chattering teeth and increasingly blue lips told a different story. Finally, I coaxed her into the hot tub.
The longer the sun was out, the warmer it started to feel (or maybe that was wishful thinking?), so we decided to head down to the beach. Despite the fact that Bilmar is right on the beach, it’s still a long walk to the water. It’s a WIDE beach. Still, the view made up for it and since we weren’t lugging a ton of stuff, the walk wasn’t bad. Here’s the view from the water back toward the hotel.
And since the day was so chilly, we had the whole beach to ourselves.
According to the Interwebs, the ocean water was in the mid- to high 70s but it felt pretty chilly, so we only went in to our knees. We spent most of our time hunting shells, digging in the sand and chasing beach birds. I was hoping there would be bigger shells like we’ve found in Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island, but they were all pretty small. Still, there were many gorgeous small ones and since we usually go to the shell-free Daytona Beach, it was a nice change of scenery.
And minute by minute, I felt my stress levels lowering. I don’t know about you, but staring out to the ocean always centers and relaxes me.
After awhile, we headed up to our room to relax for a bit. I was excited to have tons of free time to read “Allegient” and E was excited for unlimited TV/Kindle time. Hooray for mini-vacation!
Eventually, we tore ourselves away from our devices and headed out to explore for a bit by car. I wanted to get a better lay of the land while it was still light out and figure out if we could walk anywhere for dinner. One of E’s requests for the weekend was to fly a kite, so we found a surf store in St. Petersburg Beach, and despite the sales lady pushing E. towards all the princess and girly kites, my girl found something more her style — a Clone Wars kite.
After exploring the area south of Treasure Island (St. Petersburg Beach), we turned around and headed north, checking out St. John’s Pass and Madeira Beach. I’d also wanted to check the distance from the hotel to St. John’s Pass because I was planning on heading to the Seafood Festival there the following night and I wanted to figure out if it was walkable for us. It wasn’t. It was only about 1.5 mile or so but there was a big drawbridge at the end. If DadJovi had been with us, we would have done it, but I did not feel like carrying my 48 pounder up that bridge.
It was getting close to sunset and I knew there was no way E. was going to be able to stand waiting until the next day to fly her kite, so we headed back down to the beach.
And I’m telling you, it was my most successful parenting moment to date. That baby took off high into the sky, and I think it’s just about the happiest I’ve ever seen my kid. I was such a hero.
The sun was setting, E was grinning from ear-to-ear and I could hear the guitar player at the beach bar playing Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive.” It was about as perfect a moment as you’ll get.
For probably 45 minutes or so, we played with that kite in the sky, walking around the beach and letting it dip up and down. And, of course, I was, much to E’s annoyance, singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” over and over. Pure bliss.
As the sun got lower and lower, I told her that I needed to wind it back up so we could head up to the hotel before it got too dark. As I began the long process of bringing the string in, she started digging a hole.
When the kite was about, oh, maybe 10 feet away from me, a huge gust of wind blew in, ripping it out of my hands. I screamed and went running. Then E started running. And before we could reach it, it was gone, out over the water.
So much for being parent of the year. No parent has ever gone from hero to goat faster. E started screaming over and over again “MY KITE!!! MY STAR WARS KITE!!! I WANT MY KITE!!!” People enjoying the sunset on the beach were coming over to make sure everything was OK, and we just helplessly watched it sail out over the ocean, farther and farther away. At one point, it nearly hit a sunset cruise boat.
I felt horrible for E. but I felt more horrible for all of the marine animals I may have potentially injured. My only silver lining is that 90 percent of the string was wound up, but still. I still feel so awful.
So much for perfect moments.
It actually did turn into a teaching moment. Earlier in the day, E. had made some comment about how she always makes mistakes. We had a long conversation about how everyone makes mistakes and that’s how we learn, but I still think she was feeling down on herself a bit. Well, exhibit A that even Mommies make mistakes? Believe me, a week later, and she’s still bringing it up. So, yeah, I totally did it for the teaching moment. Totally.
After the trauma of The Runaway Kite, we weren’t feeling very adventurous for dinner, so we ended up hitting Rick’s, the bar across the street from Bilmar. There was a great band, including a mandolin player (newsflash: hipsterism is here to stay, people), playing on the deck so we sat outside and enjoyed a little picking music with our dinners. Lovely.
As we were getting ready for bed, E. started complaining that her eye hurt. It’d been really windy on the beach and at one point she got sand in her eye, so I thought the sand must be irritating her eye. I put some of my eyedrops in her eye and we went to bed. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t sand.
We woke up Friday morning and her eye was sealed shut from goo and swollen. I still thought it could be due to the sand but I wasn’t sure. It was still early and neither the pharmacy across the street nor our pediatrician’s office back in Orlando was open yet so we hung out in the room until 8:30. I called the office as soon as it opened and they very tersely told me they were unable to call in a prescription for drops without her being seen. Fun.
We headed downstairs to talk to the front desk. They suggested a doctor’s office that was just up the street, but it didn’t open until 9. So we went into the hotel’s restaurant Bazzie’s on the Beach because hotel guest kids under 12 eat free!
Thankfully, E was still in really good spirits and the view of the beach with breakfast was great.
I was nervous about the food after our Sloppy Joe’s experience, but Bazzie’s was fantastic for breakfast at least. The pancakes were made to order and HUGE. My ravenous pancake eater couldn’t even finish her two, delicious blueberry pancakes and the eggs and bacon I had were cooked perfectly. Plus, the hotel gives you a $5 gift certificate for the restaurant and E ate free. There was no doubt we’d be returning the next morning.
When we went back to the front desk, we learned that the doctor’s office was actually closed that day. So they were very helpful and directed us to the nearest urgent care clinic in St. Petersburg. It really didn’t take us very long to get there and their directions were spot-on.
Since we got there right after it opened, we had no wait and we were in and out within 45 minutes. It turns out that no, it wasn’t irritation from sand. It was a particularly nasty infection and he warned if we hadn’t come in, it would have been really bad by that night.
He prescribed oral antibiotics and “magic” (his word) eye drops that normally cost $180 at the pharmacy but he had a coupon to get them for $25. It took us three pharmacies to track down those magic drops but by 11:30, she was medicated up and we were back on the beach for a bike ride for E/run for me.
This was another really great highlight of the Bilmar Beach Resort’s location. This bike trail is about a mile long and runs right behind the hotel along the beach. All hours of the day it was filled with runners, bikers, roller bladers, walkers and more. We took it all the way to its end, stopping at the playground along the way, then rode it back to the hotel. For once, I wasn’t complaining about the cooler weather. It allowed us to go for a nice, vigorous run/ride at high noon.
After the ride, we were ready for the beach!
And E gave me the greatest gift a child can give her parent when she’s on single parenting duty — she made a friend. For a good 90 minutes, these two played perfectly together, coming up with all sorts of pirate adventures and sand castle architectural plans.
She was 6 to E’s 5 and she and her mom were also on a girls trip but they were visiting from Canada! They were so nice (obviously. Have you ever meet a mean Canadian?) and all four of us had a great time hanging out.
After several perfect hours on the beach, including several trips into the water for both of us thanks to the warmer weather, we headed back to the hotel to clean up our new treasures.
That shell washing station was fantastic. As you can see, it had a screened basin for rinsing off the beach’s tiny shells. Such a great idea!
Since we’d skipped lunch, we were starving so we decided to leave even earlier than planned for the Seafood Festival. We washed all the sand off and headed outside to grab a trolley for the trip to St. John’s Pass. But we found something even better — the free Beach Ride service, a golf cart that offers free rides (the drivers work for tips). Our driver let us off right in the midst of the celebration and gave us her card for the ride home.
Bring on the fish … of all sizes.
Oh yes, a word about E’s outfit. We were there the weekend before Halloween and since she was going as a pirate for Halloween, we thought what better place to wear it than Treasure Island? Besides, I thought there was trick-or-treating there that night but apparently I had the nights mixed up. Oh well, she was thrilled.
And what festival would be complete without some face painting? Yes, it’s good to be E.
We walked around for a bit, checking out some of the art booths, then grabbed some food. I got a fried grouper sandwich. I really should have taken a picture because it was the most massive piece of fish I’ve ever seen. Sadly, it was only meh. But the fact that they had a Kohr Bros frozen custard stand more than made up for it. I was so freaking excited. I haven’t seen a Kohr Bros since my last trip to Rehobeth Beach, DE, way back in 2002 or 2003. Soooo good.
After we finished our ice cream, we stumbled across something that not only have I never seen in 10 years of living in Florida but I’ve never even heard of — crab racing.
As you can see, all the kids line up at the top of a slanted wooden board with six lanes across. And the racers are trapped under plastic cups. Then, when the announcer gives you the signal, you raise the cups and the crabs … sort of, kind of, start to move down the ramp.
E’s crab actually took off fast and first. But then, much like me at mile 1.3 of every run ever, the crab hit the wall and was overtaken by the stealthy competitor in lane 2.
But all the kids got candy for competing, so I’m not sure they realized which crab won anyway. But this crab seems to have the eye of the tiger, no?
We walked around a bit longer, then walked across the street for an even more spectacular sunset than the night before.
No filter needed, indeed. You west coasters with your fancy sunset sure do have it good. Wow. Just wow.
After the sunset, we called our golf cart driver and once again, got to bed blissfully early. I was passed out asleep by 9:30 both nights and it was glorious.
On Saturday, we woke up and headed downstairs for one more breakfast at Bazzie’s.
We got smarter and only ordered E one pancake and we split that gorgeous side of fruit. I also had pretty decent oatmeal with brown sugar, raisins and the fruit. And once again, the view could not be beat. My Treasure Island pirate was already getting sad about leaving the land she’d laid claim to.
We had just enough time for one more shell-hunting trip along the shore.
It was a perfect little get-away and I can guarantee we’ll be returning to the Bilmar Beach Resort at some point. Maybe next time we’ll even bring Daddy. Or maybe not. It was some pretty special girl time.
It may be good to be E., but it’s even better to be E’s mom.
What other Florida beaches should be on my must-see list? What’s the oddest animal race or contest you’ve ever seen?