Sunday, March 11, 2012

From Seminole to Arbor Terrace

March 8-11, Bradenton, Florida
Packing up at Seminole
Leaving Seminole was more emotional than I imagined. We certainly grew close to Mike and BJ who almost felt like family by the time we left.  For some reason, I also felt overwhelmed with going back to researching campgrounds and making decisions about where to stay every few days. Our plan for the short term was to go without reservations to Lake Manatee State Park and then to Fort De Soto County Park in Tampa. Our drive to Lake Manatee was picturesque and we arrived shortly before two in the afternoon hoping we could get lucky and find a site.  The campground full sign was out, but we asked at the office anyway and they confirmed no sites were available. Plan B was to go to a Sun RV Park in Bradenton called Arbor Terrace. I called and we were able to use three nights for the cost of two coupon (thanks, BJ!) which sounded good.

We appreciated the rate of $88 for three nights at Arbor Terrace, but the site they gave us left much to be desired.  Their pull-throughs in the back of the park oppose each other with little room to offset patios, so you better like your neighbors.  We were not even inspired to put out patio furniture. Our intentions were to explore the area anyway during the day, so we spent very little time at the park.  We went to the Bradenton Beach the first day where BJ had told me to look for sand dollars.  The traffic on Cortez. Rd. was pretty light and we made it to the beach in about 30 minutes—pretty good considering how far we have been in most other locations.  The beach was terrific (80 degree day, light breeze, turquoise water, white sand) and I was able to spend a few hours in the water looking for sand dollars and other shells.  I found one perfect sand dollar and several slightly broken ones. I also found some beautiful olive shells and a couple of small whelks. I could do this all day long.

On Saturday, I discovered that Sarasota and Bradenton both had farmer’s markets and I figured out how we could stagger our times and make it to both. Sarasota’s market was downtown in the historic district about twenty minutes from our park.  The market was about 6-8 blocks long in varying directions, filled with mostly arts and crafts, food stands, and some produce (unlike our Oregon markets which are mostly produce). I did find a stand with homemade pasta and also one with homemade sausage—always a favorite of Vic’s, so we stocked up on chorizo, kielbasa, and lamb sausage (with no nitrates or preservatives). The strawberries were from Plant City (well-known strawberry-growing area in central Fl), but Vic and I did not think they were very good-especially compared to the ones we used to grow in our raised beds in Corvallis.  We were impressed with the whole downtown area of Sarasota, sort of a small Portland feel, and agreed we would enjoy spending more time here. After checking out the market in Sarasota, we took a quick trip across the bridge to an exclusive shopping area known as St. Armand’s Square. Lots of boutiques and cafes, but neither of us was in the mood for a high end retail experience.

The Bradenton Farmer’s Market was considerably smaller, but quaint.  It was apparent that Bradenton is more of a working class town than Sarasota but the downtown had an inviting area of about six blocks with a good variety of locally-owned stores and restaurants. We also found a bar that looked interesting as it advertised Yappy Hour, a happy hour time for you and your dog.  Fun to be in a dog friendly place.
A puppeteer at the Bradenton market

While in Bradenton, we received a text from Mike and BJ that they had headed north to look for sand dollars.  I invited them to our humble site for dinner (pork rib roast on the grill) and some vino fino.  They were so cute to show up here in what seemed to be a world apart from our former campground in Ft. Meyers.

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