I’m weird. I actually really love the rainy season in Florida. Most people complain or joke about it, and the tourists run for cover and bitch over their Bacardi and Coke when it starts raining. Or worse, get discouraged by the 80% chance of rain and just stay indoors. But I find it terribly amusing. Yes, there’s an 80% chance it will rain every day. But what that really means is there’s an 80% chance that it will rain between 3-4 pm. The rest of the day will be bright and sunny.
My office at work looks out over a parking lot dotted with palm trees, and while that’s not a view that would normally cause even a tiny bit of distraction, I find myself absolutely riveted when it rains. When I arrive at work in the morning, the sky is bright blue without a cloud. Around 2ish, the white fluffy clouds start drifting in. Then they get a little darker, and a little bigger, and a little more frequent and fast, until the entire sky turns the color of a fresh bruise. Somewhere along the way, its starts thundering, which is usually the only thing that makes me turn away from my laptop and consider what’s happening outside of my window.
Then the rain begins. During rainy season in Florida, there’s no drizzling. No misting. No light rain. It absolutely pours!
If you’ve ever been in a home up North with gutters full of dead leaves when it rains, you’ve had a brief glimpse of the type of deluge. When it rains hard and the gutters are full, everything pours straight off the roof as if someone had rigged an intricate system of garden hoses all pointing off the edge of your house and turned on full blast. You literally can’t even see across the street.
My first experience with Florida’s rainy season was the first time Schooner and visited Key West together. We were living in Chelsea in New York City at the time – we were young and had no money, but that didn’t deter us from a jaunt to the Keys. Not being able to afford plane tickets, beer and a hotel room, we decided to camp at Boyd’s Camp Ground on Stock Island. Beer, of course, took priority over a warm bed. So we picked up a small two-person tent on our drive from the Miami Airport to Key West, which was only big enough for two people who were 5′ 2″ and weighed 100 pounds (which we weren’t, and we didn’t). Tight, to say the least.
We were getting ready to head over to Duval Street one afternoon. Schooner was having a beer at the picnic table next to the tent, and I was in the concrete block common bathroom about 50 feet away getting ready for a night at Sloppy Joe’s. I heard the rain before I saw it — sounded like all of the showers had suddenly been turned on full-tilt. I looked out the bathroom window and saw our little orange tent jiggling back and forth like an orange Jello mold. Unseen forces grabbed it by the top and were doing their best to shake it loose from the spikes that held it to the ground.
All I could see of my dear husband was the spilled beer can on the picnic table, and his feet splayed wide through the door. After watching the little tent whip about frantically for a few minutes in the downpour, I realized my husband was laying on his back inside the tent, spread eagle, trying to desperately from keeping the tent — and his body — from being drug into the Atlantic Ocean.
I laughed so hard I had to reapply my makeup. I’m not sure he found it quite as amusing. By the time the rain stopped enough for me to make it across the parking lot, he, the tent and our bags were drowned.
Anyway, I still get a kick out of watching how hard it can rain in Florida. It’s an impressive show. A rain storm that lasts five minutes can fill up a pond around here. It pours so hard you’ll consider grab a few pairs of animals and heading to the ark. But then, just as suddenly as it started, it ends. Steam rises up from the sidewalk, the mockingbirds start to sing, and the sun returns. The entire process sometimes lasts just 10 minutes from beginning to end. Quick.
So a word to my tourist friends: Please don’t be scared away by rainy season. Yes, there’s a 98% chance of rain, but unless there’s a hurricane nearby, it’s probably only going to last 15 minutes. If you’re on vacation in Florida and the skies open up, just head to the tiki bar and have a Cuba libre. By the time you’re finished, the sunshine will be back!
I learned a hard lesson in Destin last week. I have pretty fair skin and can get a sunburn faster than you can down a margarita (Ok, maybe not some of you…), so I have to be careful living in the sunshine state. I’ve already had one skin cancer spot removed since I’ve been here — a relic of my youth, my doctor assured me — and I’m not eager to repeat that performance. Cleavage is not nearly as sexy when there’s a scar running across your left boob. So for my trip to Destin, I made Schooner drag along this big, gaudy, royal blue University of Kentucky tent top that my father-in-law gave us. It’s fabulous. Figured it’d be the ideal sunblock, right?
Wrong. I spent the first day relaxing under my pretty blue tent (which I’m sure you could have seen from Pensacola), just chilling, reading a Hemingway novel and sipping on the chardonnay Schooner brought down in a red Solo cup. I put some sunscreen on earlier in the day, but didn’t bother to reapply after riding the waves with my kiddos. But I was under the tent, completely out of the sun, so I figured I was safe.
Imagine my surprise that night, when I looked in the mirror and saw I was as fried as the grouper sandwich I ate that night at Pompano Joe’s. Now I can’t really know for sure if the sun bounced off the sand and back up at me, the possibility of which I always thought was an old wives tale, or if it literally came through the tent. But either way, I learned the hard way that my beach tent was not the safe haven I thought it was.
So a word to the wise — if you’re fair skinned and heading to the beach, make sure you put on some sunscreen even if you’re planning to sit under a pretty little beach umbrella. Cause it’s not enough!
One of the greatest things about living in Florida, at least for my family and me, is that it takes us approximately 90 minutes to get from our doorstep to Disney World. What used to be a 14 hour trip has become a quick day trip, and I love it! It’s Memorial Day 2013, so we decided to head up to Animal Kingdom for the day.
The place was a bit packed, so the lines were long. We fit in the Kilimanjaro Safari (awesome, tons of animals out and very close!), A Bug’s Life and Expedition Everest (my favorite), and also stopped by to see some of the creepy fruit bats that my son digs. Had an awesome Coke float with soft serve chocolate ice cream, then we were faced with lines, lines and more lines. Despite our passion for all things Disney, we hate waiting in line. So my husband, Schooner (@SchoonerRat) suggested we head over to Margaritaville at Universal’s CityWalk.
After much arm twisting, we did just that.
That was the first time we’ve been over that way. We rarely get off the Disney property, so it was kind of cool. The $15 parking fee was a bummer, but we really enjoyed Margaritaville, and CityWalk reminded me of a smaller Downtown Disney. We’ve been several times to the Margaritaville Key West, Margaritaville Nashville and Margaritaville Myrtle Beach, but never Margaritaville Orlando. We really enjoyed it!
We sat right in front of the DJ book, where JD Spradlin was spinning tunes for Radio Margaritaville. We follow each other on Twitter but had never met (he’s @JDSpradlin, I’m @CayoLoca), so I tweeted him that we were sitting right in front of him. He came out and introduced himself in person, and he’s a super nice guy! This was the first time I’ve ever met a Twitter friend offline, so it was kind of cool. Great guy, and we had fun talking about Meeting of the Minds, Key West, Parrot Heads and trop rock.
He invited us up into the DJ booth for a picture, which isn’t very good considering the lighting and some serious user error. But it was fun, regardless.
And I’m happy to report that the Volcano Nachos at the Margaritaville at Universal were just as awesome as they have been at every other Margaritaville I’ve been to. The biggest difference between this trip and all the others I’ve taken was there were no margaritas for me. After a day in the sun, all I wanted was some ice water!
Now we’re back in Sarasota and too tired (and lazy) to even head out to the pool. Sitting in the recliner with my feet up and a cold drink nearby is just my speed on this lazy Sunday evening.
I suck. It has been approximately seven months since my last blog post, and even I am surprised at that. It’s been an interesting seven months…I rented my house in Kentucky that still hasn’t sold, my grandmother and father-in-law both passed away on the same day within an hour of each other, four months into the lease the renters broke the lease, my house is back on the market again, and my husband started a new job.
Basically, life happened. I suppose it’s not all that unusual.
Regardless, I have not made blogging a priority. In fact, it was such a total non-priority that I forgot to renew my hosting and it went dark for a week. For shame!
But I’m back online now, and I’m going to try to do a better job!
This weekend, Key West is full of people who are just as tropically tacky as I am, and I love it! Meeting of the Minds brings all of the Jimmy Buffett crazies to the Keys. But it’s interesting how the event really isn’t as much about Buffett as you’d think — it’s more about tropical music in general. From every bar, restaurant, gallery and public space all across the island, you’ll hear trop rock artists performing. Sometimes it seems like even the backyards are full with fans listening to music. So if you like trop rock, it’s worth a visit to Key West that week, even if you don’t consider yourself a Parrot Head.
So far this week we’ve seen Sunny Jim, Loren Davidson, Mike Armstrong, David McKinney, Dani Hoy, Key West Chris and Swim Skinny, plus a few others we’ve run into at gigs. But since my husband, Schooner, is a trop rocker, I’m down here mostly to help him. So I haven’t been able to catch as many performances as I normally would. But it’s cool just being surrounded by all of these talented artists.
I’ve also been able to reconnect with old friends from the Bluegrass Parrot Head Club in Kentucky and new friends from the Sarasota Bay Parrot Head Club. I’ve also met Parrot Heads from Nebraska, Stuart (FL), The Villages (also FL), Baltimore and South Carolina.The island is chock full of em, so you can’t go too far without striking up a conversation with a Parrot Head.
I saw on the news yesterday that Northern California got its first snow. The picture showed a guy wrapped up in a parka, trying to put chains on his tires in the middle of a snowy street. I have two things to say about that:
- Isn’t the whole point of living in California that you don’t have to deal with crappy cold weather? Where are the surfers?
- I’m so glad it will never snow where I live!
The experience my kids are having with the schools in Florida is pretty different from how I remember things growing up in Kentucky. If you’ve ever seen Hoot (And who am I kidding – of course you’ve seen it. Jimmy Buffett plays a teacher!), that’s really what the schools look like down here.
My daughter’s middle school is more like a college campus, with squat one-story buildings scattered across a 10-acre campus. No hallways. No lockers. Lots of outdoor space and courtyards, with dusty concrete paths connecting each building.
My son’s elementary school doesn’t even have a real gym. Instead, there’s a big, outdoor covered pavilion the size of a normal gym, with basketball hoops hanging at each end. I wonder which gives the kids more exercise – playing dodge ball, or chasing after the balls that roll out into the schoolyard?
It’s actually a pretty cool concept, and the kids revel in the freedom. But there are a few downsides. It’s impossible to stay dry during one of Florida’s famous rainstorms, when the clouds defy gravity and spew drops sideways. When there’s a hurricane, the kids just give up and walk in the rain. No awning could keep them dry against the winds of Isaac. My third grader told me they like to play “Hurricane Isaac” on the playground, seeing who can make it back to the classroom before the rain hits. What an odd game.
It’s also a bit of a challenge in the late summer heat. The A/C blasts in the classrooms, but it’s 88 outside on the walk between classes. Hot and sweaty…freezing cold…hot and sweaty…freezing cold…
We do a lot of laundry down here.
Being late October, the weather has finally evened out. I don’t hear as many complaints about the heat between classes, or the frozen tundra of algebra. No need for big winter coats, thick sweaters or the dreaded turtleneck. I know lots of people who love that kind of thing, but for this Florida girl, I’m happy to have left it behind.
I have a secret that I just have to admit. I’ve been hiding it for too long…so here goes…after 12 nights of Olympics, I’m totally over it. The London Olympics were great at first. So cool seeing Michael Phelps compete, and watching Gabby Douglas get into the finals. Of course, I was sound asleep by the time they finally showed her winning the gold. But regardless, this Parrot Head was enjoying it.
But now, after 12 days of my husband passionately cheering Misty May Treanor on in the women’s beach volleyball competition, I’m so over it. I mean, seriously? Swimming and gymnastics, which have to have the highest ratings of any Olympic sport, are completely eclipsed in NBC’s coverage by these gorgeous amazons in bikinis.
Now don’t get me wrong…I understand the attraction. The fact that Kerri Walsh can bend over at a 90 degree angle in a bikini on international television and have absolutely no concerns about belly flab is certainly compelling. I admit to secretly sneaking a glimpse on more than one occasion. But I think maybe 10 days of it was enough.
Put those short studly gymnast dudes in the tight pants back on. I could sit there and watch them hold themselves from the rings with completely vertical arms for at least two nights straight. Or put Michael Phelps, or that hot young Ryan Lochte on. I could watch him for at least 3-4 nights.
But the gorgeous Misty and her compatriots are just making me feel old and fat.
I am absolutely enamored with palm trees. Stout and shaggy, tall and regal, thin and wispy, I just adore them. They’re one of my favorite parts about living in Florida, and they’re everywhere!
So I thought I’d share some fun palm tree facts that I’ve learned since I’ve been down here.
- Palm trees aren’t technically trees — they’re part of the grass family.
- There are around 2,700 different types of palm trees around the world, but only 12 of them are natives of Florida.
- Florida has 27 types of palm trees, which surprised me. Figured it’d be more!
- Coconut palms usually don’t thrive north of Sarasota/Bradenton, although I’ve heard reports of them as far north as St. Pete. But they don’t always last through the winter.
- Did you know that scientists recently found out that palm trees once covered Anarctica? Crazy.
It’s August 4, and the pool is so hot my daughter just got out and showered to cool down. The fire ants are pissed, although I would have thought they’d dig hot weather. You know, fire, heat…
Anyway, a little guy just climbed up on my chaise lounge to show his displeasure, and took a painful bite out of my heel. He paid for it with his life, but he made a good point. It’s hot!
When I told my friends I was moving to Florida, they thought I’d lost my mind. After all, what kind of idiot moves to Florida in April, just before the hottest part of the year? Um…me.
“How will you be able to stand all that heat and humidity?” Uh, you’ve lived through the summer in Kentucky, right? Talk about heat and humidity!
I spent the past week in Washington, D.C. for work, and it was 101 degrees the day I left. It was only 88 in Sarasota that day. I’ll take the balmy Florida weather any day over that boiling heat you guys have been having up north this summer.
Maybe we should just ship all the fire ants up to Washington? They’d just love all the hot air blowing around that city this year.