St. Petersburg/Clearwater is for Runners

Dedicated athletes takes their routine with them wherever they go. This holds true for runners. Most days I get up early, throw on my gear and start pounding the pavement, logging my requisite miles before the sun comes up.

I prefer to run alone. It’s my church – my chance to breathe, think and start my day. There’s something magical that tugs at a runner when you’re staying at the beach. Running at the water’s edge is not as easy at it appears in movies though

After a short jog from where I’m staying, I reach the sand beach and realize, you simply can’t run on this fluid white powdery surface. It takes a careful walk using a completely different motion to keep the sand out of my shoes and to make my way to the packed sand.

Image of Indian Rocks Running Club

Indian Rocks Running Club

In the dark hours before the dawn, I feel the humid salt breeze blow through my hair and hear the waves washing against the gulf shore. I make sure to stay above the wet sand, so I can keep the rhythm of my stride even though I sense the slightest sinking feeling with each step. Every day distractions are soon swept away by the relaxing sound of the sea, the comedic sandpipers running in and out, as they try to catch breakfast among the tide’s foamy aftermath. As I start to perspire, I’m glad I’m out early….it won’t be long before the temperatures start to rise.

I’ve made some mental notes as to where to get on and off the sand and turn around. Fishing piers, be it Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach,

Pier 60, at Clearwater Beach

Pier 60, at Clearwater Beach

or Long Pier in Redington Beach,

Pier at North Redington Beach

Pier at North Redington Beach

or wooden ramps over protected sea oats, serve as my markers to measure time and distance.

While yesterday was a difficult run, less miles were covered. Today I don my gear and elect to run street-side. I’m amazed how much farther I can run with asphalt under my feet. This morning is met with the mundane side of beach life and it’s not as easy to free my mind – newspapers being delivered, equipment headed to the sand to begin beautifying the beach (who knew her looks didn’t come naturally!), the aroma of food wafting from restaurants make me think of breakfast, employees bicycling to work and fishermen readying to head out to sea.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll get back on the beach as it’s much more peaceful run. For those who like to run in a pack, dawn and dusk options are available around the county…see below.

Have Bike. Will Travel.

We love to ride our bikes. Whenever possible, we travel with them. Ask anyone in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area where to ride and this is what they’ll say, “Pinellas Trail.”

Image of Sea Oats and Sunset

Sea Oats and Sunset

In many parts of the country, retired railroad corridors have been converted to recreational paths and it’s no different here. This 36-mile contiguous linear trail connects Tarpon Springs to the north with downtown St. Petersburg to the south. The asphalt is well marked and requires users – bikers, walkers, in-line skaters and others – to follow “rules of the road” for the safe and enjoyable use by all. While the pathway hugs the west side of peninsula, don’t worry about crossing congested roadways, as overpasses have been created in many places.

Image of Over the Edge Bikes, Dunedin

Over the Edge Bikes, Dunedin

Over our numerous stays in the area, we have enjoyed biking different sections. Maps, available for this county park, highlight “park and ride” lots, beverage vendors and a place to get under cover for those unexpected showers. Bike and skate shops have popped up along the trail offering repairs, rentals and sales. A thumbs up to Trail Sports in Seminole for their great service They offer rentals and are convenient to the trail. So glad Uncle Bill and his wife could join us on a ride!

The trail is busy on weekends. For that reason, we prefer to take the roads less traveled and explore the many spurs and side trails built as a result of the trail’s popularity. Exploring the many neighborhoods gives us a real flavor for the community.

A big thanks too for the bike lanes on Gulf Blvd., a major north-south thoroughfare between Clearwater Beach’s Sand Key area in northern Pinellas county to Treasure Island (includes a short stint on Blind Pass Road) and then the length of St. Pete Beach to the south.

I’ll touch on some of those neighborhoods in another blog, as well as beach cruisin’ and a trail within Fort DeSoto County Park.

Slideshow Image 1 – Photo courtesy: Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

Slideshow Image 2 – Take a spin around Pass-a-Grille, a small community just south of St. Pete Beach on these beach cruisers. Rent bikes a Merry Pier, located on the bay. Stay off the main streets if you like and have fun exploring the many alleyways. Photo courtesy: ©Charles Morton.

Shuffleboard's Back!

Shuffleboard Got It Going On!

I honestly thought they were kidding? Apparently it’s now the “in” thing to do in Florida.

As a big fan of retro, how could we resist our friend’s invitation to join them at the St. Petersburg Shuffle Club in the shadow of The Coliseum? As someone who’s fairly competitive, I had to do my research to know more.

The game is played on a rectangular surface with opponents standing on opposite ends. Each pushing his or her weighted disc (biscuit) to the other end using a cue (tang). How your disc lands within or on the selected areas indicated with a number (score) determines whether you gain or lose points. Games are played in frames (each side gets a turn) of 4, 6 or 8, or to a score of 75.

While St. Petersburg’s Club is the oldest club, Clearwater’s facility is a city park and home to the Clearwater Shuffleboard Club and the International Shuffleboard Association’s Hall of Fame, a perfect place to learn more. Surprisingly there’s an International Shuffleboard Association and within Florida there are seven districts and many tournaments. Clearwater’s season opens in October and play is from Sunday to Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; non-members pay $2.00 a day, although first timers are free. Club members provide instruction and equipment. Don’t worry about the heat of the day, as there’s a covered area on both sides for players and spectators, plus full-sun courts. Deemed “The best facility in the whole state,” if you want to take lessons one of the masters of the game, gives them starting in January for beginners and in February for those with intermediate skills.

With the basic rules and terms under my belt, we headed down to St. Pete for the free Friday night St. Pete Shuffle from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. This is a markedly different crowd here found among the city’s trademark green benches – younger and more families, which reminded me of a bowling alley crowd. The lights strung across the courts were reminiscent of Texas beer gardens. (More on that later).

While club members here can play anytime, posted hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (members are free; non-members pay $5.00 to play. They also organize a number of events to introduce the community to the game – bike rides and themed events.

So what do you do afterwards? We narrowed it down to two nearby craft brewers: the club’s event partners, Cycle Brewing, a few blocks away at 534 Central Avenue or Green Bench Brewing Company at 1133 Baum Ave. N., a little west of the club. We chose the later because of the outside beer garden and ordered Green Bench IPA all around.

As a sidebar, many hotels are dusting off their shuffleboard courts. If you’re serious about shuffleboard or want to take it home with you, visit Allen R. Shuffleboard Company in Seminole. They are a major supplier of equipment and courts.