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Under the Sea Out of the Sun

We did a little exploring yesterday and found ourselves at the Florida Aquarium. The compact aquarium on three floors along the water in downtown Tampa seems to be a great way to beat the heat. You get the chance to have some close encounters with various animals for free, too. The Ray pool lets you reach in and touch the graceful rays and small sharks as they swim by. You can even pet some of invertebrates like starfish in the “No Bone Zone.”

We found one of the best parts to be the introduction to many of the local species of fish, bird, and reptile. The admission was about $33 per adult. You will actually pay less at the official parking for the aquarium than one of the private gravel lots. We left the Florida Aquarium happy that it was our chosen way to spend the day.

A Sea Turtle

A Different Kind of Sea Turtle

Alligator

Turtle Swimming

Nurse Shark

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Going Greek in Tarpon Springs, Florida

We’ve written about Tarpon Springs, the capital of the natural sponge industry, before but that article was mainly based on research. We’re now living only 25 minutes from Tarpon Springs and figured it’d be a fun way to kick off our holiday weekend.

The first thing we want to tell you is don’t use the first parking lot you see. It can cost three times more than the smaller lots farther down the sponge docks. The sponge docks is a street of gift shops, restaurants, and museums dedicated to the sponge industry. You will also find several tour boats offering one- and two-hour tours that focus on the ecology and history of the region. We hopped on a one-hour tour that took us down the Anclote River to the Gulf of Mexico. We didn’t spot any dolphins but enjoyed the chance to get out on the water.

We also took a few minutes to enjoy the Hellas Bakery, which features a wide variety of Greek and Greek-inspired desserts and sweets. The air conditioning and shade was almost as sweet as the baklava tiramisu.

The sun is intense in Florida. You’ll want to make sure you’re wearing sunscreen even if you’re only walking around visiting the shops. We plan on making more trips to this wonderful little seaside hamlet during our time in Florida.

Sponge Boat

Sponge Diving Mural

Sponge Boat in Dry Dock

A great welcome sign—- it is also next to the most expensive parking lots

Baklava Tiramisu
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A Little Honeymoon

We’ve been living in Tampa for almost a month now and we’ve finally settled in enough that we decided to take a little trip to the beach. Amanda asked around at work and the gym to get recommendations for which beach to try first. She got several answers and after doing some research we settled on Honeymoon Beach at Honeymoon Island State Park.

Honeymoon and its sister Caladesi were originally one island; they were halved by a hurricane in 1921. The island became a popular destination in the 1940s when it was marketed as a honeymoon get-away-from-it-all spot. The second world war closed the resort and it fell into disrepair. The state of Florida purchased the island in and its sister in 1974 and created the state park in 1981.

The trip there from our apartment only took about 30 minutes. It’s the fastest we’ve ever made it to the beach from our homes in our lives. We got there around 11 and the park was filling up fast. Entry to the park costs $8 per vehicle (up to 8 passengers). The beach itself is rather narrow so getting there early is the only way to secure a good spot. We opted to rent a couple of chairs and an umbrella for $25, it’s worth it considering the sun down here is far more intense that we are used to. The water was warm with visibility of about 2-3 feet. You had to swim across a significant stretch of rocks to get to the sand bar. Once you were on the sand bar it was quite pleasant.

The second wave of people began to head to the beach around 1 p.m. and we decided to be best to free up some space. We grabbed our bags, dusted off the sand and took the short walk back to the car for our quick trip home.

We have plenty of beaches on our to-be-explored list but Honeymoon is one we’ll definitely return to.

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Launch Director Tour of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Atlantis STS-132
Courtesy: NASA Archives

We know Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is on the other side of the state from where we currently live in Florida but it is really tempting for space nuts like us. The Launch Director Tour of Space Shuttle Atlantis with Mike Leinbach gets you an inside look at the shuttle program with its risks, rewards, and failures. Mike Leinbach, the last launch director of Atlantis, will share his first-hand account of the shuttle program and his time as the head of the Columbia reconstruction mission after the orbiter broke up during re-entry.

You will, of course, get to see Atlantis on display. The shuttle went on 33 missions spending a total of 306 days, 14 hours, 12 minutes, 43 seconds in space. Another interesting Atlantis fact: when it was built, NASA ordered duplicate parts of every part of the shuttle. The Endeavour, which was assembled to replace the Space Shuttle Challenger after it exploded after liftoff, was made from all the duplicate parts. It’s essentially a clone of Atlantis.

Mike Leinbach was the final Space Shuttle Program Launch Director at KSC. He was responsible for overall shuttle launch countdown policy, planning, and execution activities for the final eleven years of the program.

If you would like to take part in this program it runs through the summer.

May 30, 2019 | 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM

Jun 13, 2019 | 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM

Jun 27, 2019 | 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM

Jul 11, 2019 | 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM

Jul 18, 2019 | 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM

Aug 08, 2019 | 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM

Aug 29, 2019 | 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM

Ticket Information:
Price: $65 for adults, in addition to daily admission
Space is limited to 30 participants, so reserve your space early!

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Tampa: Week One

Monday-

The morning began like any other work week; we got up and got ready for work. The exception to the last three years is that she’s starting a new job. Yes, she is nervous. I told her it’s normal to feel nervous when you start something new, even if you are excited about the opportunity. I gave her a kiss, wished her luck and shut the door behind her.

I went back into our scarcely decorated apartment (the furniture is still on its way from Pittsburgh) and made a list of the things to do today. The first is to take our girl Storm to the vet so they can have a good look at her and establish a baseline for further visits. I hate to do it. The move has already been stressful for her but it has to be done. The plan is to bring her back to the apartment and let her chill out for a bit before I leave her to go run some errands. I need some new gym shoes and to get a work out in. I have other work that needs to be done, too, like looking for some more freelance work and working on my articles for the Honey’s Anime website. I keep telling myself that as long as I keep getting paid for writing for Honey’s that I’m not unemployed. I am excited to learn about my new city. I’m also looking forward to finding a new job that really interests me.

The plan is to meet Amanda at the Blind Tiger, a coffee house, after she gets off of work. I hope their coffee is good. I’m starved for really good coffee in the evening after all those years of living in a city where good coffee places closed before work ended.

Tuesday-

The coffee house was nice. It was situated in a newly developed area of the Tampa suburbs. It had good coffee and was easy to get to. I especially liked that we got our coffee in actual coffee cups.

I got Amanda off to work earlier today.  She had trouble with traffic. It will take a few days to get the timing down.  The house is quiet.  I don’t hear traffic, airplanes, or trains. The quiet is weird coming from downtown Pittsburgh. I managed to get in some time writing an anime article. The trip to the tax office to get my new drivers license and register to vote didn’t take that long, the time on the road took far longer than my time at the office. The funny thing that happened on the way home was getting rear-ended. I didn’t take any damage, the guy behind me dented his grill on my tow bulb. He only hit me because he was hit by a deputy. It was just an inconvenience for all of us — and an opportunity to share my brand new Florida license information.

Amanda and I got to work out together, kind of. I swam laps in the pool and she went into the gym to do one of her workouts. We were able to walk back to the apartment together and that was the best part.

Wednesday-

I didn’t have a lot on my plate today. I have to get Amanda’s car inspected and make a quick stop at the vet to drop off a sample. I’ve got some work to do online but hope to rest up because the pod with our stuff comes tomorrow. The help doesn’t come until Friday, but we can at least get the coffee maker.

Thursday-

Pod delivery

The pod delivery looks futuristic

The pod came and they had no problems dropping it off. My first order of business was to retrieve the coffee maker and some of my kitchen supplies. I feel a little better now.

Friday-

It was a marathon that was run like a sprint. The four movers and I quickly moved the entire contents of the pod up the steps and into the apartment. I was quickly buried in boxes and feeling very overwhelmed. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I did a lot of deep breathing, decided to start in the kitchen and then got overwhelmed all over again. My stress levels were sent to total freak-out level when my old job in Pittsburgh called and asked me to do some editing for a project they needed ASAP. 

Our apartment, full of boxes

One packed apartment

I don’t know how she knew I needed her, but Amanda called and talked me down from jumping off the balcony and feeding myself to the alligators in the nearby bond.

As we went through our boxes, we discovered that the guys who packed our pod in Pittsburgh didn’t do the best job. Nearly every single box was crushed. Our furniture was damaged, bowls broken and mugs shattered. But bit by bit we found places for things and one by one the boxes began to disappear. I at least had my couch to sit on before the end of the day.

Saturday-

We’ve still got so much to do and not a lot of time to do anything else. We’ll get everything sorted and eventually feel more settled. We know moving is always hard and stressful — even when everything goes according to plan. It’s good to see progress and know the upheaval is temporary. When it’s over, we’ll be living in a little slice of paradise.

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NO! SLEEP! TILL TAMPA!

I’ve spent a lot of time behind the wheel in my life. I’ve driven from North Carolina to Maryland each weekend for 2 years and the memorable 2 years driving from DC to Pittsburgh each weekend.

This time around I completed the marathon 20-hour drive from Pittsburgh to our new home in Tampa, stopping only for gas, food, coffee, and a 30-minute stretch for a job interview via phone. The predicted trip time according to Apple maps was 15 hours 30 minutes. I didn’t have any problems on the drive but I began to notice as I drove that I kept losing time. The 15 turned to 16, then to 18 and so on. I was traveling the speed limit the entire time and only had a couple of traffic slowdowns that may have totaled 30 minutes. The trip through West Virginia took a bit longer because driving up mountains while towing another car is a slower process but my speed was still about a mile a minute.

I was able to take some snapshots while crossing the borders of seven states: PA, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, and finally Florida. I made the trip and never really felt tired. I did consider stopping at one point because my body was getting sore from sitting. I pushed through and was pretty wired even after getting in the door. We plan on giving you some really interesting posts as we settle into our new home in Tampa, Florida.

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Packing, Packing, and More Packing

You’d be amazed at how much more stuff you can accumulate in 5 years. I think a purge of stuff is always helpful and there’s nothing like moving to help you get in the mood to get rid of extra things you never use. We are up to our ears in moving preps. Our pod will be delivered soon and we have hired help to load it here in Pittsburgh and unpack it when the pod gets to Florida. The pod with the bulk of our stuff will take a week to get to us, so minimalist living is in our future. We will “camp” in our apartment for a couple of days in Pittsburgh and then a couple of days in Tampa. We don’t have a lot of time to write as we prepare to move, but we’re excited that our next post will be from our new place in Tampa.