The Sunshine City

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Mural, St. Petersburg, Florida July 2020

I live near the Gulf of Mexico in the town of Treasure Island. While I really enjoy my little community, my experience here has been greatly enhanced by my proximity to the vibrant city of St. Petersburg, which spans the southeastern part of the Pinellas Peninsula.

St. Pete was founded in 1888 and, I was surprised to recently learn, is currently the fifth largest city in the state. During my explorations it certainly hasn’t felt like a big metropolis.

Though the Burg is loaded with history, nature, and cultural attractions its main claim to fame is as “The Sunshine City”. I hail from Tucson which averages 360 days of sun a year, so it is no surprise that I should feel at home here in this area (which bests that record by one day). St. Pete is even in the Guinness Book of World Records for most consecutive days of sunshine with 768 days (1967-69).

Final note, it’s been 74 years since a hurricane has directly impacted the city. Here’s hoping that streak continues…

 

Searching for Shark Teeth

Took advantage of a lovely afternoon to zip down to Manasota Key near Venice, Florida. While my beach is wonderful, the sand down along this stretch of coast is famous for offering up fossilized shark teeth.

Venice is known as “The Shark Tooth Capital of the World” thanks to the erosion of the Peace River Formation. These loosely consolidated limestones and gravel beds formed 20 to 2.5 million years ago and are loaded with marine fossils. Since a single shark can produce over 25,000 teeth in its lifetime it is no surprise that there’s an abundance of these in the fossil record.

I was a woman on a mission; in all my beachcombing outings along the Pacific, Atlantic, and the Gulf I had never found a shark tooth. I was determined to end that unfortunate streak today. Spoiler alert: mission accomplished!

The beach was relatively empty but I encountered one nice lady who gladly showed me her treasures and offered some helpful tips. I have pretty good eyesight so I was prepared once I understood the key identifiers.

While some folks dig and sift, I opted to amble along the swash line looking for dark-colored objects (ranging from red to black) that were triangular-shaped and shiny.

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No Sifting Needed

After a few hours, I had a pocketful of permineralized dentitia and a some other fossils that are fragments of either whale or fish bones.

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Fossilized Shark Teeth

I didn’t stumble upon any real trophy pieces, most were badly eroded, but one still had serrated edges which is cool. What a wonderful way to spend a day!

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Fossilized Shark Tooth Showing Serrations

Just a Hop, Skip, and Jump

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Treasure Island, Florida August 2020

Yesterday evening I walked south on my beach for the first time in months. I lingered outside of Ka’Tiki to listen to the band for a few minutes and noticed this sign across the parking lot.

According to this arrow, my childhood home is just over 2,000 miles away. The vast majority of those miles would be on good ol’ I-10, a road I know well. I’ve already driven the entire length twice in my life and I imagine I’ll do it again someday (but I’m not in any hurry to do so).

Pollinator Party

Spent part of a hot and humid day roaming the trails at Lake Chautauqua Park last week. No surprise, very few creatures were stirring; I only saw two other humans and no wildlife.

Unless you count pollinators; the bees, ants, and flies were very busy! Considering it is the height of summer they had a nice variety of flowers to choose from. As proof of their hard work, there were also lots of berries.

The least showy of the blooms was easily the most fragrant. It took me a moment of searching to find the source for the pleasant floral scent that hung over the trail. I ended up following the buzz of bees to an unimposing bush in the back of a thicket (and I am sad to admit, I still do not know the name of the shrub).

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Slack Tide

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Slack Tide, Treasure Island, Florida July 2020

At my favorite sunset spot at John’s Pass last week I caught a photo of slack water (or slack tide), the calm period between the change in tides. It brought to mind the song “Slack Tide” off Jimmy Buffett’s new album, Life on the Flip Side. Though Jimmy Buffett wrote these lyrics before 2020 and recorded this song in January it is fitting for this chaotic time we’re living in:

“Well we could use some quiet
We could use a little calm
Find the good in everybody
Share that “one love” balm…

I wish the whole wide world could swim along, at slack tide”

Sponge Fun

I have been avoiding touristy, crowded places (for obvious reasons) but last week I finally succumbed to my unceasing curiosity and checked out the sponge docks at Tarpon Springs. Thankfully, it was a wet visit which played in my favor as there were very few other people wandering around. Thank you, rain!

This small town along the Anclote River was founded in the 1870s as a fishing village but the discovery of sponge beds put the town on the map. Before the proliferation of synthetic sponges, natural ones were used for cleaning, art, and even contraceptives.

Surprisingly, in the early 1900s, sponges were Florida’s leading industry and the majority of those sponges were harvested and processed in Tarpon Springs. Though the sponge market has diminished over the years it left an indelible mark on the town in the form of Greek heritage.

One of the first investors, John K. Cheyney, was an immigrant from Greece and he brought over divers from the Dodecanese Islands to work in the industry. Their descendants remained in the area and it now has the highest percentage of Greek Americans in the country.

Walking along the waterfront I overheard folks speaking their cultural tongue, but of course, it was all “Greek” to me! In the future, I’d like to dine at one of the many Greek restaurants in town or perhaps I’ll return for one of the festivals.