Today began with a wonderfully late start: I actually got up before Joe this morning, around 9 am. Buster was already up and ready to head out for his morning ‘business’. We eventually ended up finding a laundromat and did our first load of clothes ‘on the road’. Now I feel like a real traveler indeed. $3.75 later, we have enough clean underwear for another week or so.
We then decided to drive around for a bit until we stumbled on the downtown Riverwalk area. The Hillsborough River runs through Tampa, following a paved path populated by other tourists like us. Lots of people on the water – paddleboards, small boats, jet skis, and even a larger ‘river tour’ type boat with a narrator. Buster was a real trooper, although by his droopy ears, lolling tongue and manic panting, I suspect the heat and humidity were starting to affect him. I’ve heard that the humidity here is pretty brutal up until about November, and they are not kidding. You step out of your car or house, and BOOM the sweating starts.
(On a practical note, for all the women out there, I’ve realized that cotton or dri-weave underwear and sports bras rock. And, I do not want to wear anything with underwires in this heat – they get sweaty, and then they chafe and hurt. Ask me how I know. I’m sure Joe has some thoughts on men’s underwear along the same lines – minus the underwires!)
After a bit, we packed ourselves back into the car and found Ybor City, an amazingly cool little Tampa neighborhood. This was actually a separate town 100+ years ago, started by a Cuban cigar czar who was looking to expand his Cuban/Key West empire. He named the city after himself, built hundreds of little shotgun shacks (some of which are restored and occupied by local residents) and imported workers from his homeland to roll cigars. I guess it was quite the cigar manufacturing region for a long time – Arturo Fuentes opened shop here, along with many other well-known cigar makers. The area eventually suffered from neglect and urban decay up until the last couple of decades. Now the old architecture is slowly being restored, and the neighborhood is filled with small locally-owned cigar shops (some even have employees inside hand-rolling cigars). The buildings make me think of the style you see on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, with wrought iron balconies jutting out of brick two-story structures. It’s kind of a cute, funky little area, and it would be fun to explore if we didn’t have an elderly, cranky Beagle to escort everywhere.
So, the time was right to end our day, and take Buster to his boarding kennel as we prepare for our flight to Annapolis tomorrow morning. Goodbye lazy late mornings for a couple of weeks!