(Click here for parts one and two of these posts.)
In 1982, Orlando wasn't quite the vacation bonanza it is today. Albeit, it was still a tourist trap then as it is now, but it featured several fewer amusement parks then. On our second vacation to Florida, we stayed in Orlando almost the whole time. But on this first trip, we worked our way west, toward the ocean.
We did visit one other big Orlando attraction: Sea World. We saw Shamu, took the conveyor belt through the giant shark tank, and saw a waterskiing show, among other things. Eventually, we drove to Tampa Bay.
My sisters were so excited to see the ocean, but I wasn't. I dislike the beach, even more then than I do now. My dad stopped the car next to ocean so the girls could get out and collect some seashells. I stayed in the car.
We stayed that night in Clearwater, which is suburban Tampa. We were looking for a hotel, and the girls really wanted one with a pool with a slide. I just happened to notice one, a Rodeway Inn. Near our house in Chicago was a Rodeway Inn on Cumberland Avenue, and though we had never stayed there, it always seemed nice. This Rodeway Inn was more of a motel than the high-rise hotel (which, in 1994 and under a different brand name, was the hotel O.J. Simpson stayed after his ex-wife was found murdered) by our house. Unfortunately, this Rodeway Inn wasn't very nice. It wasn't terrible, it was just, well, plain, to the point of cheap. I remember us finding a restaurant that night and me getting a grilled ham and cheese for dinner.
The next day, we went to Treasure Island, another Tampa Bay town right on the ocean. This time, we found a nicer hotel, a high-rise right on the beach. In the haze of our vacation, I can't remember if we stayed one or two nights in Treasure Island. And we saw some sort of attraction in Treasure Island that I can't remember, either. I need to check with my parents to see if they remember more of what we did (and this is why I aim to blog more on vacation -- so stuff such as this isn't forgotten). But I do remember some things:
-- No one swam in the ocean, but we did in the hotel pool that was a little chilly. I actually went in this pool -- likely, I was bribed into doing so -- but just hung on to the side on the shallow end while wearing my Blues Brothers t-shirt in an effort to stay warm.
-- An older couple sitting by the pool told us of a few great restaurants to visit. One was barely a coffee shop at which we didn't stay, and another was a mom-and-pop restaurant probably not visited often by tourists. I think the food was OK, though.
-- We were convinced to hear a time-share pitch for a free $20. The pitch included a short video with George Kennedy in it. At some point, when the hard sell got turned on, my dad got defensive and angry. We took our $20 and got lunch at a restaurant next to the ocean.
-- We went miniature golfing and had a lot of fun.
-- One night in the hotel room, after a long day, we all started dozing off with the Bulls game on TV. The hotel got WGN on cable, and I was able to watch the Bulls in Florida. I eventually fell asleep watching the game. (Looking this up, and I'm just guessing on the date, I think the Bulls won 91-73 over the Hawks.)
-- Seagulls were all over the place, and before we left, Dad went out on the balcony with a danish, put it on the railing, and watched as a swarm of gulls descended on the balcony while we took pictures.
Vacation wasn't done yet, however. We came to this side of Florida to visit another amusement park. Busch Gardens awaited.
(Click here for part four.)