Day 13 - Naples to St. Petersburg (Mileage 189 miles)

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September 19th 2013
Published: September 24th 2013
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With no real plans or targets for the day apart from the need to get closer to Orlando by the end of the week to return the RV we settled on a reasonably straightforward drive up the coast, avoiding the main roads and hugging the coast for as long as possible. We packed up the RV and departed the still underwater, 'not very close to' Naples KOA and headed for the road into Naples and out the other side.

First was a stop for another 150 dollars of petrol, this time only blocking two pumps whilst we tried to extract petrol from the pump for ages forgetting the need to 'prepay' for everything out here again. Then we hit the road on the 41 north out of town. After another half hour we had travelled through hundreds of sets of red traffic lights and only covered about 10 miles so we switched to Plan B and cut inland to the I75 and a much faster trip North.

After our first McDonald's in 2 weeks at a roadside stop we consulted various maps and guidebooks and established whilst we hadn't missed much by travelling the inland route, it would be worth cutting back out to the coast to cover the islands of Siesta Key and Longboat Key, just west of Sarasota. These beautiful islands appear to be the playgrounds of the Florida rich. Siesta Key is small and has some lovely beaches and large number of smart houses located along the beachside and in small communities just behind the beach.

Longboat key was slightly different, much longer with huge long beaches and equally huge houses. In a couple of places were short stretches of cafes, bars and shops but no real place to park a 30 foot RV so we ended up in one of the beach car parks for a break. The views of Sarasota were amazing and weather was very hot, we sat on a dock with some Pelicans and watched the fisherman standing waist deep in the sea about 100 metres offshore fishing...the pelicans weren't impressed.

Next it was back on the road for the final run into St. Petersburg. The quickest way into St Petersburg is across the 5 mile long Sunshine Skyway, a causeway and huge bridge that travels directly across Tampa Bay. It's another pretty impressive piece of engineering and at both ends are rest stops/ fishing piers that have great views of the crossing. Having made it across the bay, we carried on past the huge tent like structure of the 40,000 seater Tropicana Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team where hopefully I will get a chance to go back and see them play at some time this trip. From there it was a short ride through hundreds of sets of traffic lights into the KOA St Petersburg which turned out to be a great little site. Right on the waters edge with nice pool, plenty to do for kids including a small crazy golf course, bikes, boats and of course the obligatory wildlife of ducks, squirrels and woodpeckers.

The camp was busier than most we have been to but still plenty of room and no surface water despite the amount if rain that had fallen in the past few days. We were hooked up very quickly and immediately met by the four white ducks that live on the nearby pond, with plenty of leftover bread and burger buns to unload over the last 48 hours of our RV trip we quickly became their best friends! Having taken advantage of the excellent laundry on site we converted large bags of rotting clothing into something semi-wearable (never shave or iron on holiday! Is my main motto) we headed out for a night on the town.

Supported by the obligatory evening thunder storms and showers we took a 20 dollar cab ride out to John's Pass Village, a fishing dock/ marina that has now been turned into an evening venue complete with a number of bars and restaurants? After walking along the deserted and slightly damp boardwalk that runs along the front of all the venues, we settled on Bubba Gumps shrimp factory mainly because it was one of the only inhabitated restaurants at 8-30 at really is quiet season out here. The only other inhabitated venue in the whole place was Hooters and despite trying to convince Shas it would be a worthwhile US social experiment to see the Hooters in their natural habitat, I was overruled! Fairly regular stuff in Bubba Gumps but we did try an interesting cocktail from their menu which was a margarita with a bottle of corona inserted into the top.

After dinner we used the local Batts taxi cabs online app to order our return fare and it was there in 3 minutes. It uses your phones GPS to find your location, tell it how long you want it and it appears by magic! We returned back to the RV and a nights sleep before hitting St Petersburg in the heat tomorrow.

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