Category Archives: Hidden Hometown Treasures


I love airports.  If I could, I would live in an airport hotel.  They offer so much possibility.  You can go anywhere around the world from these ports of freedom.  I have my favorites (Atlanta is actually on my good list – I like the underground tunnels) and my not-so-favorites (Detroit).  But by any measure, I love Tampa International Airport.

It has decentralized security so you never have to wait too long, it has a nice flying pattern (you fly in or out over the bay), and it has first-hour-free parking.  Random?  Probably, but I love driving up to the top floor of the parking garage, which is above the rest of the main terminal, and just watching the planes take off or land beneath the open skies.  I think people lose sight of the fact that a miracle of sorts is happening when a multi-ton metal tube full of 150+ human beings, luggage, gas, food, drinks, etc lifts off from the ground and stays in the air for hours at a time and then lands safely.

But one more reason I love airports is best summed up in the intro to Love Actually:



Leave a comment

Filed under Hidden Hometown Treasures

Confederates at the 4th of July parade?

Did you know Brandon, Florida has Florida’s largest 4th of July parade?  It’s true!  In fact, our governor, Mr. Rick Scott (aka Lord Voldemort) was planning on being a part of our little shin dig up until the Thursday before.  He cancelled because he was afraid of protesters.  It is a testament to his horrible job rating when a republican governor can’t even come to the BRANDON 4th of July parade … but I digress.

What I really wanted to discuss was another group who actually did show up this past Monday.  The Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy have long marched in our parade.  This year I was struck by the realization that these people are celebrating the fact that their ancestors tried to overthrow our Republic.  The 4th is the day when our country comes together, leaving behind the rich and poor dividing lines, the republican and democratic ideology and celebrate the fact that we are a free, united nation.

So why were these people marching in this parade?  They had several flags, but none of which were the American republic flag.  These people were not celebrating our free and united nation, they were clinging to a group that tried, unsuccessfully, to tear our nation apart.

What are your thoughts?  Appropriate or not?

(See my rant on the Confederate Battle Flag, which was also in abundance at the parade.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Hidden Hometown Treasures

Kayaking and a New Goal

Yesterday, I went kayaking with Jeffery, Jeff, Martin and Matt.  We started at a house near Hillsborough and Rome Ave. and headed North (upstream) on the Hillsborough River.  We kayaked up the almost 5 miles to Rowlett Park where the Hillsborough River Dam is and made it back in just over 5 hours.  A fun day overall for sure – but I didn’t put sunscreen on my legs.  And I was in a sit-on kayak (as opposed to sit-in kayaks, which look more like canoes and provide at least a LITTLE more protection for your legs).  So now I’m hobbling around with very swollen, very burned legs.

This portion of the Hillsborough River was very different from last months portion.  Whereas the upper park of the river is more narrow, more shallow and has more of a canopy over the river, this month the river was wider and the sun beat down on most of the river.  The homes on the river ranged from really old, dilapidated wood frame homes to new, multi million dollar McMansions.  It was really interesting to see all the variety.

It didn’t take long after getting back on the river that I came to the conclusion that I would like to kayak the entire river (in portions) in the next few years.  I think the next portion will be from our starting point today south to Tampa Bay.

The picture below shows Matt in the sit-on kayak (we switched at the dam).  You can see how exposed the legs are.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hidden Hometown Treasures

Outdoor Fun!

Over the past month I’ve gotten the chance to explore some fun areas of Hillsborough County.

I went kayaking down 8.5 miles of the Hillsborough River (East of I75, not near Tampa).  We passed many turtles, birds and lots of gators – even tried to race one.  The interesting part about this was that of the 4 groups that were at the kayak place, we were the only locals and 2 groups were foreigners.  It is sad that most people don’t take advantage of such a great public recreational resource.

A weekend later, Matt, Brian and I went to the fourth annual blueberry festival.  I didn’t actually believe that we had a blueberry fest, lead alone one that was four years old.  But alas, it was a small but well worth it excursion into Thonotosassa.  Apparently blueberries were started as a niche market a while back.  The acreage has since tripled since the Florida growing season is longer and starts before the traditional season for blueberries.  We tasted 10 fruit wines produced here in Hillsborough; all of which were fantastic.  We ate the traditional festival food and even got to pick 2 pounds of blueberries for 6 dollars!  They tasted amazing!

Last outdoor adventure was horseback riding in Lithia.  This was probably my favorite because I hadn’t been on a horse in some years.  For just 30 dollars, we were given an hour-long guided ride at the Red Fox Stables.  Our guide, Nicki, was knowledgable and friendly but not the kind of person who forced conversation if you just wanted to be quiet.  As I got comfortable riding Rebel (loved that name for a horse), Nicki let me move from a slow walk into a brisk trout.  I’m not sure Matt liked this move.  I would circle back and get a bit of distance between Nicki, John and Matt.  Then with a slight tap of my heals, Rebel trotted up to the front.  Since Matt’s horse was alway in the back of the group, he would start trotting alongside Rebel until we reached the guide.  When I go back I’ll be trying out the canter and gallop tracks.

Good times had by all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hidden Hometown Treasures

Education via Travel

High above my hometown flies America’s largest confederate battle flag.  To many, this is a source of pride and heritage.  But when I see the Stars and Bars waving high over the tree line I see the battle flag of a vanquished nation, a flag that shouldn’t be flown without an American flag flying just higher than it.

I bring this up because last night I was driving home with a friend who has lived here just as long as I have and yet never knew much of anything about this flag that has such a prominent place in our county.

The flag people associate with the confederacy is the first flag shown below.  This flag is actually the battle flag that the rebel troops would fight under.  The dimensions were varied and most were square but this was the design.

The second flag below is the real flag of the Confederacy (the last flag design adopted by the Confederate Congress before their fall).  Note that the battle flag design IS incorporated but IS NOT the entire flag.  In fact, throughout the Confederacy, the battle flag was never the entire design of their flag.  This flag also flies over Brandon, but in the most appropriate of places: a Confederate cemetery. 

This is why I have a problem with the flag that flies over I75 and I4.  It is a battle flag that troops would go to war under, killing Union troops.  The Civil War (a misnomer if I have ever seen one) is over.  The battle flags should take their place in historical context and not be flown high over American soil.

1 Comment

Filed under Hidden Hometown Treasures

Right before your eyes

I grew up outside of Tampa and never really liked the city.  The skyline was interesting to see when the fair came to town – peaking over the tops of the trees as one peaked on the Farris Wheel.  But to me, it was full of people too busy for life, grungy looking people and just undesirable experiences.

When I travel, I try to make it a point to visit open/green spaces.  I like the idea of nature in the middle of urban settings.  Central Park in NYC can take you from the hustle and bustle to a calm, relaxed setting with trees shrubs and wildlife.  Not all urban parks need to be dense or intricate to do the trick either.  I was introduced to a beautiful park today by a friend of mine.  He loves Tampa and loves to educate people on the city.

We went to the Curtis Hixon Waterfront park on the Hillsborough River.  It has a large lawn with lush grass, nice trees and is right up against the East shore of the river.  It is flanked by two museums (just outside of the photo below, they would be on the right hand side) that add to a nice feeling of closeness to the city, yet far enough away to connect to nature.  The University of Tampa is across the river in the background.  If you are ever in town, it is something to see regardless of season.  Even after a heavy rain (like today) it was beautiful and perfectly fine to walk around in wearing nice clothes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hidden Hometown Treasures

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.

A pipe burst in my neighborhood today.  When the repairmen came to fix it, they had to open up the fire hydrant so they could work on the problem area.  I took my brother’s English Bulldog puppy down to check things out.  As I watched the gallons and gallons of water gushing into the street two neighborhood kids came out to see one of the neighborhoods most exciting events in some time.  They wondered if they should play in it or just race their RC cars through it.

As I was walking home, I started to think about 1960’s New York City.  I could see in my head the kids all coming out to play in a fire hydrant on a hot day.  And I realized that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  We live in a world with computers and cell phones, where kids are able to do more with google in ten minutes than with a library in a day.  We have skyscrapers reaching beyond the clouds.  We can travel to around the world in a matter of hours.  We harvest the energy of atoms and turn corn into just about everything but corn.  But if you turn on a fire hydrant, kids still come out to play.  It is nice to know some things don’t change.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hidden Hometown Treasures