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Over the past few years, the term “Staycation” has been used more frequently by people who most often didn’t have the time to get away for the traditional vacation. The thought was, “If we can’t get away, what things can we do within our community or at least within relatively close proximity that will give us the feeling we were on vacation?” After all, we do take what we have locally many times for granted. With our son and daughter in law having recently moved to Colorado to pursue furthering their medical careers, we thought we’d visit them for a few weeks after they were settled, then enjoy some time back home on eastern Long Island, NY where we could enjoy the last few weeks of summer visiting those charming farm stands, vineyards and historic waterfront towns. However, with more and more people coming to Florida this summer looking to relocate permanently, our mini-vacations seem to be in a holding pattern, and those opportunities to make lasting memories seem to be slipping away, or are they?
Like many, we were becoming creatures of habit in our community. We were always going to the same places to eat or getting in the car for an impromptu drive yet always finding ourselves winding up in the same place. I thought, “Why are we always hearing about the fun adventures everyone else is going on, yet we find ourselves tied to the computer or phone and only giving ourselves permission to steal just a few brief moments for ourselves?” Last month I mentioned how my wife Gail signed us up for a golf membership to force me to take a break and it has been a gift that keeps on giving. Unfortunately, while I’ve always heard practice makes perfect, I seem to be defying that logic. Those who bought homes along the golf course thinking they were going to enjoy those beautiful vistas are now running for their lives as I seemed to have purchased a box of golf balls that have a magnetic pull toward single-family homes. I’m even seeing less wildlife along the golf course as the word must have gotten out that I am out on the course! As frustrating as my game has been, I am constantly reminded of the words long-time friend, and nationally recognized golf professional Bob DeStefano, shared with us when we were in Junior Golf. He said, “The difference between adults and children, when asked how they played, an adult will complain about all the poor shots they made while a child may have had the same number of poor shots, but they will tell you about the good one they had.” So it is in pursuit of my one good shot that keeps me coming back for more. I don’t think that makes me a glutton for punishment, does it? The club has also been great to meet old friends and new ones. One of our friends we met asked us to join them for dinner at the Elk’s Lodge. If you don’t know the Elks, like many similar organizations, they self-fund many scholarships through the fun events they hold at the club. While we joined several years ago, we never seem to find time to go. Our friends mentioned they were invited to a prime rib special and asked us to join them. We were greeted with not only some of the friendliest people we ever met, but the food was outstanding. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was the entertainment by a duo known as “Hot Mix,” and that is exactly what they did. I don’t know what I enjoyed more, watching people dance as couples the way they did years ago, spinning each other around the dance floor to the tunes of the ’50s and ’60s, or my wife showing off her dance moves from the disco era! Maybe it was low expectations after seeing the number of Elk heads on the wall when we first walked in, but as I said to my wife, “We could have been back home in Little Italy where I’m sure the Elk Heads would have been replaced by the heads of members from the opposing crime family.” Of course, she just rolled her eyes in reply.
While we reminisced with our friends on the complete surprise we just experienced, 24 hours later we found ourselves listening to the music of a Led Zeppelin tribute band whose lead singer was a personal friend of one of our friends. I don’t know about you but, tunes from Dion and the Belmonts the night before are about the polar opposite of Led Zeppelin, yet wouldn’t you know somehow one of the couples from the Elks must have gotten the wrong invitation and wound up on this dance floor ballroom dancing to Stairway to Heaven. While they were mesmerizing to watch, on the other side of the dance floor was a group of guys and gals who danced as if they were still under the influence from the party favors being handed out at Woodstock. I leaned over and said to Gail, “I feel like Lawrence Welk is being danced to on one side and from the body language of those on the other Star Wars must have some kind of lasting influence.” Again the roll of her eyes said it all. While the band, known as In The Light of Led Zeppelin was amazing, what I was watching on the dance floor was equally entertaining, and who would have ever thought right across the street was Port Charlotte’s guitar virtuoso Mike Imbasciani and his Bluez Rockerz.
As if this wasn’t enough of a musical extravaganza, another great entertainment venue you have to visit is the Visani Italian Steakhouse and Comedy Theater. We’ve seen some of the best comedians, hypnotists, and tribute bands who have performed on some of the largest stages in the country as well as on T.V. Recently, we saw an Eagles tribute band with a group of friends that go by the name The Alter Eagles. If you closed your eyes you would swear this talented group of musicians was the original band as they have recreated the music note for note. To think you would have to drive to a major city to get this kind of entertainment is amazing in itself, but to experience it just minutes from home makes me appreciate our area even more.
So you don’t feel that our summer experiences have been all music-related, another great surprise was a trip to the Babcock Ranch Eco Tour. With so many people moving to Florida, finding a native Floridian is as challenging to me as finding a good New York bagel, but if you want an intimate experience with Florida’s rich history and wildlife in 90 minutes, this is a tour you don’t want to miss. Surprisingly we still have cowboys and Florida Cracker cattle, with some of the animals coming right up to our safari bus. To see the diversity of wildlife in its natural habitat is an experience second to none. In fact, the original telegraph lines connecting our area to the rest of the state still weave in and out of the woods, and I bet you didn’t know Punta Gorda was originally known for being one of the largest producers of Pineapples!
I often tell those looking to move to our area with high aspirations of boating, golfing, going to the beach, and experiencing all the outdoor activities Florida has to offer daily, “You never will, because you always can. We fall into complacency where the weather we experience daily somehow creates a mindset of what we don’t do today we can always do tomorrow, and before you know it you didn’t do the things you thought you were going to do.” Despite our goal in coming to Florida to live a more fulfilling lifestyle, we find we are busier than what we anticipated, and all the things we moved here for we somehow put on the back burner and took for granted. After living in the state for over 22 years I still find it amazing to think within a 2-3 hour drive we can attend professional sporting events in Tampa or Miami, the arts in a host of cities closer to home, and world-class beaches and golf within an hour’s drive. We can take overnight trips to a variety of different towns and cities where you can enjoy the fast pace and glitzy lifestyle of our state’s larger cities, or the downhome cooking and history found in many small towns that dot our state’s less traveled country roads. These are those surprises we overlook that are so close to homemaking our staycations so enjoyable. Now that I think about it, it may be time to revisit the charming ambiance of North Captiva’s Tween Waters Inn where we sailed to for a weekend stay so many years ago and where so many memories were made.