“Clearwater Beach is the Best City Beach on the Gulf of Mexico according to Dr. Stephen Leatherman ("Dr. Beach"), a Florida International University professor who has been ranking America’s beaches for nine years.” So says the website of Clearwater, Florida.
Since we moved to Tampa, we have heard so much about Clearwater Beach. And we did visit it a couple of times, though not really with a view to enjoying its wide expanse of white beach sand, the panoramic view of the wide surf, and its scenic beauty as I shall explain. The first visit, on a weekend, turned out to be a non-starter as we were overwhelmed by the tremendous traffic that literally clogged up the SR60 road leading to it from Tampa. So we decided to turn back at the point the road narrowed to two lanes, with a seemingly endless line of cars ahead.
The next two occasions were in conjunction with the releasing life activity. So dropping by the Clearwater Beach was like an after thought one of which I had blogged here.
So when our D (CY) and her boyfriend, Dan, from Oregon visited us during the Christmas Holidays, we decided to head out there, ostensibly to let Dan, who has not seen another ocean body other than the Pacific Ocean, which Oregon abuts, to have a taste, or rather a smell, of GOM (Gulf of Mexico).
The moment we disembarked from the car and stepped onto the white beach, we were hit by the swirling breeze that brought a chill down my spine. Both CY and Dan felt especially at home, as this is the usual winter beach condition over at Oregon, perhaps even chillier.
The beach sand felt firm, and hardly any sand got into my shoes, unlike previous visits. Perhaps the air was damp, and the sand particles were held together by the moisture.
And the surf was energetic, evidenced from the white foam and the lapping sound of broken waves running up the wide beach. However, no evidence was more forceful than the color of the flag raised in front of the life-guard house shown here: Orange.
After a group huddle, we fanned out. As we trudged along the beach, heads down, hands in pockets (see who is the odd one out?) and bodies slightly leaned forward, we came across a group of seagulls who have perfected the art of standing motionless in the wind gust. Facing wind, wings tucked back, tail erect, one after the other, and leeward of a steel trash bin, all in the effort to present as small an area to the wind as possible.
On the pier, the first view that struck us was the display of brightly colored parasols, but placed with the surface in a vertical position to act as a wind break. But for what purpose? We soon found out that these are used to shield the vendors who peddle their wares from the wind. They are ornamental items made from shells, shark and alligator teeth. Here you can see CY picking up a pair of erring while Dan was looking for something for his brother.
And we have to have something to show that we have visited, and had a good time, at one of the premier beaches in Florida. And here is the photographic proof.
Then we adjourned for a hearty meal at Crabby Bill's Seafood Restaurant located just around the bend as we exited the road that is parallel to the beach. I had a broiled grouper (6 oz, see bottom left), my wife a broiled salmon (4 oz), and we traded some. My younger D had a land lubber dish: beef burger while my S decided to dig in to Jambalaya. CY and Dan shared a dish of king crabs (top right), which required some work of breaking with a pair of pliers and extracting the meat encapsulated within the hard shell. But no venture no gain. And the tasty meat that ensued (bottom right) soon made the labor all worth it.
As we bid farewell to Clearwater Beach, a visit marked by high wind, strong surf, parasol protected vending, and great crabby meals (though I had fish), we were again reminded by the relentless push of development, supplanting the pa-and-ma run beach front operations with high rise condos.