We own a rental property there which is occupied by others during the best Florida weather months. Still, we hate to leave the property empty for months at a time, so we pop in for a week now and then just for the heck of it.
We have done this often enough that we have a regular routine for how to enjoy Florida at its most hot and humid.
This year, however, we skipped our August Florida trip, vowing instead, as I told you last week, to “set aside the same seven days that we would normally be in Florida and treat them like vacation right here.” Not only that, we attempted to “mirror the experiences” we normally have in Florida.
Here’s how it worked out.
When we do August-in-Florida, our first day is usually consumed by the hassle of flying to Tampa, renting a car, driving 40 minutes to our condo, getting it opened up, grocery shopping and the like. On the other hand, day one of our “staycation” featured a leisurely walk into Sheldon Marsh, something we have intentions of doing every summer and never seem to get to it. The day was clear and comfortable; Lake Erie was beautiful; and the beach was almost deserted. In other words, perfect! We concluded our day with dinner at Marconi’s, which was as good as any we have in Florida.
Just one day into it, we could see that our staycation had the potential to be even better than the more conventional ones of the past few Augusts.
Day two we attended an Indians game at Progressive Field. Cory Kluber, one of just two or three Cy Young Award-winning pitchers I have ever seen pitch in person, was on the mound. And the Tribe won 4-3 with a walk-off single in the ninth inning. Nice! And so much more fun than watching the Indians playing the Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
One thing we always enjoy in Florida is dining outdoors along the water. So on day three of our staycation, we toured the Marblehead peninsula before having dinner outdoors at Dock’s in Port Clinton. That evening, in front of us, Lake Erie was sparkling all the way to Canada. Afterward, we took a turn around East Harbor, swapping stories, as we always do, about our visits there as teenagers. The views and outdoor dining were probably not better than those at the Gulf of Mexico. Still, it was a very nice day.
Day four was another beautiful Lake Erie vista followed by more close-to-home outdoor dining. We started at Huntington Beach in Bay Village. It is part of the Cleveland Metroparks system and is a truly spectacular place to spend a summer afternoon. Towering trees shade the emerald green park at street level. And a wide, clean beach is visible perhaps 40 feet below, accessed by stairways in a couple of places. I have showed off this place to out-of-town visitors a couple of times, but this was the first time I have gone there for the fun of it. Really nice.
And, because we always have a pizza night in Florida, after we got back from Huntington, we ate Cameo Pizza on the porch overlooking Eagle Creek golf course. Objectively, it was a better experience with better pizza than at our Florida pizzeria.
Day five we maxed out our beach time. In the morning, we were on Cedar Point Beach minutes after the park opened. There are few beach venues like it anywhere with the sounds of waves lapping in front of you and roller coaster riders screaming behind you. Very fun. Later that afternoon, we went to Chaska Beach in Huron for some family pictures.
I told you earlier that we were trying to “mirror” our August-in-Florida holiday. Well, last August in Tampa, we saw the acclaimed horror/thriller movie “Get Out.” This year, on staycation, we were even more thrilled and horrified by “A Quiet Place.” We talked about it for two days afterward.
Day six we did what we often do during a week at our condo: we spent much of the day doing laundry and odds and ends at home. That evening, we used a gift certificate given to us by a friend for dinner at the swanky modern restaurant Red in Beachwood. We shared everything from the appetizer to the ribeye, and it was still probably the most expensive meal we have ever had. Thank goodness for the gift card.
Day seven we went to Put-in-Bay. We traveled by ferry from Catawba. And everything was perfect: the lake was calm and blue; the day was clear and comfortable; our perch and pierogies were tasty; our tour of the island was fun and relaxing; and we enjoyed running into an old friend, something that seldom happens in Florida.
So that was our week. Of course, I didn’t even mention going out for pancakes or Chick-fil-A or trash potatoes or grilling America’s best sweet corn or watching it rain from a chair in my garage or working leisurely with my flowers and tomatoes.
On the surface or to boaters or people who have cottages at the lake, our staycation week probably sounds kind of corny or touristy.
But it was so satisfying to do all the things we had been saying for years we would do. Six days out of seven were spent enjoying Lake Erie. We haven’t done that since, well, ever.
Best of all, there was no travel stress. It was fun and relaxing.
So, if, like us, you have been putting off any or all of the above-mentioned activities, I say get out there and do them.
Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.