Goodbye Sarasota, Florida Pt 1
With the book that is family, sometimes chapters come to an end. With mine, our chapter of having a “home” in Florida is closing. For the last 10 years, I (and eventually my wife and son) have spent a lot of time in Sarasota Florida. I’ve gotten to know the town, the area, the people and a few friends along the way. Over the last ten years, Sarasota has become a second home to me. When I am there I feel just as comfortable as I do in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I actually live and sometimes even more so.
Now, with my mom relocating back to Michigan those times in Florida will be few and farther in between. What we do and where we go when we head to the sunshine state in the future will more focused and more specific and less free and unscheduled. The days of me feeling like a pseudo local there are ending and the days of feeling like a typical tourist will be back. Different adventures and new memories are heading our way for our family over the next several years until who knows who relocates for who knows what reason. The idea of that is exciting all on its own. I will remember the great times I had alone and the ones with my family while hanging around that town and its barrier islands. I’ll always remember the things I’ve learned while spending time on the “sunshine coast.” I’ve learned some of its quirks, high points, and low points over the last ten years.
You never have enough time in one place to see and experience everything. Having spent most of my life in Michigan there are many places in this state I have never been too yet and should have by now. The same holds true for Oregon and Idaho where I lived for awhile and now also Florida. Ten years isn’t enough time to experience the all great things there is to do around Sarasota let alone in the rest of the state.
So, with an eye on the future here is a list of things I won’t miss about Sarasota Florida and the surrounding area. In the next post, you will see the things I will miss about Sarasota Florida.
Traffic – The traffic in Sarasota is truly horrific especially at certain hours and times of the year. It’s partially due to poor urban planning years ago and a currently inept city planning commission with no real long-term vision. It’s also partially due to the ballooning of the population during the busy tourist season and an almost impossible way to make it better. In an area bordered by a highway and the ocean with high-rise condos, office buildings, neighborhoods, and condo associations fighting for space in-between there is little room for improvement. I won’t miss horribly erratic senior citizens and their driving. I won’t miss the congested roads and waiting 10 minutes for a green light. I won’t miss waiting in traffic because the tourists are determined to hold up the entire world for a single parking spot or have no idea where they are going. I also won’t miss the out of towners and old people who don’t know how to maneuver the uncomplicated circle in St. Armands Circle.
Beaches – I generally won’t miss the beaches. “Isn’t that the point of Florida?” you might be asking. Well, yeah it probably is. What I won’t miss though are the high-rise condos NEXT to many of the beaches which are ruining the view. I won’t miss the traffic getting to the smaller lesser known beach spots I have found over the years because traffic is mucked up by tourists waiting to get to Siesta Beach or Bradenton Beach on Anna Marie Island. I won’t miss having to fight for a parking spot at one of the few public parking areas on Long Boat Key because the millionaires and condo developers are able to have entire beaches for themselves. There is a reason why Florida is the cautionary tale about what not to do with your public beaches and beach access. No, Sarasota and the surround barrier island are not as bad as say Miami or Cocoa Beach but it’ still pretty bad when it comes to highrises on the beaches.
Siesta Key Bars – I won’t miss Siesta Keys bars or Siesta Key in general for the most part. 10 Years ago, they were great and I had fun in them (sometimes too much fun). Now that I’m pushing 40 and a dad I don’t have time for SKOB or of the other bars that make up “downtown” Siesta Key and the beach got old several years ago even before it was the #1 beach in the world. Sand is sand and I don’t do crowds. I won’t miss the drunks, the hookers in bars looking for sugar daddies for a night of fun (yes, they are there). The lines, the stupid waits for a single drink, the people touching me and about 10 other things. I will miss Karaoke and the chowder at Captain Curt’s though.
Coffee Shops – Between Starbucks and the privately-owned mom and pop coffee shops and cafes, Sarasota offers a pretty great selection. Coffee & Tea is good business in Sarasota within a certain demographic and age group. There are a lot of really awesome and unique coffee shops around Sarasota, the problem is that not a damn one of them are open after Midnight. Most close at 9 and you can forget about all night coffee shops unless a Denny’s or Waffle House is your thing. It.Is.Not.Mine. It’s been the bain of my writing life on most of my trips to the town and I am not willing to drive to St. Pete’s for a late-night coffee. For a town as vibrant and artsy as Sarasota wants and tries to be; not having great late night cafes and coffee shops is just piss poor. On my last trip, there was only one coffee shop open “late” and it was the Starbucks on South Tamiami Trail and it closes at midnight. It also has NO outdoor lighting which could give a less than safe vibe.
Sarasota Midnight – At first I thought this was a bad joke when my mom told me years ago; it’s not but it isn’t totally true either. Sarasota Midnight is basically around 7 or 8 pm when the town starts shutting down even on the weekends (sometimes even 9 pm). Like I said this isn’t totally true since there is a passable bar scene in downtown and some late-night shenanigans in Lakewood Ranch as well as Bradenton. However, If you are single and in your 20’s, parents with a night away from the kids or a younger couple with no kids you will be hard pressed at finding anything interesting to do after 7 or 8 pm that doesn’t involve drinking. Since most of the population are senior citizens who can only make it for about 9 hours of movement a day the town basically does shut down. If you go out driving around at 9 pm or a little later during the week you might be the only car on the road in some places. I won’t miss the urge to bash my head against the wall at 9:30 pm when everyone else is asleep and I am awake and bored because normal people aren’t in bed at 8 or 9 pm. It’s no wonder there is such a huge drug problem with people under 60 in Sarasota and Manatee counties! Besides drinking I have a feeling meth and heroin must literally be the only thing there to do after 10 pm. Or it seems that way.
Business’s – I have learned that the trick to being in Sarasota is two things. Having enough time where all you can do is drive around and find new things even if you don’t need anything OR get close with Google maps really quick. You want to find a cool mom and pop shop to eat at? You want to find some cute boutique to shop at? You want to go to GNC and get your protein shake and all natural penis pills? Maybe you just have a hankering for Panera Bread? Well, good F$%king luck finding them. Many of the businesses in Sarasota are hidden away in strip malls off the road. Which would be all good and fine but these strip malls are hidden by the walls of palm trees, oak trees and other things that act as barriers against consumerism. Sure, there is a sign for the malls but those signs are almost completely hidden by the trees and you have about 5 seconds to read them before some 90-year-old in a giant Cadillac hits you. Add the hindrance of traffic you could spend a lot of time trying to get into one. A great example would be Detwiler’s Farm Market in Lockwood ranch. Whether it’s worth the wait or not is up to you but when we went there a few weeks ago, the entrance on N. Lockwood Ridge Road had about 10-minute backup largely from people waiting to get in (and of course a close parking spot *facepalm*). No, not all of the shops are hidden away but the rest often are in shady looking buildings that have seen their better days and they don’t scream, “Hey visitor from a faraway land, shop here”. They scream, “we sell meth out back”.
Construction – Now, I am from Michigan and this state does construction just for fun sometimes needed or not. Usually, it’s done half-assed as well. SW Florida seems like it is the same way especially on I75 which runs up and down the west coast of the state. Every time I go down there are construction and traffic backups. To such a degree I do everything in my power not to be on them when it’s daylight. I also won’t miss making the driving to and from the airports in St.Petes and Tampa. I wish Sarasota International Airport wasn’t so expensive to fly into.
So, there it is and in all reality, it’s not a whole lot. I know there are far more things to complain about if you actually live there. Like the high cost of living, sparse jobs etc. As a pseudo visitor though this is the worst and some things bothered me less and less as the years went by so they didn’t make the list. Check by next week for Part 2 of this little travel series where I will talk about the things I will miss.