Thursday, February 27, 2014

Life is Short. Eat Dessert First.

Email news flash:  "Sharkey's is out.  The Soda Fountain is in."  This breaking development set the tone for this month's bike to lunch with the Isles Yacht Club organized by Bruce and Dorrit Tompkins.

Jim and Claudia Morrow
Anyone who knows Bruce knows how much he likes his ice cream.  One year during Pedal and Play, he enjoyed ice cream at three (or was it four?) stops.  (He says he was just supporting the community.)  And so it came as no surprise to me when the traditional lunch locale for a bike ride in Venice was changed from Sharkey's on the Pier to The Soda Fountain. (In addition to a narrow front room with an old fashioned counter and booths, the Soda Fountain has a back room with just enough tables to accommodate the 20 or so riders on our outing.) What did surprise me, though, was the enthusiasm with which most of the group embraced Bruce's willingness to forego a traditional lunch in favor of sundaes and floats.  (I have to admit to going with a BLT.)  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Like a boy scout, Bruce is always prepared.
The day started off with my friend Wendi, who was visiting from New York, and I meeting the group at Shamrock Park in Venice.  We picked up the Venetian Waterway Trail, a multi-use recreational trail that runs for five miles on each side of the Intracoastal Highway. With Bruce as our tour guide we headed along the trail -- with a stop to appreciate the "watch for falling baseballs" sign -- and made our way across the Circus Bridge towards downtown Venice.

Circus mural by artist Frances Smith (2007)
Why, I asked myself, was the bridge called the Circus Bridge?  I didn't have to wonder for long as we soon came upon a mural and some pavers celebrating the time that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was in Venice.  Little did I know that Venice was the Circus' winter home for more than 30 years.  Each year the circus held its world premiere in Venice, with performers Gunther Gebel-Williams (animal trainer extraordinaire), Michu (the smallest human on Earth) and the Living Unicorn making their American debuts there.  The bridge was christened with its name in 2005 by the Venice City Council in recognition of the parade of animals and circus equipment that made the journey from the train station to the arena over the years.

Me, Wendi and Dorrit at Sharkey's dolphin
As the day progressed, we periodically stopped to get interactive with some of the "Sea Venice" fiberglass sculptures of dolphins and turtles.  The consummate New Yorker, Wendi was reluctant to leave her bike helmet with our bikes when we left them to do some exploring.  The helmet came in handy as she used it to adorn several of the painted dolphins and turtles along the way, including this one at Sharkey's. (Coincidentally, when we were out on the pier, two real dolphins made an appearance.)

Wendi and I rounded our day off with some time at Nokomis beach.  As I sat on the sand with goose bumps on my arms (the temperature had dropped precipitously below 75 degrees), Wendi got in some water time.  Another successful outing, Southwest Florida style.


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