The alarm sounds at 9:00 am. I reach across the bed and open the mini-blinds. In pours the rising sun along with a reflection off the Intercoastal Harborway. I can make out about 4 sailboats on the mile wide channel. One of them looks like John Morse's sailboat. Yep, I can just hear his beagle. Ooooowwww! Ooooowwww! On the other side of the channel I see downtown ClearWater awakening. I get up, put on a bathrobe, and Kathy Kaminski is making me breakfast as I stroll out to my eighth floor balcony, which faces west over the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 feet away. "Here you go Mike" says Leeanne White as she hands me the morning paper. I peruse the morning paper as I listen to the sound of gentle waves trickling up the beach, and fading away mere inches from the sand volleyball court. Next to the volleyball court, the jacuzzi is empty, but someone is out for an early swim in the pool. This morning, I'm going rollerblading down the Pinellas Trail, and then maybe I'll take a drive along the beach in my Miata (top down of course). This afternoon, Doug Callahan and I have a volleyball match against Karch and Kent at the Holiday Inn Surf Side (we usually blow them away). If I've got the energy, I may get in a set of tennis with Chip Sherwood at the Harborage. Hit it over the fence and it's in the Harborway (or in a passing boat). And tonight, it's dinner at Rockaway's and then dancing at Jamminz'. And then I wake up...
and I live the dream. Okay, well, with a couple of differences. First, Kathy and Leeanne are replaced by Keith Davey, who wouldn't lift a finger to cook breakfast. Second, Doug and I play volleyball against two high school locals, and we go down in flames.
But my story is not about Tampa at all. I just wanted to start off by rubbing in my current project location. It's good to be king. Oh yes, and I go to work every now and then too.
Let me tell y'all about the short vacation I went on while I was on my long vacation: Diving in Belize, Central America.
BSGers from all corners of the country (New York, Tampa, San Jose, Houston) conglomerated at The Ale House in Houston the night before our memorable trip. In all, there were seven BSGers, a former BSGer, and 2 outside acquaintances. Five guys, five gals. Not a bad mix. There we met to plan our trip antics. People straggled in anywhere between 8:00pm and midnight, depending on when their flights arrived. But by the next morning we were off and running to the airport.
The first leg of the flight down to Belize City, Belize, was pretty smooth. Big plane, smooth ride. And then it was onto the creaking puddle hopper to get to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. It really wasn't that bad, unless you happened to be sitting next to Amy Force whose fingernails (and probably fingerprints) are now permanently engrained in someone's forearms. In San Pedro, we hopped into pickup trucks and golf carts to get driven the dusty 1/4 mile or so to our resort. Okay, time to pick up the story a bit.
The diving was great! Lots of sharks, rays, barracuda and pirahna (just kidding). About half of us had our fingers snapped and bruised trying to feed some snappers (appropriately named). Eric Ellington couldn't shake off a particular grouper. Lots of fun. The toughest part of the diving turned out to be leaving and entering the boat in 6-8 foot swells. One memorable wave caught us all by surprise when we were getting back on the dive boat. Dermot Grady (the only diver currently up on the boat) was launched off the boat in a perfect swan dive, a couple of us unintentionally drank a few gallons of salt water, and I was thrown into the back of the boat and swallowed my regulator. Tasty.
But alot of the action occurred on land, where we didn't need hand signals to communicate. The diving company that sponsored the trip threw a July 4th Party out on the Pier. Good food (fish, of course) and good music. All seemed pretty normal until Dermot wandered off into the darkness and decided to go for a swim fully clothed. Upon surfacing, the look in his eyes said "run". We all ran, except for an oblivious LouAnn Trojcak, who was hoisted up kicking and screaming. Well, Dermot let her go before tossing her in. Big mistake. As he turned away, she poured her drink on his head and took off running. The ensuing chase along the pier ended with Dermot wrapped around a couple of mooring posts. I'd give him a 9.5 for the wipeout. His elbow, hip, knee, and ankle will probably won't be the same for a while.
The next night, we ran into a troop of British soldiers on leave for a day or so. With Kathy Wollerman and Marie Witsell throwing them kisses, they serenaded our girls with something like "yer parents must have been real thieves to steal the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes". And as always, the evening ended at Elvi's Restaurant, for a late bite and some Red Stripe Ale.
Elvi's was a classic place. Great food (fish, of course) and an interesting decor. Among other things, there was a large tree growing in the middle of the restaurant, and the floor was covered with sand. Drop a fork on the floor, and just cover it up. The sand was better than the sand on the beaches, and nicer than the gravel streets. The only thing exciting to do on the streets were gymnastics tumbling exercises, right LouAnn? We spent our last night there, after polishing off one too many bottles of Belizean rum (which were strategically placed in each room). You'll have to ask someone else for details on that last night.
Our only major daytime non-diving excursion was a search for the Mayan Ruins. Since the Hotel only had one golf cart to rent (the primary means of transportation), we headed out in small groups to the other end of the island. We were told that the last mile or so would be unreachable by cart, so we'd have to hike it. Unfortunately, none of us ever found the unmarked trail (go figure) and the last mile was through thick brush. Most of us turned back covered with insect bites. Jaye Hsia never had a chance, wearing a little outfit that would've looked better at The Crush Bar on a Saturday night. Alas, such fond memories.
And just like that, it was time to head home. We all flew together to Houston, and then off to our exotic project sites in New York, San Jose, Tampa and Compaq. Miraculously enough, there were no major injuries (myself included). It's going to be time to do it again real soon. But for now, it's back to the beach front condo on ClearWater Beach...Life's great, ain't it?