Denverites love to perpetuate the myth that it’s cold there during the winter. The more people think November to March is nothing but frigid temperatures and snow drifts the more people will stay away—and they can have the city to themselves. They especially want Texans to remain Texans, I understand. Denver actually has quite mild winter weather.
I think the folks in St. Petersburg, Florida, too, have their tongue in cheek when they say it’s hot here from March to November. It’s too early to be definitive but from what I’ve experienced and what I’ve been told by long-time residents is that the weather may be hot and humid come the dog days of summer, but for someone from Washington, DC it will seem like a spring day.
Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but the weather has been a pleasant surprise. I write this on a day when it is about 80 degrees here and projected to be 93 in Fairfax, Va., my old hometown. I’ll take even 90 here. Humid, indeed, but not oppressively so, which is what it usually is in DC. And the evenings are lovely, cooling nicely by 8:00 with a breeze off the bay, about three blocks away. But don’t tell anyone. Let them think it’s miserably muggy.
Into our sixth week in St. Pete, things couldn’t be much better, due mostly to the house and neighborhood we’ve inhabited. Built in 1924, the Spanish stucco abode has large rooms and enough archways and decorative touches to make this place charming. It is framed, I’m told, not with two-by-fours, or even wood, but by interlacing hexagonal hollow clay tiles about six inches long over which plaster is laid. It makes keeping this place cool in the summer easy to do. Being the cheapskate I am, I turn the AC off during the day. Unless I’m doing anything physical, which I scrupulously avoid, it’s comfortable. Writing does not require sweat equity, strictly speaking. I turn the AC on about an hour before Karla gets home as she is hot in the summer no matter what the weather. Being a Texas girl it’s understandable. Cool summer days are unimaginable to her.
The neighborhood is charming. Many of the homes date from the first decades of the 20th century. It’s now called Historic Old Northeast and is marked by many Prairie style homes in addition to the Spanish stuccos.
Many of the streets are still brick, each with the imprint of Augusta Block, which may have been from the Georgia Vitrified Brick and Clay Co. of Augusta, Ga., though other sources indicated the bricks were actually made in North Augusta, which is across the border in South Carolina. The homes are of all sizes and there are some apartment buildings, most of them small, older and well-kept. One in particular is beautiful:
Along the bay is a wide concrete trail and park that extends from the Snell Isle bridge to downtown St. Pete. The town has undergone a revival over the past decade and, due in part to the 5,000 students at the St. Pete campus of the University of South Florida, doesn’t feel like a retirement community. In fact, the city seems to attract young and older professionals looking for something Tampa must not offer.
I’ve met quite a few of them through the St. Pete Cycling Club. I figured the club was a good way to meet people, though I was concerned that I would be riding with a lot of young bucks who would drop me like an old girlfriend. Instead, I get dropped by a lot of guys my age and women who drop me like an old boyfriend. But I’m beginning to hang with them, even if my heart rate tells me I’m dangerously close to my last ride, like when I look down and see that we’re travelling at 30 mph. It’s flat, but 30 mph is tough, even when I’m sucking some wheel. We meet weekday mornings at 8:00 on the USF campus about two miles from our house. Usually there are about a dozen or two riders and we pretty much stay together for the first loop, but then a smaller subset takes another loop around for about a 25-mile ride, and it’s in that second loop when the testosterone gets going.
Saturday rides are another story, entirely, with a couple hundred riders showing up at the North Shore Pool at 8:30. Rides are called off a couple of minutes apart, “26 north, 26 south, 24 north,” etc. down to 18. The numbers are the average speed of the group on one of two routes. There’s also a Ft. Desoto ride, called the best ride in Florida by a book my son gave me. Ft. Desoto is usually pretty fast and hence a smaller ride. But the others can be a hundred riders or more. Though they are supposed to be “controlled rides” at a steady pace, inevitably, some riders catch a traffic light. It’s hard to keep together, and even harder to keep it controlled. And if Ft. Desoto is the best ride in Florida, the place can’t compare to Virginia. The water is nice to see, the palm trees swaying, but the countryside, partly because it’s so flat, is uninspiring.
My son Zack was here for the weekend and rode three days with me. Memorial Day was a Ft. Desoto ride with more than 200 cyclists. We broke up by the second light and once we got to the park a large group stopped and from there it broke apart again. Zack, I and a young woman soloed home.
Much too early for a final verdict on St. Pete. But so far, so good, at least for the body.