OK, Clearwater isn't exactly the other side of the world from where I live, but it's not really on the way to anywhere. You have to intend to go there, it doesn't just happen.
The drive started peacefully, passing Tampa Bay Downs, with thoroughbreds training in a gauzy morning light. Then on to Oldsmar, a small town island in a sea of sprawl. The Sun Groves store in Safety Harbor is a reminder of times past as well, of tourists shipping fruit by the boxful to family and friends -- a nice way of saying "I'm in Florida, and you aren't."
There aren't many groves left in Pinellas County. US 19 is lined deep with shopping centers -- who buys all this stuff? Traffic going into downtown can be snarled, but it wasn't too bad this morning despite some closed streets. In downtown Clearwater you won't see many tall buildings, but there are a lot of people wearing white shirts and black pants. One of my favorite buildings is the Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church -- how often do you see a pink church?
The Clearwater Main Library is in a new building, opened 2004. The reference section is very comfortable (I particularly like the reading lamps), but the best part is the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Coachman Park and the new Memorial Causeway Bridge. (Some pilings from the old bridge are still there.)
With a sandwich from the library's cafe, I was on my way home, past the original Hooters on Gulf to Bay Boulevard, on to the Courtney Campbell Causeway, and back to my side of the bay.