We Should Have Passed on John's Pass


It’s nice, when on a trip, to have time to just enjoy where you are staying. Saturday morning was that day for us. Breakfast was prepared as a few of us slept in a little, taking our time to wake and enjoy another day in Redington Beach. The view over the Gulf was calm and peaceful and I sat on the balcony enjoying the quiet start to the day. There was no rush to get ready, no darting around to prepare for another adventure. Our journey that morning was no further than the condo pool.


After we ate and donned our bathing suits, we all grabbed books, music and drinks and made it down the four flights to the pool area. They had a tiki hut covering with chaise lounge chairs underneath, ready for us to kick back and relax.


And we did.


With my thermos, a cigar, a couple of books, the girls and six friends, I settled onto my chair for some simple down time. On any trip, this is important. Don’t go anywhere; just enjoy your surroundings and the people with you. We read our books and chatted. We even took an online test to see how bad our FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) was. Mine was only at a medium percentage, by the way. Funny but most of the men were mediums while the ladies were in the high percentage.


It would have been best if we had stayed there at the pool. However, we had plans to go walk around John’s Pass that afternoon with visions of nostalgia in our minds.


A few years ago, a couple of us had ventured to Madeira Beach and John’s Pass. We had fun walking around, enjoying the wine tastings, the cigar shop and the specialty stores. We had lunch at a sandwich shop out on the deck and I had been so impressed with it that one of the scenes in Losing Faith takes place there. However, after having visited it this past weekend, I am thinking of moving that particular scene to a new location.


For those of you who haven’t been to John’s Pass, allow me to give you a picture. The first half, at least the first half to us because we didn’t even know a second half existed until this recent trip, is a two-story plaza of unique and not-so unique touristy shops. The last time we were here, I remember browsing a leather shop, a store of fanciful wind chimes and shells, and the girls walked through an elaborate purse store. That’s when I had stepped outside and enjoyed my cigar. They had an hour of perusing bags I was going to say no to buying.


They also had this great sandwich shop as I stated earlier, which has now gone the way of the ghost. That was rather disappointing, because our group had planned on eating lunch there. However, you can now see a real live alligator! Imagine that. In Florida, alligators are so rare they have to put one in an air conditioned building so it can be gawked at. (Please hear the dripping sarcasm there.)


With our lunch plans now filed under “Lease Available,” we began to search out other forms of sustenance. Enter the second half of John‘s Pass that we didn’t see last time. I’m not sure why we missed this part a few years ago. Probably because our group was twice the size it was on this venture and because we ate at the first place we stumbled across. It didn’t matter. We now had something new to explore and the John’s Pass Boardwalk had a few dining choices for us to discover.


As we were crossing the street, we came across the little tour guide stand with advertisements and over-priced suggestions. We took a chance and asked for a direction to venture and she recommended the Boardwalk Grill and even had a flyer. “It’s a great place to eat. I go there all the time.” Of course, I wondered how much of a kick back she was getting if our group of ten actually arrived and ate there. I assume she received a kick back because her signature was on the flyer she had passed to us.


We passed a couple of other eateries along the way, but finally made it to the fantastic recommendation, only to discover it wouldn’t seat a group our size. It wouldn’t seat our group even if we were the only ones eating there. The only tables were two benches outside that my gut was not going to squeeze into. I am not sure what it is with Floridians wanting to eat outside during the hottest months of the year, but trying to feed your belly while avoiding sweat dripping into your food is not what I call a great dining experience.


We wound up at Sculley’s, the Hut, another outdoor dining experience, but at least, this place had fans to move the hot air around. They also had a live band perched on top of their kitchen, playing beach tunes to help you try and forget you were melting while waiting for your food to arrive. Water, of course, was the first thing ordered and then adult beverages. With enough alcohol you can sometimes forget how uncomfortable you are.


The food was good, the atmosphere pleasant, but the service not so much. Our waiter took our food order and then I think he forgot us. He rarely came back around to check us and another server brought our food out. However, instead of actually serving the food to us, he handed it to the person at the head of the table and said to pass it around. I just stared at the man. It wasn’t like out table was hard to maneuver, either. We sat around two circular tables pushed together with plenty of room to wander around us. This was made obvious by the dozens of people passing us to go to the restroom and the other servers heading back to the kitchen. He could have done his job, well the other person’s job, better, but just chose to be lazy. When it came time to tip, my wallet was equally as lazy.


Afterward, we began our exploration of shops and wineries. The first one we ventured into was an oddity store. I say this because I am not really sure if it specialized in anything. It had what-nots, knick-knacks and this as well as that. As we entered, one of us made a quip about someone else being slow on the Words with Friends game most of us play to reveal how few words we truly know. As soon as the lady heard us mention it, she chimed in about how much she loved that game and was begging for our phone numbers in order to play us. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t just hand out my phone number to anyone. I don’t hand it out to people I know. Email me and I’ll answer it, eventually. I receive plenty of texts and calls now and I have enough Words with Friends games going on at present, thank you very much.


From there we left and decided to try some wine tasting we saw down the road. A couple of friends decided to go jet skiing, so they went to change and enjoy their own adventure. The first place we went into was Impressive Designs and Florida Wines. A small shop, but the man behind the counter, Gary, was quite helpful, especially when it came to the wine slushies everyone wanted to try. A few people bought the wine and slushie mix as we grabbed his shipping information and headed back out into the afternoon heat to wave our friends goodbye on their two hour adventure. My first thought was, didn’t the S.S. Minnow start out the same way? I waved goodbye harder, just in case.


The rest of us ventured into a couple of more shops and picked up some souvenirs, but honestly at this point, the heat had melted the get up and go of a few of us. We popped into another bar, It’s Five O’clock Somewhere!, and grabbed the popular daiquiri of the day, two for one at that, and tried to soak up some cool refreshment. Sadly, however, this place wasn’t air conditioned, either. It was decided that some would return to the condo and the girls and I would remain behind to wait for David and Myona to return from their water adventure. The plan worked for me, because there was still a cigar store and another winery to venture into.


First the cigar shop. It actually was related to the bar we had just left. CubanParadise is a small shop but with a wide selection, especially of their personal hand rolled blends. The girl behind the counter, who also joined me in the humidor, was extremely helpful and I walked out with a variety to enjoy the rest of the trip with, one I lit up there and enjoyed as the three girls wandered in and out of stores. Suddenly, the heat wasn’t feeling so bad.


One of our final stops was TheFlorida Winery. We remembered this place from our last venture to the west coast and were hoping it wasn’t as disappointing as the rest of John’s Pass had been. Now, keep in mind that it hadn’t been that long since we had finished our daiquiri, so when we sidled up to the wine tasting bar, we were already one drink in. Then, the man behind the counter had us sample twelve more wines and by the time I left, I didn’t care how hot it was outside. They actually had mead for us to try, which I thought only existed in fantasy novels. Shows how much I know, right?


Once it was time for David and Myona to return to us, I was ready to go home. Between the wine, the heat, and all of the walking, I was finished with that particular adventure. John’s Pass. Been there, done that, no need to go back again. Now, it was time for a nap.


And that’s what I did. Once back at the condo, I stripped off my sweat soaked shirt and collapsed in my bed with the rule, don’t wake me until dinner time. It was the best hour of sleep, thus far.




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