Venice, Florida in October 2012
Three years ago, we planned a Florida road trip to revisit some of the places I adored as a child.
I had fond memories of Venice and I loved the idea of staying in a retro Florida-Style motel. However when we arrived I had to roll my eyes at this awful sign that overshadowed the quaint semi-circular office building.
The Tamiami Trail from Tampa to Miami
When most Floridians escaped to the north during summer months, our family traveled south (for Dad's work) from Tallahassee to Sarasota. We knew the north portion of The Trail well. Every neon sign and orange juice stand made the 4 kids (and our traveling pets) pretty giddy. My dream when planning the trip, was to stay at a motel on the actual Trail!
This is what Island Breeze used to look like! When built In 1951, it a had a cutesy name, a lovely grass courtyard with a fountain and most likely shuffleboard!
The sign possibly was not neon, but it had a colorful fellow sleeping under a sombrero... which may not be considered politically correct, today. But these are the images that still make me sigh today. I'd like to sit a spell in one of those webbed lawn chairs.
At Least It's There!
I was glad we were able to find any place at all right on the TheTrail! When bigger interstates opened up, the motels and restaurants suffered. This very area turned pretty shady.
The places that didn't have boarded up windows were becoming flophouses and homes to drug dealers and prostitutes. Around 2005, a few brave souls began to work on saving the area with renovations.
The motel is not on the beach or they might have gone for a pricier fix-up. But I liked the simplicity of the flat roofs and painted cinderblock. We enjoyed the convenience of backing up to the door.
There was even a covered walkway that we could have used as a porch to watch one of those great Florida thunderstorms.
The TV and microwave reminded me that it wasn't 1967 anymore. But the doors and ceiling had the original knotty pine. This was their smallest and cheapest of 21 rooms. The woman at the desk tried to talk us into something "more comfortable" but we assured her it would be fine.
Porch with Shells and a View... Sort Of
We didn't seem to have neighbors, so the porch was ours. We noticed a few shell collectors had decorated the windowsill.
The rock and palm landscaping was pretty tidy and gave us a little view. But mostly it was just sad to see the parking lot, where there had once been a refreshing, green courtyard.
There was a tiny pool with a wooden table and grill, but I was eager to get to the beach.
It was Venice Beach where my family spent many an afternoon filling paper cups with shiny black shark's teeth. "I found 94," Says an entry in my 1968 diary. I was sad to discover that 40 years later, the "Shark Teeth Capital of the World" has lost its loot. I didn't find a single one.
They still have palm trees and the 2 rounded buildings that face the street. You have to really hunt to find traces of the original motel. And then you have to appreciate what you discover.
Island Breeze is not a place I will yearn to revisit. More than anything my overnight stay just made me curious about the history of old motels. I'm motivated to find more that have survived, since I know these Mom and Pop places do exist.
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!