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It's Awesome Baby

April 15, 2012 - Al Stephenson
I am back from sunny Florida and while the above title could be used to describe my entire vacation, there is a different reason I used those particular words as you will soon see.

My "ballparkin" trip can easily be broken down into three segments. My wife and I were on our own for the first three days of the trip, with no particular plans. We spent the entire first day driving as it takes a while to get to the Sunshine State. We hit the border around 10:00 A.M. on Friday and decided to head to the Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg area.

We found a casino just outside of Tampa and had to stop. I guess when you know you are going to spend a lot of money on a trip, the chance to drop a few more bucks just seems appropriate. We didn't stay long, but it doesn't take long to do your part in keeping those gambling meccas afloat. From the casino, we headed to the beach.

The problem was that since it was Easter weekend, we couldn't get near the beach. There were no parking spots at any of the beaches we stopped at and finally we ended up at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant in Madiera Beach. If you have never been to a Bubba Gump restaurant, you need to do so.

The restaurant is all about the movie with artifacts and memorabilia all over the place. The tables have two license plates sitting there for your use. If everything is all right you leave the green Run Forrest Run plate showing. If you need anything, just turn over the red Stop Forrest Stop sign and any waiter or waitress will rush over to lend a hand.

I would recommend one of two appetizers - the Bubba's Far Out Dip or the Shrimp Shack Mac and Cheese. Both are excellent. The servings at these restaurants are huge. I suggest you share the Shrimper's Heaven platter. It will give you four different types of shrimp as well as fries. My wife and I have been sharing this entree each time we stop at a Bubba's. By the way the one in Madiera Beach is the eighth Bubba Gump restaurant we have been to, joining Monterey CA, San Francisco CA, Charleston SC, New York City, Navy Pier in Chicago, the Mall of America in Minneapolis and Honolulu. I'm guessing I don't have to give you the state on that one!

We slept in on Saturday and I suggested to my wife that we head to Siesta Key for breakfast. There is a place there called The Broken Egg that is popular with the locals including a guy named Dick Vitale. He has mentioned the place a number of times on ESPN so we decided to see what the fuss is all about.

I can tell you that the food is great. You get plenty of it at a reasonable price and it is excellent. The meal became much more meaningful when the owner announced that Dickie V was in attendance. The man with the passion for the game of basketball took to a microphone and turned his enthusiasm into a cry for support for the Jim Valvano Foundation. Vitale had some stories to tell about young people who were suffering from cancer. He was going to autograph a copy of his book that would be sold for five bucks. Get two and he would give you a third for free. All of the proceeds would go the Jimmy V Foundation. Perhaps some day cancer will be eliminated - that is Dickie V's hope.

The guy is legitimate. He posed for pictures and signed anything presented to him. Any money collected would go to cancer research. It was fun to listen to him and definitely the highlight of the first third of our vacation.

The view from my seat would suggest that spending any amount of time with Dick Vitale is worth it. His presence will make this "ballparkin" trip so much more memorable.


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