March 7, 2019
After two weeks at home, we are back on Red Pearl and raring to go! We had a lovely time with our parents, celebrating Mom Hollenberg’s 90th, and quietly spending Mom Barr’s birthday with Dad. We went to doctors appointments, met with friends, and shared dinner with nephews. And then we returned to Red Pearl with dear friends Joel and Beverly Eikenberry in a rental car. They spent 2 days with us in St. Petersburg on the boat, but we were disappointed that high winds prevented us from truly introducing them to the cruising life; instead we opted for a quick 2-hour cruise during which winds did not exceed 12 mph. We revisited the Dali Museum, picked up our new folding bikes, enjoyed delicious stone crab at Billy’s, and made a quick sashay to St. Pete Beach, which is gorgeous when the weather is inviting—but it was not! On our last day in St. Pete we reconnected with friends Jeff Sickels and Twila Liggett over a leisurely lunch and talked about a possible rendezvous next winter in the Keys.
Before returning home in February, Steve and I spent a lovely day in Sarasota on the Ringling Estate. We enjoyed the fabulous art collection which John Ringling amassed, comprised primarily of works of Baroque European masters, and toured the stunning home, Ca’d’zan, of John and Mable Ringling. John (1866-1936) was one of five Ringling brothers of the circus legacy, and his job was to seek talent for their circus acts, traveling the globe with Mabel. His wealth, built apart from the circus business through investments in oil, ranching, railroads, and real estate, made him the 13th wealthiest man at one point. In 1924, he and Mable finally began construction on a permanent home. The 36,000 square foot residence was the setting for lavish parties, hosting guests such as Will Rogers and New York Mayor Jimmy Walker. Built for $1.5 million, it is valued at nearly $21 million today. Mabel died only 3 years after moving into the home from Addison’s Disease and the complications of diabetes. Nine years later, at John’s death, the tangled web of his convoluted financial affairs, hounding creditors, bitter family rivalries, competing state and local governments, and a scorned former and second wife took 10 years to wind its way through probate. At his passing, John’s art museum and residential estate were left to the people of Florida, and $311.00 remained in his checking account. After leaving the Ringling estate, we drove to St. Armands Circle, remembering how exciting the shopping seemed 40 years ago when we discovered it. (Call us jaded.) We stumbled onto the Columbia (Restaurant), at which I remember the Cuban preparation of our filet mignon way back then, and we savored another memorable dinner there.
Tomorrow we head down the western coast of Florida to Venice. Time is shorter than we had hoped, due to time spent in Indiana and the press to be north of the hurricane belt in May before we head to Ireland for Stephanie and Luke’s wedding. It’s ALL good—special time at home, and weddings abroad! But we are tantalized by the idea of returning next winter for some of the stops we’re having to bypass this time around.