Destination Clearwater: Bayshore Drive

An afternoon drive along a waterfront road.

When I first got my driver's license, I would drive everywhere. For the sheer pleasure of being free behind the wheel, I’d head as far out of the city limits as my curfew allowed. My best friend and I scoured the beaches, headed north to the county line in Oldsmar, got lost in the now-developed wooded backroads by the tri-county line, and cruised along the interstate. More often than not we had the windows down and Jimmy Buffett's "Volcano" album blaring from the tape player.

When a boyfriend broke my heart or my mom and I had a fight, I drove to sort it out. I felt free; I could think, cry, hurt, heal - whatever. The sound of the tires on the road, the sticky summer air when I rolled down the windows, the yellow lights on the water as I came over the Memorial Causeway - these things healed me. My car became my temple.

Of course, mom and dad payed for the gas and insurance, and I didn't know to think  about the impact of my mobilized meditation sessions on my carbon footprint. Today I am older, cheaper, and more aware, but I still, on occasion, love to take a drive for no good reason.

I love the twisty turn-i-ness of Bayshore Drive. It's gotten a little more crowded over the years, but I can still get lost in my head as I drive past the mangrove-edged bay, interrupted by the occasional boat dock or park bench. The street lasts only a few miles, and Clearwater gives way to Safety Harbor before I end up by the Oldsmar bridge. The whole too-short experience feels miles away from the rest of the city. I love the drive most at night, where it feels like I'm not in the state's most densely populated county but a winding backroad that just happened to smell like salt. I revert to my 18-year-old self, the one without crinkly crow's feet or concerns about gas prices. Bayshore Drive is my time machine.

Every now and then an unobstructed view of the water will peek in between the trees at me, and more than once I've stopped at Cooper's Bayou Park to peer between the mangroves and delight in the tiny fiddler crabs sliding down their holes as I approach. Egrets wait on the docks, and more than once I've spied hawks watching the traffic float by beneath their perches on power lines.

Today, as always, the road ends too soon, and  I am once again my older self, looking unsteadily at 40. But for a few moments on Bayshore, I am 18 again, and I swear I can hear that scratchy Buffett tape.


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