My enthusiasm knew no bounds as we started our drive from Tampa to Clearwater. A decade is a long time and the whole landscape had changed; people I knew had moved on and the place I stayed in was renamed. Nevertheless thanks to Aakaash’s searching skills even without knowing the address he managed to find the place where I had stayed for a month. The drive from Tampa to Clearwater is breathtaking and the moment we entered the beautiful drive across the ocean it overwhelmed me with amazing memories, the innocence, the fun and a blast of a time that I and my friends/ colleagues had.
Finally we were able to locate the motel where we had stayed and asked the manager if I could take few pics. A decade ago it was called Comfort Inn and it used to be in an open space now the area was covered by flyovers and loads of buildings were constructed. It was surreal to be there a decade later - last when I was here I was a kid and now I was standing there with my kids.
The last night in Clearwater from a decade ago was a crystal clear memory – everyone packing, sitting on suitcases to close the gaping mouth; requesting each other if they had some extra space in their luggage. Once all that was done most of the girls were literally crying coz we all knew that we’d all had the time of our lives and that this time would never come back and the friends we had made were going to be left behind. At that time I had with full conviction said that I will definitely come back here. Alas, so much time had passed and we all had got consumed by our daily lives and the contacts were all lost.
Our next stop was the Clearwater beach which is famous for its pristine white sand beaches. I remember this is the place for the first time ever I went jet skiing with my friends and I think Rajat, Monika and Namita – all were non swimmers and were driving in one jet ski and they fell off in the water, they were completely panic ridden and were having a hard time getting back up on their jet ski; can never ever forget their fear stricken faces when we reached to rescue them… lol.. Some memories! It was really nostalgic and sent me back to memory lane where so many cherished moments just came gushing in. The way Namita and I use to shop together, always covering each and every isle. The time when officially we all were taken to a night club and each one of us freaked out dancing and partying all night.
I remember we were supposed to always inform our managers or team leaders if we were planning to go out and one night I and two of my friends decided to go out for a drive to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This was also the first time ever I drove a car in my life. Of course it was late and we had to sneak out and while we were out one of my colleagues found us missing and got worried sick as to where we were. She woke up our Team Leader to ask about my where about, but he was so tired and exhausted that he told her that we must be somewhere in the hotel.. That was a narrow escape for some of us but the amount I got to hear from Monika and Namita was enough for me to always keep them in loop all the time. I do recall how we all were completely hooked to Taco Bell and almost everyday for lunch we use to walk there from office with our FACS mugs for refills which I still have.
When I was shaken back to reality we made our next pit stop at the Bahama Breeze Restaurant where a decade ago we had our last dinner before returning back to India and that time I had told my friends, one day I will definitely come back here. When we reached there I was excited like a kid, as wonderful memories were rushing back in. Took pics in the same spots where we sat a decade back, it was just wonderful. I wish if we had more time I would have definitely taken Aakaash and the kids to the Bush Garden’s where I had first encountered the craziest rides of my life. Due to shortage of time and the fact that we had to reach Orlando, soon after lunch we took to the road. We were ready to rock and roll and hit Orlando to have the time of our lives and to re-live the kids in us.