Make us your home page

Florida's RNC delegates may face dreary ride to the convention hall

PALM HARBOR — For Florida's delegates, the road to the Republican National Convention starts here: behind a small white guardhouse rimmed by begonias.

Over four days in August, the delegates will leave their rooms at the Innisbrook Resort, board charter buses and begin a long commute to downtown Tampa.

The Republican National Committee insists it wasn't punishing the Florida delegation by putting them so far away. People riding the bus might disagree.

On Tuesday, we took the trip the delegates will take: 32 miles across the top of Tampa Bay.

If the delegates follow our route, they won't see beaches or blue heron, palm trees or dolphins, anything to remind them of Florida's natural wonders.

They will see miles of strip malls and apartments, walk-in clinics and gun shops, and X-rated video stores.

Maybe delegates will ponder the many signs of issues being debated during this election. Maybe they will pine for that Starbucks off Tampa Road.

• • •

We pulled out of Innisbrook at 8:44 a.m., leaving behind its 900 wooded acres, four championship golf courses, 18,000-square-foot spa, salon and fitness center, and 60 acres of lakes. Two minutes later, paradise was in our rearview mirror.

We turned south onto U.S. 19. Eight lanes of asphalt dissected an endless stream of commerce, something to satisfy every appetite: Flap-Jacks pancake house and LA Fitness, Florida Detox and the Super Vitamin Outlet, the Last Chance Thrift Store and the Fountain of Youth.

Within a mile, we had passed the first Walmart.

The intersection of U.S. 19 and Tampa Road is one of the area's busiest. The Florida Department of Transportation reports 75,000 vehicles cruise through here every day. We turned left, heading east into the sun.

Health care loomed large on both sides of the six lanes: East Lake Outpatient Center, West Coast Brace & Limb, Harbor Close Assisted Living. A funeral home offered quick cremation. Eastern Massage promoted alternative approaches to healing.

The sagging real estate market also was evident: empty buildings, "For Rent" placards, posters on telephone poles offering "Free Foreclosure Listings."

We didn't pass many houses. Mostly townhomes and apartments ringed by brick walls. Almost all of them advertised vacancies and move-in specials as low as $100. One banner said simply, "Welcome home."

Of course, there were the chains — everything you would expect: Cracker Barrel and Applebee's, FedEx and Walgreens, Home Depot, Target. Another Walmart.

The only open land was just over the Hillsborough County line, a single swath of scrubby forest on the south side of the road.

But bulldozers were busy there, tearing out pine trees.

• • •

Tampa Road turns into Hillsborough Avenue, which runs into Memorial Highway, which leads to the interstate — where 141,000 vehicles merge on every day. Here, drivers speed away from suburbia and toward the Tampa skyline.

From the bus windows, Florida's delegates will see the airport and its Hilton, where Utah's delegates will stay. Then they'll pass the airport Marriott, where Missouri's delegates are booked.

Under the overpass, around the ramp, through downtown traffic, then the bus will head left at the Hyatt Regency. Mississippi and Wisconsin delegates staying there will be able to walk to the convention. The bus will turn right.

For Florida's delegates, the road to the Republican National Convention ends here.

At 9:29 a.m., exactly 45 minutes after leaving Innisbrook's guard gate, we saw the glass front of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. All that was between us and our destination was a field of empty parking lots.

Maybe the bus driver will decide to take the Courtney Campbell Parkway in August.

Lane DeGregory can be reached at

Florida's RNC delegates may face dreary ride to the convention hall 05/01/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 3, 2012 4:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pasco county lawyer disbarred for taking woman's money

    Real Estate

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis.

    The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis. 
[2016 booking photo via Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Rick Scott signs package of tax breaks

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott signed a tax cut package Thursday that — while vastly scaled back from what he wanted — eliminates the so-called "tampon tax" and offers tax holidays for back-to-school shoppers and Floridians preparing for hurricane season.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a tax cut package that will cost state coffers $91.6 million during the upcoming year. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
  3. FBI probes fraudster's alleged church scam following Tampa Bay Times report

    Real Estate

    PLANT CITY — Once again, the FBI is investigating felon fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao.

    The FBI is investigating convicted mortgage fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao on new allegations following a Tampa Bay Times report.
[TImes file photo]

  4. Tampa Bay is ground-zero for assignment of benefits cases over broken auto glass


    When Rachel Thorpe tried to renew her auto insurance last year for her Toyta RAV4, she was stunned to see her monthly premium had nearly doubled to $600. The Sarasota driver was baffled since her only recent claim was over a broken windshield.

    Auto glass lawsuits filed by a third party (through what's known as assignment of benefits) are skyrocketing in Tampa Bay.
[Times file photo]
  5. Siesta Beach tops Dr. Beach's rankings of best locations in America


    Three beaches in Florida made it on a highly coveted list of the top 10 in America this year, ranked by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach."

    This May 18, 2017 photo shows Siesta Beach on Siesta Key in Sarasota, Fla. Siesta Beach is No. 1 on the list of best beaches for the summer of 2017 compiled by Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, a professor at Florida International University. [Chris O'Meara | Associated Press]