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Traffic column: Bay area still fascinating place for driving

The holidays gave the Doc an opportunity to spend lots of time among family and old friends and do a bit of reminiscing.

It occurred to me that because we spend most of our time here in Dr. Delay Land complaining about potholes, speed humps, roundabouts and traffic signal timing, we should start the New Year on a positive note. Sure, there's plenty to bellyache about when it comes to driving in the Tampa Bay area, but what about what's really great about driving here?

I started thinking about my favorite drives around town last week and polled some folks at a recent holiday gathering and asked about theirs. Here are the top five that we came up with:

Fourth Street: Nothing says nostalgia to me like Fourth Street. From north to south, it's a nonstop flashback to my youth. Fourth Street is also home to several restaurants that occupy a special place in my heart and have miraculously managed to survive since I first started driving in the late-1970s — Pepin, Dal'italia, China City, Chattaway and Munch's.

Okay, I know Chattaway is technically on 22nd Avenue S, but it still counts as a childhood fave that I can look at longingly as I cruise Fourth Street S.

Sunshine Skyway: When I was a kid, my grandparents lived in Fort Myers, which meant a lot of time driving south on the weekends to hang out with them, which was cool, but on Sunday afternoons my brother and I were anxious to get home and reconnect with our friends and nothing said we're almost home like the specter of the magnificent old Sunshine Skyway bridge. The original one looked like something a kid had built with an erector set and it glowed when it was backlit by the setting sun in a way that the new one, no matter how beautiful it is, doesn't quite re-create. But the view cannot be beat and I am reminded of how great it is to not be digging my car out of a snowbank whenever I make the drive this time of year.

Thrill Hill: Another great memory, especially of the days when I was learning to drive a stick-shift. Although the Doc does not advocate speeding or dangerous driving, this Third Street S spot scored high with my friends as a super-fun route to take from the Chattaway to the Poynter Institute. If it doesn't make you giggle, at the very least, it puts a smile on your face.

Gulf Boulevard: This is a great drive when you need to remind yourself that you live in one of the most beautiful spots in the United States. Gulf Boulevard has it all, from the nostalgia of Pass-a-Grille and St. Pete Beach through Treasure Island. Mad Beach, John's Pass, Indian Shores and Sand Key. This is a gorgeous drive especially if you can disregard the tourist traps and just enjoy the view.

Pinellas Bayway: I can feel my blood pressure drop and the tension knots in my shoulders ease as I make the drive to Fort De Soto Park, especially when I'm accompanied by my dog, who, unlike my husband, hangs her head out the window and blissfully enjoys the view and doesn't complain bitterly about the condominium kudzu that has obliterated much of what was once pristine Old Florida. But once we have cleared Tierra Verde and actually get to Fort De Soto, the view is a delight, not a deed-restricted community in sight and nothing but road if one is headed to the North Beach. It's heaven.

Start the year out with an old-fashioned Sunday drive — pile the family in the SUV and take a spin down a road you've not been on in a long time. Enjoy the drive. Happy New Year, and until next week, drive safely and happy motoring!

Please e-mail Dr. Delay at docdelay@yahoo.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Check out Dr. Delay's Bay News 9 blog at www.baynews9.com/DrDelay.html to read more about commuting issues.

Traffic column: Bay area still fascinating place for driving 01/03/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 4, 2009 2:00pm]

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