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Routine weekend pleasures return with sunshine

Elaine Fisher and her friends agreed: Enough was enough.

The group of coworkers and their daughters have been rescheduling an outing since mid-August. Each time, something came up _ a commitment, a hurricane, another hurricane.

On Saturday, they resolved to meet for tea in Ybor City. Rain or shine.

"Back on schedule," said Fisher, 51, who welcomed the chance to forget about her storm-damaged dining room in central Tampa. On Saturday, she dressed up, listened to her girlfriends talk uninterrupted and savored four flavors of sandwiches.

Her life was back to normal.

Postcard-perfect weather heralded the first weekend in a month that Tampa Bay has not had to hunker down against a hurricane threat.

With only a few cotton candy wisps of clouds cluttering an open sky, a collective sigh of relief sounded around the region.

Along the Gulf Coast, roads were peppered with convertibles, tops finally cranked down, and motorcyclists riding without helmets. People jogged, rode bicycles and hit golf balls.

A day at Sunset Beach in Pinellas County was exactly what Marlisa Trevino, 22, needed after too many days cooped up inside, playing cards with her mom and fretting about storms.

She and her friend, 24-year-old Shawn Bodiford, unfolded their towels on crushed shells, ate McDonald's and watched a dozen surfers take short rides on the waves.

"I am so over hurricanes," said Trevino, who drove over from Polk County. "At least we caught up on our sleep."

Along the Suncoast, people crowded into their favorite haunts. The tables were full at Cockadoodles Cafe in Inverness, where customers made up for missed egg, bacon and sausage patty breakfasts after the diner lost power for five days after Hurricane Frances.

Festivals commenced without the fear of a storm-related cancellations.

At the Tampa Museum of Art's 25th birthday party, parents joined their children beating drums and blaring clarinets into the quiet streets of downtown Tampa.

"The kids have been inside a lot because of the rain. They're just going a little stir crazy," said Kerry Barbon, 40, of Riverview, whose three daughters formed a band on a drum, xylophone and violin. "We needed to come out and let a little energy out today."

In Brooksville, a couple hundred children let loose at the annual Kiwanis Kids Day celebration, climbing around fire trucks and munching free hot dogs and funnel cakes.

"It seems like a long time since we had a nice weekend," said Joe Johnston, president of the Brooksville Kiwanis Club, which sponsored the event with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

Mobile home residents in Port Richey said they were thankful their homes were still standing after all the recent scares.

Sixty-year-old Roger Gatian had to leave his home at Tropic Breeze Travel Park twice, each time prepared never to see it again.

He was in his yard Saturday pouring oil into his F-150 pickup and spraying insecticide around his mobile home. His work only was beginning.

"My wife's got a "honey-do' list about that long," he said, marking the length of his arm. It wasn't that his chore list was longer after the storms though.

"Nothing to do with the hurricanes," he said.

At the Feder household in North Tampa, Saturday was a day for dickering. After several tense weeks, Amy Feder and her daughter, Anna, enjoyed a leisurely afternoon at an estate sale on Davis Islands.

Earlier in the morning, the 43-year-old woman knew things had returned to normal listening to her parents describe a dreary weather forecast in New York _ rain, wind, storms.

"I told them it's not raining here," she said. "As a change of pace."

Staff writers Jamie Thompson, Steve Thompson, Abbie Van Sickle and Logan Neill contributed to this report.

Four-year-old Tyler Jackson of Lakeland tries on deep sea diving headgear on an outing with his grandmother, Diana Lewis, to Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry Saturday. MOSI offered free admission over the weekend.

Walter Hutton, 20, of Clearwater pretends to lift a model of the Earth at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry on Saturday. "It would be cool if I could lift it," Hutton said. "I'd be like Hercules.'