The fastest and most direct way to get to any Gulf Beach from Downtown St Petersburg proper is to either take Central Ave or 1st st Ave North to Treasure Island. The first way is the obvious Central Ave, since it dead ends into Treasure Island, the Thunderbird Beach Resort, which an excellent hotel and landmark for those out of towners.
Central Ave is more scenic and less intense in terms of traffic and I recommend this for those new to scooters or for those who simply prefer to be on streets where the traffic is not much faster than the scooter is capable of going. In fact, until you pass 34th street, Central is 15 to 20 mph for the most part. It is one of the few places in St Petersburg where you can get a ticket on a scooter so be mindful. The untimed red lights can be a relief from fast traffic since it prevents cars from gaining too much of a top speed and if you are not in a hurry, then it is kind of cool to see all the shops on Central. I have driven by the same blocks in a car untold times, and I don’t know why exactly, but on the scooter, I see so much more detail everywhere. So many different things that I never noticed before, to the point where the most common question I ask myself when on Central Ave is “How long has that been there?” because I am seeing so much for the first time. This is part of the scooter experience, there is nothing between you and the rest of the world – so everything is in your face. Sadly, in a car I have a tendency to let my mind drift and I most likely go on ‘autopilot’ for most trips that I have already been on. Even sadder my drifting mind tends to focus on problems or otherwise unnecessary things. This does not happen on the scooter. If you day dream yourself into a pothole or curb, you are in for a memorable experience if you are ‘lucky’, as they say. So I hardly ever drift, and all five (?) senses are on alert.
An alternative for taking Central is 1st Ave North. This is a fast moving one-way street that is great to take if you want less stops and faster moving traffic. There are fewer shops to see than Central, but not less first time sights to notice. Again, all these years I have lived in St Petersburg, and on the scooter I am having more ‘first time’ awareness of so many different things. Like certain houses, stain glass in a house, a cool lamp post, parking spots now freshly painted, countless law offices, CPAs, all manner of doctors’ offices, a restaurant call Cappy’s (how long?, hmm looks good… plan on trying).
And it is not just the sights that you can absorb while riding, but the sounds and smells. The engines of cars, loud things are even louder and more intense. A dump truck or bus makes me want to reach for a power button to roll up the window, or a remote for mute for only a pointless moment, then I smile and enjoy it knowing that these sounds will soon fade to where my scooter is the loudest thing, but not louder than the birds at dawn, or the laugher of a child.
The smells too, such a wide range and can toggle between sweetly pleasant and horrid. I can be overwhelmed while passing under the bridge underneath I-275 by odors that instantly remind me of the New Orleans French Quarter on Mardi Gras Day. However, within minutes, I am greeted by the pizza oven of Central Pizza, of Central and 64th, even though I am on 1st Ave North, one block away, I am clocking their oven like I am standing outside their door. I am getting hungry just thinking about it. They have 2 slices and a can drink for less than $5. I give them $6 as a tip gladly since each item is worth over two bucks. That is perfect for me.
First Ave North eventually requires you to take a left at or before 66th street, then a right at Central Ave, which takes you over the 3 bridges of Treasure Island Causeway, which tends to be the fastest part of the journey. There are no lights to slow folks down and the speed limit is posted as 35 mph, but most folks are going faster and if you are not used to cars passing you it can be harrowing. This folks passing me at high rates of speed used to bother me, but now I am more accustomed to it. Kind of like I am scared of heights, but flying in a plane doesn’t bother me and I don’t spend much time fretting about it.
There is too much to cover in this entry for what to do when on the beaches, the scope of this document is to simply get you there.
To get back to St Petersburg it is pretty much the same two options except that 1St Ave South is your one way, fast option back. Just remember to go due East at the Thunderbird once you are there. This is the Treasure Island Causeway which soon becomes Central Ave.
One cool place about 1st Ave South is a garden center Twigs and Leaves where you can get a variety of Florida Native plants, which can withstand our extended dry periods during the cooler months, and rain most days in the summer. I love that we can get plants like that right here in Downtown St Petersburg, a great place to live or visit so I thought I would mention it. If you want plants that look good and probably won’t die, this is your ticket.