It is funny how a chance meeting with a native Floridian on a pier changed the course of our family vacation. We were fishing on Clearwater Beach’s Pier 60 a few days ago (to no avail) and the kids spotted a vendor pedaling his “wares” – shark’s teeth. Dubbing himself as a self-taught paleontologist, he told us he is a legend in the shark’s tooth-hunting world.
He explained to my boys that he has been searching for these tiny teeth (and some rare ones the size of a cell phone!) for 20 years all over Florida, making necklaces for tourists. As my kids sat sifting through his buckets of teeth, they contemplated starting their own collections. We purchased a $10 bag of teeth, but the kids want to add their own finds to the mix.
So, we are off – heading south from Clearwater/Tampa area to Sarasota and Venice, where we will hunt for our own beach sea treasures. Back home, in Chicago, my kids love to search for sea glass, pieces of old bottles that have been made smooth for years under Lake Michigan. The hues of turquoise grace our shelves. But, after seeing the movie “Jaws” for the first time on this trip – and meeting our new shark’s teeth-hunter friend – we are in search of some major chompers!
We’ll be staying at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. (I am hoping to do some of my own mommy “treasure – hunting” – a.k.a. shopping and maybe some fine dining.) That might be wishful thinking this go-around, but I will report back on our stay regardless.
The best part about winging-it on vacations with kids is that we have adventures that turn our trips in different directions. If we were catching fish, we wouldn’t have ever met the man with the teeth and if we never met him, we might have ended up heading to Orlando’s theme parks.
As the kids get older and more interested in educational field trips like the one we are about to take, I am eager to teach them and show them what the natural world has to offer. It’s like watching a live episode of Animal Planet. Since most of Florida was under water at one point, many of the teeth are prehistoric fossils. Any local bookstore can help visitors identify the teeth.
We once found two tiny shark’s teeth on Amelia Island, which is on Florida’s Northern Coast. But, we are all excited to see what Venice (half-way between Tampa and Fort Myers) brings, as it named the Shark’s Tooth Capital. Florida is drying out today after some showers, so we can’t wait to see what has washed ashore from what was once lurking beneath the Gulf-of-Mexico!