They look like train cabooses: red, mustard yellow, smaller than a regular bus, a whole fleet of Jolley Trolleys that provide convenient transport to parts of Clearwater and other nearby municipalities.
The reason these trolley rides are so darn popular with locals and tourists alike is plain and simple — they’re fun.
My wife, our two grandchildren and I parked in the Publix lot on Island Estates, situated off the Clearwater Memorial Causeway about a mile from Pier 60. The timing couldn’t have been better as the south beach trolley pulled in just as we did.
Sitting two to a seat, the kids got the window views because we could look over their heads at the passing scenery. And what scenery to behold, beginning with the first stop at Pier 60 and several others along South Gulfview Boulevard to Sand Key. First came the nubile bodies playing volleyball; next, the cabanas coating the beach like giant blue mushrooms.
We hopped off at Shephard’s Beach Resort and ate lunch nearby, then waited impatiently nearly half an hour to catch the next south beach trolley. These aren’t narrated tours — they’re strictly a hop-on, hop-off service — but our initial driver kept up a jovial banter with boarding and departing passengers. Trolley seats stayed full with mainly groups of families and friends moving about together. Considering the, shall we say, challenging conditions for parking around much of Clearwater Beach, many have found it more convenient to park in one place and take the Jolley Trolley as opposed to constantly re-parking.
Our trolley ambled along past the usual structures of a beach scene — hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops — but the real show involved the people. The association of age with attire soon became a novelty. Older men and women walked slowly along sporting an assortment of straw hats with far more body clothing than the younger set. Dads carried coolers and wives hoisted beach bags, their children’s hands held tightly as traffic zoomed by.
Those strutting their stuff and displaying lots of skin put on the best show. Sidewalks pulsated with the energy of skimpy bikinis and Speedos, shirtless men, adornments of tattoos and piercings. At times I felt like covering my grandchildren’s eyes — but never my own.
I noticed, too, that older folks tended to keep their feet well-covered while younger types favored flip-flops or going barefoot. And I never saw an old-timer head-bobbing to headphones, showing off an obnoxiously large gold neck chain or appearing hungover. Sigh, how I miss being young!
Modes of sidewalk transportation other than walking at times tempted collisions with pedestrians. Skateboarders zigzagged precariously, as did bicyclers — the only conveyances given a wide berth were strollers. For everyone else it was a game of dodgeball.
On a lovely day with a few hours to spare, take a jaunt on the Jolley Trolley. It’s an inexpensive kaleidoscope of Americana that you can’t help but enjoy. For information on fares, routes and travel times, visit www.clearwaterjolleytrolley.com.