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Day Five Of Our RV Trip: Pensacola Beach At Last!
To the beach at last
It took a while for me to get myself together Monday morning the Fourth of July, after that kick in the head yesterday and subsequent trip to the emergency room. My lip looks like something that began life as a sausage and grew from there, stretched and fat; in fact, I think I look a bit like Rocky at the end of his first movie (without the eye thing).
But I shall overcome my ugliness (after all, I should be used to it by now) and take my family to the beach. So we all grab our beach gear, toss it into the SUV and head out on the road to find Pensacola Beach!
Traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. And confusion trying to figure out which road takes us to the beach we are trying to reach. Right outside lanes disappear and inside left lanes constantly appear, forcing us to attempt to stay in the correct lane. It ain't easy.
Finally we cross a bridge and think we are there; nope, not yet. Keep going, keep going, keep going, change lanes, keep going, change lanes, keep going. If I had someone to ask, I'd be the one saying "Are we there yet?" but there is no one but me so I keep my mouth shut (but not too tightly - that lip still hurts).
Another bridge. Another bridge? And its a toll bridge? How much? Only a dollar, okay I can deal with that. Then it is bumper to bumper traffic, people in swimsuits walking everywhere, cars honking and mayhem ensues.
Ah, life at the beach!
As usual, we end up in the wrong lane and have to turn left, leading us to a road which runs between businesses on the left and vacation homes on the right. After a bit, we decide to turn right into a side street and try to see where in the heck we are. I park in a driveway of a house that is for sale and my wife and son and I get out to reconnoiter. Our daughter is too embarrassed to leave the truck so we leave her here and walk across the street towards what we believe to be an entrance to a beach.
We struggle through the powdery white sand, getting it into our sandals and shoes and then a slight rise stands before us. A few more steps and...
Oh. My. Goodness. Ocean, blue and green ocean for as far as the eye can see. Stretching out to the far horizon like a painting, with the sun overheard and its rays reflecting off the shimmering white sand of the beach, a riot of color in swimsuits and umbrellas and blankets to the left, right and in front of us. The sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach reach our ears and the cool breeze coming off the waters blows into our faces, refreshing us from the heat of the day. We stand speechless for a moment, just taking in the enormity of the sight before us.
Now I understand.
My wife breaks the silence with a touch and whispered statement for me to go get our daughter, that she has to experience this with us. I turn and trudge back to the truck to get her. When I arrive and invite her, I receive a less than positive reaction and I end up demanding she accompany me to where her mother awaits. Seriously?
Most of her teenage angst dissipates when she tops that small rise and sees what lies before her; most, but not all. She smiles a small smile, one that tells me that she does indeed enjoy the sight but still a part of her refuses to allow me to know how much she is enjoying it; kids.
After a bit we return to the truck with an idea of where we need to go. Before we turn that way we drive among the homes, reveling in the beauty here. Each house is of a different design, a different color creating a landscape like nothing I have ever seen. Most, not all, have posts lifting them up from the ground to keep them safe from storm surge, I assume. Then we are back on the road, heading West and trying to get through a light at an intersection. We are third in line to turn left, and sit through four lights. For whatever reason the left turn signal refuses to come on, causing us to sit still as car after car goes through the light and keeps us blocked in place. Finally I spy an opening and dart back into the lane next to me, travel on through the green light, find a place to turn around and get on the other side of the street so I can turn West from here without the damn light. Ha!
Then it is miles of beach homes and hotels, each with private beaches. We find some public parking but they are all full. We drive on and eventually turn around because we spied a parking place alongside the road near a portion of the beach designated for dogs. We ask a local and learn that yes we can park here, just don't pull in head first; parallel is the way to go. So, after what seemed like hours and was really only two hours we load ourselves up with our particulars, and head off onto the path
Within a few feet we discover sand spurs. Them things hurt! But we march on through the sand spurs and powdery sand and eventually venture to what lies beyond. We top the rise, wander along the beach towards an unoccupied spot and drop our items in the sand. Then it is time for the water but first things first: don't forget some sun protection. After each of us has been sprayed we make our way towards the water's edge. I keep my camera close at hand in order to catch this meeting of my family with the ocean itself. I take a few pictures, then place the camera onto the towel and make my way down to the edge of forever.
The water catches my toes and it is cool but not cold. A bit deeper, one step at a time. My children are already floundering around far from shore yet still only waist deep. I stand and watch them as they scream with delight as a wave rolls over them, tossing them about like a toy. They stand back up sputtering and head right back in. Each has a pair of goggles on to protect their eyes from the salt water and they alternatively dive and stand, jump and float in the blue green waters.
I cannot help but smile at their joy. My wife comes alongside me and holds my hand. I look at her and see a smile that tells me she is truly happy. Thank you God.
We spend hours here. Sometimes on a raft floating along; sometimes on a boogie board playing in the waves. Sometimes we sit on the beach looking for shells, sometimes we go into the shallows to search for shells that come in and are immediately pulled back out when the water recedes. There is no stillness here, although there is peace. The ocean is loud, the waves deafening as they continually crash onto the beach. The wind never ceases to blow but it is not overwhelming to the mind at all.
No one bothers another person as they are each involved in having fun themselves. There is plenty of space even though the stations each has claimed for themselves are close together. People constantly move in and out of the water, sitting on the beach to enjoy the moment then stepping into the water to feel its power. And power it has; even as I am standing with my feet firmly planted in the sandy bottom I get swept off my feet and tossed back towards shore before I feel the tug of the current as it returns to the deep sea. I have learned a new term: rip current or rip tide. These are not powerful yet there is power in them and I can see how someone could be pulled away from the beach and into deeper water. Even as I watch I can see my children playing fifty feet from shore in waist deep water being pulled inexorability to the left as each wave crashes then recedes. I call to them to come closer; they look up and are surprised to find they are close to a hundred yards away from where their mother sits on her towel. How did they get all the way down here?
Finally it is time to head back to the RV and clean up for the evening. Everyone is tired and covered in sand but happy at the same time. This has been a first experience that will live forever in our minds and memories. That it happened together makes it all the more powerful to me. This is what drives me, this family enjoyment. This is what satisfies my soul and offers me true happiness, time with my family. I cannot exist without them.
Once we arrive back at the trailer our new neighbor comes over to visit. He and his wife are full time RVers and are over from Houston. When I fell yesterday he was quick to arrive with a first aid kit and this morning before leaving I went over to thank him, taking a jar of homemade pickles over as a means of expressing that thanks. This evening he came over and gave Caleb a flying toy that lights up while in flight, saying it was his to have and play with as every child should have fireworks on the Fourth of July. In the park they are not welcome so this is an alternative, one which provides light and joy but safely. He is kind and we appreciate his gesture and Caleb has a ball shooting it up in the night sky again and again.
Later, we have a light dinner, hungry yet not too much so and slumber awaits. We drift off to sleep dreaming of the day and the adventure we shared, and what adventures tomorrow holds for us.
I cannot wait.