Yesterday Deb and my good self left the confines of Buttonwood Bay and headed out on a shopping trip to an outlet Mall near Vero Beach on Florida's east coast
The Vero Beach Prime Outlets Mall, for that was it's name, turned out to be a lot further from Sebring than Debby thought it was. She'd said it was 59 miles.
After 59 miles we were only half way there - but we we didn't care.
The sun was shining. The road was long (and possibly winding) and the car top was down. The Beach Boys were singing about some boat called John B and diners with rollerskating waitresses were everywhere. We were young, free and had drugs and money in our pockets. Ahhhh the 60's.
Sorry. Had a senior moment there. Sadly yesterday was still in 2007 and apart from the sunshine, nothing much remained from the 60's. The road WAS long though. And boring. US60 East from Lake Wales to Vero Beach was almost as boring as the road from Sebring to Miami. God's that's a boring road. If all the boring bits of roads from all over America were laid end to end........well I guess they have been. It's called US27 South from Sebring to Miami.
So we were ridiculously happy when we came upon the Mall with still 7 miles to go to the town of Vero Beach. I may have cheered. We both may have cheered.
The Mall was pink. Very pink. All of it. I think Outlet Malls have to be pink by law. I didn't care. We were able to get off US60 and after 80 miles of mind numbingly boring (non) scenery, a huge pink coloured Mall looked wonderful to my eyes.
We strolled along the wide and inviting pathways and looked at every store - and even went inside a few. We both bought 'stuff' and had a jolly good time doing so.
Batteries recharged, it was time to face US60 again but thankfully only for the 7 miles from the Mall to Vero Beach. It was great to see signs for places so familiar to me from previous visits to this part of Florida. Daytona Beach, Indian River Shores, Melbourne. I was a little giddy at being so close to Cape Canaveral with the latest shuttle due to be launched today. As it turned out, it's been delayed until tomorrow anyway.
We turned right down US1 for a block and then left and across one of the numerous impressive bridges that connect the mainland to the thin strip of land that runs for hundreds of miles down the east coast of Florida. We came upon a lovely FREE car park and seconds later we were on the beach with the sounds of Atlantic waves crashing on the shoreline.
We were at the seaside !!!
No sandcastles. No 'kiss me quick' hats. No garish amusement arcades and not a donkey in sight.
In fact there was nothing in sight but sand in both directions as far as the eye could see.
It was a few minutes after 6pm and the last rays of the setting sun were struggling to peek over the tree line and fall upon the beach.
I love the light at this time of day and for a few brief moments, it brought out the blue of the sea, the white of the breaking waves and cast an eerie layer of almost unnatural light between the horizon and the sky. Enlarge and have a good look.
The temperature had already dropped to a very pleasant 64F (18C) but as ever, Debby was glad of her jacket. Give her credit though, she did remove her shoes and socks and ventured out to meet the water.
As you can see from this photo, it was not a totally agreeable meeting.
But it wasn't the water temperature that was causing her to scuttle back to dry land. It was the fact that she had miscalculated the height of the previous wave and had managed to get wet above the knee line.
By now the sun had set and being in the east, we lost most of the beautiful light that can come at this time of day.
We still had this part of the beach all to ourselves and for some reason it reminded me of the scene from Deep Impact where Tea Leoni and her on screen father, played by Maximilian Schell, were standing on a similar beach waiting for the gigantic tidal wave to hit them.
If you have 3 minutes to spare, here it is, thanks to YouTube.
Anyway I decided to pass the camera over and have my soul captured for all eternity........or at least until digital images disintegrate and return to being a handful of 0's and 1's. Probably by March next year.
You can see why I prefer to be on the other side of the lens.
I share a trait with Billy Connelly as he once remarked that he'd still look like a tramp even if he was wearing a tuxedo.
Or words to that effect.
Clothes hang off me like dead skin on a leper. Smooth, smart, suave and sophisticated. All words that will never be used to describe me.
I think that's why I love being in America so much. This country was made for me. I fit right in.
But back on OUR beach, something quite startling happened. We had uninvited guests. A man and his 3 kids appeared from nowhere and had obviously been looking at my typing as, while his son stood poised on the shoreline with his little surfboard, he and his 2 daughters started to build a sandcastle.
Well I never. It spoilt the whole effect. Suddenly I could've been back home standing on the golden sands of Scarborough or Bridlington beaches. Having said that, it was obviously an unplanned visit as the traditional British bucket and spade technique had been cast aside in favour of a much more effective technique based on kneeling on the sand and digging away like crazy.
The son, on the other hand, was doing something much more photographically interesting. He was.........well there has to be a name for it but I don't know what it is. Bodyboarding or boogie surfing or some such thing.
He'd wait for the right moment, which seemed to be when he had regained his breath from the previous attempt, and start running towards the ocean.
At the water's edge, he'd hurl his board along the wet sand making use of it's obvious aquaplaning capabilities and once it was actually ON the water, he'd hop aboard and surf off into the sunset.
Except that the sun had set some time earlier, he was going AGAINST the tide and anyway, he kept falling off after a few feet.
As the closest adult around, I soon realised that this activity was destined for failure most of the time and even on the rare occasions when body and board managed to stay together, they didn't stay that way long enough to justify the efforts in getting there.
Of course I may be missing the point here and I'd just have been happy to have been able to run that fast down the beach, period. Making any sort of contact with a rapidly disappearing small speeding board would have been an incredible bonus.......and a physical impossibility I'd have to think.
As Clint Eastwood was always keen on pointing out in most of his Dirty Harry movies "a man's gotta know his limitations".
But here are a few photos of the times when he DID get it right and managed to crest a wave before parting company with both his board and most of the air in his lungs. Oh and by the way, I did ask dad's permission before taking these photos. Just in case he was on holiday from Roundhay Park. You never know.
Then, realising that he could also become famous by appearing on my blog, dad decided to get into the action. I've no idea where his board came from - maybe that's what they were digging for earlier.
Now HE was a proper surfer dude. He was wearing his authentic one piece black condom to keep out the water and had his head full of Jan & Dean's greatest hits.
Sadly we had to leave the beach as time and tide wait for no man, or woman, or surfer for that matter.
I only had one chance to take photos of dad and thankfully for us both, he found his wave and had a little surf on it.....bless.
We left the beach, returned to the truck and headed back on US60 to the Outlet Mall to do a last bit of shopping. After that we went to a nearby Steak 'N Shake for something to eat.
I'd only been once before and should've remembered that it doesn't 'do' great food. But this time it wasn't the food that got us annoyed but the temperature inside the place. We were frozen and Debby actually put up the hood on her jacket and sat across from me looking like a pink inuit.
A very disgruntled pink inuit.
The manager made the mistake of manning the cash register when we went up to pay and he just HAD to ask if everything was ok ? Oh dear. The end result was that he waived the cost of our (shared) meal and that sent us off onto US60 in a much happier frame of mind - still cold mind you.
That trip back to Lake Wales was made much more agreeable as it was pitch black and so, although we knew that the boredom was still out there (like The Nothing in The Neverending Story), we couldn't see it !
Then it was onto US27 south to Sebring and 'home'.
It had been a grand day out but the next time a woman driver tells you your destination is 59 miles away, take a book with you as you just might be in for a slightly longer trip.