My only thought about the trip was to get away from my house, my chores, my daily grind, and go and spend some time with great friends and their kids who I love. This was a guarantee.
Then I met the ocean.
I had frolicked with the Atlantic before, yes, but it’s been years. When I was a kid and we lived in Maryland we’d spend two weeks each Thanksgiving in Fort Lauderdale. We stayed in the same exact hotel each time. My dad would get up at the crack of dawn and dig for sand fleas to use as bait. He had an impossibly long fishing pole that had a base that was as thick around as my seven year old arm, and when he’d cast it I could swear it’d go out for miles. This is a set of memories from my childhood that I won’t forget.
So imagine my surprise when I bounded down the boardwalk, lugging a superhuman amount of towels, sunscreen and beach toys, with wild children swirling around me like a nebulous of chaos, only to lay eyes on the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in perhaps a decade or more.
Beaches are not a novelty to me. In fact, I can’t understand it when people come to visit Naples and marvel over the gulf waters and palm trees that stand at attention along each and every street. It’s just my normal. I was expecting this beach to be just as normal.
Boy, was I wrong.
It was stunning.
Those who know me know I sorta kinda hate the beach. Sand in particular. You can never seem to get rid of it. But I have cheated on my Naples gulf beach with Amelia Island’s Atlantic one. And I will have a hard time forgetting about my summer love affair.
Our first trip was during low tide, and there was this vast pool of water only a several inches deep that spanned about 20 feet before you made it to the tide. Perfect for little people. Cole spent hours, no exaggeration, trying to catch these tiny little minnows for his bucket. With the help of some kind folks from Pensacola, he did. And named his fish Dirty Head.
Dirty Head met a sad demise when Cole left him unattended to attend to his own bathroom needs. Savannah, who was herself engulfed in her own obsession of playing in a hole, dumped him over in a fit of splashing joy. And Dirty Head was a goner.
Soon Cole had acquired two new fish, and Siennah one was well, thanks to the same kind family.
The waves on the Atlantic were something else. I knew they were bigger, better, and badder than our measly gulf waves, that only makes sense. But they were so. much. cooler. than I ever thought possible. I could stand there for hours (and did) watching them roll in, the incoming one fighting to overcome the receding one, leaving behind proof of their visit by way of white foam. They roared and lapped as they moved, and I realized the ocean was talking to us. I feel like the ocean is an analogy for my own life, noisy, chaotic, but so incredibly beautiful.
And then, I discovered body surfing. The guys had been at it from Day One, with Mason and Sebastian in tow. Cole was more interested in sand activities and Siennah was supremely occupied by worrying about everyone drowning (at the beginning at least, she warmed up markedly there towards the end). Amber and I were glad to let them be, busying ourselves with watching the little ones and taking pictures. Until we got too hot and had to swim. And so it began.
It was so fun! As in SO freakin’ fun! These huge waves would come along and lift you up, take you to their swell, and put your feet back on the ground. Sometimes it was a kind and gentle little ride, and sometimes it was a splashing, violent jaunt where on more than one occasion I wondered if a rip tide was going to take me away, never to see the light of day again. But I am paranoid like that.
Moral of the story: Go Body Surfing. Cause it’s awesome.
Sleep was scarce, thanks to an army of little kids who were anxious to get up an play. The latest they slept was 6:43, and the earliest and rudest awakening came on the last day at 6:02. Tired parents who had spent every night burning the midnight oil enjoying cocktails and company were not ready to wake this early. Save one day that Amber and I went to checkout the sunrise.
Sunrise, like waves, is a novelty to me. We here on the west coast obviously have sunsets, a much more accommodating beauty to a non-morning person like myself. However, I rationalized that in fact it was my one chance since who knows when and until who knows when that I could soak one up. So awaken I did at 5:45, by choice, and still clad in my jammies trudged with my friend down to the beauty that is the beach.
Fog. Fog prevented my vision of that big orange orb peeking up over the horizon, but we were still treated to a visual delight. What started as a gray and bleary-eyed morning, soon turned into a promising purple sky, which led to a pink horizon that was soon overtaking by brilliant orange. My once bleary eyes were opening wider and wider. It was a simply breathtaking way to greet the day. Even though bugs were snacking on my delicious skin.
And on top of that, this little guy swam by for a visit.
We rode bikes. Amber and I, thankfully, were solo riders. Rey and Brian were not so lucky, each towing a baby on a baby seat and two big kids in a trailer. It was nothing short of hysterical watching them attempt to pedal up some of the hills and come to a complete stop. But then again (full disclosure here) I did crash into a tree. There was great humor in the fact that I, a certified Spinning instructor, crashed my bike into a tree. To which my response is this—you don’t have to steer a Spin bike people! And for that matter, I have never in my life ridden a bike anywhere except for southwest Florida, which means I have never in my life ridden a bike anywhere that a thing called a “hill” exists. It’s hard to steer and pedal and brake so you don’t go flying. One hits a tree from time to time. No humans, animals or foliage was harmed.
Note the trees—all the trees on the island were adorned with lovely, soft beards of moss. Amber was quite obsessed with them. And every time I looked at them, all I could think was that they were good for packing a wound (a bit of trivia that I learned here).
We toured Fort Clinch which both astounded me in its beauty and totally freaked me out. The boys were stoked to see canon balls, guns, and the "soldier" (ask him anything! He either knows the answer or will make one up so convincingly that you’ll never know the difference). Brian watched a 15 minute video at the beginning of the tour, committed the whole thing to memory and was officially the unofficial tour guide.