Wow. November is gone, and now we’re on our way into December. The depth of my writer’s block increases. I’ve only made two posts all this month, and one of those was a copy-and-paste job. Maybe I’ll get out of this slump, but we’ll have to see.
I think I’ve realized that I don’t have to write a documentary-styled, viral-ready article for every post. This blog used to be just that – a blog of the random stuff I encountered. I decided to get back to that, just so that I’m writing again on a regular basis. So, expect more of the mundane, with an occasional gem sprinkled in. In that vein, I’m starting with Thanksgiving, even though it was exactly a week ago as of this writing.
Holidays have been tricky. Laura’s mom has Alzheimer’s, so most of our trips lately have been down to her sister Amy’s place in Florida to assist. Her mom has moments of lucidity where she recognizes us and remembers things, and other times where she has to ask who we are, and often thinks one or more of us is the home health care that we have coming to assist. Such was the case when we arrived in Florida Tuesday a week ago.
Even though her memory issues are severe, Mrs. Wright still likes to ride out to the beaches and watch the waves. Avalon Beach on North Hutchinson Island is her favorite. There is one parking spot, when open, which affords a view of the waves from the comfort of the car. On this particular day, though, we had a picnic planned, so we walked out to one of the shelters.
The winds had been amazing, and with the full moon eminent the tides were extremely high. The beach had warnings, but despite those there was at least one brave surfer enjoying the waves. I didn’t get a shot of him, though.
With the high winds Amy had brought a couple of kites. She was flying a single-line delta, and I had a small parafoil. The parafoil struggled. I would get it launched only to have come spinning out of control and crashing back down. My mind wandered back to high school, where I played the role of Charlie Brown in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
Little more speed, little more rope,
Little more wind, little more hope,
Gotta get this stupid kite to fly.
Gotta make sure it doesn’t snag
Doesn’t droop, doesn’t drag
Gotta watch out for every little- WHOOPS
Little less speed, little more tack,
Little less rise, little more slack,
Gotta keep my wits about me now.
Gotta make sure it doesn’t get the best of me
Till I get it in the air somehow.
In one of these spinning moments my string got tangled up with Amy’s and both kites came crashing down. Amy decided to sort out the parafoil while she graciously let me fly the more stable delta.
Since we had been making so many trips to Florida I had left our tandem kayak down there. Sadly, with the wind as high as it was there were small craft advisories. It didn’t look like I was going to be able to make a paddling escape. I always pride myself on going kayaking instead of shopping on Black Friday, and it didn’t look like that would be a possibility.
Thanksgiving Day came, and the weather had not improved for kayaking. I decided to do a bit of Geocaching. I walked down to the Saint Lucie Village Park, about a mile away. There I explored the new disc golf course, wishing I had brought my discs. I found one geocache, but failed two others. There were lots of signs of wild pigs out on the trail, so I didn’t stick around.
We spent the rest of the day at Amy’s house first relaxing, then preparing the feast. It was a good day.
Friday morning came and it was dumping rain. Since I couldn’t kayak I decided to do something I don’t think I’ve ever done – go for an early morning shopping excursion on Black Friday. I would always laugh at the tales of people getting up at the crack of dawn for some deal or other, and it never made sense to me. My time and comfort has value, too, usually more value to me than the savings on some consumer good. However, this wasn’t as much about getting a bargain as gaining experience.
Our target was Home Depot. They had strands of 150 LED lights for only $5.99, which is a great savings. Amy and I set out for the store’s opening at 6:00 am, leaving Laura and her mom at home.
When we arrived there was already a line. Fortunately, the rain had stopped and a slightly-less-than-full moon hung over the store. Amy grabbed a cart to get in line, and I laughed at her at first for doing so. With as many lights as we bought, though, it turned out to be a good idea.
The doors opened, and we made our way inside. Immediately we could see that Home Depot had screwed up. The really great bargain everyone was after was a poinsettia for $0.99, and these were sitting right at the entrance. There was a traffic jam of carts as folks were grabbing for scraggly cheap plants. Here’s were we put our strategy into play. I left Amy to negotiate the crowds with the cart, while I scooted around to find our lights. Once found, I grabbed as many as I could hold and waited for her to join me.
Once past the entrance it wasn’t too bad. We were in and out in under 15 minutes, having scored not only the lights, but a weed trimmer and some cheap batteries. The guy at the check-out had a friendly, yet resigned attitude. At least he had a smile before facing a very long retail day.
We brought back our treasures, as well as bagels for the rest of the family. As the day progressed, it looked like the winds were dying down a bit, so I decided to risk a paddling trip. The water in Amy’s channel was bumpy, but when I hit the Indian River I got a feel for how rough it actually was. There was no way I was going to make it over to the spoil islands on this trip. Instead, I headed north, staying fairly close to the shore. My target was the manatee safety zone about a mile from Amy’s canal.
Actually, the waves were a lot of fun. I had flashbacks to whitewater paddling trips where I’d hit a perfect row of standing waves, the whipped topping at the end of a tricky rapid. Sadly, though, this was the wrong boat. The wide open cockpit was letting in lots of water, and I was afraid I was going to get swamped. Amy’s sit-on-top would have been much better suited for the surf.
I made it out to my goal, watching pelicans, cormorants, and osprey play in the wind and waves. Getting back was more of a challenge, as the waves and wind kept pushing me in directions I didn’t want to go. When I got back, I decided to extend my paddling trip into calmer waters by paddling into the channel on the other side of Amy’s peninsula.
This had once been a neat little water-front mobile home community, populated by fishermen and those that just loved the water. Along came Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and wiped out the community. FEMA trailers temporarily provided shelter for the residents on that location, but those were removed after a couple of years. The land now sits vacant, and has been the victim of illegal tire dumping.
The mangroves have grown back over the little channel. Now only kayaks can push through the vegetation to reach the abandoned community.
The remnants of old fishing shacks and docks line the water. Across the channel from Amy’s is an old boat ramp. The channel opens up a bit just at the end.
I had seen the weather reports prior to making the trip, so I knew that the conditions would be iffy for paddling. Based on those reports, I had left my GoPro at home and only had my little Fuji waterproof camera. Now I was regretting it. A splash caught my attention, and something about it told me that it wasn’t just another jumping mullet. Turns out I had paddled into a family of manatees, also seeking refuge from the wind and waves. Alas, every time I tried to take a photo, all I got were the expanding rings left by the water disturbance.
I lingered a bit, trying to get another shot of the manatees. However, I was afraid Laura would get worried about me being out on the river so long. I headed back out. The demarcation between the rough water of the river and the calm of the channel was stark.
When I got back form my paddling trip we decided to do one more drive with Mrs. Wright. This time we were in search of a kite store all the way up in Melbourne. We packed leftover turkey sandwiches and drove up US 1. Our lunch was at a picnic table just before reaching the Wabasso Causeway. Looking out over the water we could see rain, but what astounded us was an amazing rainbow that lingered just over the water. It was impossible to describe, or even photograph accurately. You had to be there. As we watched the colors deepened and a double formed.
Unfortunately, there was rain along with the rainbow, and soon we were rushing to get back into the car. It was a good thing we had finished our lunch.
We continued along A1A north until we reached the Sebastian Inlet State Park. It was busy with holiday patrons. We found a spot to park for a moment, and Amy and I wandered out to look at the waves.
We drove on up to Melbourne and found the kite shop. Amy bought a new wind sock, and I bought a new duel-line stunt kite to leave down at her house for our next visit. We didn’t get a chance to test drive it out on this trip. We drove back along US 1, with rainbows chasing us the entire way.
Saturday morning our home health person was back, and Amy, Laura, and I took the opportunity to head out to the Fort Pierce Farmer’s Market. Usually Amy and I do this, leaving Laura to take care of her mom so she could give Amy a break. With the extra help we could all go. We wandered among the vendors and artists.
We rounded out the outing with lunch at what is quickly becoming one of our favorite stops – On the Edge, a small bar/cafe right on the Fort Pierce Inlet. Even though it was early, we had a couple of fancy rum drinks.
We got back in time for me to take another quick paddling trip. It was still blustery. I simply paddled out beyond the fishing piers and floated a bit. I did paddle back to the abandoned channel to see if the manatees were still there, but no luck this time.
Early Sunday morning Laura and said our goodbyes and headed back home. Traffic through Florida was OK. We were treated to even more spectacular rainbows. Sadly, I couldn’t take photos while driving. Things continued to go smoothly until we reached the Georgia – South Carolina border. Google Maps indicated multiple accidents and slow traffic, so even before we reached the Savannah River we turned and headed across country. That was actually much more relaxing than the interstate had been. We got stuck in more bad traffic due to accidents in Columbia, but eventually made it home.
I won’t say it was a great trip. There is always tension when dealing with elderly parents with problems. However, it was good to spend time with family.