I’ve always been a Gulf coast kind of girl. As in the Gulf of Mexico. I cannot imagine a retirement that doesn’t have Naples, Florida in it. In fact, to my knowledge, in spite of spending a large portion of my childhood in South Florida, I had never been to the Atlantic coast until we went there last week during our Orlando visit. Mom hates the Atlantic. Well, not really. It’s all relative, and any ocean is better than none for her. But she has always said the Atlantic is cold and the shells aren’t very good. She is right on both counts. But I wanted to see it for myself, so we drove from our resort near Orlando to Titusville, about an hour away.
We had not counted on the number of toll roads between us and the ocean. We paid out close to $10 one way, I do believe, and we only switched roads a couple of times. SunPass and EZPass customers could get a “by” and zip on through, but those of us paying cash, even if we had happened to have the exact change, which we didn’t, had to slow down (or stop entirely) for the toll lines. By the time we got to the Eastern shore, I was bankrupted of ones and quarters, and Scott was down to his last two singles, meaning we would have to restock before returning or hope one of the booths could make change for a twenty.
We had been navigating with the GPS, which, unfortunately, mistook a KFC for the coastline and tried to steer us to the parking lot. But we were close enough by then to follow the signs to Canaveral National Seashore. Admission was $6 (broke that $20, yay Scott), and we headed down a twisty road to the beach. We could see Kennedy Space Center for most of that drive, and we kind of regretted that we weren’t going there. But it would have been expensive, and the attractions wouldn’t have been particularly age appropriate for our group. In any case, we were eager for that ocean.
My initial reaction, once we unloaded the car, slathered on the sunblock, and trundled over the wooden sand dune bridge, was “Mom was right”. There were hardly any seashells, and in spite of the hot day, the water was icy. However, after I’d broiled my pre-existing sunburn for a little while, the frigid water felt mighty good, and the kids didn’t care that the shell selection was paltry. The mere fact that the shells existed was sufficient to keep Caroline enchanted for our entire visit, and Sam was far more interested in the sand than the shells in any case.
Far, far, more interested.
At one point, he started to build a sandcastle, inspired by a crumbling one I’d found down the beach. He joyfully packed his bucket and dumped it out, but quickly lost interest when he found out that the sand could be neither too soupy nor too dry to make the castle come out. I’ve never been much of a sandcastle fan, myself, except when the work is professional and resembles sculpted stone or ice. In fact, I’m not a big fan of sand when it comes right down to it. I hate the way it feels inside my swimsuit and the way it gets in my mouth.
But I wanted to help Sam, and Scott and I engaged ourselves in filling the bucket with him, trying to regain his attention. We scooped with our fingers, part of a crumbling shell, and the other shovel Caroline gallantly lent to the cause. We carefully used the damp sand left behind by the retreating tide, and packed it down tightly. In the end, we turned out our triumphant structure, only to find that Sam had departed entirely and joined another family.
We only stayed a few hours, hoping to catch up with a former student of mine who lives in the Daytona Beach area, around forty miles North of Titusville. She got stuck at work, though, and we puttered on back to the resort instead, paying our tolls along the way.
I can now formally say I share my mother’s opinion. The Gulf Coast is better. And I knew it intuitively before. But I have at least been to the Atlantic, now, to know for myself exactly how cold the water is when it reaches up for the shore from the icy depths.