Looking for a Bright Spot

This post is especially for my local (Altamonte Springs/Orlando) friends, but hopefully the rest of you will enjoy it, too.

How I wish I could go through one day, 24 little hours, without thinking about the dreaded C word. It hangs in the air like the heat of an August day in Florida – 94 degrees as I type this. And that doesn’t account for the humidity. I try not to complain about the heat, but I tell you, it’s stifling down here in the South right now. I have to take a bottle of water with me to walk to the mailbox.

I’m constantly on the lookout for a bright spot in my day – other than the blinding sun, which I am thankful for, but can’t safely look at! It’s a good habit to keep our eyes open to see something good, something beautiful, something admirable. And then think about those things. There is a lot to be thankful for – simple things especially that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Sometime last year, our favorite local Tex-Mex restaurant, Amigos, closed their doors. I’m not sure why. They were a family-owned business and a fixture in Altamonte Springs for 32 years. Whatever the reason, many in our community mourned this loss, especially in such a time as this, when nothing is quite normal. They had an outdoor eating area and take-out, too. Thursday night enchilada special for six bucks! You can’t beat that!

Amigos!

I was afraid I might have to break down and fix Mexican food at home or go to Taco Bell; but don’t worry, it didn’t get that bad. Every restaurant and their brother makes tacos nowadays. But they aren’t Tex-Mex. And they aren’t served by people you’ve come to recognize who also recognize you.

Back to the keep your eyes open for a bright spot thing. On the Nextdoor app people were chatting about a new family-owned Mexican restaurant right around the corner from our beloved Amigos (may it rest in peace). Bob and I checked it out last night.

Welcome to Cancun Fiesta! This Mexican restaurant is in a former Turkish restaurant. The outside may have a bit of a Turkish feel, but that’s where it ends.

Turkish food isn’t our thing, so we had only driven by prior to last night.

When we set foot inside – fiesta time! I was overwhelmed by color. Seriously, it made you stop in your tracks.

A bit of an eye-catching wall!

We enjoyed watching others take it all in as they entered, too. And Bob let me take this goofy picture of him. He even slid down in the booth, placing himself perfectly in front of a skeleton so that I could get this picture. And that’s without even trying one of their margaritas! (He puts up with a lot!)

As a bonus, the food was good, and I even recognized one of the servers from Amigos. Everyone was enjoying the ambience and the fajitas were great. That was a close one. I almost had to give in and cook fajitas at home! Gracias, Dios!

Guests had not been seated yet in the back dining room. The front one was fairly busy.

I Will Trust Him

I spent a couple hours standing in the Gulf of Mexico today. It was cathartic. I turn my back on the shore and just take in the beauty, all the while hoping to see a dolphin. Sometimes I do but not today.

Today I looked upon the emerald green waters through a different lens. It was the lens of sorrow. I’m not sure why God always seems more present to me when I’m at the beach, but he does. Today we spent a lot of time together. A lot of people I love are suffering and I kept bringing their names to my Heavenly Father. I was acutely aware of how little we control and how much we need him.

In the midst of all that, I glance back at my husband sitting in his beach chair reading. We’re away celebrating our anniversary. He comes out with me for a while. I tell him about the family from Iowa that I just met and how they’ve never seen a live sand dollar, only broken pieces on the shore. He swims out to the sandbar where we often find a bed of them. Once he’s there, I join him.

The sandbar is huge. It’s really not that far to swim to it. The water is over my head for a while, but the gulf is gentler than the Atlantic, so I can do it. I just don’t do it alone. I’m more cautious than I used to be. And I keep thinking about our friends. It’s a weird day.

We search and search but don’t find a single sand dollar. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I’ll see dolphins, too. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get a good report about some of the friends we’re praying for.

For now, though, I’m taking in the life around me. A family of three generations is playing monkey in the middle. They’re having a blast. Their laughter warms my heart. Two teenagers from Chicago ask me about the sandbar and I tell them about our search for sand dollars. They’ve never heard of them. Have you ever tried to describe a sand dollar to someone? It’s tough to do, but even from our poor effort, they’re fascinated by the fact that there is so much life right by them in the water.

I’m fascinated too. That’s one of the strange things about suffering or standing with someone who is suffering. There is so much life that keeps on going. It’s like you’re in two worlds at the same time. One normal like the tides coming in and going out. And one beyond description where nothing is right and the water is stagnant and you’re wondering if a wave is going to knock you down.

Then I look out into the sea once again. It’s vast and glorious. The clouds are magnificent. A cormorant flies by and perches on a pole. Laughter rises above the gentle sound of the waves. I paraphrase Psalm 121:1,2:

I lift my eyes to the sea (hills). From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

I am thankful that I know Jesus. I know the maker of heaven and earth. That’s how I can get through the sadness and still have joy. I hope you know him, too. If not, call on him. He is always there.

Snakes Alive!

We haven’t had rain in six weeks, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the black racer which I was trying to chase off my pool deck with a gentle spray from my hose seemed to welcome the shower. This is the second snake in a week we’ve had stop in for a visit.

I’ve been wanting to lead a more active lifestyle, but snake wrangling was not what I had in mind. More along my speed is my offer of assistance to a momma cardinal who is nesting just outside of our pool deck. I have chased snakes away from the area, and water and stocked birdfeeders are always in our yard. This is the first time in my life I have been up close and personal with a nest; and I am rather protective, which is why I propped open the rear door of the screen enclosure to usher the aforementioned black racer to an area away from the “nursery.”

I started out referring to the snake as “he” (probably because our last four pets were males), but I’m beginning to have my doubts. She seemed reluctant to leave, so I was forced to get the broom and gently offer two incentives for departure. It was ridiculous how much resistance I got from her! It was an effort to get her past each panel of screening. Several times she coiled up and did her best impression of a cobra.

I was not deterred. I was also full-on aerobic by the time the thoughts crept into my head as to why on earth wouldn’t she want to be out of the pool screen area as much as I wanted her out! I guessed she was stubborn or stupid.

Fifteen long minutes later, she finally exited. I watched her slither along the edge of the outside of the pool screen as I reached out and closed the door behind her. She stayed right up against it all the way to the corner, made a quick right turn, continued along the screen to the back of the house, and reentered the pool enclosure.

What the what! I was sweaty and tired. She just seemed to be getting started. There was no way that I was going to play this game! And that was the point when it hit me that I might be dealing with a female. Maybe even a mama. That was also the point where I decided that Bob should meet her.

The good news here is that we had discovered the entry point. Even better, it was on the opposite side of the house from my precious cardinal nest. But of concern was the fact that she had almost disappeared in our bed of river rocks. At first, I could barely see her; then she disappeared altogether. I knew she was there though, but why was she there? Why wouldn’t she want to be outside? Was she protecting something? Should I keep her in the pool deck to protect the cardinal eggs?

The answers to these questions are:

  • I don’t know.
  • I don’t know.
  • I don’t know.
  • Bob will think I lost my mind.

Of course, by the time Bob returned from work she was nowhere to be seen. There are lots of awesome hiding places for a snake on our pool deck. Bob checked them all and then he blocked the entry point that she used to get back in. Hopefully, she’s not trapped inside now. If she is just good at hiding, she has to come out sometime! Worst case scenario, I’ll know in 43-65 days if what she’s hiding is a nest of snake eggs.

Living in Florida has changed me. There was a time when I would have moved rather than defend my home against a snake or kill a palmetto bug or get close to a frog. Well, I still have to grow into that frog thing. I know it seems unlikely, but they really do act like they are out to get me.

As far as that snake goes, I don’t think she’s out there. Really, I don’t. Nope, she’s not there. I’m sure of it.

A Lot Has Happened in Ten Years

This week I’m celebrating ten years of blogging! Ten years! That’s kind of a big deal for me. Of course, there are other things I have kept up for ten years.

  1. Marriage for 45.5 years
  2. Been in the same church for 27 years
  3. The same hairdresser for 25 years
  4. Same writers’ group for 18 years
  5. Dieting for the last 45 years, well, more or less.

In 2011, I never dreamed I’d still be blogging in 2021. I didn’t think much about what the next ten years would bring when my friend Debi (of The Romantic Vineyard) sat down with me on my back porch and helped me set up everything.  Thanks, Debi! And thanks to all of you who stop by. I’ve “met” some of the most interesting and kind people as I share life on the lighter side.

Ten years has brought a lot of change in my life. My husband and I have three more grandchildren added to the family. Plus, we have another daughter-in-law.

Five years ago we moved to our present home from our home of 32 years – the home where we raised our four children. We had anticipated my parents moving in with us and knew a new configuration would be helpful. Seeing to that and getting a home with a screened-in pool off the back of the house was the only way I could manage moving from all those memories. (We had lived in Florida for way too long without a pool.) Mom has been with us for over three years and has a part of the house that’s all hers. It’s such a blessing!

Here’s something that I would not have thought about ten years ago: Going through a pandemic and the attempted vaccination of every adult on the globe. Even one year ago I’d never have thought about that as we scrambled for toilet paper and jigsaw puzzles. Nevertheless, here we are. Thankfully, it is a decision each of us can make for ourselves.

I made my decision somewhat hesitantly. I thought I’d have a little more time to think about it and come to a conclusion based on all of the myriad of facts which Facebook and the media provide, but then, out of the blue, they lowered the age of eligibility. I was forced to talk to real doctors.

Hopefully I won’t have to keep wearing a mask for much longer!

Well, I had my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week, and I’m giving it one thumb up. I’d give it two, but my left thumb is killing me (too strong a word?). I read about all the possible side effects, and I cannot find anyone who has experienced thumb problems. They do mention possible joint pain or swollen lymph nodes, but no mention of swollen fingers, particularly left thumbs. Somebody has to be first. I’m sure our crazy, changing weather or my pruning of the rose bushes had no bearing on my problem whatsoever (she said as she pulled giant thorns from her thumb).

For now, I’m avoiding shuffling cards, thumb wars, and hitchhiking. I’m sure I’ll be fine. Maybe when I get the second shot it will clear up. I’m just glad I can drive myself to get it since hitchhiking is no longer an option.

We Make Our Plans, But God Orders our Steps

What fueled my impromptu visit to my favorite birding place last Sunday?

It began on Saturday. It was a lovely day, and we had no plans. We decided to stay home and enjoy the quiet. By late-afternoon, I was restless. I wished we had gone outside on a bike ride or a drive or anything! But it was too late in the day to begin.

Sunday morning I checked my Facebook page and read that roseate spoonbills were spotted at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (LAWD). These tall, pink/white birds with a spoon-shaped bill are typically found in marshes along the coasts, so that got my attention. Also at LAWD, thanks to some amazing and giving artists, there are painted rocks to be found. I have been trying to find one for years, so between the spoonbills and the thought of finding one of those illusive rocks, it could be a good day for a drive.

I thought about staying home. Bob left at noon to play golf. My mom didn’t feel like going on the drive with me. Did I really want to go alone? It was too late to find a friend and get there with enough time before it closed. These thoughts didn’t sway me, so I headed to Apopka.

The spoonbill-spotter reported that they were seen about a mile into the drive. I set my trip gauge.

I have done this drive many times, and I have never encountered such a long line of cars. Were they all searching for spoonbills? Unlikely.

I don’t mind driving slowly there. The speed limit is 10 mph. The slower you go, the more you see. But this was crazy. At the half-mile point, I entered a pull-out and parked. Excitement was building inside me – surely all this slow traffic was due to people photographing the spoonbills.

View from near the entrance

The one-way road is not really made for walkers, but there’s room. On each side of the elevated road is swamp land and marshes. This is a prime spot for water birds and marsh birds, and it goes on as far as the eye can see. It is also frequented by alligators, though not as much as farther down. With so many cars, I felt safe.

This big boy was enjoying the sunshine farther down the drive.

I walked a quarter mile and became convinced that these were new folks who were not accustomed to the idea of pull-outs to allow traffic to move along. At that point I was passing the slow-moving cars, so I turned around.

I felt like Forrest Gump when he had been running around the country. Do you remember? Suddenly he just stops and says he’s tired and thinks he’ll go home.

Me at Forrest Gump Point, Mexican Hat, Utah, 2019

I walked maybe a tenth of a mile when right in front of my eyes, a car moving towards me, in line with the traffic, caught my attention. The driver’s door opened, and a woman fell out and rolled on the dirt and gravel road. Her car was still moving! I barely had time to process this, but I ran the short distance and jumped into her moving car. It has been a while since I felt that kind of adrenaline rush.

There were elderly people inside and the woman in the front had attempted to grab the wheel and steer, but she would have been unable to get to the brake. I got the car in line, applied the brake, and put it in park. Someone asked me what I said to the people in the car and I really don’t remember. I wish I had said, “Hi, I’m Bonnie, your new driver.”

The poor woman who had fallen out was trying to get up and brush herself off. Thankfully, she was not hurt other than road rash and a few bruises including her ego. She was probably ten years my junior. We introduced ourselves. Debbie thanked me profusely and told me that I had saved her life. I assured her that I had not saved her life. I pointed to her car and said, “maybe theirs,” with a smile.

Before I left Debbie, we had a conversation. I was oblivious to the fact that we were holding up traffic, but I had to tell her that I believed that God had me at that place at that time. There were no other people walking along the road. I had gone to the drive with no prior planning. I had wanted to take my mom with me, but she wasn’t up to it. I never would have taken that walk if I weren’t by myself. Anything could have changed the timing, but the timing was perfect for me (or whoever God used) to be at that place at that exact time. I had to praise Him.

As I walked back to my vehicle, I experienced a parade of thumbs-up and accolades from the cars and trucks I passed. I have never been called a hero before and it felt weird.

I saw Debbie and her parents a few more times at pull-outs. It was her first time at LAWD, and she joked about having another birding mishap. She thought she had put the car in park before getting out to take a picture. The movement of the car had knocked her off her feet when she attempted to step out. I told her that she did a perfect tuck and roll.

I can’t tell you how humbled I was that God would place me in that place for Debbie’s benefit. He orders our steps. Sometimes we don’t realize it. Sometimes we do.

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

The blessings God had in store for me were not over. I stopped at a pavilion to observe the alligators across the way, and there was a painted rock!

Taco Rock

Then I ventured down the drive and at one of my usual stops, I saw the most famous of the resident birds. Meet Crooked Neck. He is a great blue heron who apparently has recovered from a broken neck. He is often featured on the LAWD Facebook page and is somewhat of a celebrity. Yet, until Sunday I had never seen him. Thank you, Jesus!

Crooked Neck and the incoming paparazzi

On the last part of the drive out, I saw a raptor fly overhead and land in a tree. I pulled over and observed a beautiful bald eagle. I watched him for five minutes as he soared above me. Breathtaking!

There is a lot to behold out there! Things that make my heart sing and lift my spirits. Things that get me out of my own head and humble me. The God and Creator of all this cares for you and me. I’m thankful.

The Long Winter of 2019

Have you ever considered the uniqueness of the seasons? Do you have a favorite? Mine used to be fall with its lush array of colors – burnt orange, vibrant yellow, ruby red. It’s the crescendo before the leaves drop and winter enters.

The bleakness of winter has a unique beauty all its own and it doesn’t just include snow. There is a silent beauty reflected in the bare limbs of trees and gray skies, but for me, that beauty can drag on and lose its appeal.

I think we have an inherent desire for sunshine. I know I prefer brightness over darkness. While I love a beautiful night sky, I want to live in the bright sunny light of day.

Currently, my favorite season is spring. By the time the winter holidays are over and the Christmas decorations are packed away, I am ready for renewal both spiritually and in creation. I rejoice in the emergence of fresh green shoots from tulips or hyacinths even if I can only find them in the grocery store due to Central Florida’s subtropical climate. When they are in full bloom, well that’s something to stop and appreciate.

Spring comes early here, but our short, Florida winter does its best to hold on or sneak back on the heels of a cold front as it did a few days ago. I’ve been contemplating winter. It’s the only season that has a presence twice in one calendar year. It’s the bookends season. The winter of 2019 began on December 21, 2019, but the bulk of it fell in 2020.

In many ways, 2020 was a year full of dreariness. A winter of sorts was present even during spring, summer, and fall. There were threatening clouds hovering over us. I had to remind myself to look up. To look away from my circumstances and the circumstances of the world. To not just pray for needs but find something to rejoice about. There is more to life than waiting for the sky to open up. So much more.

It may be because it’s been chillier than normal here, but I am full-on longing for spring, that renewal I referred to. I don’t want to be cold anymore. I found a glimpse of that in a book that my mom gave me. Images of Faith by Miriam Huffman Rockness is a simple but profound devotional that encourages the reader to notice God everywhere. He is seen in the beauty of creation and in the lives of people around us. These are beholdings, something you’ll learn about and appreciate more as you read this inspirational book.

In case you never read the book for yourself, it was the following passage that made me think about the beauty of spring after a long winter. I was raised in Maryland, so I am familiar with the changing seasons, but that was a long time ago.

“The long hard winter had broken at last – not as yet in much sign on the earthward side but in the late afternoon yesterday the great cumulus clouds sank away, and in their place lay long horizontal bars, one above the other, dove-grey touched with pale apricot, upon the tender eggshell blue of the eastern sky. They are a harbinger of spring out here, that I have never known to fail.” From Lilias Trotter’s Diary, January 24, 1927, as included in Images of Faith, page 55.

I’m keeping an eye out for a harbinger of spring, and I know I’ll find one. Through the year I need to remind myself to look up and not let 2021 be another long, weird winter, no matter what it holds.

Right now, I want to enjoy the variety of migrating of birds that call Florida home in winter. They show off God’s creativity so well. When it’s April, I want to celebrate Easter and remember the resurrection of Christ that paid my ransom.  When it’s August, I want to look for God in the sky, in the heat, in the sound of children playing in the water.

I am determined not to allow winter to overshadow this year. I want to learn from last year. I can only do that by looking up to God and remembering that I’m his daughter and he loves me. I put all my trust and hope in him.

Isaiah 40:26 – Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Psalm 65:8 – The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, and evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.

Happy to Take out the Garbage

Every Tuesday and Friday morning you can find me taking the garbage to the curb. It is a mundane kind of task, but I like doing it. (Don’t tell my husband. When he retires later this year, he might try to take this away from me.)

There is something satisfying about getting the trash out. But more than that, it gets me outside in the early part of the day. I’m far from a morning person, but God often shows me stuff on my way back from the curb. Sometimes I stop and cut a rose to bring into the house. Mornings are best for that.

On Tuesday I stopped and noticed how beautifully blue the sky was. It was perfectly blue. Not a cloud to be seen. How does that happen? It was breathtaking. The green trees popped off that blue canvas with a symphony of birds chirping lending a score to all that beauty. So many shades of green anchored to tree trunks of so many shades of brown. So much to take in.

Tuesday was chilly; and when I went inside, I poured myself a cup of coffee and opened my Bible to Psalm 19 which fit my morning to a tee.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” Psalm 19: 1-2

It’s always good to look up from the garbage of life and see the glory of God’s handiwork.

Have a wonderful day looking up.

January is Mean

January may be the first month of the year, the month when fresh starts typically are at least contemplated, and the month of new gym memberships and linen sales, but to me it’s the month that reminds me why I live in Florida.

It doesn’t bother me in the least that you or anybody else knows that I’m pretty much a wimp. Truth be told, people knowing that makes my life simpler.

My preference, though, is not to use the word wimp. I do have some adventure in me, and I don’t really want people to think of me as a namby-pamby, milquetoast, yellow belly sissy.

That’s why I love reminding my sweet husband that I am a delicate flower. It sums things up so much more in my favor. Here’s a look into a recent conversation of ours where I am once again compelled to remind Bob exactly who he is married to.

delicate Hydrangea flower

Scene: We are in the bathroom, getting ready for bed. I am brushing my teeth while hovering around the space heater.

Me: It’s so cold.

Bob: It’s not that bad.

Me: I hate January. January is the worst. We live in Florida, after all. It’s not supposed to be below 45 outside.

Bob: But we’re inside.

Me (as I look at the bathroom thermometer which I keep in there just to make a point when necessary): It sure doesn’t feel like we’re inside! Have you forgotten that I’m a delicate flower?

Bob: I haven’t forgotten. It’s just not that cold to me.

Me: That’s because you’re not a delicate flower. You’re a tumbleweed.

Bob shot me a look of pain revealing that I had wounded him deeply. Words cannot express how bad I felt at that moment, even though I did chuckle a little.

Bob: I’m not a tumbleweed. I’m more like a… a bush. Yes. I want to be a bush. They’re sturdy, dependable.

Me: I didn’t mean tumbleweed as a bad thing. They roll with the punches, go with the wind, keep on going no matter what.

Bob: No. I want to be a bush.

Me: Okay. Okay. But you gotta admit, you do roll with the punches, my sweet, crazy tumbleweed – I mean bush.

Bob gave his famous eyeroll and we went to bed. Him under a sheet. Me under the same sheet with two blankets on top. Both of us muttering how we can never move any farther north than Orlando. That’s how we roll, and it’s all January’s fault.

Photo by Luismi Sánchez on Unsplash

Ants on Crack and Other Random Curiosities

Because my world is smaller than it used to be due to that which shall not be named, I am noticing little things. Like ants. Ants are crazy busy, and there are actual crazy ants, which are from the Caribbean and can be found in Florida. As you may be aware, Florida is famous for bugs.

Typically we see fire ants or carpenter ants or even Pharoah ants, which are known to have a superiority complex. Fire ants love to bite people while the more industrious carpenter ant just wants to make improvements to your house; i.e. make it his house.

Whatever type of ant, if it’s making mounds, it is my job to get Bob to destroy them.

Over the summer I discovered ants boring a hole in our driveway. I can’t imagine what possesses them to do that, but it was interesting until I remembered I don’t want my driveway to look like Swiss cheese.

This is how deep they had gotten before we stepped in. These ants are aptly named Pavement Ants.

About 1.5 inches deep

Last week at a quick glance I noticed they were at it again. I pondered the ability of ant jaws to chisel through concrete with their tiny teeth. Bob handled it but assured me that they weren’t indiscriminately chewing through our driveway. These ants were on crack.

That made perfect sense to me until Bob explained they were on a crack in the concrete.

Something else to ponder down here is the I-4 Ultimate Project which began in 2015 and has no sign of being completed during the remaining 15 months of 2020. I’m not good with maps, but it appears to me that any delays are probably due to the Scarlet King Snake (or is that a Coral Snake) resting in the middle of the project.

Red Touch Yellow – Kills a Fellow
Red Touch Black – Venom Lack
Yellow Touches Red – Soon You’ll Be Dead
Red Touches Black – Friend of Jack

I early voted and it was a breeze, much simpler than remembering the coral snake rhyme. The old Party City in our area is now serving two parties and third parties as well. It was an easy in-and-out experience except the woman who checked me in was sort of blind. She was excited to work the polls for her first time – so excited that she forgot her contact lenses and had to use a magnifying glass to check my picture and signature. That was a first for me, too.

And, finally, a consumer alert. Available at Walmart, of course, for a limited time: It’s time to buy your KFC fried chicken-scented firelogs. I hope they don’t cause a grease fire.

Searching for the Worst Beach in Florida

Bob and I celebrated our 45th anniversary last weekend. This was not without its challenges due to the pandemic and a tropical storm/hurricane threatening Florida’s east coast. Isaias (ees-ah-EE-ahs) turned out to be a dud storm for Florida, thank God, but it caused damage up the I-95 corridor. It’s gone now – only clean-up remains. Other than the obvious reason to breathe a sigh of relief, we are grateful that we will not have to listen to people trying to say Isaias properly. One local radio announcer dubbed it “the storm with the name we can’t pronounce.”

And speaking of storm names – who are the ad wizards that came up with these? Later in the year we will have a storm named Nana. Seriously? Nana is threatening the coast. Nana is knocking out power. We hope Nana doesn’t come on shore. But I digress.

A day trip seemed a good plan. Being inside with all the masked people and pandemic reminders dampening our mood was not what we wanted for our anniversary. We love a good day trip and love to explore places we have not seen, so we headed for North Central Florida’s West Coast.

We threw our swimsuits, beach chairs, and a cooler in the car and were off for adventure. Who knew what we would find? Who knew what perfect little beaches we would discover? Who knew if we would find a place where we could use the bathroom?

First stop was Crystal River. It is famous around the state for its scenic nuclear power plant. Seeing the majestic steam billowing up to the sky, well, that’s nature at its finest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy we have it. In Florida having power is what it’s all about. We get cranky when our AC is out.

We rambled down the road and found a crowded little beach right on the Gulf. I guess you have to get up pretty early in the morning to get a parking space, so we opted for a picnic by the river, which turned out to be the highlight of our trip.

Next stop was Lil’ Shark Park at Cedar Key. We had heard great things about Cedar Key, but in retrospect all those things were from people who had boats. We had a Styrofoam pool noodle.

You know those cute little couples who even though they have been married for 45 years still hold hands? We were one of them. Of course, we were motivated by the need to steady each other as we walked into the water. I was surprised by the slippery slime under my feet. To add to the ambiance, the smell of dead fish wafted around us like mosquitoes on a summer night. We stayed ten minutes.

It was 4 o’clock and we were riding around in our wet swimsuits still in search of a place to swim. Surely Pine Island would provide that. By 5:30 we were in the Gulf again. This was a step up from Cedar Key. We could walk in the water without fear of falling, but it felt like we were walking on fishing nets. I walked about a quarter mile before getting to waist deep water. It didn’t stink and although it felt yucky on my feet, it wasn’t completely gross. We got wet. We saw a small pod of dolphins. We left.

When we changed from our swimsuits in a beach house that was about 85 degrees inside and smelled like wet dog, I got homesick for our backyard (which is where we spent the next day). We were on the road again by 6:15. Little did we know that our real adventure was finding Florida’s worst beach.

Our day in summary:

Wildlife seen: 6 dolphins, 2 otters, 1 deer

Nuclear Power plants spotted: 1

Things I’ve never seen in Central or Eastern Florida: quarries, sawmills

Places to which I would return: 0

Worst beach to swim in Florida: Lil’ Shark Park at Cedar Key

Time spent with Bob: 13 hours of talking and laughing and enjoying being together. We can’t wait to go to Clearwater!