Americana Part I: Daytrippers

After somewhat recovering from the mystery-neck-spasm incident of Thursday, sleeping all day Friday, and taking it *very* slow on Saturday (cooking two whole meals from scratch: pancakes and grouper!, even, gasp!, getting some exercise), I decided that even though I wasn’t going anywhere exotic for the long weekend, we could at least get out of Miami-Dade. Dave somewhat reluctantly agreed to particpate, and was fortiutously surprised with the results.

Our day-trip destination was Naples, Florida: the hitherto-unseen West coast of the state. Upon first glance, this does not sound like the most fun-filled outing, but as with most of our trips, the best parts arrived upon us with an air of the aleatory, completely unplanned. In fact, apart from packing sandwiches, water, and snorkel gear, the only research we did was about 10 minutes of Google searching for beach locations. With sketchy directions from a discussion board for “Barefoot Beach,” we hopped in Fiametta and said to ourselves “Westward ho!”

Throwing towels, snorkel gear, and wallets in the car, we meandered through Miami-Dade until we reached SW 8th Street, the Tamiami Trail. Bidding a very sweet adieu to Florida International University, we motored on into the Everglades on a beautiful blue-clear day. 100 miles of swampland, airboat tours, and indian reservations passed by as we relaxed and settled in to our trip. Fortuitously, we took a break at one of the state park rest stops and had the chance to walk over the sprawling cypress swamp on wooden boardwalks. Standing alone in the middle of grassy wetlands, the contrast from sprawling Miami is that much more acute. It’s nice to know that there is real wilderness left around, where lizards aren’t afraid of you, and bromeliads grow free.

Aaw, now wasn’t that prosaic?

Surprisingly pleased with our route of transit, we pulled into Naples still following SW 8th, stumbling upon none other than a street art show. Of course, it was absolutely necessary to wander through the stalls for an hour or two to observe the beachey themed products. Honestly, the designer boutiques along the street were more interesting than the show, but I did manage to get suckered in to a cigar box purse. My wonderful rationalization facilities told me that this particualar one was 1. built better, 2. cheaper, and 3. cooler (Cohiba XV lacquered box) than all the ones I’d seen before. Dave concurred, and thus I am now the proud owner. Aside: I tested it out this week when D. and I went to dinner on Lincoln Rd. Indeed, I felt cool.

Our day neatly segued from the urban back to the natural as we set out to find our beach. Not only did we find a cute, shell-lined beaching area on the muddy-colored Gulf of Mexico, it also happened to be a refuge for the floridian Gopher Tortoise. Who knew? We bonded with the plodding reptiles, the spoonbills and pelicans, and the egrets who stalked the surf. I felt so free of responsibility; no watches were allowed, and I left my cell phone stashed in the glove compartment. Shell-hunting on the beach, I found some tiny coquinas, hearkening back to my younger days at Kiawah and Cocoa Beach, with sunbleached snowy hair, eternally sandy feet, and bathing suits with ruffles. Completely regressing to infantile behavior, I sat in the surf watching live coquinas retreat downwards into the sand after incominf waves, powered by their glassy mollusk feet.

Completely refreshed from the paragon “day at the beach,” we packed our salty selves back into the van. Perhaps it was my dehydration, perhaps the saline in the water, or it could have been my irrational desire for something else ‘American,’ but I had an insatiable craving for watermelon. Publix, Publix, where are you?! So, on that summer afternoon, exploring the coast aimlessly, we finally stumbled upon a grocery store. I then proceeded, while Dave took the wheel, to devour nearly half a watermelon before we reached our dinner destination. It was divine.

Stopped to see some wading birds on the salt marshes (yes, folks, I am becoming my parents) near Bonita Beach, then finally settled down for 30 cent oysters and coronas at The Fish House pier. Does it get much better than this? Fresh seafood at happy hour prices? Only in America. As the sun set on our day, brimming with sights, sounds, and flavors of the sea, we set of for Miami. Lo and behold, what should we find? A homemade icecream stand! No, I can’t take it; no more; too…much…good…food. Alas, we gave in: me to blackberry cheesecake and Dave to butter pecan. I was one tired hushpuppy on the way home, so after indulging in a few chapters of Zorro, I drifted off to dreamland as the mosquitoes pounded the grill of the van through the darkened Everglades on highway 75. What a beautiful day.


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