Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sanibel: As I Remember It

There was an email going around my family today linking to an article that lists the top 10 Shell Collecting Beaches. After so many empty promises of Nigerian riches and HGH-fueled feats, here was an email that delivered the goods. #1 on the list was Sanibel. Though the sands of time have rushed through the hourglass these last 28 years of my life, it was as if a shell disrupted the flow one day years ago when my family decided to take a "day trip" to Sanibel from Miami - and time slowed enough that we could savor each other's company and the delights of Florida's west coast at a snail's pace.

I think it started with Aunt Mary Ann and I conspiring to spend a glorious day gathering shells and sand dollars on the prickly beaches of Sanibel Island. Jeff and Jennifer were game, Macon and Jason had the aerobie ready, and Mary was gnawing on a My Little Pony. The idea was quite disagreeable to Mom and Dad had to work. I told Mom, though, "Make the best of it; life is what you make it." She didn't really appreciate my remark, but she decided to go along with the plan.

We spent what must have been 8 hours making the 3.5 hour trek to Sanibel, but so much the better. We had just enough people to claim every seat-belt in the van, so no one was lonely for any stretch of the time. I thought it might be fun to play a game, but Mom shot that idea down.

When we arrived, we realized that we weren't the only ones who'd had a great idea. Our new friends were jamming the bridge onto the island with all of their cars. Once we got onto Sanibel's streets, we had several go-rounds on the island looking for a parking space. It was like we'd arrived at a surprise party for us that was so packed with well-wishers that we could hardly get through the door.

The next part is a little fuzzy. I think we found a handicap space at a 7-11 where we stopped long enough for Macon and Jason to hop out of the car, find the Gulf of Mexico, and release the Aerobie back into the wild green waters of the sea.

By then the sun had started to set, and, unfortunately, all of the restaurants on the island were only taking reservations for breakfast the next morning - dinner was booked. We did find a gas station in Florida City, though, that had some "pizza" deal where you get 3 slices with a fill-up. It was tasty, and a good excuse for everyone to share with each other. I'm pretty sure Mom wasn't pleased with this solution, but she bought a pack of big league chew and listened to her heavy metal in silence.

Something about the "pizza" must not have agreed with Macon, because he threw it up into the everglades at some point on the way home. We all had a good laugh about that, though. You know that comforting feeling you get after you throw up - we were all having that feeling then.

It was a special time - and I treasure my memory of it.


mary said...

Florida City? Wrong coast, Walt. That's on the way to the Keys, not Sanibel.

Anonymous said...

I think it was Naples. Of course, I wasn't there. I just heard this from Mom. Time after time over the years. I heard this from Mom. When I look back on my life and think of the memorable decisions I have made, not going on this trip was one of the best.

Anonymous said...

Funny post, Walter! I must make a few corrections, though. First, Grandmother Crocker was along with us, so we actually had one more person than we had seat belts. I think someone had a comfortable ride on the bulge over the tire.

The aerobie was lost on our first stop of the day - while we were still on the causeway heading to Sanibel - when Macon sent Jason's new aerobie sailing into the gulf. (In retrospect this was probably a bad sign and we should have turned back at that point!)

We had packed a picnic lunch to enjoy on the beach. I think we finally found what seemed to be the only available place to stop on the island around 1pm in the unfinished parking lot of a strip mall that was still under construction. We enjoyed a cozy picnic in our packed van.

Around mid-afternoon we were lucky to drive by the beach parking lot just as someone else was leaving so the parking lot attendant let us in. We had a brief stroll on the beach while Mary Ann looked for some shells.

Then we rejoined the traffic gridlock to look for a restaurant for dinner. Walter had that about right - I think the restaurants were accepting only breakfast reservations at that point.

By the time we had inched our way off the island and found a place to get some food it was around 9pm and we were on I-75 in Bonita Springs. I think it was Sbarro's pizza, and I had forgotten that it made Macon sick.

It was around 11, I think, when we returned home - a car full of not-altogether-happy campers. For years afterwards all we had to do was mention the word Sanibel to send Walter running for his room screaming something about never going to Sanibel again as long as he lived.

I have to give Mary Ann credit for one thing, though. If we had stayed in Miami that day we probably would have no memory anymore of that visit of theirs. As it is we now have this glorious collective family memory!

mary said...

What year did this trip happen? (I'm trying to verify the veracity of the "Mary was chewing on a my little pony" detail.)

Anonymous said...

Mary, I have no clue what year it was. I would think it was before 1990. Maybe one of my kids can come up with some date. Your mom is good with that too!!