Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beach Exploration

Before we arrived on Daytona Beach Shores last autumn we were full of hopefulness about what we might discover here. The optimism wasn't a burgeoning tourist preoccupation.  After all we "winter" on Daytona Beach Shores so we harbour the necessity to blend in with the wallpaper or at least surpass the stigma of a backpacker. We wanted to insinuate the very fabric of the community. We've now been here almost three months and I am hard pressed to say that we've succeeded to work our way into the environment. Certainly I've found an ace car wash and we've habituated one of the local riparian fish restaurants which has perhaps the unflattering name of Boondocks (though the peel-'n-eat shrimp are nonpareil). And I've seen the Ponce de Leon lighthouse (practically the tallest in the nation) at a distance when bicycling on the beach to Ponce Inlet.  But otherwise I confess we might know as much if not more about Longboat Key which we lately visited on the Gulf Coast (and a very pleasant stopover it was I might add).  Our once ferocious ambition has lapsed into the domestic routine of grocery shopping and bicycling which insipidity I suppose oddly distinguishes us as real residents.

Frankly the character of the anticipated exploration of Daytona Beach qualified as little more than selective shopping (we're not big on museums, art galleries, theatres and symphonies - I hate walking or standing and we both find the auditorium seats are uncomfortably tight).  A year earlier when we first investigated the Daytona Beach area (which is adjacent to Daytona Beach Shores, an exclusively residential enclave) I had for example seen what appeared to be a quaint commercial district corresponding to my picture of Old Florida - a wide boulevard lined with palm trees bordering the Halifax River separating it from the arcades, bars and restaurants on the Atlantic Ocean; pink and white stucco buildings with Art Deco facades and nearby charming parks overlooking the magnificent intracoastal bridge. But we have yet to make it to Beach Street. Admittedly I've located Volusia Mall on the International Speedway where I stumbled upon Dillards and Macey's and Aveda (for my hair) but the pleasantly old-fashioned shopping experience has yet to transpire.

Though none of this mattered to me this morning when I set out on my bicycle I have nonetheless expiated my guilt. Oddly I tackled my atonement with surprising gusto given that I had earlier resolved that I would take a break today from my routine bicycling schedule.  The proposed abeyance was the product of my muscular fatigue and the weather forecast (which called for cloudy skies).  But once the grey firmament began to separate into fluffy white clouds on an azure background it was useless to resist.  Nothing competes for my attention like sunshine! Furthermore the temperature had climbed an astronomical 10℉ overnight following the freakish cold snap which has blanketed the continent.  Accordingly I assembled myself and my togs and my sunglasses and pushed off on my slightly rusty used bicycle which is to be credited as a veritable work horse.

It must have been the moderating temperature which propelled me along Atlantic Avenue.  After I paused as usual at Frank Rendon Park to void my bladder and to expropriate the free WiFi from the Shores Resort next door, instead of turning round to retrace my steps, I resolved to go further north at least to the Main Street entrance in the middle of Daytona Beach.

Though I had taken the precaution of checking both the tides and the wind before embarking (a habit I privately imagine to qualify me as a true seafarer), the direction of the wind proved ambivalent. I found there was neither a headwind nor a backdraft as I travelled along Atlantic Avenue. No doubt this lubricated the extent of today's adventure. I crossed the beach access which I customarily would have taken to go back.  On I went.  I was inexplicably pumped!

Whenever I cross the City Limit from Daytona Beach Shores to Daytona Beach I remark upon the precipitous degeneration of the manicured landscape of residential beach condominiums into the comparatively tacky surroundings of somewhat rundown resorts, hotels and tatoo parlours (and Disneyland style parks which advertise you can feed and hold alligators).  I have nonetheless sought to appreciate the authenticity of the surroundings, to avoid lapsing into the shallowness of those who are irreversibly tied to the saccharin vernacular of gated communities, community associations and German luxury cars. Granted the elevation is not so easily attained and it is an intellectual exercise at best, not a practiced conviction.  Funny enough when the same buildings are seen from the beach the image is considerably improved.  The focus is decidedly upon the nautical aspect. It is a pointed reminder that things are not always what they appear; and that the heritage of Daytona Beach is far more profound than a mere interloper or distant observer might at first imagine.  My exploration was paying off!

When I cycled past Sun Splash Park I was again seized by the need to investigate, as though compelled by an opportunity not to be overlooked especially when it was right under my nose. I mechanically turned around and rode into the parking lot.  The Park was obviously built upon the same model as Frank Rendon Park.  The concrete park benches and wooden railing overlooking the beach were identical.  So too were the restrooms.  I lingered there for a few minutes and then headed north once again.  By this time the centre of Daytona Beach was practically in sight. As I wove my way along the sidewalk - occasionally dipping onto the street to bypass pedestrians - I passed another beach access which likewise strangely drew me in. I can't recall whether I actually passed by the entrance (it was more like a carriageway between buildings) but soon I found myself struggling to get my one-gear bike up the incline to the crest overlooking the beach. The passage led to an unexpected space which I subsequently determined was the Daytona Beach boardwalk and bandstand.  It was an oasis within the urban centre!

Before redirecting myself southward once more I cast a final glance up the beach.  Though the tide was by now receding the beach still narrowed significantly towards the north. I was by this time about 7 miles from the apartment and I had yet to determine whether the uncertain direction of the wind would be favourable to me upon my return.

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