Toward the end of June, as our scheduled vacation grows closer, phone calls between me and my life long friend revolve around our week when she invites me to spend time with her.
Since 1988, we've enjoyed relaxing together in the sun, swimming in the Jacuzzi, and catching up with each other's lives during a care-free seven days on the beach. Over the years, much in our lives has changed, but that time remains consistent.
The routine is the same year after year. I fly in from Dallas and she picks me up at the airport. We drive to her house to get the dogs ready for the kennel then we wait for Saturday afternoon when we can check in at the resort. She wisely invested in a one-bedroom timeshare years ago, and every year, come rain or shine, she has something to look forward to. What I've learned about vacations from her is that if you don't plan one, it won't happen.
|Howard Frankland Bridge by By Miscelena 1|
We drive across the Howard Frankland Bridge connecting Tampa Bay mainland to the west coast, stopping at Publix to pick up a supply of groceries for the week: steaks, baking potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, hot dogs, and hamburger, veggies and an assortment of bread, cereal, milk, sodas, chips and snacks.
We travel light, our suitcases filled with shorts, tank tops, swim suits, flip flops and a good hat to protect our skin from the blazing sun. No fancy attire is required even when we eat out at beach side restaurants. Casual attire is king in Florida.
Next, we detour to the package store to pick up a gallon of burgundy and brandy for an endless pitcher of home made Sangria to share with our neighbors. Once we settle in to our room we visit the nearby shops to stock up on sunscreen and touristy things like T-shirts emblazoned with palm trees, sea oats and pelicans.
We're assigned the same room year after year, so we know exactly what to expect when we arrive. Each year, when we pick up the keys to her balcony apartment overlooking the sparkling pool and check in, it's like a step back into time.
The keys are attached to green plastic tags with the room number.
The kitchen has a full-size refrigerator, a range and oven, microwave, coffee pot and even a dishwasher. The unit is equipped with pots and pans, real dishes and silverware.
|The kitchen is small but equipped with everything we need.|
There's cable TV, although it holds less interest than usual for the week while we bask under umbrellas reading our paperback novels.
The couch makes into a hide-a-bed, and there's a queen sized-bed, comfortably allowing for four guests in this unit.
Our days are spent swimming in the pool, soaking in the Jacuzzi spa, grilling out on gas barbecue grills, and searching for shells. We alternate between dips in the pool and the Gulf listening to the squawk of seagulls scrabbling over scraps of food.
Rhythmic waves pound against the glistening beach shore providing a relaxing and soothing reassurance that the ocean is eternal. We doze off in our lounge chairs, heads nodding while the warmth of the sun performs its magic, baking away our cares as we sit in the shade of the umbrellas and watch the waves roll out. (Sitting on the Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding)
Over the years improvements have been made at the resort. The balcony railings, formerly made of dark stained wood, have been replaced with practical white plastic rails.
The uneven concrete walkway has been upgraded with beautiful patio stones that surround the pool and travel along the path leading to the outdoor shower. A locking storage unit has replaced the open lean-to which once housed the bright blue lounge chair mats.
|Beach loungers are available at the resort|
A crew of young college students perform routine maintenance vacuuming the sparkling pool and cleaning the swim spa jacuzzi. It always looks fresh and inviting for our week of vacation.
Perhaps the best part of the week is the quiet appreciation of nature in the evenings. The residents tend to gather under the umbrellas near time for sundown each night to enjoy that gift of serenity and beauty, a momentary splash of every color imaginable before the sun dunks into the ocean one more time.
As evening draws near, a contingent of beach goers gather at the shoreline in anticipation of the evening's spectacular view. Taking photos at sunset is a standard part of the week's ritual. And once that lightning fast week is over, sharing the photos brings back the joy of the week for years to come.
1 Photo of Howard Frankland Bridge, By Miscelena (http://www.flickr.com/photos/miscelena/403636460/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons