Beach Challenge Checkpoint #3: Madeira Beach, FLA


This one feels like a Super Bonus round, since it’s a vacation *to the beach*, but it totally counts.

Apparently, fluffy white beaches are kinda like quicksand. So while the sand shifts, and shells get thrown up to the shore, sea glass gets buried. No matter. Not all visits to the beach are about beachcombing. Florida gulf beaches have powdery white sand, which is not conducive to the Beach Glass hunt. Instead, there were shells, mostly of the bi-valve variety where I was. And I gotta tell ya, I didn’t try very hard until hours before my flight left.

Mostly, the week was about floating in the ocean, the dusting of sand on my legs, and pulling bits of seaweed out of my bathing suit. I don’t understand how it even gets in there. Srsly.

My chorus consisted of pelicans, flying a foot or so above the water. Cranes, stalking the people fishing from the shore. You know, to make sure they were doing it right. Sandpipers, early risers before the pop-up tents and umbrella-laden families arrived. They’d play chicken with the ebb and flow of the tide to get the ittybitty coquinas before they re-buried themselves in the sand. And gulls, playing their role in the game where children throw sand at them, right up until the unwitting kids would throw sand into the wind and would be brushing it out of their teeth for the next 3 days. Gulls iz smart.

Every night for 4 nights, the low tide presented us with a flat walkway at the water’s edge. Some kids wearing headlamps would walk into the shallows up to their knees, trying to catch the silver flash of ocean minnows, or the eyestalks of small crabs. Sometimes, lightning would jump from one indigo cloud to another, miles out over the inky black ocean. There was the twinkle of boats out beyond the international waters boundary. On shore, there were the ruins of sand battlements, caught either in the receding tide, or the traditional Godzilla beach reenactment.

And on the 4th of July, the fireworks. Oh, my. The fireworks. There were municipal-sponsored fireworks at Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, and somewhere further south, St. Pete’s Beach, maybe? But there were hundreds of families on the beach over several miles practicing the most delightful version of mortar-based civil disobedience. And wow, the spectacle – and not sad little Roman Candles. Big fireworks. Expensive fireworks. So many fireworks you didn’t know where to look. And to their credit, other than one drunk redneck uncle encouraging his very young nephew to say “F*@k Yeah, America” , everyone was well behaved. The fireworks (both municipal-shows, and beach law-breakers) lasted 90 minutes or so. And the beach wasn’t littered with garbage that night or the next day. Well done, Americans.

The beach restores the soul, and there were more revelers than I’ve ever seen. Armed with their Frisbees and giant floaties and wagons full of chairs and towels and coolers, they flock to the Gulf as well.

My mom asked me, before I left, if the beach did everything I had hoped. I answered that if I didn’t want to punch someone in the face when I looked at my emails (or lack thereof), then yes.

May all visits to the shore be as restorative as this one.

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