Category Archives: Beaches

A Time for Remembrance and Sunscreen

Today is Memorial Day which is a United States Federal Holiday that occurs every year on the final Monday of May.

It is a day of remembrance and a time to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

The Battle of Galveston is reenacted yearly. The Civil War led to what would become Memorial Day. Photo R. Anderson

The Battle of Galveston is reenacted yearly. The Civil War led to what would become Memorial Day.
Photo R. Anderson

Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the United States Civil War to honor soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line who lost their lives in battle.

Memorial Day was expanded in the last century to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

While dating back to the war between the states, in recent years Memorial Day has also marked the start of the summer vacation season with Labor Day acting as the second bookend in September to signal the end of the summer season.

Over the course of the past weekend families traveled all over to enjoy time in the sun and surf as they officially left winter behind and embraced the feeling of summer.

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who fought and died for our freedom. Photo R. Anderson

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who fought and died for our freedom.
Photo R. Anderson

As part of the holiday weekend, numerous television networks used the time to air marathons of their most popular shows to capture the attention of those viewers who were not out in the sun catching waves or barbecuing as their way of celebrating the weekend.

As with most other holiday weekends,  Memorial Day also becomes a time when advertisers discount everything from dishwashers to pickup trucks in an attempt to rake in the dollars and lure shoppers into their establishments.

Large flags and camoflauge hats will mark Memorial Day across Major League Baseball today. Photo R. Anderson

Large flags and camouflage hats will mark Memorial Day across Major League Baseball today.
Photo R. Anderson

Major League Baseball will honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by wearing camouflage on their hats and uniforms during their games today.

And of course in keeping with true American capitalist values that tend to come to light during holiday weekends,  versions of those hats and jerseys are available for purchase by the general public.

Of course, not every tribute includes direct commercial time-ins. There is one Memorial Day tradition that still tends to get me choked up and seems to honor the fallen in the way the holiday was intended if not with a bit of a 21st Century feel.

I am referring to the Memorial Day Weekend NASCAR race. Each year the pre-race show includes a strong military presence, bagpipers, and Taps being played.

NASCAR has a long history of supporting the troops and offers a stirring tribute before its annual Memorial Day Race. Photo R. Anderson

NASCAR has a long history of supporting the troops and offers a stirring tribute before its annual Memorial Day Race.
Photo R. Anderson

NASCAR is arguably the most commercialized of the major American sports with advertisements seeming to cover every spare square inch of both driver and car. But, when it comes to pausing to honor the troops they tend to get it right year after year.

It is hard not to feel the sacrifice that was being made when watching the pre-race ceremony and hearing those bag pipes and lone bugle mournfully wail.

Of course the part where they roll out the extremely large American flag, a staple of most sporting events these days, is another nice touch.

Americans owe their freedom to the sacrifice made by countless soldiers and I am glad that we have holidays, and pre-race ceremonies where we can be reminded of that.

Unfortunately, I fear that in the coming years the commercial aspects of holidays like Memorial Day will overtake the true meanings behind them. Instead of being a time where Americans all pause to remember the sacrifices made by those that came before them, I fear that the holiday will complete its transformation into a holiday where travelers merely focus on the cars before them as they rush to their weekend getaways, or catch up on those projects that the extra day off from work allows them to finally tackle.

Ceremonial pitches honoring the troops and first responders. Photo R. Anderson

Ceremonial pitches honoring the troops and first responders.
Photo R. Anderson

So while you are enjoying that extra day off of work, or grilling some meat on the grill, or even grilling your flesh on the sand today, take some time to think of the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers.

It is often said that freedom isn’t free and that it comes at a great cost. Days like Memorial Day allow us to remember that cost and appreciate the freedom a little more.

If you happen to come across a member of the Armed Forces today in your travels to and from the beach or that store with the huge sale on mattresses take a moment to tell them thanks for doing their part to keep us free to enjoy those sandy shores and have the means to purchase that mattress with 90 days same as cash financing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to cook something on an open flame and see if I can find a solider to thank for my right to make that burger extra crispy.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

To Fly, or Not to Fly?

The other day there was an announcement on a tarmac in Pensacola, FL that got my attention.

Sadly, it was not the announcement that the Blue Angels would once again resume their schedule of air show performances that had been cancelled for the remainder of the year. This tarmac announcement was east of where the Blue Angels fly but it did involve blue planes albeit ones that are a bit larger.

Southwest Airlines will fly non stop from Houston to Pensacola starting in November. Photo R. Anderson

Southwest Airlines will fly non stop from Houston to Pensacola starting in November.
Photo R. Anderson

The announcement in question was that starting in November Southwest Airlines would offer nonstop service from Houston to Pensacola.

Now I realize that this announcement of better flight options will probably only interest a select few Triple B readers. Primarily the interested parties will be those located in Houston with a desire to fly to Pensacola.

Previously if I wanted to fly to Pensacola from the closet airport to my house it would involve flying over my destination, switching planes in Atlanta and then back tracking until I landed where I was wanting to go.

Depending on the layover between flights in Atlanta this option could actually end up taking as long as it would take to just drive there.

Blue Angels jet at the Florida Welcome Center. Photo R. Anderson

Blue Angels jet at the Florida Welcome Center.
Photo R. Anderson

As mentioned before, Pensacola is one of my favorite go to spots when I need a quick fix of Florida sun and sand.

By car it is around nine hours from my doorstep to the sugar sanded shores of Pensacola Beach.  A plane ride on a Boeing 737 with the words Southwest on the tail would take significantly less time.

But that begs the question when is a plane ride better than a car ride?

While the plane option is certainly the winner when it comes to getting there the fastest it would involve increased costs and the need for a rental car once the final destination is reached.

Planes also involve getting squished up against people that you probably would not want to be that close to in normal situations.

Pensacola Beach is now just a Southwest plane ride away but driving still has its benefits. Photo R. Anderson

Pensacola Beach is now just a Southwest plane ride away but driving still has its benefits.
Photo R. Anderson

In terms of safety of air travel versus car travel, statistics show that one is far more likely to be involved in a car accident than a plane crash so the whole danger of flight argument is pretty much tossed out the window.

With a car ride the driver can control the pace and stop as often as they want without inconveniencing 100 other passengers.

So as much as I have longed for the day to come when I could travel nonstop by air between my house and the beach, it just doesn’t make sense to do.

There are other reasons why it is preferred to drive as opposed to fly for me.

The most glaring of these reason is I really enjoy a good road trip and for the past 13 years or so I have made the drive to Pensacola around twice a year on average.

This frequency of travel has allowed me to see many sights along the way and has led to the desire to to visit a few regular stops along the way.

So join me if you will for a virtual look at some of the things worth stopping at during the nine hour drive from Houston to Pensacola.

Petting Minou is one of the things that makes driving to Florida worth it. Photo R. Anderson

Petting Minou is one of the things that makes driving to Florida worth it.
Photo R. Anderson

The first stop on our journey east is a stop in Louisiana.

For those of you who have never been to Louisiana let me start by saying the lower portions of the state consists of a lot of swamp area and a lot of bridges over those swamps.

One of my favorite places to stop along the way is a Welcome Center in the middle of the Atchafalaya Basin.

The bulk of the basin falls between Lafayette and Baton Rouge and is also known as Cajun Country.

The Welcome Center provides an inside look into the history of the Cajuns and their exile from Canada to the Louisiana swamps.  If you have the time it is definitely worth the stop. Plus, as one of the few rest areas along the 23 mile bridge there are other good reasons to stop there.

Rocket test stand at Stennis Space Center. Photo R. Anderson

Rocket test stand at Stennis Space Center.
Photo R. Anderson

And if you do stop there be sure to say hello to Minou (pronounced me new) the cat.  Minou is a sweet kitty that has welcomed me for many years now and I always take time to pet her on both the eastern and western legs of the journey.

The next state on the eastern journey is Mississippi. On the western border to Louisiana is Stennis Space Center.

At the Mississippi Welcome Center there are many space related items to see as well as a new science center named Infinity to check out.  Again, if you have time to see it the tour of the rocket test stands is definitely worth taking.

After leaving Mississippi behind it is time for Alabama.

To be honest I usually just drive right through Alabama since it only takes about a half hour to cross through. There is a very nice skyline and a tunnel in Mobile to check out while driving by though. Although I have never had the chance to stop there myself there is also a battleship exhibit in Mobile Bay that is worth a stop. During my last drive thru Alabama I was also greeted to the sight of the Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph undergoing repairs.

The sign that shows the journey is nearing its end. Photo R. Anderson

The sign that shows the journey is nearing its end.
Photo R. Anderson

And then with Alabama in the rear view you reach the destination of Florida. A quick stop at the welcome center complete with free orange juice and a look at some former Blue Angels planes and it is just a quick hop skip and a jump to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

So, while Southwest’s announcement of non stop flights from Houston to Pensacola seems appealing at first glance I think I will continue my arrivals by car so I can enjoy all of the sights and sounds along the way. Besides what would Minou think if I flew on by without saying hi?

Of course one of those quick wanna get away weekends a plane ride might be in the cards so I guess it is best to never say never.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think it is time to plan another road trip.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

 

Three Years Later, Trouble Still Bubbling Under the Surface

As I have previously noted the beaches around Pensacola, FL are some of my favorite places to go when I need to get a sand and surf fix.

With miles of sugar sand and clear water there really is not a better place to recharge one’s batteries and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Oil from a 2010 natural disaster was recently discovered along the Gulf of Mexico showing that the clean-up is far from over. Photo R. Anderson

Oil from a 2010 natural disaster was recently discovered along the Gulf of Mexico showing that the clean-up is far from over.
Photo R. Anderson

That pristine getaway was placed in the cross hairs of a natural disaster in 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon incident occurred.

For those unfamiliar with it, the Deepwater Horizon was an oil platform that had a major malfunction which lead to oil spilling freely into the Gulf of Mexico.

The well was eventually capped and the flow of oil was stopped but not before beaches from Florida to Texas felt the effects.

For weeks after the spill crews scoured the areas most impacted and performed remediation efforts to help affected wildlife and land.

In Florida countless man hours were spent ensuring that those beaches remained pristine and oil free. When oil was spotted it was quickly removed.

All seemed to be in the clear but recent activities have shown that there is still work to be done below the surface to ensure that the entire Gulf of Mexico recovers from the spill.

The Gulf is a popular recreational and commercial fishing area. Fish populations will continue to be monitored for affects from a 2010 oil spill. Photo R. Anderson

The Gulf is a popular recreational and commercial fishing area. Fish populations will continue to be monitored for affects from a 2010 oil spill.
Photo R. Anderson

According to the Pensacola News Journal, about 450 pounds of weathered oil was mined from the surf zone on Pensacola Beach during a recent10-day excavation project.

Many locals had long thought that there was still oil in the water and now those fears appear to be warranted.

The pockets of hidden oil show that the problem goes far beyond just surface impacts due to the absorbent nature of sand.

Other projects have shown effects on wildlife in the oil zone to also be worse than originally thought.  Various levels of the food chain will continue to be monitored to see what impacts are being felt.  Sadly, it will most likely be decades before the full impact is known.

Few would argue that oil is an important part of life and is needed for everything from transportation to power generation. But, when things do go wrong in the drilling for oil and entire ecosystems are but at risk it becomes time to look at all sides of the argument and ensure that impacts are minimized and the oil is removed in the safest way possible.

Crabs are just one of the many elements of the food chain that stands to be affected from the 2010 oil spill along the Gulf of Mexico. Photo R. Anderson

Crabs are just one of the many elements of the food chain that stands to be affected from the 2010 oil spill along the Gulf of Mexico.
Photo R. Anderson

I certainly don’t want to paint the picture that the beaches are just one big oil sponge.

I have been to the beaches of Pensacola several times since the spill occurred and to the naked eye life does appear to have returned to normal with the sand and water still as clean as I recall.  And when  I dig in the sand it is not like I become Jed Clampett with bubbling crude coming out of the ground.

What I am saying is that the diligence needs to continue to ensure that as much of the hidden oil as possible is removed.

Generations of people have counted on the Gulf of Mexico for food and relaxation. And with the right steps now it should be available for generations to come.

There is certainly more to life than a stroll on the beach. But everybody deserves the option to stroll on that beach and to stroll oil free when the time to stroll does come.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about oil reminds me that I need to go change the oil in my car.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

Snagging Sea Shells at the Seashore

For as long as I can remember I have collected sea shells at the seashore.

Big shells, small shells, in between shells,  I enjoy all shells.

There is just something about combing the shore looking for that colorful gift from the sea with the sounds of waves crashing on the shore in the background.

While I enjoy shells of all shapes and sizes my particular favorite shell to seek is scallops.

Scallops are one of my favorite types of shells to collect. Photo R. Anderson

Scallops are one of my favorite types of shells to collect.
Photo R. Anderson

I enjoy scallops broiled and buttered so I guess it makes sense that I enjoy collecting their shells as well.

While many scallops can be rather plain, if one digs deep enough they can find many colors in the scallop rainbow.

Another neat thing to look for when collecting shells are periwinkles. Periwinkles, like scallops, are considered bivalve, or hinged shells.

Periwinkles tend to be more delicate than scallops and there are added bonus points if you can find the two halves still connected.

I like to think that I have a good eye for finding shells by focusing on the scallops which tend to be larger I guess it makes them easier to find.

Others I know have a zen like ability to hone in on the tiniest of periwinkles in the sand.

Periwinkles at Fort Pickens Beach. Photo R. Anderson

Periwinkles at Fort Pickens Beach.
Photo R. Anderson

Another thing I enjoy about sea shell collecting is that there are no special tools required.

I am sure that the people combing the sand with their metal detectors beeping at the slightest hint of metal find some hidden gems as well. But for me, the seashell is the only treasure at the water line that  I need.

And I can hear the sound of the waves crashing to the shore instead of a beeping in my ear when I am collecting seashells so that is certainly an advantage over metal detectors in my book.

As I mentioned I have a long history with collecting and displaying sea shells. When I was in third grade I did a science project on sea shells.

I recently found the report that I wrote that went along with the colorful poster board of the various shells along the Florida coast. Aside from marveling at how much better third grader me’s handwriting appears to be compared to my current lack of attention to penmanship, I found the report to be rather informative.

Some of the bigger shells in my collection.
Photo R. Anderson

Armed with a plastic shopping bag and a keen eye focused downward the avid shell seeker can scan the sand looking for the shells that speak to them.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when starting to collect sea shells.

First of all it is important to make sure that the shell is no longer occupied since no one wants a surprise hermit crab attack when reaching into their shell sack later. While I have yet to feel the pinch of a hermit crab I have come close a few times.

Shells with barnacles and other character elements are another thing that I look for when collecting. Photo R. Anderson

Shells with barnacles and other character elements are another thing that I look for when collecting.
Photo R. Anderson

A second key to collecting seashells is to make sure that the shell does not contain any organic material left over from the former inhabitant.

There is nothing worse than putting shells in the hotel sink to wash and then waking up in the middle of the night to a horrific stench from a rotten shell in the bunch.

Thirdly, it is best to do the collecting at low tide to minimize the amount of water one needs to fight for the shells.

While many seaside stores sell sea shells by the sack full, they are really not the type of sea shell collecting I am referring to.

Often times the shells that are sold at the store at the shore are not native to that particular region so that tends to be another reason to steer clear of them.

When I am collecting shells I tend to stick with the native shells.

I use sea shells in all my decorating. Photo R. Anderson

I use sea shells in all my decorating.
Photo R. Anderson

There are countless books and websites available to help one identifying the shells that a specific region is home to.

While it is certainly not required to do research ahead of a shell seeking adventure, I find it can be fun to know the types of shells to look for in a certain region.

Shells are also categorized as plentiful and rare in certain areas. For an extra challenge I always try to find one of the rare shells for that region as part of my shelling adventures.

So for the beginner and the professional shell collector alike, I wish you low tides and good shelling. And be sure to give those metal detector operators plenty of space.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think it is time to plan a trip to the seashore to find some seashells.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Every Time I Think I’m Out of it They Pull Me Back In

Let me start off by saying I love winter. I love the chill in the air. I love the wintery smells. I love seeing my breath when I exhale.  I love feeling chilled to the bone and warming up with a hot cider or cocoa. I also enjoy those rare occasions when I get to play in the snow.

With all of that said, winter’s time is fleeting like all seasons. And like all seasons winter does not want to overstay its welcome.

There is a time and a place for winter. March is not that time. Photo R. Anderson

There is a time and a place for winter. March is not that time.
Photo R. Anderson

So, after packing up my winter jackets once and for all, or at least until next winter, I was all set to enjoy spring weather and shorts.

Instead, it appears that Old Man Winter has at least one more trick up his sleeve this weekend for the residents of this side of Texas.

Depending on which forecast model one believes, it will either be at or below freezing for at least a portion of the day Saturday heading into Sunday. Granted it is the portion of the day that I will be asleep, but still reading the forecast and picturing even a light freeze at the start of March was a bit of a shock.

I realize that many people reading this will have little sympathy to my chilly plight and desire to send winter packing and to formally welcome spring. I know much of the country still is fully embraced in winter’s firm grasp.  For those frigid people the warm days of spring are still weeks, if not months away.

When I lived in Maryland I expected that it would be cold in March.  In fact there was even the occasional March snow storm.  And as I have mentioned before it wasn’t until moving to Florida that I was able to wear shorts on my birthday during the first week of March. Still, once I moved to Florida I became accustomed to warmer weather and pretty much was ready for winter to end right after Christmas.

Of course winter does not end right after Christmas. In truth, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac,  Spring begins with the vernal equinox at 7:02 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on March 20, 2013 in the Northern Hemisphere.

So winter is still very much within its seasonal rights to bring one more freeze my way this weekend but that is beyond the point.

What is a beach lover living in Texas to do when the forecast calls for frigid weather that threatens to ruin a blossoming springtime vibe? The answer of course is while it is to cold to go to the beach, it is never to cold for Buffet.  Jimmy Buffet that is.

For those unfamiliar with Jimmy Buffet, he is a singer whose song catalog includes many songs with a tropical as well as nautical vibe.

The music of Jimmy Buffet can turn even the grayest winter day to a tropical island getaway. Photo R. Anderson

The music of Jimmy Buffet can turn even the grayest winter day to a tropical island getaway.
Photo R. Anderson

I was first introduced to the music of Jimmy Buffet by my mom. She would play her Jimmy Buffet albums in the house and usually there was a tape or two played in the car whenever we would travel.

In the years since I have visited many of the once faraway cities along the Gulf of Mexico that were called out in his songs.

I have not yet visited the Banana Republic which is another destination featured in his songs. Although for years I could have sworn he was singing about getting a banana at Publix.  In my defense though, the bananas at Publix are certainly good and one could not be blamed for wanting one.

Bananas and assorted produce aside, the wintery blues seem to fade away when songs of the tropics are played.  Put on a few Jimmy Buffet songs and one is transported to tropical ports of call. It is sort of like a cruise for the mind.

Stuck in a windowless world with cold weather all around and wanting to be somewhere else? No problem, just crank up the Jimmy Buffet music and create and beachfront getaway of your own.  Photo R. Anderson

Stuck in a windowless world with cold weather all around and wanting to be somewhere else? No problem, just crank up the Jimmy Buffet music and create a beachfront getaway of your own.
Photo R. Anderson

So the first thing I did when I heard the wintery weather was afoot, was to make sure that my Jimmy Buffet playlist was up to date on my IPod. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have some visual stimulus as well to melt away those wintery feelings.

For years my work spaces have been a veritable oasis from the storm of the mundane. With seashells, sand, and an overall relaxed vibe they are popular destinations for people needing a little beach time in their work time.

So bring on your worst chilly weather Mr. Winter. I won’t mind as I will be enjoying warm thoughts and trade winds supplied by my ever present desk fan.  I guess in the grand scheme of things the spring weather can wait another week or two to arrive.

That just means summer will be delayed as well, which is not all that bad. Don’t get me started on the perils of triple digit heat and 100 percent humidity.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think this mental tropical paradise could use a cheeseburger.   If you are wondering, yes, I do prefer mine with Heinz 57.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Trip Advisor Confirms What Most Already Know, Florida Has Nice Beaches

Each year various publications rank the best beaches from around the country, and around the globe.   These rankings each use various criteria including cleanliness of the water and the sand.

The view walking onto Pensacola Beach.  The beach was ranked 22nd in the 2013 Trip Advisor Traveler's Choice Poll. Photo R. Anderson

The view walking onto Pensacola Beach. The beach was ranked 22nd in the 2013 Trip Advisor Traveler’s Choice Poll.
Photo R. Anderson

While these rankings are totally subjective and often are largely compiled from visitor opinion, they are nonetheless often fun to read.

As someone who has been to more than his fair share of beaches, I enjoy seeing how many of the beaches on the list I have been to.  It also helps me plan the next beaches that are worth a visit.

For me, a good beach needs to have clear water that allows me to see the bottom, ample varieties of sea shells, and clean seaweed free sand.

Sorry Texas but once again you have been left out of both Trip Advisor’s and my list. I remember the first time I went to Galveston to see the beach after moving to Texas. Proximity to the Gulf had been one of the main selling points that had made a move to Texas palatable so I was very anxious to see the beach upon my arrival.  However, instead of being greeted by clear water and white sand like I remember from my trips to the other side of the Gulf of Mexico, I was met by seaweed, cloudy water and dark brown sand.  It was nothing like the Gulf I remembered. It is quite possible that I even shed a tear thinking that this was going to be the closest beach I lived to for awhile.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Galveston for many reasons. I love the history that surrounds it with the Strand and the Victorian homes. I love going to the annual Mardi Gras parades on the seawall. I love the fact that there is a retro style miniature golf course right out of the sixties with a view of the water. Just don’t expect to find me swimming in the water. For that, I prefer the beaches of Florida and according to Trip Advisor’s 2013 Traveler’s Choice Beaches Awards I am not alone.  Of the top 25 beaches on the list, nine are in Florida.

So let’s take a more in depth look at the four beaches on the list that I have been fortunate enough to dip my toes in the water at.

Canaveral National Seashore ranked 23rd on Trip Advisor's 2013  Traveler's Choice list.  While not a factor in this year's ranking one key feature of the beach used to be the proximity to the Space Shuttle launch pads. Photo R. Anderson

Canaveral National Seashore ranked 23rd on Trip Advisor’s 2013 Traveler’s Choice list. While not a factor in this year’s ranking one key feature of the beach used to be the proximity to the Space Shuttle launch pads. Photo R. Anderson

Our first stop takes us to Canaveral National Seashore in Titusville which comes in at Number 23.

Located next to the Kennedy Space Center, this beach on the Atlantic Ocean side of Florida provides ample dunes and natural wonders to explore.  Another key feature is the lack of high rises and other commercial buildings.

During the Space Shuttle era visitors to the beach were often treated to the site of the Space Shuttle on the launch pad. Most of the shuttle pad structure has been torn down and replaced with new facilities that will one day carry new rockets into orbit. When that day comes one can rest assured that the Canaveral National Seashore will still be there greeting visitors as it has for generations. Just be sure to take along some mosquito spray if you do go as the insects like to attack along the dune line.

Pensacola Beach boosts ample amounts of clear water and pure white sand.  The sea shells and sand dollars are also plentiful. Photo R. Anderson

Pensacola Beach boosts ample amounts of clear water and pure white sand. The sea shells and sand dollars are also plentiful.
Photo R. Anderson

Coming in at number 22 is Pensacola Beach which is nestled between Santa Rosa Island and Fort Pickens beaches up near the border that Florida shares with Alabama.

Ironically, I did not discover this particular beach until I moved to Texas.  At just over eight hours away from my house it serves as the perfect road trip destination for those long weekends when I just need to leave Texas and get a taste of Florida.

After the BP oil spill a few years back there was concern regarding whether the beaches would become polluted with oil and tar balls. Thanks to proactive response and around the clock monitoring, Pensacola Beach still boasts crystal clear water and sugar sand for miles and miles.

Sunset at St. Pete Beach.  Photo R Anderson

Sunset at St. Pete Beach.
Photo R Anderson

The next stop on our journey across Florida takes us to St. Pete Beach, which comes in at number 15.

Much like Pensacola Beach I discovered St. Pete Beach after I had moved away.  I had been to numerous other beaches in and around that part of the Gulf but for whatever reason I had never ventured there.

There are several beaches in and around St. Petersburg that make the top 25 including Clearwater Beach, Fort DeSoto Beach and Sarasota.  All of these beaches offer the same clear water and miles of sand. The only variables are the amounts of commercial buildings that surround them.

Personally I tend to prefer a more natural beach with less hotels and restaurants nearby but I realize that sometimes it can be nice to have a room with a view so there is certainly a time and place for hotels on the beach.

Dunes at Fort Pickens Beach. Photo R Anderson

Dunes at Fort Pickens Beach.
Photo R Anderson

Our final stop on our best beaches in America, that I have been to tour, is the Gulf Islands National Seashore that comes in at number 3 on the list.

Located just down the road from Pensacola Beach, the Gulf Islands National Seashore includes unbelievable dunes and miles of unobstructed views of the Gulf and Pensacola Bay.

While technically not part of the beach, the area also includes historic military forts that can be toured through either a self paced or guided manner. 

So there you have it, four great Florida travel destinations.  If that doesn’t have you itching for some sand between your toes I don’t know what will.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it may be time for a road trip east. Happy snorkeling, shelling, or fishing to one and all.

 Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Beach, Sand Beach

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s master spy James Bond’s debut on the silver screen. As part of the celebration there have been countless ceremonies and other specials to commemorate the event.

From Daniel Craig “parachuting” into the London Olympic Games with the Queen, to the planned tribute later this month at the Academy Awards, it is hard to argue that this is the year of Bond, James Bond.  With all of these activities and the DVD release of Skyfall tomorrow it seemed like a perfect time to focus on 007.

Some of the 23 James Bond movies. Photo by R. Anderson

Some of the 23 James Bond movies.
Photo by R. Anderson

Now, it would be easy to try and rank the men who have played James Bond on film. From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, and everyone in between, most people when asked have a favorite.  One common theory of Bond relativity is that a person’s favorite portrayal tends to coincide with whoever was Bond the first time that they watched.  For me, my first exposure to Bond occurred during the Roger Moore era.

Looking back now the Roger Moore movies were some of the campiest in the franchise. That is in no way speaking ill of them and in fact Sir Roger Moore himself as stated that he was in on the joke and wanted to play Bond in a campy manner with a wink and a nod to the audience.

In many ways Sean Connery and Daniel Craig portray a Bond that is truer to the source material than the Roger Moore installment.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoy Connery’s and Craig’s portrayals, but for whatever reason I still tend to picture Bond as Roger Moore.  I do not hold the same affinity for Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton.  I enjoy other films that Brosnan and Dalton are in but just do not care for them as Bond.  Timothy Dalton seemed to be trying too hard and Pierce Brosnan seemed like he wasn’t trying hard enough during their stints in the tuxedo. The final of the six men to play Bond, George Lazenby, gets an incomplete grade.  I thought that his turn as Bond was pleasant enough but it is hard to say with only one movie to go by.

After the list of favorite Bond actor is decided the next logical step that fans are likely to take is picking their favorite Bond girl.  In the early films one knew that there would be two Bond girls; the one that was the first to fall into the arms of Bond and the second more complex one.

It was a well known fact that, much like the person wearing the red shirt on the away team for the original Star Trek, the first Bond girl in each film would surely meet her demise in some cruel fashion shortly after exclaiming the phrase, “oh, James.”  The second Bond girl could be a baddy that was turned good by the power of Bond persuasion or someone else that we were led to believe won the heart of of James and would be seen in some sort of embrace as the credits rolled.  So, debate amongst yourselves and pick your favorite Bond girl. For me, that title goes to Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green in 2006’s Casino Royale.

One could also set up a list of best cars, gadgets, or villains.  There really is no end to the amount of debate that one can give to the subject.  This is one of the many reasons for the lasting appeal of James Bond.

But for our purposes let us focus on the beaches of Bond.  The mood for the appeal of the sea and the role exotic locations would play in the franchise was set early on in 1962’s Dr. No.  Ask anyone who has seen the movie and odds are they will recall Ursula Andress emerging from the ocean in her white bikini with a dagger strapped to her hip as the waves rushed onto the shore. So pivotal was that moment in the franchise years later the producers tried to recreate it with Halle Berry in Die Another Day. And since this is a new era for Bond the fans were given the chance to see Daniel Craig emerge from the surf in much the same way in Casino Royale.

Part of the recurrence of beaches in Bond movies goes back to the source material and Ian Fleming himself.  When Fleming was writing the novels that would inspire the film franchise he had a vacation home called Goldeneye in Jamaica.  This proximity to the tropical environment came through as  three of Fleming’s thirteen James Bond novels,  “Live and Let Die”, “Doctor No” and “The Man with the Golden Gun” have Jamaican settings.

Some of Ian Fleming's books. Photo R. Anderson

Some of Ian Fleming’s books.
Photo R. Anderson

Other beaches would follow in the films after Dr. No‘s Jamaican holiday.  In no particular order are several memorable beaches of bond.  Khao Phing Kan, Thailand in The Man With the Golden Gun, Holywell Bay, Cornwall, England, in Die Another Day, Praia do Guincho, near Cascais, Portugal, from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and One and Only Ocean Club, Bahamas from Casino Royale.

While the movies allowed the viewer to see the beaches the books allowed one to picture the beaches in their mind as they read along.  Arguments can be made either way regarding which is better as the debate over books versus films has raged on for decades if not longer.  For me I tend to prefer picturing things in my mind first and seeing them second.  But few can argue that the beaches of the films are truly spectacular and add to the visual story that is trying to be told.

And back to that first beach from Dr. No; you know the one that started it all.  It has of course been renamed James Bond Beach. No word on whether the sand is best shaken or stirred when it gets stuck in one’s swim trunks.  Now if you’ll excuse me I think it is time to update the passport and fly out to see some of these beaches in person.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson