On an Alabama Trek

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Time is 8:02 AM (my pedometer reads 425 steps)

As I do most of the time, I walk down nine stories in anticipation of the known and unknown of what lies ahead.

In minutes I’m at the beach. The sun is bright. The sky is blue with wispy white streaks. The air is brisk, but the wind is strong – much stronger than I hoped – plus I am walking into the wind.

Within a few minutes, I cross into Florida. There’s the Flora Bama. (1,100 steps)

 

The sand is packed. I’m close to the water, but wearing shoes. I start a 15-minute stretch of familiar landmarks: Pharaoh, the Green-Eyed Lady, and Olives.

Time is 8:18 AM (2,072 steps)

Pharaoh stands guard over the beach. He tells me, “You can have my crown if you make it.”

Suspicious of his offer, I nod as I walk past.

This is something I wanted to do last year, but didn’t – and to think the weather was better then.

 

Conditions haven’t changed, but it’s early.

There she stands – “Green-eyed lady, ocean lady. Soothing every waves that comes. Green-eyed lady, passion’s lady. Dressed in love, she lives for life to me.”

She always wonders where I’m going and when I’ll return.

I smile at her presence as I walk by.

 

There’s that cool sand sculpture I saw the artist doing yesterday!

Several days ago would have been better because it was warmer and less windy – but the fog would limit the view.

The sand is no longer easy walking. I look for hardpan.

There stand the Olives.

Time – 8:34 AM (3,941 steps)

 

The next landmark is the USS Eden aircraft carrier with a flight deck at the end of a stretch of houses.

Head down, I maintain my pace into the wind. I encounter company for a short distance.

 

Time – 8:53 AM (2.5 miles/4 km) at Eden, a typical turnaround point

Eden is not a carrier, but a proud falcon or eagle perched to display its wings – much like the eagle on the back of a US quarter.

 

After Eden is a string of 6-7 houses, followed by a long stretch (2.5 miles/4 km) of no housing units for it is a Florida state park. My next destination is the first tall tower.

 

Fortunately, I know the locations of the bathrooms.

My pace is slower than normal. The strong headwind is a factor.

The sand remains difficult, so I continually search for a packed surface.

I’ve walked this lonely stretch before. I could listen to a podcast, but I want to conserve my battery.

The tide appears higher than normal, so low tide must have been earlier than I thought.

Should I turn around?

…. but then I find a stretch of packed sand that delays the decision.

Time – 9:52 AM (12,525 steps) 5.5 miles/ 8.8 km

At Windemere, the first tall condo outside the state park. I’ve been here before. I stop to empty my shoes, drink water, rest, check my phone, and think.

Walkers assure me that better sand lies ahead.

Before continuing, a man passes where I sit, and he turns left as if he will serve as my guide. I chose to continue to where my feet have not gone before and to reach the point at the end of the national shoreline.

 

The sand is better here, but the wind seems a bit stronger.

Condos are a few stories taller than our location – but not as wide. I marvel at the beauty of the expansive, curved balconies.

 

The man continues to serve as a guidepost as he walks ahead of me.

A collection of pastel houses are sandwiched between condos. For whatever reason, I smiled.

I imagine the first part of my destination lies ahead – and the man still sets a good pace and direction – but I’m gaining on him.

Time – 10:30 AM (12,525 steps) 7.1 miles/11.4 km

I enter the Gulf Islands National Shoreline. The sand is hard and level.

 

A half mile into the national protected area, I catch the man. We talk.

I asked the location of the point. He says, “Another 5-6 miles.” (98-9.5 km) – I laugh and think about Pharaoh’s words.

Time – 10:50 AM (16,284 steps) 7.1 miles/11.4 km)

One mile into the national shoreline we turned around. This is near the location where I thought the point would be – but little did I know it was still so far away.

We separate as I stop at the pavillion for restrooms, eating a banana, rest, water, texting my wife, and emptying my shoes.

Lunch is about 45 minutes away – a place just before the long stretch of the state park.

Ahhh … the wind is finally at my back.

Lunch was wonderful – a plate of red beans and rice.

Before heading back to the beach, my windshirt comes off to expose my arms.

The wind is at my back, but soon I notice a chill on my neck. My windshirt goes from my waist to my neck. Much better.

The state park stretch is generally lonely. I’m tired. I chat to two fisherman about their day.

I keep my eyes focused ahead for the next landmark.

I finally pass Eden as the eagle stands proud.

Olives appear as a martini toasting my survival.

The Green-Eyed Lady smiles with approval and my safe return.

Pharaoh nods in approval, then sheepishly smiles as a reminder that the crown is still his – but my walk is slower than normal.

I stop again to visit a sand sculpture done by an artist I talked to yesterday. (This is a morning picture)

 

There’s a log – I stop to sit, remove my socks and shoes that I stuff into a bag.

Ahhh … the sea refreshes my feet. My pace get faster. I hear the steady bass drum of my steps.

The Flora Bama tempts me to stop for a celebratory drink, but I press on to Alabama.

A final foot splash in front of the condo. I wave to my wife on the balcony, head inside, find the elevator for the ride to the ninth floor.

I stand at our door checking the final stats.

Time – 2:20 PM (38,185 steps) 16.8 miles/27 km

An interesting day – and I imagine the rest of the day will involve several thousand more steps.

As for the point that I did not see, hopefully next year – but then I will drive to the national shoreline, park the car, then start the trek to the point and back.

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On a Beach Walk: No. 46 (Heart)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Today I think about the heart, that 11 ounce (310 g) fist-sized hollow muscular organ whose sounds we associate with life. The heart whose sounds debatably marks the beginning of life, yet unquestionably noting the end.

The heart whose steady sounds are as regular as the rhythm of the waves that come ashore. The heart whose EKG charts of peaks and valleys I see in the waterline formed ahead of me on the beach as I walk.

The steady sounds of my feet striking the sand with each stride creates a steady bass drum beat that resembles my heart steadily pumping waves of blood – but I think the sea must have its own heart pumping a steady rhythm of waves coming ashore.

The heart – that symbol for behavioral standards as empathy, appreciation, enthusiasm, and love.

The heart – whose action descriptors include aches, breaks, explodes, touches, and hardens.

The heart – that symbol showing its power in numerous idioms as have a heart, pour out your heart, heart of a lion, heart-to-heart talks, a heart of gold, wearing their heart on their sleeve, a warrior’s heart, and a heart of stone – a hardened heart.

The heart can be young, untamed, lonely, broken, hungry, crossed, and mended – yet have a mind of its own.

Thoughts of heart-and-soul touches us deep within – but its Cupid who delivers the greatest heart of them all – love -love with the heart being the psychological center of a relationship. Yes, the heart – that source of tears of joy – tears of hurt – tears of pride – tears of endearment – tears of certain moments of beauty and sentimentality.

While the heart also delivers passions, blessings, prayers, hope, and forgiveness; the heart is about grace and peace of mind.

The heart shares, listens, consoles, and gives genuine kindness. The heart promises and trusts while also having a sense of justice.

Now I wonder – Is there a more powerful symbol than the heart? Is the heart our soul? Something to think about – but perhaps on another day. Thinking about the heart today delivers a smile because walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 42 (After the Storm)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

The past few days have been warm, but the strong winds and threat of rain kept my feet off the sand, therefore moving my walks to the treadmill, the city trails, or even the back of the building.

The storm front passed bringing a cold morning with gloomy skies. By noon, the sun accompanied a blue sky and a normal breeze – so the sands called me to walk.

Ahhhh … I missed my feet being here.

I go to the west without knowing my final destination – but it is into the wind. The air is still brisk, so I’m dressed accordingly. I laugh when a gentleman passes by because we are both in shorts – but he is shirtless while I feel comfortable with three layers and a hat.

More debris is present on the beach today. Not only brought ashore by the turbulent water, but the dredging project at the nearby channel exacerbates the litter. I watch for shiny metallic bits to avoid.

The sand is extra smooth from the winds and the roaring waves of recent days. The sand at the waterline is how I like it – firm and with minimal slope.

The firmness makes walking easier as more energy transforms into forward motion. There’s no forced lifting from sinking into the muck.

The relative flatness allows the water to glide ashore, then gently wash over my feet, then back to the sea. The slow retreat allows time for the sandpipers and sanderlings to forage for food in the freshly washed sand.

The sea foam slowly returns to the water as it adheres to the shore as legs of a full-bodied wine clinging to the inner sides of an oenophile’s glass.

Human presence on the beach today is sparse. Besides shirtless guy, I see only four fishermen on my trek and a handful of others. Turns out this is my first walk of the year to the point with the and the channel – about 2 miles (3.2 km) before turning for the return trip.

Although the morning conditions limited me to the fitness room, I still smile. My hands are cool – but not cold. I clothed with the shorts, three layers and a hat. What a beautiful day to return to the beach and my walking routine.

After all, I like walking the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 41 (Storms)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

In advance of a storm front due to pass in mid-afternoon, many clouds dominate the sky. They are not a solid mass, but an irregular one showing a seemingly unlimited spectrum of gray. The clouds nearly saturate the sky as ritual smoke as they move to their own cosmic dance.

Scant patches of blue periodically appear as holes leading to a greater beyond. Sometimes, an opening aligns with the sun to shine light on me. Other times the sun transforms a puffy cloud into a brilliant white aerial statue.

The wind is a little stronger today at it assists me in my eastward walk – but I know it will provide resistance on my return trip.

The winds travel across the water’s surface creating ripples for as far as I can see. I look at the thick clouds above whose lower surfaces appear as ripples caused by the same wind. There must be a connection.

The sea is more agitated than normal – unlike their more placid nature of yesterday. The red flag warms visitors of riptide currents, yet the sea is far from the fury whose tempest took ships to their unexpected but permanent mooring on the ocean floor.

The storm is not yet here – and may or may not live up to forecasted expectations. The clouds serve as a blanket of anticipation – but not a positive one because they display a haunting gloom of the approaching afternoon worry.

Storms make people anxious – just as the difficulties, trials, and tribulations do in life. Personal storms tend to weaken fragile foundations, but those with a strong cornerstone survive and come forth with strength and wisdom.

I think of storms as metaphors because storms are like problems, scrutiny, anger, life changing events, trials, and tribulations. We are aware of the political storms of controversy and ideological differences, but brainstorming seldom solves these problems.

Fortunately, information does not imply that the current and approaching weather conditions are aligning to be the perfect storm – but I wonder about not only its turmoil, but the calm on the other side – even the possibility of a rainbow, then the sunshine to follow.

For now, I don’t worry. I enjoy this time because walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 40 (A Return)

foot stepson grey sands with waters nearing it

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

After arriving, unpacking, grocery shopping, and a supply trek to Costco, today is my first full day of our respite as snowbirds.

It’s good to return to life as my alter ego – the time without appointments – a time of minimal commitments – a time without the feeling that I have to do something – a time when I try to leave my daily burdens behind. I’ve carried some of life’s baggage with me to this place – that’s what life does – but it’s different than a year ago.

It’s good to see the fine, off-white sand from the balcony for the first time since a year ago.

It’s good to see a seemingly endless vast view of water that will help me discover metaphors for future walks.

It’s good to have the first struggle with the fine, soft sand on my way to the water’s edge.

It’s good to feel the packed sand at the water’s edge that will serve as my pavement for the weeks to come.

It’s good to begin my daily walking routine as I move eastward for the first walk. On most days I will get over 10,000 steps before noon. I hope for a day-long trek before leaving.

It’s good to see the string of shells marking high tide. Each year we’ve focused on different shells, but because we have enough, we will give preference only to the unique shells we encounter.

It’s good to feel the water moving across my feet. It’s a bit brisk at the moment, but I’m confident a truly refreshing temperature is approaching.

It’s good to see my first group of sanderlings – the small birds with the fast-moving legs in their ongoing hunt for food at the water’s edge. Their presence always makes me smile.

It’s good to hear the sounds of the beach – the water coming ashore – the whistling of the steady breeze – the squawking seagulls – and even the air traffic from the nearby naval air station.

It’s good to smell the freshness of the sea air – that hint of salt with a skosh of marine life – a different scent than the air of my inland home.

It’s good to see the pelicans effortlessly gliding just about the water’s surface, then redirect upward only to turn around to dive after unwilling prey below the surface.

It’s good to know that some days I will see a group of dolphins passing by on their hunt for food.

It’s good to know that the sea will probably show me many emotions on its face – those emotions varying from placid calm to raging anger.

It’s good to start the process of letting the sand jettison the old skin from the bottom of my feet. If the past is an indicator, by the end of the stay my feet will have a warm glow.

Let the exfoliating begin because I like walking the beach for it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Return Home

Greetings from my home in Cincinnati. We recently returned from a 6-week stay as snowbirds on the Alabama coast, the place where I kept my little corner of the world in full swing. Travel time returning home (Friday and Saturday) is the reason for not having a weekend concert and for my absence – but Aretha is still schedule for this coming weekend … and the opening song is set!

That my walking beach to the west (and 2 miles/3.2 km to the rocks)

 

The weather during our stay wasn’t the best – but as I always say, no matter how cold it is in Alabama during our stay, it’s warmer than home! January had cold, but that was when Cincinnati (and many of you) were gripped by bitter cold. Plus, the only snow we saw was on news reports. Of the three years in Alabama, this year was probably the worst – and the first year without a good streak of sunshine – but hey – the overall weather was better than home.

Glad I captured the storm cloud

 

I always say these 6-weeks are for my alter ego – a time with minimal obligations – a time away from normal routines – a time when I can focus on walking the beach as much as possible. How much did I walk during the 43 full days? Here’s the tale of the tape:

  • 911,867 steps covering an estimated 405.3 miles (652.3 km)
  • 21,206 steps averaged per day
  • 17 of 43 days over 10,000 (but less than 20K); 24 of 43 days over 20,000 steps (but less than 30K), and 2 days of 43 over 30,000 steps

 

I was hoping to lose some weight during the 6-weeks south. Then again, I know we will go out 2-3 times per week. Good news is that we were able to limit the snacks that my wife’s father enjoys. Bottom line is 8 pounds lost and my waist feels smaller.

Walking also means composing more beach walks. I don’t have a final count on the number of drafts, but it may be the most ever. I think over 40.

I love sunrises, but given the weather, I didn’t see many achieving the wow factor.

 

On the worst weather days, we like to go to a theater. This year we saw Vice, The Upside, and The Wife.

TIP: When at the beach, if you see something interesting, take a picture and then send it to a marine biology department at a local university.

Outside cylinders of tube worms

 

My wife is a prolific reader – but I read two books this time: both by diplomat Madeleine Albright – The Mighty and the Almighty and Fascism: A Warning. Reviews in the future. I’ll post reviews in the future.

On one of the questionable weather days, we visited the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. It’s very well done – and free. Compared to the US Air Force Museum in Ohio, it’s much smaller.

For the record, we only dance a few dances one evening – so it will take some time to regain ballroom form.

Outside our front door looking to the north at the intercoastal waterway

 

We were pleased with the gas mileage of our Subaru Outback. Over the 2800+ miles (4510+ km) covering 6 weeks, the Outback’s gas mileage was 31.4 miles per gallon.

As after arriving at home Saturday afternoon, Sunday provided a small dose of snow, Monday deliver the first of a two-day punch of frigid, plus I ordered my first hearing aids, AND began prep for Tuesday’s colonoscopy. Such a great way to return home! Hooray – no polyps! Next colonoscopy in seven years!!! – but a busy return has slowed my blogging presence.

We enjoy the Flora-Bama – truly a regional institution with national acclaim. (past post) The bios of some of the musicians are impressive. For instance, the only way we know Neil Dover is that he proceeded our favorite duo – so we typically only heard 15-30 minutes each time. Interestingly, his degree is in opera! He’s written a great song about this quirky musical palace. The lyrics and the video are perfect. Enjoy Neil Dover with FloraBama Time.

On a Beach Walk: No. 38

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

No matter the day, one can rely on the waves. Some days they bring water ashore with a gentle, velvet touch. Other days as a thunderous and splashing roar.

Some days the moving water is actually a gentle roll allowing boats to smoothly glide. Other days the water violently toss vessels as if they are a small toy in a bathtub.

I think of the waves representing the ups and downs of life. The good days – the difficult days. I think of the parallels that these waves have with other waves as sound, light, radio, x-rays, microwaves, and infrared.

I think of waves signifying the euphoria of successes and personal highs, then the depths of grief and despair.

I think of waves representing the wide range of human emotions from calm to rage.

I think of waves as numerous metaphors in art, literature, and life.

I think of waves representing a link between the conscious and subconscious – that is the waves washing ashore are where the conscious and subconscious meet – therefore representing the tears of sorrow moving across one’s face.

I think of waves away from the shore and the energy the possess – the energy motivating one to catch the wave – the same energy that can tumble one into the abyss below.

Yet, the waves are one of the factors why walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.