Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2007 we changed up our strategy a bit and designed an itinerary for what would prove our most kid-friendly outing ever. Granted, my son was now twelve years old and less kid-like than he used to be, but the idea was sound in principle.
Thus in this year of our Lord did we declare: the Goldens are going to Florida!
Many Hoosiers will never see an ocean in their lifetime unless they find or make the opportunity to travel outside Indiana and quest for one. Anne first had the chance as a teen when her grandma took her on her first true road trip to Maine, where the Atlantic Ocean awaited her at the foot of one of those cliffs where heroes tend to have fatal fight scenes.
Over two decades later, it was my turn to see an ocean for the first time.
* * * * *
Despite the enjoyable parts of Kennedy Space Center, I still stewed and simmered at the wheel a bit about how we’d lost out on so much of the rest of the area. I soldiered on through my angst and steered us toward our next planned stop, down the coast to Cocoa Beach, which I’d hoped would cheer me up. We’d made a big deal out of the fact that this would be the first time in my life that I’d ever see an ocean. My family rarely ventured outside Indiana in my childhood, and my previous vacations with Anne had all been landlocked unless you counted Great Lakes or Niagara Falls. I hadn’t actually MapQuest’d this leg of the trip, but I figured I could wing it. The very helpful signs along Highway A1A, along with AAA’s detailed maps, gave me exactly the info I needed.
The thunderclouds that dogged us all the way from Cape Canaveral to Cocoa Beach gave me exactly the sense of foreboding I didn’t need.
Infrequent sprinkles taunted us the whole way there. Once we were in town, I just kept turning eastward until I found a small stretch of beach with free parking next to one of several multistory hotels that monopolized the shoreline and occluded casual roadside viewing. We parked, got out, trotted through the sand, and there was the Atlantic Ocean.
From a cold, visual standpoint, it looked a lot like the Great Lakes — lots of gallons of pretty blue water that top out at the horizon. My son wasn’t sympathetic to my own sense of grandeur, I think because so much of it was just psychological. I mean, come on. It’s an OCEAN. I’m sure people who see it all the time, or who came from families who were affluent enough to visit it on a regular basis as though it were a close relative, may look at me funny, too. To me, a modest Indiana hick, this was the OCEAN. The teens at the water’s edge feebly attempting to surf on two-foot-high waves amused me momentarily, but I cast them aside in my mind. I…HAVE SEEN…OCEAN!
Aaaand cue thunderstorm.
Ten minutes after exiting the car, we hopped right back in. Being soaked in rainwater isn’t remotely the same revelatory sensation as being soaked in ocean water. Combining the two and adding lightning, even less so. I tried not to expect a glowing sky or a trumpet fanfare or a pat on the back from the Lord with a gentle, “There ya go, kid.” Selfish being that I am, I did expect more than ten lousy minutes before it all turned to misery. I tried to suck it up and not show disappointment, but swallowing this and the Canaveral conundrum in the same day was a bitter pill.
I improvised our way back to Orlando, only making one detrimental turn from which I recovered with a quick fix…and made it back just in time for evening rush hour. Eons later, before returning to the hotel, we stopped for a conciliatory dinner at Bahama Breeze, where elegant meals chased away my blues. It’s another chain owned by the same company that owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, but we’d never been to the only Indianapolis location, which was in a distant upper-class area we rarely visit. It deserves more locations. Granted, maybe that’s just the gratitude talking.
As it turns out, Indiana’s lone Bahama Breeze shut down years ago, sometime after 2007. Occupying its former space today is a Cooper’s Hawk Winery, which is probably great for oenophiles but has nothing to do with us. So in a sense Bahama Breeze became a unique dining experience for us retroactively, especially the part where their seafood offerings felt more authentically “oceanic” than our ten-minute stormy beach escape.
In the months after our Florida experience, we’d come to think that it might be neat to see the Atlantic Ocean another day when it was sunny and not threatening our lives, possibly in another coastal state. That encore presentation didn’t happen in 2007 and is a story for another time.
To be continued!
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