It was windy on the beach at Daytona during the middle of the week. Not nasty enough to pick up the sand and hurl it in your face, but enough to question why you’re walking on the beach in the first place. Laura and I had walked for a good distance, past several mostly-empty hotels until we got to Treasure Island, a behemoth of a hotel that closed down after a hurricane several years ago and never re-opened, making it a Mecca for birds and graffiti artists alike. As were looking this over, seeing the half-collapsed Tiki hut, the cracked concrete, and the sagging metal fence surrounding the area, intended to keep the general public out, I said, “Do you want to turn around and go back?”
She said, “Let’s keep going. Forever.”
And that’s when I lost it.
It’s always a long trip down from Pennsylvania, but always well worth it. Even our worst trip, which included blasting in Roanoke, accident delays in Charlotte and Jacksonville, and an incident where several cars were broken into at our hotel in Columbia (but not ours), has been a blessing. I love the road. I love seeing everything along the way. Sure, a plane can get you there faster, but you miss so much.
Hard year. My job is so distant from home and spending three nights apart is painful, no matter how many phone calls and texts you send to the one you love. The first year defined how much we missed each other, the second confirmed it, and third year looms ahead. You start lamenting the loss of a night spent searching through a grocery store, or cleaning the bathroom, or whatever normal people do on a normal Tuesday. This isn’t what it should be, what it could be.
And right there on the beach I lost it. And wondered why there was a good reason why we shouldn’t keep walking. Forever.
Daytona has many things, but classic signs are not one of them. The blasts of heat and the sudden rush of wind and rain sees to that. In a way, I find that comforting when we go down, because I can truly take the time to relax. Every day, the newspaper showed up at our hotel room, and I read a great deal of it, even the local stories that pretty much have no bearing on my life. I forget how much I enjoy the newspaper. Life has passed the newspaper by in favor of bigger and better things, and some places it’s disappeared completely. But I love a box score. An editorial cartoon. Even the obits are interesting, especially in Florida.
Then there was a story on Sunday in the Local section. A big one, with a big picture to match. And wouldn’t you know, but one of the key players in this picture was the sign at The Desert Inn, a 60s beaut I had yet to get. Three men standing in front of it smiling. The new owners. The paper said the old place was run down. The new owners were going to sink more than 10 million dollars into it. And try to get a national chain to buy in. And change the name.
So no more sign.
I was just in time.
We got there just before sundown. I had no idea that the signs would be lit or not, but sure enough they were. I had never examined the place before, but it’s massive, far bigger than most. Three signs, one in the front, one back and in front of a main parking lot, and one great big one at the top, which was not lit. Whatever was next door had been blown down in a storm and was just an empty spot. We slid into a parking lot along the side, vacant as the vacant lot next door, and considered what it must take to rebuild something this large and neglected. I almost couldn’t blame them for renaming the place and getting rid of the old signs, as beautiful as they may be.
I snapped away for a good while, as I usually do, and in the midst of this, as I thought I had gotten all I could get, the sun blasted out of the clouds in all its golden magic-hour glory. And I had a window of opportunity to get the massive top sign. I sprinted back to the car and fixed my 75-300 lens on to the Pentax K5 and hot-footed back to a better position.
A good send-off, I thought.
Laura could see the look on my face when I got back to the car. And she was happy because I was happy. But all of these things serve as a reminder that there is always something greater, far more important. We continue, despite hardships and stresses and failures. In time, things come to us, opportunities, and we take them, because we were meant to. Maybe things change around us and things get in our way, but we walk on together, because this is truly good, hand in hand.