Thursday, March 16, 2017

The 2016-17 Beaches Tour


As this is my third season as a full time RV’er, people asked me, “Where To” this season?

I only had two words:

T H E   B E A C H !!

At that point and having no specific plans it was all I could say. There were a few things I wanted to see along the way since there was a substantial drive to get there from a landlocked state. The only thing set in stone was celebrating the 241st  Marine Corps Birthday on 10 November at the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Virginia. That was such and awesome day, I have a separate blog article for that trip. After that, it became a race to be in the sunny south before the weather got nasty up north. For that reason, I could only stay along the way about one-week at a time at beaches along the way. As it turned out, I was right on schedule because I had barely arrived in Titusville, Florida when the snows began to fly up north.

I can’t explain my attraction for the beach - any beach - all beaches. Soon, I may have a favorite, but not now. All I know is that I wanted to go there, to be there and stay near there, but when I get there, I don’t know what to do with it when I find it. The beach is an opportunity to touch something of the eternal of the planet Earth for it has always been here. You can’t put it in a jar or take it with you. You can’t dig a foundation or plant trees in it. In human life, you can only experience beach moments that quickly become memories of the past. Like the photos I take - frozen moments in time that will never be repeated. Even the deepest footprints in the sand will disappear with the returning waves of incoming tides. Such is life - without a grave marker to say I was here but once.

VIRGINIA BEACH

The first stop on my beach tour was Virginia Beach - home of Naval Air Station Oceana. I reserved a spot a the Holiday Trav-L-Park for the week, but could have parked it anywhere as November is hardly peak season. For future reference, the Air Station is right next door to this camp and FA-18s take-off and land frequently, but .. that’s the way it is. This park has nearly 700 RV and text sites, so as you can imagine this is a busy place in-season. I was assigned a spot and settled in before I did a walk-around and take a few photos. The air had a chill about it, but it wasn’t exactly cold.

The fishing pier at Virginia Beach - closed for the season, but makes a great place for seagulls to roost.
I hadn’t planned a kayak trip or a bike tour, so I left them on their carrier racks on the SUV. This is a community - by nature of it’s many young, military families - is designed favorably for physical fitness and recreation. Later, I did take the bike down and tour the boardwalk on the bike with a camera shooting time-lapse mode images. I got a couple of hours worth of video-like images. I’m still developing a viewable technique, but these videos were a little wobbly. Lots of people visited the boardwalk (made entirely of cement) to jog or cycle the length and back. As the day grew cooler, folks returned home or attended to other weekend chores. A few people were surfing as the tide was coming in.

My campsite at Trav-L-Park right next door to Oceana NAS.

This nice little water feature entices guests into the Trav-L-Park. The ducks are decoys.
At the entrance to the park was this little bit of scenery - among others scattered around the camp. I always enjoy water features in a woodland environment. This one was at the entrance to the park. Another near one of the swimming pools, across from the office was a 12-foot statue of the Roman God, Neptune - similar to the larger one down on the Boardwalk.

The Roman God Neptune of the Seas welcomes all to the Atlantic Ocean at Virginia Beach.
From the Military Aviation Museum, this 3/4 scale French Newport XI is painted in Stork Squadron of Lafayette Escadrille.
I could only stay one week, but I got a pretty good taste for the area on my bicycle tour of the boardwalk and downtown community which was totally bent on securing the young tourist trade complete with tattoo shops, bars, t-shirt & bikini shops and the usual restaurant fare along Atlantic Avenue. Many were seasonally closed during my November visit.


MYRTLE BEACH

Santa takes the helm at PirateLand Beach RV Camp.
It’s the end of the summer season, well past Labor Day and much, much closer to Christmas. In fact, when I checked-in to the PirateLand Beach RV Campground, a mannequin of Santa Claus was at the helm of the pirate ship decoration in the lobby. Of all the huge commercial campground that line the entire coast of the Myrtle Beach area, those who booked over this particular 4-day weekend received a deal on the rent. I took that savings and added another three days to complete my week. Essentially, I saved a little bit of money.

My camp was under a tree. No campfires and too cold to sit outside and lounge around.
This camp has direct access to their own section of public beach. Most people walked it wearing the long pant-legs rolled up and barefoot and a hoodie type sweatshirt. It felt warm in the sunshine, but the wind was brisk. There were great mounds of sand that ran the length of the beach and heavy earth-moving equipment to manage it. At one point, I used the mounds as a vantage point for picture taking. As with many beach communities, there is an issue with beach erosion and so, therefore, it must be reclaimed. The angle of the sun during the day bounced harshly across the waves.

You can see the ledge in the sand created by the high water line of the incoming tides.

Incoming tides at Sunset are a powerful vision for me. The salt-sea breeze seemed cleansing.
I took pictures at various times of the day, but sunsets were fairly spectacular - especially as the tide was coming in. The smell of the ocean spray and the pounding of the waves presented a multi-sensory feast for all in spite of the chill wind. I spent a good deal of time walking the beach, but I also wanted to see what else was interesting about Myrtle Beach - the tourist destination. Make no mistake, they want your tourist dollars and offer medieval dinner shows and other quaint and interesting things such as the Boardwalk and Broadway on the Beach - a combination theme park, shopping center and collection of restaurants and clubs.

Along the Boardwalk at Myrtle Beach is Pier 14 - a fishing pier with a restaurant.
Arranged similarly to a carnival complete with Ferris Wheel and other rides, MB had something for every tourist.
First, I visited the Boardwalk to take some pictures. Commercialism to the maximum is the word of the day. From restaurants, gift shops, old type pictures, camel rides (really!), to bars and Ferris Wheel rides and fishing off the pier - Myrtle Beach has all that. Sure, there were guys playing football on the beach, but the days of sunning and swimming would have to wait for another season.  I can see the attraction to it all, but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I’m still glad that I went to see for myself.

Every Hard Rock Cafe has its own collection of Rock Memorabilia.
Seeing King Kong on a building along the highway for the first time, gave me a start, to be sure.
I had read about Broadway on the Beach, but mostly I wanted a cheeseburger at the Hard Rock Cafe. Wherever I travel, if there is a Hard Rock, I get the Legendary Burger and get a pin for my collection. I have a nice collection of pins from the places I’ve traveled and will add to that as I go. For the most part, I’ve given up buying baseball hats, t-shirts and coffee mugs, but I’m still tempted and I still succumb to that temptation from time to time. This beach is no place to save money, but if you want a good time, there is something for everyone in Myrtle Beach to do. Enjoy.


DAYTONA BEACH

This was my second trip to Daytona Beach - third if you count and overnight stay and 4-hours on the beach behind the hotel. I was on my way home from a Glamour Photo Shoot and needed rest. I don’t count that one, although I did get a DB rain parka there - just because I swore off buying coffee mugs and stuff. I figured I could actually use the parka. So, since I had been here a couple of years ago, I decided to stay at the same camp I had before - Nova Family Campground in Port Orange.

Site #99 at Nova Family Campground in Port Orange, near Daytona.
After a day of rest from the road, I revisited the beach to see if it was still there. There were warnings, so cars weren’t allowed on the beach until the danger had passed. They also instituted a $10 fee for driving on the beach. I didn’t pay it. I wasn’t staying. I found a place to park for free, grabbed my camera and took a walk in the sand. The surf was up and the tide was coming in. The wind was fierce, but there were still a few sunbathers willing to brave the elements to be at Daytona Beach for the day. I kept my hooded sweatshirt and baseball hat on.

The lifeguard stayed bundled-up as tourists braved the ocean and breezes.
The ocean is beautiful even when it seems angry. It’s easy to say that from the solid footing of the shoreline. The only time I was ever at sea, the weather was very calm and I was on a U.S. Navy LST for a few days waiting for a Marine Corps amphibious landing exercise. At least I can actually say I was officially sailing in International Waters - for a few days, anyway.

White-capped waves and a stout breeze along Daytona Beach boardwalk.
During my beach hike, I took a walk along the fishing pier. The restaurant was open, but I wasn’t hungry. I just wanted pictures of the day and go back to camp and keep warm. I saw a couple of kids out in the surf on boards. To me, they seemed to be very young, perhaps not even teenagers yet. However, their expertise with a surfboard was amazing. I watched them for a good long time as they expertly negotiated the power of the ocean for their own pleasure.

Young surfer catches large.
Otherwise, Daytona Beach was just as nice as always, but I was rushing to get farther south. Even the lifeguards were wearing warm clothing if you notice that detail in the photos. Off season visits have advantages, but if people-watching is your sport - save your visit for the correct season. Next stop is Titusville, Florida along The Space Coast. There is a lot to see and do in that area and I hope I can stay there a while and do them all. I may never be back this way again in my travels, so I want to do it all and do it well.


COCOA BEACH PIER

This area was originally planned to be yet another stop-over on my Beach Tour for the season, but there is so much to do in this area that I actually dismissed all my future soft-plans and remained in the Titusville area for four months. During that time, I was able to explore several area beaches, visit an Air Show & Museum, a Nature Preserve, the Police Hall of Fame, visit the Kennedy Space Center and view several space launches from Cape Canaveral. I came for the beach and stayed for many other reasons. The campground was comfortable enough, there was a Sam’s Club, Camping World and numerous grocery outlets nearby. There was even a small family-owned Italian restaurant within walking distance of camp. Actually, I surprised myself at staying so long as it was not the original plan.

The entrance to Cocoa Beach Pier from the parking area.
I was able to visit Cocoa Beach Pier at least four times during the Holiday Season. Most of the beach population were tourists and they take advantage of that with increased parking fees which fluctuate between $5-$15 depending on the day and time you visit. After prime beach time, parking is actually free because there are restaurants and nightlife associated with the Pier. Sounds pretty nice, actually, to have a nice dinner and a moonlight walk along the beach. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that restaurant/bar businesses increase when it’s a full moon.

You could rent an umbrella and beach chairs or bring your own. It's tourist season.
I went during the day, of course. Regardless of what folks might infer, all beaches are not the same. Many are the beaches that serve commercialism. All of the above are representative of those. Other beaches are nature sanctuaries and the Cape Canaveral National Seashore is one of those, but it also offers a pristine beach experience. I enjoyed going there as well. Cocoa Beach rents beach umbrellas and chairs, beach volley ball time and has a bar that makes “to go” drinks for beach walking. Once on the pier, you can pay to drop a fishing line over the side and order lunch from the restaurant at the same time.

Young surfer braves the waves near the pier.
Cocoa Beach Pier is a popular surfing beach. There is a webcam and the Surf Guru gives the surf report predictions online every few days. Once I found that website, I checked on beach/weather conditions often in order to maximize my beach experiences. I was fortunate to be there during students’ semester break, so I didn’t feel alone as the only tourist among locals. The beach was packed, most days - especially the week between Christmas and New Years Day. I just wanted some sun and to watch the surfers catch a wave and get pictures. As someone who once was part of the working press, I didn’t feel the least bit hindered in taking photos of kids playing in the sand with plastic buckets and shovels - digging their way to China or bikini girls wading out into the surf to take pictures and videos of the waves on their cell phones. As I later edited those photos, I wondered what purpose they served? I didn’t know those folks and didn’t even ask their names for any publication. I imagine I’ll eventually delete them.

Cocoa Beach Pier as the light begins to fade.
The evening time was the best for me. The sunset light changes things for photos. It was fast approaching what photographers call “the golden hour” when the color of light turns golden as it filters through the dust in the atmosphere and glances at earthly objects from the side, giving them more dimension on a flat, two-dimensional plane of an image.

This is the north side of the pier and surfers still try the waves.
I hurried to get as many photos as I could as long as the composition looked “artful” - whatever that is. I never went to art school. I just wanted an image I could be proud of producing. The pastel light of early evening was especially helpful. As the sun set farther down in the west, I got onto the pier and walked to where the last of the surfers were catching their final waves of the day. It was snowing back home, but here life was good.

Very near my last shot of the day from the pier watch the die-hard surfers.
Thanks for surfing-in. See you next time. The 2016-17 Beach Tour continues.



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2 comments:

  1. its almost like being there, thanks. awesome pics. love the close to sunset ones. happy trails :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks. Sunset is the best part of the day for me. I appreciate your visit and comments.

    ReplyDelete