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 at low tide.
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 their stay 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 red flag 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 zipped-up 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 back in 1975. 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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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2017 Tico Warbird Airshow, Titusville, Florida

Advertising Flyer
“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” ~ attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, but never confirmed he actually said it or wrote it.

Ever since we were kids whenever any airplane flew overhead, we looked up. Who didn’t? In those days we wondered what it would be like ... “up there”.

For me, there is no other experience such as a 21st Century Air Show. That is until the next generation Air Show of the future. The Air Show experience goes back to nearly the beginning of aviation, itself, as people often gathered to witness attempts at manned flight with cloth wings on their arms and mechanical inventions they hoped would fly. People gathered in the fields to witness Civil War battles and watched as Reconnaissance Balloons were raised and lowered to gather information about opposing enemy troop locations beyond their normal field of view on the ground. Loosely speaking, of course, you could call these gatherings and happenings as Air Shows. People watched.

The commercialism of Air Shows evolved following WW-I as government-trained pilots returned home from the war only to find no flying jobs waiting for them. These were highly skilled men - now without a vocation. What do men who love flying do when all they love is flying? How do they live? They bought a surplus training aircraft and flew from farming area to farming area small towns and gave plane rides for fees and fuel money. There would be time for the pilot to eat after the last passenger had gone up, the fuel bill paid and the day’s receipts counted. With full fuel tanks, they rested under the wings in the field where they landed unless they could find affordable lodging and a bath nearby. They called it Barnstorming. The use of airplanes for U.S. Mail transport was still in infancy stages with only a relative few pilots required.

As an aside, I got the opportunity to participate in this tradition while visiting the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Red Hook, New York. I was one of four other passengers on that trip that paid $75 each for a 15-minute flight out to and along the Hudson River and back again in a 1929 Standard bi-wing. The Standard is a specially designed aircraft which carries 4-passengers plus the pilot to maximize income for Barnstormers. I shot a video of the entire trip from take-off to landing. A memory and experience I’ll always cherish. Their Air Shows consist of pioneer pre-WW-I aircraft and post WW-I aircraft with two shows over a weekend to show them off. Some are rare, flying originals and others reproductions. As far as I’m aware, this is the only aerodrome that features such planes. Please look them up, travel there and become an Aerodrome Member and enjoy both weekend  shows.

Screenshot from the HD video I shot of my Bi-Wing Flight from Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome over to the Hudson River.
In order to further their aviation careers, pilots often signed commitments to perform with promoters to put on Air Shows at regional and county fairs or in any open air field they could manage. Pilots would develop “death-defying” stunts using the dog-fighting skills they had learned in the skies over European battlefields literally fighting to survive. They did all the maneuvers they used in combat and as crowds began to dwindle, they invented others like the outside loop - fighting gravity of the plane with limited horsepower against the forces of natural physics. Pilots died. The crowds saw something they never saw before for the ticket price of few cents on the dollar of those times.

Times have changed and safety is the prime concern - call it lessons learned from Air Shows past and government regulation by the Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA). The pilots have changed as well. Many have been military pilots with long careers and retired young to civilian pilot careers. Their love of flying and airplane hardware is a special gift to the rest of us. They have the resources to find and resurrect their favorite aircraft or purchase new ones and continue to practice their craft. To support museums such as the VAC Warbird Museum and others across the country, these pilots continue the traditions of the great pilots who have come before them. All day long, helicopter pilots were selling rides in the Vietnam Era Huey helicopters, rides in the front seat of a Stearman Bi-Wing Trainer and even the D-Day Veteran Aircraft, the C-47/DC-3 Tico Bell took a passenger hop.

The USAF Thunderbirds fly F-16C Aircraft.
The rest of the show was for us in the cheap seats at $20 a head for first-come, first-served seating -- bring your own chair. As I had done in my visit to the 2011 Indy Air Show, I paid a little extra fee, got there early and was assigned a reserved seat in the front row along the flight-line. I never regretted the decision, so I did that here, too. The special section turned out to be almost front row, center for most of the action in the air and on the tarmac. Best $10 upgrade ever. Tickets were handled thru online purchase through the Eventbrite iPhone App. I showed the ticket QR-code symbol provided by the app on my phone, the attendant scanned it and I was presented with a wristband, then away I went to photograph the static displays of museum aircraft as well as many others that flew-in especially for the show weekend.

The infamous Fokker DR-1 Tri-plane painted in the colors of Baron Manfred von Richthoven of Germany.
The infamous German WW-I era Fokker DR-1 Tri-plane painted as pilot Baron (“the Red Baron”) von Richthoven’s plane. This one is scheduled to fly in the show today along with a British Sopwith Camel - together in the skies again.

Just as at the Indy Air Show of 2011, I'm in the Front Row!
I grabbed a gyro and fries for lunch and found the special Reserved Seating section. Through the process, I found my seat and got comfortable in the warm sunshine. It was expected to be clear and sunny, 77 degrees, today. A few cumulus clouds dotted the skies making for a perfect day. As always, while shooting action photography, unless there is conflict or something dreadful, the best shots a photographer can get is to show as much action in the photo as possible, but they essentially turn out to be “portraits”. That said, catching an FA-18 Hornet fighter at 0.5 Mach is no easy task, but my Nikon D2x and AF Nikkor 80~200 f/2.8D lens did a great job. Even though it was a sunny day, I used ISO 400 for a “film speed” setting knowing that ACTION would be the key word for the day. On this sunny day, I should be able to develop a shutter speed fast enough to stop action and have a decent depth of field.

Four parachutists with flags fell from the sky and landed right in front of our position on the show line.
Promptly at noon, let the 2017 Air Show begin with four parachutists bearing different flags landed in the grass between the  taxi-way / landing strip tarmac directly in front of the folks in our reserved section.

The German Fokker DR-1 tailing a British Sopwith Camel in a simulated dogfight.
In my mind, I could almost hear the machine gun chatter and spent cartridges bouncing off the pavement as the “Red Baron” in the Fokker DR-1 Triplane takes aim at “Captain Roy Brown” in the Sopwith Camel. For show purposes, they flew around long enough for everyone to get a good look at the planes invented and flown over 100 years ago.

All the same plane but painted for the allied squadrons who trained in them.
Flying in formation, the famous SNJ advanced training plane was used to train all Allied pilots for their battleground future in military service.

North American P-51D "Mustang" named "Quicksilver".
The mighty North American P-51D Mustang from WW-II era featured a supercharged Rolls Royce manufactured engine called the “Merlin” - gives me chills up my backside to hear it sing. There’s nothing like it.

F4U Corsair
Another sentimental favorite of mine is the F4U Corsair which was flown in the South Pacific Theater by Navy and Marine pilots supporting other Marines in Air-to-Ground close support, Air-to Air combat and sometimes short bombing missions. Fully 2,000 horsepower of pure meanness in the skies.

My Hero!
This is the type of plane flown by Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington commanding VMF-214 “Black Sheep” Squadron in the Solomon Islands, but not this particular plane. I saw a plane painted with Pappy’s number (#86) in the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. Of course, his 28 air victories were not painted on the fuselage. “Pappy” was later invested with the Medal of Honor and his photo is on a special wall within the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA. He died in 1988 (age 75) and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


I liked this shot of the both of these planes together.
The Boeing DC-3 was a civilian cargo plane which was pressed into military service under the new name C-47. This particular plane, the “Tico Bell”, was actually used in the June 6, 1944 Normandy Invasion on D-Day and earned her “invasion stripes”. What’s also amazing is that it is still flying in 2017. Today, it lives at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum in Titusville, Florida.


Now come the thrills and chills of acrobatic flying - death defying stunts performed by highly skilled pilots in specially designed airplanes matching showmanship style with horsepower and agility. These aren’t Sunday afternoon pleasure flights. These pilots are awesome.


Carrying-on the Barnstormer and Air Show traditions.
In order to give our necks a rest from looking up and to give the kids a treat, here’s something different. How about an F-250 Ford pickup truck with 3-jet engines racing a high-performance acrobatic airplane down the runway.


The almighty FA-18 Hornet - just the sound of a fly-by at 0.5 Mach will scare the bejeesus out of you. I’m glad they’re on our side. I like this shot because of the vapor coming off the cockpit as the pilot engages to go ballistic vertical.

Navy FA-18 Hornet will definitely sting.
After a short break for hydrating and snacks, behind the scenes, the USAF Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Team goes through final checks of their F-16C fighters and plans for a great show.

The 2017 USAF Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Team
Introduced during individual fly-bys, they reassemble and give us a great Delta formation in celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the US Air Force - established in 1947. The Thunderbirds were formed in 1953.


As demonstrations of precision flying in formations, individual pilots performed the Calypso Pass.



In another formation, the Thunderbirds perform a low-level bomb burst formation. All six planes peeled-off in separate directions only fly a huge circle and reform for another precision fly-by.



Although I served in the U.S. Marines, I was so proud to be there, I “thought” the Air Force might be a good career for me. Oops! Too old by only twenty-seven years. Damn!

Well, the 2017 Air Show was over, but only half the people are in a hurry to leave. The rest of us hang around to savor the day, reflect on a great show of American aviation and to quietly Thank God we live in America. I have 509 digital images to edit through as a testament to this perfect day.


It was fantastic day. I guess I said that already, but it bears repeating.


I know I said I was almost finished, but here’s another shot. This time the Aeroshell Acrobatic Team does the inside loop in formation. God, I love this stuff.


This is a photo of a souvenir handbag design taken from the 1944 cover of the Saturday Evening Post. This could have very well been a photo of my bedroom when I was a junior high school student in Mr. Ayres’ Social Studies class. We built these balsa wood and paper models in hopes of becoming an ACE by building five or more of them. I got in a hurry, though, and ended up flying them with firecrackers in the cockpit as they didn’t seem to turn-out very well. I eventually learned to take my time because it was worth it if the final project really looked good.



Thanks for your  flying-by.

Addendum:  Movie References:

Those Daring Young Men in Their Flying Machines
Wings (Clara Bow)
Dawn Patrol
The Red Baron
The Great Waldo Pepper
Battle of Britain

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Nude Beach Experience

Beach view of my spot.
I suppose everybody has to visit one at least once in their lives. I remember guys in my Marine Reserve Unit talking about visiting “Black’s Beach” south of Camp Pendleton nearer to San Diego while on weekend liberty during summer training back when we were young and dumb and under 25 years of age. I guess circumstances of a more conservative upbringing kept me from actually going there. I’ve lived in landlocked states, but there are always Nudist Camps hidden around various areas of most states. Although not well publicized to the general public, anyone interested could surely find them. I remember seeing nudist magazines when I was a kid. One of the kid’s dad from the old neighborhood collected them and we would sneak into his magazine collection featuring photos and articles on the nudist lifestyle. There they were, naked people tossing horseshoes, playing around the swimming pool and playing volleyball. In the back of my mind, I could never picture myself there. I suppose I just have never been that kind of “show-off”. As I later learned, folks aren’t showing off, they just enjoy being naked and having full body sun tanned skin as long as the weather is good. Chances are pretty good that you’d likely never seen nude snow skiers - at least not male skiers.

Finally, opportunity and curiosity got the better of me, after all these years. I’m staying in Titusville, Florida very near Cape Canaveral on my self-described “Beaches Tour” as I travel this season. I began at Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach, Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach, taking pictures and sitting in the sand watching waves and the things that people do. I think it’s fair to say that not all beaches are the same although alike in many respects with the obvious, sand, salt-spray, tides and waves. Some are better for sunbathing. Some are great for surfing due to the configuration of the sandy bottom which creates waves. Some are great for fishing piers and dolphin watching. Some, are quiet, secluded and pretty good for sunbathing nude. I went to one last week as a curious on-looker. I tried to follow protocols - no staring, no photographs, no approaching people for the purpose of idle conversation, but I did shoot at few cell phone photos - never to be published, as rule #1 is respect for peoples’ privacy.

Gateway into the beach area.
So my visit last week was purely a reconnaissance mission. I was curious about the place as I was able to do some online research about Parking Lot #13 at Playalinda Beach which is part of the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. There is a charge to pass this point, but being retired, I purchased a Senior Pass three years ago, which gives me reduced price or free entrance into National Parks. This one was free for me, but others pay a fee. Lots 1 thru 12 are for normal people with clothes, but sometimes Lot 12 is also populated by nudists. Parking is at a premium, too. Get there before 10:00 am if you want a convenient spot. I studied the rules, read the reviews obtained a map and directions and finally visited the beach. Each section of beach has its own walkway over the dunes separating the roadway/parking areas from the beach area. I arrived at around 11:00 am and found no available parking from Lot 13, 12, but finally at Lot 11. I grabbed my stuff and made the hike over the boardwalk then north to the area north of area 12, but south of area 13. It seemed a comfortable spot between naked people in their clam shelters, blocking the wind and providing some shelter. It was a popular type of beach accouterments. Farther north of my position was what I assumed to be a group of gay men since they were flying several rainbow colored kites flying high in the wind. They stayed to themselves, but lots of people get up and walk up and down the beach. Hetero couples walked naked hand in hand. It was very romantic in the afternoon sun.

Having done my research, I packed a ham sandwich, some chips, 2-bottles of water and a couple of apples. This entire area is non-commercial, so whatever you bring with you is all you’ll have available. There are chemical toilet buildings near several of the parking lots for the only other convenience. I tried listening to my iPod and reading from my nook e-reader, but I just couldn’t focus on anything but the beach (and beach goers). I alternated sitting in the beach chair and laying on the blanket in the sand, but I kept my swimsuit on. I did lower the elastic waist band and rolled up the legs to get a tan that doesn’t stop sharply at the end of the suit. I managed to get some rays and subtly take a few cell phone pictures. I dunno why. Just to prove to myself that I had actually been there in the first place. Anyway, I stayed about 4-hours, packed up my stuff and was back home at camp by about 3:30.

"Here comes the sun .. doot-n-doo-doo"
I took what I had learned from reading the internet articles and add the live, personal experience. I think I learned just about all I wanted to learn. It was a nice beach with alternate coarse and fine sand, lots of seashell fragments and a wide assortment of naked people - mostly older men and couples and very few young couples. None were anything like the folks on TV’s Baywatch, which serves to confirm my reality-theory about Hollywood as a fantasy land. In short, the views I witnessed were more akin to the nudist magazines I’d seen as a kid only in real-life and in color. To say it was a new experience, is an under statement. I’d always wondered what it would be like and now I knew what this nude beach was like. Interesting. Very interesting.

Over the next few days, I spent some time in the sun outside my camper at the campsite on the sunny days. I listened to my iPod, read some short stories on my Kindle Fire and took a nap now and again. Of course, I had to keep my suit on, but I did roll up the legs on my gym shorts. My mind did wander back to the nude beach from time to time as I hadn’t availed myself of the “total experience”. I thought about it seriously and considered the safety and other factors. All it took was the guts to do it. The determination to leave my swimsuit on the beach chair with my t-shirt and bare all for the sun and the surf. I still wasn’t sure I actually wanted that experience. Perhaps just last week’s visit would be enough - or would it? At this point, I still hadn’t decided to go au naturale or even if I should make a return trip to that beach. What would I gain?

This being the winter season, it still gets cooler than perfect beach weather on a regular basis. Factor-in rainy days and other inclement weather, watching the weather and surf reports become a normal daily activity through the internet. I found a site called Surf Guru that features a surf report about every three days as well as a variety of beach webcams. Of course, the nude beach is not included in the webcams, but the surf and tide reports will be similar enough. I was planning for a high tide in the afternoon when the incoming waves would be more dramatic. Weather reports are normally only accurate from Orlando weather stations, which is 2-hours to the west of here. Phone apps get their information from the largest airport weather stations. Titusville has a small commuter airport and limited weather information and forecasting suitable for take-offs and landings of aircraft - not necessarily good for the beach.

After all that, I decided that yesterday was going to be a good day for a return visit to the nude beach. One visit gives you an idea, but two visits gives an even better idea of the average experience. The sunning in the buff decision was still up in the air, but doubtful. “No guts no glory”, I’ve heard it said. To me, it’s no glory, no guts meaning not all men are created equally. My brain was still in conservative mode. How curious do I really need to be? True nudists - male and female - are totally unconcerned. You can tell who they are by the absence of tan lines - except those who tan artificially in tanning beds, I suppose. Then, I guess you never know for sure except by the evenness of the overall tan. I’m no connoisseur, but you have to stare to be certain. No staring - that’s another nude beach rule. That said, everybody still takes a peek. It’s public.

Learning from the experience the week before, I left earlier to get a closer parking space. I got the last one, but I had to move a “Mowing Crew” sign to park there. I grabbed my stuff, walked over the boardwalk structure over the dunes and looked up and down the beach to find a spot - not too close to other people. At first, everyone automatically spaces themselves equally, but as more and more people arrive, they seem to fill-in the spots in-between those spots. It’s all very polite. I unfolded my beach chair and screwed my umbrella post into the sand and assembled the umbrella top into it. I laid out a moving pad out in the sand and spread out my beach towel on top of it. Now, I was all set except for that one thing.

The nearest beach patrons were about 100 yards away in either direction. “Well, why not?” I said to myself. I leaned on the beach chair and in a few moves dropped my swimsuit on the chair and walked around to get some sun on my pasty-white butt cheeks and my partially tanned back. I laid down on my beach towel and wiggled around to reposition the sand underneath me for comfort. Since I was face down with no view of the beach, I turned on my iPod and stuck in the ear-buds and listened to some beach music - still trying to find a comfortable situation. During that time, the sun ducked behind some cloud cover and popped out occasionally. The instant warmth was obvious and felt good as the wind increased from about 3 mph to about 10+ mph blowing the umbrella and curling up the corner of my blanket.

This one should be called, "The End".
After about an hour, I wondered if my front side might need more sun or if I should give my backside a break in the shade. The shade won the coin toss and I sat down to take in the beach view, the pelicans and the seagulls performing on the beach and over the waves. A few people were walking along the shoreline as the tide rushed in - mostly solo guys. I got a kick out of one guy upwind fishing with a hat and t-shirt on, but no swim trunks. It just looked strange, but the wind did have a chill to it at times. The beach wasn’t very crowded today - at least not as it was last week. Since I’d already bared the buns, I hit the beach towel again, this time sunny side up. I had found the courage but was worried about burning the body parts that shouldn’t be sunburned.

I finished the day around 2:30 pm as the cool winds picked up and it seemed cooler when the sun was hidden. I had already put my trunks and t-shirt back on as insulation against the wind. I hated to leave the wave action of the incoming tide along this section of non-commercial beach.

I had been home barely an hour when I began to feel the painful sting of sunburn. Oh, this was not going to be pleasant. I fixed something to eat and relaxed a bit in front to the boob-tube until I began to feel very cold. I took a couple of aspirin. It was only about 9:00 pm when I went to bed. Ouch! Ouch! I knew the only thing to warm me up was a blanket and the sun had drained all my energies. In only a couple of minutes, I was asleep.

I woke up two hours later and the coldness was gone, but the sting was still there. I watched an hour of Perry Mason and half-hour of Twilight Zone on TV and hit the sheets again. Today, I’m sore, very sore. My skin feels tight, but I don’t feel the warmth or chilling that I did last night. Just the sting that every time I move, it stings some more. Moisturizer..... I need moisturizer so that I don’t feel the burned skin stretching with my moving. Even sitting still and typing this is painful. Well, I wondered how it would feel to go au naturale at the nude beach. I’m experiencing the down side today and I’m no longer curious. It hurts too much to be too that curious again. Show this Bucket List item, done .. as in well-toasted.

~30~