Unlike every other family I know, we don’t really take “beach vacations.” Before our Little Raccoon Key weekend, we hadn’t taken a non-work-conference beach trip since we met family in Cape Cod in July 2011. Since we’ve had 27 Delta flights cancelled for The Sickness, however, short trips to the beach (or the mountains) seem to be the only getaways we can take. And so, we did just that over Memorial Day weekend–the beginning of what now appears to have been a brief opening of hotels and restaurants. But which beach?
A few years ago, I had a veterans law conference at St. Pete’s Beach at the Tradewinds resort and really enjoyed it, despite feeling my sliding down an enormous inflatable slide next to the beach as a grown man was probably inappropriate and frightened the children (and their parents) who were nearby and closely eyeing my every move. But, I didn’t want to go to a large, crowded hotel during the Covid, so I looked for a smaller boutique with some history, did some online searches for same, and chose the Don Cesar; it even had a veterans discount for us.
But why Florida? Don’t we have beaches in Georgia?
A few months ago, when I knew I was going to retire from the Air Force Reserves, I figured I should start the process for filing for any VA benefits I might be supposed to get related to my burn pit exposure and the respiratory issues that followed, as well as my bothersome “jumpiness” that followed me home from Mortaritaville, Iraq. I emailed a physician who assists vets with appellate causation reports who’s in Colorado but is also licensed in Florida, and despite his planning to see me via telemedicine (i.e., a zoom call), the state of Florida only allows its doctors to consult with patients physically located in Florida, even if it’s a “tele” consultation. So, I used some of the hundreds of thousands of Delta miles I’ve been refunded in 2020, and off we flew to Tampa to let the healing begin.
We decided to have lunch at the oldest restaurant in Florida upon landing, so we enjoyed a delicious Cuban meal at Columbia Restaurant before driving west to St. Pete’s beach. We checked into our hotel, let the children hit the sand with my bride, and I spent a couple hours going over my wartime experiences through an ipad screen.
Then, I wanted a drink or 9, but instead joined the family by the pool to have ice cream.
We pretty much spent the entire time on the hotel property–the pool, its beach, or the Rowe Bar. There was some rain for part of Sunday, but the children loved it. They made friends with other vacationing children and enjoyed the change of scenery. We all tried paddle-boarding in the Gulf, which was delightfully humbling. We watched shore birds hop away from encroaching waves.
For what it was, it was a great 3-day getaway.
It also provided my first opportunity in 2020 to showcase my Rocky IV swimsuit. What’s more Memorial Day than that? I got compliments from strangers all day, like it was the bicentennial in Philadelphia or something.
I don’t expect hotels to stay open for long as the pandemic worsens across America (and the world), and maybe our flying to St. Pete’s was unwise, but I’m glad we were able to enjoy the first major holiday of 2020–the unofficial start of Summer–at the beach, as a family. I just hope we can enjoy the next one, Independence Day…