With 2009 waning fast, and knowing that I’ve really let “Life’s a Beach” languish a bit over the past few months, maybe this will help jump-start both my writing and my photography in the coming year.
It was a year to stay close to home, other than a couple of business trips. The furthest away I got this year was central Wisconsin for the EAA AirVenture Fly-In. But in this financially very challenging year, we made it as far a Cocoa Beach, proving that you don’t have to travel to far-flung locales to have a good time. So here’s a look at the year through the camera lens, because we all know that picture is worth a thousand words.
Andie and I both worked for Art Graham in the 8th District State Senate race. Here are (R-L) Art, Andie, and Neptune Beach mayor Harriet Pruett, Mayor of Neptune Beach. Art ran a good campaign in a losing effort, and will now try to return to his political roots as Mayor of Jacksonville Beach. Art served on both the Jacksonville Beach and Jacksonville City Councils, and he’s running for Mayor of Jax Beach.
We always love it when Jenni comes to visit, and during her summer visit we went down to Marineland. The place has changed a great deal since we were there last, but there is an opportunity to get a bit closer to the dolphin than there was before. Granted, there’s a couple of inch thick piece of plexiglass between you and the dolphin, but it’s at least eye level. And, they like to play ball with the people who come to see them swim in the tank. It’s a good thing that Marineland continues to be open, even if it only pays lip service to the roadside attraction that it once was.
I was fortunate to get to be involved in improv again this year. I do enjoy the challenge of standing on a stage, getting a suggestion from the audience, and trying to create a compelling scene from that suggestion. Beginning in January, we’ll have our own night at The Comedy Zone to see if improv can draw an audience without the stand up comedians. We’re certainly looking forward to the opportunity.
I also have been fortunate to be back on the radio this year, thanks to The Jacksonville Observer and The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show on WBOB. Here, I’m talking to City Councilman and Mayoral Candidate Kevin Hyde. For being on one day a week, we managed to get some great guests this year, including Mayor Peyton, State Representative Lake Ray, a debate with the 8th District Senate candidates, John Meserve in his bid for City Council, and many others. I’m having fun keeping my fingers in the media in Jacksonville, and regaining my skills as a talk show host. It’s been a little rough from time to time, but a lot of fun none the less.
In January of this year, we braved the mid-winter chill and took a trip up to St. Marys just to get out of house and see some different scenery. It was one of those days that had nearly perfect light which makes photography fun and easy (er) to get some really nice shots. Working waterfronts always draw my eye, and with a bright sun low on the horizon, this one seemed to come to life with no one around.
We made multiple trips down to the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center this summer, attempting to get somewhat reasonably close to a shuttle launch. But the launch we were attempting to see, STS-127, was scrubbed five times before finally managing to lift off to ISS. The trip wasn’t a total waste, as I got to go fish with my cousin Mike down off Cocoa Beach, where I captured this spectacular, yet altogether common, sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.
Looks eerily similar, doesn’t it. And yet this image was captured at a minute before midnight as STS-128 thundered towards space, the last night launch of the shuttle program, if the schedule holds. We drove to Canaveral National Seashore just north of the Kennedy Space Center and stood on the beach at midnight as the sky lit up like day … even with the actual launch nearly 10 miles away. A low, almost sub-audible rumble shook our insides as the sound rolled up the beach. There is very little that’s more impressive than watching a launch, and the U.S. stands of the verge of losing our edge in space. That would be a very sad thing to have happen, but I’m glad that in 2009 we managed to finally get close to a night launch.
As we drove back from one of our trips to the central Florida coast, we literally meandered along U.S. 1 on the way home, rather than going back out to the freeway and being bored to death with the sameness of I-95. U.S. 1 still has some of the flavor of old Florida in spots, with mom-and-pop motels hanging on by a thread, working-class businesses, and the occasional roadside cafe. Our lunch this day was at the New Smyrna airport, though we didn’t get to fly in for a $100 hamburger. It is particularly enjoyable sometimes to take the road less traveled, if you’ll forgive me that cliché. We spent a leisurely morning seeing a part of Florida that’s often ignored, and in places shows the neglect, but is still very much worth seeing.
And then, there’s St. Augustine. Like a sunrise over the ocean, a moonrise over the anchorage in the Matanzas River will draw a photographers eye. Again, in January, a full moon lifting up over the trees with the boats riding quietly at anchor.
But that was very much the extent of our travels this year. Nothing really more than one tank of gas, at least as far as discretionary travel is concerned. As I said at the top of the post, there were a couple of business trips, and I managed to get to the beach a few times as well over the past year. But the further down this road I go, I realize there is more to do than will fit comfortably in a single post. So we’ll get to all that, and more, as the week goes on …