The year was 2000, and we were poor. We were in the midst of a period of time in which Ken was not allowed to work, due to an Immigration error. (And yes, they admitted it was their fault, but he still couldn’t work anyway. He was allowed to be in the United States, but he couldn’t leave or work.) We had managed to scrape together enough money to take a vacation, but it had to be cheap.
But we really wanted to go to the beach.
Not an easy task.
I searched areas of the beach that were within driveable distance from Indiana, and I came across a review for Old Saltworks Cabins in an area called Cape San Blas, Florida. The cabins were a bit rustic, as in no television or internet, but cheap (at least they were back then). And they had a full kitchen, so we could bring food with us to save money on eating out. The cabins were near the beach, and we would have beach access. The reviews reflected on the charm of the property, the little museum, the relaxed pace of the area. All of these were very good things.
We spent a week in early May in Florida in a cramped cabin for less than $500 total back then, I believe. And even though we didn’t have what are now considered staples of entertainment, we had quiet. We had relaxation. We had a great time. We came to realize that Cape San Blas was not like what one typically thinks about in a Florida vacation.The beaches were empty. On a busy day, we might see one other family a half mile away or a horse galloping in the distance. Occasionally, there would be a person jogging with a dog off-leash. In fact, Cape San Blas has miles of pet-friendly beaches. There were no hotels. No high-rise condos. No amusement parks. Restaurants were few and far between. The only grocery store was a small-town Piggly Wiggly. The highlight of the whole Cape was a beautiful state park with miles and miles of empty sandy beaches.
It was the Florida that time forgot. And to us, it was paradise.
Before we had even left, we knew we had to come back. We planned a spring break trip for our college students to go camping there the next three years in a row. It was a perfect place for a sizeable group because there was almost no one else there! We could build sandcastles, play ultimate frisbee, or just relax with a good book without others around. We played silly games, planted sea oats, and played movies in the campground pavilion after dark. The water was always still cold in early March, but we didn’t care. The rhythmic swells of the ocean would soothe a semester’s-worth of stress away with each crash on the shore.
We even managed to go to Cape San Blas a couple of times during PA school, but after I graduated, vacations became more difficult to take. We were away from the Cape for almost 5 years.
Finally in 2009, we decided that taking vacations needed to be a priority to us, since we rarely get days off together, and never get to sneak away for a weekend. We returned again to Cape San Blas just after Christmas. It was like returning home. Now with dogs in tow, we try to make it to Cape San Blas once a year for some relaxation and renewal. We pay a little more to have cable and internet, and stay in a space a bit bigger than the studio-sized cabin we first stayed in. We’ve been there for three years in a row now at Christmastime, and natives to the area now recognize us, and especially Buddy and Holly.
This year will be different. Rather than vacation, we hope to spend part of our winter in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But my heart can’t help but look forward to the time when we can return to “our” vacation spot, with two kids and two dogs. We hope that it will be a place for new traditions and memories to be made.