Thursday, July 29, 2010

Life's a beach

We are at the Elks lodge in Fort Walton Beach, Florida (map), right on the "Miracle Strip" on Okaloosa Island. We are just across the street from a county beach right on the gulf, which is next door to the visitors' center, and the lodge has its own dock on the bay side. We have a mini-mart right next door for those midnight munchies, and all of Destin and Fort Walton Beach are within easy scooter distance.

We've already been here three nights, and I'd love to say we've been to the beach and the water park and the aquarium, but the reality is more prosaic. While it's a bit more pleasant here than it is a few miles inland, it has still been hot, with daytime temperatures in the mid 90s and humidity to match. We've mostly been inside the bus getting caught up. Between Red Cross conference calls, the last of our "homework," and dealing with the very last of the detritus from the great storage locker exodus, we haven't had much time to go out and play.

That said, we are looking forward to swimming in the gulf, as there is no oil here in Fort Walton Beach, even though the booms and containment equipment are conspicuously stockpiled at public beach access points throughout the island, and cleanup crews are combing the beaches. Nevertheless, business here is way down, with 60% or so cancellation rates at area resorts, and we've had the place more or less to ourselves.

With no tropical storms on the horizon, we decided to have our mail sent here, which means we'll be here at least into next week. Unless the lodge gets tired of us and boots us out, we plan to just stay put here until we are needed elsewhere by the Red Cross. With 30 amps of power we can run two air conditioners as needed to stay cool, and at $10 a night we are unlikely to do better anyplace else. Plus there are enough restaurants and attractions here to keep us well fed and entertained indefinitely. We are about equal distance from either end of the gulf coast, and close enough for deployment to the eastern seaboard of the southeast U.S. if needed.

As luck would have it, of course, the big trouble spots right now are flooding in the Midwest, suggesting we perhaps moved south from there too soon, and wildfires in California. They are unlikely to send us out of the hurricane belt, however, because unlike two years ago at this time, there are still plenty of fresh volunteers in the deployment pool.

Now that the project backlog is under control and no more to-be-sold items linger in the living room, we're going to take some time to relax, swim, and enjoy the area. In addition to public beaches right across the street on the gulf side and a quarter mile up the road on the bay side, there is also an aquarium a few blocks down, and I saw a water park in Destin that looked inviting. I still have work to do on the satellite dish, but it's too hot and unshaded on the roof for that right now.

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