On Wednesday, September 4th, my family and I drove the remaining distance to Pensacola Beach, Florida! We saw our first palm trees of the year just across the Florida border. To get to Pensacola Beach, which is along the Gulf of Mexico, we had to cross two bridges onto the “water stick” as we call it.
Water stick—a long, narrow area of land surrounded completely by water but sitting only a short distance away from the rest of the country, accessible by one or more bridges
I don’t know where the term “water stick” came from, but we have always called them that and we have been to three of them: Pensacola Beach water stick, Daytona Beach water stick, and the Outer Banks water stick.
We were excited to have finally reached our first real destination, and to spend more than one night there! We stayed at the lovely Hampton Beachside Resort, which was complete with a swimming pool, easy access to the ocean, and our very own balcony! And a tiki bar! Before deciding on Pensacola, we considered Panama City Beach and Destin, but Pensacola was said to be very nice and the quietest of the three beaches, so we settled on this one. We were very glad of our choice, because the three days we spent there were perfect! (The whole time, however, I could not remember the word “Pensacola” for the life of me! I either called it “Pentacola” or “Pestacola”.)
We spent lots of time swimming every day. The water felt almost hot compared to what we are used to at the beaches in Canada. At first glance, the water looks calm, blue-green and almost crystal clear, and the sand is so white it’s almost blinding! While walking to the beach, every time we reached a certain section of the sand, it would make these funny squeaky sounds when we walked, and I think we laughed every time.
When we waded into the water, we realized that there were fuzzy yellow bits of algae floating in it. Apparently, the water is usually clear of these, so we just so happened to be there at the wrong time, but we got used to them pretty quickly. There were a few small white jellyfish in the water too, which spooked me at first, but most of them had little or no tentacles so they didn’t sting when touched. What was harder for me to get used to were the fish swimming around my feet! In even the shallow parts of the water, these cute little fish swam around our feet almost constantly, brushing up against our legs and eating whatever was in the sand our feet stirred up. After a while, though, I came to really like them. They were so much fun to try to capture on my GoPro! We had a blast just relaxing and floating around in the water, videotaping the fish, and later chilling on shaded chairs beside the pool as we dried.
For supper that first night, we tried Red Fish Blue Fish, and from our seats on the outside covered deck, we watched the sun set over the water. When we returned to our room, we played some games and ate snacks. Then we went to bed early. Being outside in the sun all day is exhausting, but so much fun!
The following morning, I was awoken by a cry of, “Guys! There’s dolphins out here!!” I jumped out of bed and ran to the balcony, where Mom and Dad were pointing out in the water—and I saw a splash! We were able to witness dolphins jumping around beside the pier, and it was really cool. By the time I grabbed a camera, though, they were swimming east.
We spent the morning and afternoon swimming some more, and we ventured a little bit west to explore around the pier. Then we decided it was time for some lunch. Unfortunately, I think I might have spent a bit too much time in the sun. You see, we Canadians are not used to the tropical Florida heat. On the way back to our room, I tried to carry my shoes, but the dry sand further from the water felt really hot, so I ran for the stairs but they were black and were even hotter. I yanked my shoes on, but while the others were rinsing the sand off their feet, I began to feel very faint and was gasping for breath, so I had to lie under the stream of foot-rinsing water until I felt well enough to stand again. In the hotel, I drank some water as we prepared to go get lunch at Rotolo’s. But I couldn’t stand or even sit without feeling dizzy and weak, so Mom and I stayed behind while Mal and my dad went to pick up our food. While they were gone, I tried eating some doritos and drinking some more water, and finally began to feel a bit better. After eating most of my penne alfredo, I felt completely fine.
A bit later, when we decided we were all fully recovered from the heat, we returned to the beach. First, I almost forgot my chair. Next, just outside our room, I accidentally dropped my glasses on the floor. Then we got on the elevator, and I suddenly realized I wasn’t wearing shoes! So I had to go back to the room to get my shoes…I wasn’t going to be running across that hot sand again!
On the beach, the wind had picked up, so there were some small waves, but nothing like Daytona Beach or the Outer Banks. We swam for a while, watched the sunset from the beach, then returned to our room and went to Marble Slabs for our first ice cream of the trip! I wasn’t too fond of the raspberry ice cream, but the strawberry was good, especially with cookie dough and Reese’s pieces mixed in. They were all laughing at me though, because they said they all tried to do themes—Mom had a pina colada theme with banana and coconut; Mal had a chocolate theme with chocolate and oreo cookies; and then there was me, just throwing everything I like into my ice cream!
Friday morning, we all got up at 7am to walk down the beach to see the dolphins. We saw a few, but didn’t get any good photos. We went swimming, this time bringing some salty doritos and water with us so I could stay hydrated and electrolyted (my newly invented word, I like it), and when we decided we were exhausted and sunburnt enough, went to Whataburger for supper. I ordered chicken strips, but they all got burgers and received them…all without patties so we were all laughing hysterically! Their customer service was excellent, however, and we got new burgers in no time, so we were very pleased with the service. Then we went to Marble Slabs for the second time.
Since it was our last night at Pensacola, we stood on the balcony overlooking the beach, listening to the laughing of the few people still outside and the gentle lapping of the waves; watching the moonlight shimmer softly off the pier as it cast long reflections into the calm water; and remembering the feeling of the glimmering turquoise water sliding softly through our hands. It was the perfect final night.
On Saturday morning, we awoke early again, this time headed to the pier in another attempt to see some dolphins. This one paid off, because we saw the dolphins and got to hear them blow out air as they surfaced in the water! Then we had our final breakfast in Pensacola. In the breakfast area, Mal told us that a guy walked up to him and said, “My friend told me that we have the same hair. But I don’t think so.” It was hilarious, because we’re always laughing at Mal’s hair. It’s long, thick, bouncy, and sometimes ends up sticking up somehow in places, and he’s always telling us, “There’s nothing wrong with my hair!”
When we left the hotel, we drove east toward our second real destination: Daytona Beach! We had kept west until then because we wanted to avoid Hurricane Dorian, which was passing through Daytona while we were enjoying the sunny weather at Pensacola. We were able to actually follow the hurricane north, staying behind it, so we had sunny days every. single. day! It was great!
I missed Florida. Writing this, I miss it again, but I’m sure we will be back someday!