To say my parents’ recent visit with us was pure Florida perfection may be an understatement. They arrived just in time for one last perfect beach day and left just as a “cold” front came to cool us off while enjoying dinner outside listening to a fantastic band. In between was a lot of lazy sightseeing, bird watching, music listening and seafood devouring. There are a lot of (good!) things happening on my side of the family right now, and all of our minds have been on little hamster wheels lately. Their visit came just in time to help us all take a mental break and enjoy being together.
Our visit began dark and early last Thursday morning when I picked my parents up from their hotel and headed to the beach to see the sun rise over the Atlantic. It brought back memories of arriving at the beach well before dawn, our car loaded with surfboards, as we chowed down granola bars and hit the waves in the early light. In fact, while we were there, two little girls raced into the water with their shortboards. It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a board, but I don’t think I’ll ever look out at the water and not feel that itch somewhere in my heart.
Later that morning we visited the Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge in Stuart. This little beachfront home was one of nine homes built in the late 1800s as a safe-haven for sailors whose ships wrecked along this jagged part of the coast. The home’s keeper would walk the beaches after bad storms and bring back anyone he found to give them shelter, food and what medical assistance he could before sending them north.
It was really interesting to think that it wasn’t too long ago that Florida was still a wilderness swamp which most thought uninhabitable. I bet they couldn’t have imagined it would turn into a magnet for millions of retirees!
The weather was beautiful that day, so we moved down to Stuart Beach and had a belated birthday picnic for my mom whose big day was earlier that week. We then changed into our bathing suits and spent a lazy afternoon soaking up the hot sun and warm breeze while watching the shorebirds. It was definitely one of the best beach weather days we’ve had in awhile, and I was so grateful to share it with my parents.
That night we had dinner at our favorite restaurant in downtown Stuart, The Black Marlin. Next, it was on to the Lyric Theatre’s Flagler Center for their monthly Jazz Jam. If Charlie and I had not been there, my parents would have been the youngest people in the room! I thought this type of open jam might draw a younger crowd, but we soon realized the older audience came prepared. After an hour-long set from the band, they opened up their instruments to anyone who wanted to play a few songs. One older lady, in white pants and a coral cardigan twinset, stood up and floored us with her deep, knowing voice that flowed out like water. Another man in his eighties nearly broke his hip walking up to the drums but, once seated, played like he must have forty years ago.
You just didn’t know who was going to get up next! We’ve been wanting to go this for awhile, and I really hope we have a chance to go back since we apparently have some real jazz talent in our little area.
The next day we drove south to do some birding at the Hobe Sound National Refuge. Charlie and I hadn’t been to this beach before, and it was really fun to have access to the last uninhabited stretch of Jupiter Island. It was colder that day, so we birders had the beach to ourselves minus the fishermen. My parents saw a lot of interesting species while Charlie and I, pretty clueless in this area, enjoyed the view.
At the refuge’s education center, we walked around the exhibit for a few minutes before going to lunch. We were almost out the door when the exhibit guide asked if anyone wanted to pet their displayed alligators or snakes. I kept heading toward the door then heard Charlie behind me practically yell, “Of course!” Should have known!
After lunch at the Dune Dog Cafe, we spent the afternoon wandering through the shops of downtown Stuart and then enjoying a nap before dinner. The night turned out to be another hit as we settled into shrimp and grits, fish tacos, and pulled pork at the Kona Beach Cafe in Jensen Beach. The band that evening was two guys cranking out the southern rock that we love so much.
All the tables are outside at Kona, the place is run by surfers, and we could have sat there listening to the music all night. Charlie and I are definitely heading back on a Tuesday night when they pull down their projector screen and show old surf movies after dark.
On Saturday morning, we had a pretty drive by the river on the way to the Fort Pierce farmer’s market. We stopped for breakfast at the PP Cobb General Store and then wandered through the maze of craft stalls and gourmet food booths. Rain clouds were setting in, so we said goodbye mid-morning and my parents got on the road before any sprinkles began.
We all agreed it was a great few days to just enjoy everyone being together with no real agenda or schedule. My dad said it best when he called the next night to report, “Well, we just don’t know what to do with ourselves. We’re not going out for seafood and there’s no live music playing.”
Yep, I could get used to that routine too.