Sanibel Island, Summer 2017

These Eager Feet love to travel, whether it’s a day trip to a new hiking trail or a month-long road trip (still the best trip I’ve ever taken). It’s always difficult to decide when to take on new adventures and when to return to comfortable ground. It’s like going to a restaurant — order the tried and true meal or branch out and order the special with the garnish you’ve never heard of?

Each year we weigh this, and we keep coming back to Sanibel Island. We’ve been coming here for years (since before Evie was born), and it’s hard to put into words why we keep coming back. It’s somewhat unique, or at least uncommon, in that most of the island is a natural preserve. Development is controlled; town by-laws prevent chain restaurants from opening, hotels from going above three stories, or buildings a certain distance from the beach. Speed limits are low across the island, and it’s quiet, to the point where some people (I won’t name names, but they’re our own flesh and blood and traveled with us just once) get bored here.

I come here, I drive across the massive bridge, and I immediately begin decompressing. Tradition holds that our first meal on the island is usually at a restaurant called the Island Cow.  The Island Cow isn’t an amazing restaurant; it’s loud, crowded, disorganized, and has a massive menu that puts quantity a bit above quality. There’s always a wait, and I always get a drink from the bar and sit out back in the Adirondack chairs and slowly let the warm Florida air begin doing its magic.

This year we splurged and revisited a condo we’ve stayed in before. The views are incredible and you can’t help but be drawn to the windows whenever you’re trapped indoors, trying to spot the telltale splash of a pair of dolphins swimming by.

As well as having Jess’s parents along, we took Evie’s friend with us on this trip, so she would have someone to share the experience with. It’s always easier when they’re entertained and can share their unique childhood perspective with another friend instead of just adults.  While the grown-ups shopped for kitchen supplies I accompanied them outside of Jerry’s grocery store to talk to the parrots.  Again, these experiences are comfortable and routine to me, and even Evie is beginning to remember them from prior years, but her being able to share them with someone else made them feel new again, for all of us.

I apologize for a lack of pictures in this post; on a trip like this, when relaxation is king, especially when swimming and being by the water is such a big part of it, the phone just doesn’t come out that often, and I just experience the trip rather than photograph it.  In the moment it’s the right call but I can’t help but wish I had more snapshots to help summon the memories (especially in the dark days of winter, or the hardest days of work).

On Tuesday, we made our way across the length of Sanibel to its sister island of Captiva. There, Jess, Evie, and Evie’s friend took to the skies on a parasailing adventure with the accurately named Yolo Adventures.

After their trip, we spent some time at a nearby beach, playing, swimming, and collecting shells. For lunch that day, we stopped at RC Otter’s Island Eats, a little casual place on Captiva. We sat outside at a table for six, listened to a guitar player singing Jimmy Buffet and Billy Joel songs, and I enjoyed a couple cans of one of my favorite beers, Jai Alai IPA (not distributed to Massachusetts, I’m afraid).  My lunch was a simple blackened fish sandwich, and I honestly could have sat there, in the breeze with the salt drying on my skin, listening to that music and enjoying the moment, all afternoon.  It was one of the high points of the trip.

Later in the week the ladies took a speedboat tour around the island (The Sanibel Thriller) while Jess’s father and I fished our way across Ding Darling.  We fished a bit almost every day, but this was our day to have some dedicated time to fish.  We saw some interesting fish, including a shark that cruised by where we were standing — very exciting.  I didn’t pull in much but Steve did — the story of my (fishing) life.

We got some more fishing in on our last full day there, taking a boat out of Tarpon Bay Explorers to fish the inlets and shallow waters of the bay.  We caught over 40 fish between the six of us, across a wide variety of species.  Everybody had a great time.

And then … as quickly as it began, it was over.  The next day we drove north to Tampa (stopping at a tourist trap mini-golf place to play 18 holes, feed the gators, and break up the routine) and then flew home.

It hasn’t even been a month yet and the memories are fading, work is front and center again, and the stress levels are back up.  But I can still summon the taste of that ice cold Jai Alai with the breeze in my salt-water-hair, and I know that while my Eager Feet may crave adventure, there is some value in tried and true relaxation.