I’d start from my mom’s place on the West Side. Then I’d cut through downtown and find my way onto an overpass that exited toward Jacksonville’s beaches. Duval County sprawls and stretches and earns its reputation as the largest county in the country, area-wise. So really, I’d start on the West Side, go through Riverside, then Downtown, then Arlington, then whatever is between Arlington and the Beaches before I actually felt the ocean breeze and saw sand. It takes anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on traffic and whether I want to follow the 35mph speed limit on Atlantic Boulevard.
I’d park somewhere along one of the tree-named streets. Secure the car. Walk with my backpack toward one of many beach entrances. Flip flops. Excitement would build and quicken my heart. I would reach the crest of the pathway and the ocean would become visible, forming the forever horizon. The tide would wash up against the sand. It was hardly ever crowded when I’d go. The white noise would relax my pulse to counter the excitement. I’d smile, either way.
I’d lay out a small blanket and put my backpack on it. Slather on sunscreen. Put on a hat. Pull out a book and a water bottle. Watch the surfers. Read a little. Take some pictures. Send a few texts. Guess where I am, I’d say. The beach is fabulous today, I’d say.
Sometimes I’d arrive in the late morning, just as the sun was getting high. It would shine straight down, so I’d have to apply more sunscreen, at least every 45 minutes. I don’t like sunburns. And I’d often stay for about two hours, sometimes longer, until I had to head back to take my mom to work.
Seagulls and terns would hover over the water. Alight upon the sand. I’d compare footprints.
The sand could be finer, but it also could be coarser. After a few pages, I’d stand up and walk to the water. Get my feet wet. Wade until the ocean came knee-deep.
My mind would clear; thoughts would roll out with the tide.
I’d go by myself. The isolation can be nice.
The tan can be nice, too.
These mountains are nowhere near the beach. We cross from Utah County to Salt Lake County which is a little less than halfway to our destination. The sun is starting to set, searing glowing seams into the sky.
Maybe it’s because I spent 11 hours last weekend in a car, or maybe because this feels like a regular trip to the beach, this drive doesn’t feel long at all. The closer we get, the more those familiar feelings of anticipation begin to surface. I can hardly hold still.
And it’s not like I’ve been to Davis County all that often. But, it’s a really important county to me.
We exit the freeway. A few of the buildings look familiar. Other than the time is takes, this trip is different in so many ways than going to the beach. The air is dryer and considerably cooler. It’s nighttime. The excitement isn’t the same. I’m not by myself.
We pull up to the house. Before I walk to the door, I look around. The obscured valley emits a soft light. I smile.
The door opens. I smile.
I already know this is going to be great.