12:00 pm EST in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania.
The van is packed.
We have a headcount of 6.
Destination: 26°N, 82°W.
ETA: 12:00 pm EST… two days from now.
SEMI FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Two days later at the tollbooth.
‘$0.50’. Dad inserts two quarters. ‘$0.50’ it reads again. And again Dad inserts two quarters. ‘$0.50’ the booth still reads, accusing us of having never paid. “I’m out of quarters,” Dad stated as he drove off. We look behind to see the tollbooth’s red lights flashing and sirens blaring. “We’re not criminals! We paid you twice!” Mom exclaims, as if the tollbooth could understand.
177 miles are left on the GPS. We’re nearly tasting the sight, seeing the smells, feeling the sound… Travelling throws our senses off ever so slightly.
12:27 pm EST at Cyprina Beach 7.
There’s the familiar excitement, running to claim our bedrooms and leaving our luggage and parents behind. We rush to the lanai overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The crystalline water of 93 degree temperature is gentle and tumbling. The beautiful white sand is entirely coated with seashells of all sorts. Welcome to the Seashell Capital of the World. Welcome to Sanibel Island, Florida.
Time is lost as we take a deep breath, sit back, and relax for the week. Our seven day stay is filled with shell collecting, exploration, and discovery.
Visits to the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge are nearly as frequent as the tropical cyclones that blow you away (okay, not literally). The cyclones are the perfect time for reading out on the lanai, or rushing out to the water to save what you think is a sea creature, but really turns out to be a coconut. From sea cucumbers, to dead sharks, to brittle and sea stars, to sand dollars encountered with each step, Sanibel has a variety of wildlife. Even green beans reside in the ocean. We’re not sure what they really are, but my youngest brother exclaims that he needs to get out of the water momentarily because he’s scared of the floating green beans and the title for these mystery plants sticks.
Stepping on the tip a conch is a great way to locate it, but it’s also a great way for sharks to locate you with the amounts of blood that protrude from the deep incision it causes, as my brother learns the hard way. I’d suggest water shoes.
The atmosphere and food quality of the Island Cow are incomparable. After a dining experience, we head over to Sanibel’s sister, Captiva Island, to catch the beautiful view of the sun setting over the water.
We take a bus to Lake Trafford in the Everglades. I strongly recommend every individual to add an airboat ride to their bucket list. The intensity of this experience is incredible and unmatchable. We encounter countless alligators, and have the ability to hold a baby gator for ourselves. None of us pass up on the opportunity. It is certainly an invigorating experience.
The rest of our vacation in paradise is serenity in and of itself. My brothers play baseball on the beach, I practice the well-known Sanibel stoop while searching for shells. Mom accompanies me while explaining how hilarious Dad being lost at sea forever would be if one day we picked up a conch shell and found him inside. Oblivious Dad ventures out to the fourth sand bar to dig for sand dollars, conches, and whelks. Yes, the fourth sand bar is achievable. I’m not too sure of other places that I can say the same for.
12:00 pm EST, tomorrow.
Two years later, and here we go again.
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