Thanks to J. R. Hauptman for taking a page in my notebook today to tell us a little about the joys of Florida.
Kickin’ Back in Florida
–Guest Blogger J.R. Hauptman,
author of THE TARGET
In the Pike’s Peak region of Colorado, we don’t often suffer the “Dog Days” of August. Almost every year, about the tenth day of that month we seem to have a major shift of the weather pattern. It came this year on a day that seemed warm but far above the divide, we could see the high cirrus clouds revealing the jet stream winds that would soon carry the arctic air of Fall and Winter.
Autumn slips up on us here in the Rockies. The last three weeks of August flash by in a blur and the next you know, it’s the week after Labor Day and only three more weeks to the equinox. Now is the time for football, the World Series, hunting season and the brilliant beauty of the golden aspens
For my wife and me, this beauty brings a breathtaking sense of anticipation because it means for us that in less than sixty days, we will be packing up for our annual trek to Florida. By November, the most violent storms have waned and you usually have an indication of the weather trend.
Summertime and early Fall are quite intense for us as we track the athletic and artistic activities of our four grandkids. We pray for the safety and success of our football boys and even more for the safety of cheerleader Nikki as she vaults through her acrobatic routines.
But we know that November beckons us south and we finally have the opportunity to relax!!! We were married in the south. When we go down there we rediscover a sense of sweet sadness akin to that of a visit to an old homestead. When I left for my second tour in the war, Maryanne chose to stay in Alabama with our new baby girl rather than return to her hometown in the North. She knew the folks down there would treat her as one of their own.
When we cross the Florida border just east of Mobile, and head across the Panhandle, we know we still have five-hundred miles to go. Most non-Floridians have little appreciation for the sheer size of Florida. From our winter home in Cocoa Beach, it is two hundred-twenty miles to Miami and at least four hundred to the tip of the Keys. A meandering trip around the Atlantic, Gulf and Panhandle boundaries would be nearly the same as the distance to our Colorado home.
We cross the St. John’s River estuary east of Orlando and within a few minutes more our minivan rockets up the North Causeway to Cape Canaveral and the tangy salt air envelopes us and assails our senses with pure pleasure. Maryanne is extremely happy because now she feels she can really breathe. She has long been afflicted with severe asthma and bronchitis that limits her stays in Colorado to the Summer time.
Florida is the breath of life for her.
I always hope for a daylight arrival in Cocoa Beach. I help Maryanne unload the overnight bags and take them up to our second floor unit but the bulk of our seasonal cargo will stay in the van this first night. I am already dressed for the beach; I wore my swim trunks and sandals for this last day of driving. I skin out “Rosie,” my favorite longboard, from the travel bag and strap her onto the top of the van. It is only two blocks to the neighborhood beach and I wave to “Surfn’ Lennie,” as I roar out of the condo parking lot. He grins back at my haste. He surfed the clean little swells in two sessions today.
Rosie only requires a perfunctory waxing and in minutes, I am wading out through the shorebreak, shuffling my feet to warn the stingrays of my coming. I push Rosie through a closeout line and paddle hard to get outside before the next set lands on us. The afternoon winds have shifted offshore now and though the waves are small, they are nearly perfectly formed and glassy.
A broad, dark line in the glass forms and bears down on us. I sit way back and push Rosie around with my heel as I would spur a horse. I plop belly down and paddle furiously. The nose of the board begins to hiss and spray water and I am up in a flash. As I press the balls of my feet, the board responds to the right and we are gliding “down the line,” nearly parallel to the cresting swell. Behind me the little wave begins to break and I drift down the face to let it catch up with me, then climb back up and accelerate. The water shallows and I climb the board farther up, over the crest and out to sea just before the wave closes out. It seems the first wave of the season or the day is always the best.
For me, Cocoa Beach is one of the last vestiges of “Old Time Florida.” I first visited there in 1963 as a new Army Aviator. Our VIP passengers had classified briefings so my Captain and I passed our time in the Officers Club, watching the dolphins cavort in the waves. Our plane was parked outside Base Ops under the control tower and adjacent to an old World War II hanger made mostly of wood. Across the perimeter highway was a long supply pier from the same period.
The pier was soon destroyed in a hurricane and the hanger was more recently damaged beyond repair. They tore it down and the tower as well and replaced them with a very unromantic fire station. The Officers Club burned down a few years back and cannot be rebuilt in this time of tight budgets. They live on in our memories and in the names of our surfbreaks, “Hangers” and “O-Club.”
South Cocoa Beach is known as “The Streets” and it has a more local feel, away from the hubbub of Ron Jon’s and the Cocoa Beach Pier up North. Our favorite is Sixth Street South, just across from our condo complex. The neighborhood folks are young, working class adults, some with small children and dogs. Most of them surf and share the waves. These mingle easily with the Snowbirds and condo owners from our complex. Sixth Street beach belongs to all and all are welcome. Maryanne and I go to Sixth for full relaxation. She tans and reads while I surf and when I am exhausted, I take a little nap and then make notes on surfing, the ocean and our beautiful and friendly environment. I compile these notes into short segments for my next book on surfing the Atlantic and living life to it’s fullest.
Some will tell you there is no surf in the Atlantic. Kelly Slater, nine-time World Champion surfer, grew up in Cocoa Beach and once had a home across from Sixth. He had to learn to surf somewhere! He still has a place close by and does several charity events annually. He surfs Sixth now and then, he is a good guy and he is Our Champ! Several Sixth Street locals are California expatriates who just sit around and smile. Less traffic, small crowds and good surf when you find it.
Some still ask us, “But how can you stand the heat and humidity down there?”
We smile and say, “In Florida, we just don’t wear any underwear!”
J.R. Hauptman (pseudonym) has been a professional pilot for nearly a half century. Barely twenty years old, he began as a military pilot and for almost two years he flew combat support missions in the Viet Nam War. Upon leaving military service he was hired by a major airline and was initially based on the West Coast. His flying career was interrupted by the turmoil that racked the airline industry during the early days of deregulation. In the interim, he worked as a travel agent, a stockbroker and even trained dogs and horses. In the late nineteen-eighties, he returned to aviation, flying jet charters and air freight. He concluded his career flying corporate jets and now lives in Florida. He is completing his second work, a non-fictional social commentary and surfs every day, waves or not. You can visit his website at www.caddispublishing.com.
About the book:
The Target: Love, Death and Airline Deregulation
by J. R. Hauptman
The Target is set in the late nineteen-eighties and tells the tale of the tumultuous first years of airline deregulation and the shocking effects it had on that industry and the people who worked there. In those days, Carlo Clemenza is known as the most hated man in the airline business. A dedicated corporate raider and union buster, Clemenza uses junk bonds, uncompromising Soviet styled negotiation tactics, sham bankruptcies and ruthless abrogation of union contracts to crush competing airlines and to bring airline workers to heel. His methods have earned him countless death threats yet he struts with arrogance, surrounded by cadres of security toughs. Virtually thousands of professional pilots find themselves compelled to start their careers over or find them at a sudden and complete end. The airline grapevine echoes daily with the plaintive cry, “Why doesn’t someone kill that SOB?!” Only one pilot decides to seriously take up the cudgel and he makes Carlo Clemenza The Target! His chase will take him to the far corners of the country as he finds himself also the object of pursuit.
Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for setting up this guest post.