A Peek At Daytona Beach
by Ruby Bayan
I was born and raised in the Philippines, a country composed of more than 7000 islands, so let's just say I know beaches. So, when I came Florida, which has a stretch of hundreds of miles of beach facing the Atlantic, as well as the Pacific Ocean, I was surprised when one particular place, Daytona Beach, managed to amaze me!
It was my first time in Daytona, so before we hit the sands, my friend and I leisurely cruised around, imagining how the place could have contained all the tourists and visitors who attended the recently concluded Nascar Races.
Every year, at the famous Daytona International Speedway, car races, such as the Daytona 200, the Daytona 500, and the Ferrari Daytona, to name a few, attract thousands of spectators and speed car racing enthusiasts.
There's also Bike Week in February, and Biketoberfest in October, when motorcyclists from all over the continent congregate, party, and show off their prized Harleys, Hondas, and BMWs! My friend has been to one such event and he swears there's absolutely nothing like it!
After a quickie tour of the city, we headed for the water. We approached an entrance -- a gate with a toll booth -- with a sign that you have to pay a couple of dollars per vehicle. I innocently asked my friend, "Wait, I can see the water, shouldn't we be parking somewhere here?" He smiled and said, "Just sit tight."
We paid the entrance fee and as we cleared the row of condominiums and hotels that lined the coast, I noticed that the stretch of land from the water to the fences was about half a mile wide! There was actually a two-way lane for the vehicles -- stretching as far as the eye can see!
The vehicle lane was pretty busy -- with all sorts of vehicles, rental dune buggies, and bicycles. A speed limit of 10 miles per hour kept the "thoroughfare" relatively safe for the beach-goers, but I thought that all the traffic somehow cluttered the beach scene.
We parked the car close to the fence, like everyone did, and pulled out a couple of lounging chairs to be one with nature. Maybe we should've parked farther down, if there was at all a quieter spot, because where we stayed, I found it rather difficult to convene with Mother Nature.
Four string bikini-clad young ladies who came in the SUV parked beside us had sprawled on the sand to worship the sun. I'm sure my friend's male hormones helped him ignore the deafening hard rock music blaring from the back of the ladies' car. I, on the other hand, was thinking of moving to another spot. But then again, at least, here, we had beautiful bodies to glance at.
After about an hour sitting there, simultaneously distracted by the traffic of vehicles in front of us and the four females who by then had already been approached by interested males (the old "You look familiar, have we met?" line still works!), my friend and I started asking each other if we were going to take a dip.
I had to think for a while about the logistics involved. Although our minivan was just there, on the sand itself, we'd have to put all our stuff back in the car and lock it up before we tread towards the surf because there were just too many strangers walking around. And if you look again, the edge of the water isn't really that close -- it's about a three-minute walk! The beach IS rather wide.
"Are we dipping or are we dipping?" my friend nagged, mainly because the basking blondes had gone off with their newfound friends. Just about then, as if Mother Nature condoned my hesitance, dark clouds started forming down the horizon -- it was the notorious Florida afternoon summer rain heading our way.
I guess most of the beach-goers didn't mind that the 3 PM sunshine had suddenly turned to a dark overcast -- they continued to frolic and throw frisbies and stroll nonchalantly. I, fully clad, didn't exactly welcome the idea of getting drenched.
It was too early to go home, so I made a brilliant suggestion: "Why don't we drive along the coast, up to St. Augustine, and have dinner there?" My friend's eyes lit up as he remembered our favorite dishes at the Monk's Inn. We quickly left Daytona Beach, just when the first raindrops hit the sand, and headed for America's oldest city, St. Augustine -- where the beaches are... what we expect.