Daytona Revisited

Several months back I wrote an entry about my memories of vacations at Daytona Beach, Florida.  I wondered if going back now, in my mid-fifties with my second wife and no kiddies, would provide me with some sense of nostalgia about vacations past.  Oddly enough, an opportunity came out of the blue a few weeks ago for my wife and me to take a long weekend trip to Daytona.  We are fortunate enough at this stage of our lives to be able to afford better accommodations than I could ever have enjoyed in previous decades.  There aren’t any real five-star resorts in Daytona, but there are a few four-star places that are a cut above the rest, and we found a nice one at the small beach community on the south end of the area called Daytona Shores.  In fact, the resort is simply called The Shores, and it was surprisingly comfortable if not luxurious, with several amenities you wouldn’t find elsewhere in Daytona.

My wife had never been to this beach, and she was curious to see my old haunts — the places I have told her about over the years.  Some of the places, like the old apartments and hotels my family stayed in through the years, are no longer there.  They are either replaced by other buildings or remain vacant lots ready for development.  I was wondering if the highly-commercial, dare I say cheesy, atmosphere of Daytona was going to be over the top for her.  Not at all.  She loved it, and we were talking the whole time we were there about how to make long weekend trips work, returning to The Shores. The Boardwalk at Daytona has changed so much over the years, with an outdoor mall, new and extravagant rides, and huge hotels towering over the beach.  However, some of the old arcades that my sons spent many hours and dollars in are still there, dirty and hot and smelly as ever.  And of course, the ancient bandshell is still intact, where we heard a couple of bands playing.  A real blast from the past was going in the salt water taffy store that has been in operation at the same location since before my wife and I were born.  We filled up a plastic bag of taffy and both bought an ice cream cone — it was like tasting memories.

Sunset at Daytona Beach Boardwalk from the pier

Summers Past

Some families have favorite places that they go each year for vacation. I suspect this is still a trend as it was in the 1960s and 70s when my family vacationed almost every summer in Daytona Beach, Florida. It was a magical place with so much to see and do — almost like an extended amusement park with the main attraction being the incredibly popular beach.  I learned how to swim in Daytona; how to body surf, throw a Frisbee, play miniature golf, and so much more. Some of the happiest times I remember with my family growing up were spent there.  

  

It’s no surprise that going back as an adult, with my own children, was a completely different experience.  The carefree hours on the beach were replaced with keeping constant watch on children to make sure they were still in sight in the breakers or on the sand.  Sleeping late was replaced by getting up early enough to watch the sun rise over the ocean horizon — a spiritual and peaceful moment.  Begging for money for snacks on the beach gave way to worrying about how I was to pay the inevitable credit card bill that would all-too-quickly follow the one week of family fun.

Now that my sons are adults (or almost), my visits to the beach are different yet again.  The commercial overload of the Boardwalk and Highway A1A are not quite as appealing as they once were.  My wife and I live farther away from the coast now than I ever have lived before.  I need time at the beach occasionally for my sanity, so I get there as often as I can.  I am sure that I will get back to Daytona at some point in the near future, and I want to take my wife with me because she has never been.  I have to wonder if some small portion of the magic from my childhood will still be there.