— By LARRY M. JONES
I am sure everyone who read my recent column about going on vacation has been waiting with bated breath to hear of what tragedy of hurricane proportions could have befallen my wife Helen and me on our recent excursion to the Sunshine State.
For better or worse, depending on your point of view, absolutely nothing cast a pall over our time in the sun.
Despite having logged many thousands of flight hours during my time in the Navy, this trip was the first time I’d flown commercially since retiring in 1987. I’ve been asked many times since then if I missed flying. The answer has always been a resounding, “no.” Flying out of DFW Airport after being frisked and intimidated by airport security (TSA) sadists, crammed into seating designed for the Seven Dwarfs, offered $5 soft drinks enroute did nothing to enhance my desire to again “Slip the surly bonds of earth.” Yet, our flights to and from South Florida were uneventful, and once again, my number of takeoffs equaled the number of landings.
Arriving in Fort Meyers Airport, we rented a car and quickly linked up with my old Navy buddy at his time-share condo. We wisely brought along our GPS navigation system, so we had no problems finding our way around in unfamiliar surroundings. On our drive from the airport, I was reminded of something I had noticed years ago while living in Orange Park, FL, near Jacksonville. It seems that the farther south you go in Florida, the older, more erratic, and slower the drivers seem to be. I’d never given it a lot of thought, since I obviously didn’t belong to such a distinguished group.
We went tube riding in the clear Florida waters, took an airboat tour of the Everglades, lay on the white beaches of the Florida west coast, searched for shells, and took in the delightful sounds and sights of this beautiful area. Where else can you drive your boat within 20 feet of a beautiful and majestic bald eagle or once endangered brown pelican perched on a piling in the bay?
I mentioned earlier that absolutely nothing happened to diminish the pleasant time we had playing tourista, relaxing, and visiting with old friends. While accurate for the most part, that is not exactly true. I noted one rather disturbing aspect of our vacation. We went out to an assortment of nice restaurants and enjoyed a wide variety of gourmet delights.
In each of these restaurants, I kept noticing one quite common demonstrator – almost all the patrons appeared very old. Most of them were gray haired, somewhat wrinkled, and some were even mobility impaired. This didn’t bother me much until I happened to notice on the last day of our stay that I was beginning to look exactly like them! Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth is for real, after all. The problem is, drinking its refreshing waters and devouring the fruit it nourishes actually depletes our youth, instead of restoring it.
It only took four days for me, but thankfully, Helen seemed to have antibodies to fight off most of the effects. Hopefully the restorative waters of the Brazos may help me fight off some of this premature aging.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to email@example.com.