It’s a sad truth that when you move, it becomes harder to keep in touch with friends. I happened to be lucky enough that one of my best friends was able to come visit me here in Florida a few months ago! We had been planning Dana’s visit for awhile and I was beyond excited to see her again. The last time I had seen her was just over a year before her Florida visit, when I went back to Ohio to stand up with her as she got married to the love of her life. This time, Dana was to spend an extended weekend down here with me, Thursday night through Sunday morning.
It was the first weekend in November so Florida was a nice, warm welcome for Dana. I picked her up at the airport (very tempted to make a cheesy sign, but I managed to refrain) and we went right to dinner. We were both starving, so I took her to one of my favorite restaurants in Fort Myers that I don’t get many opportunities to patronize by myself, Grimaldi’s. We had some wine and delicious pizza while taking our time to catch up. Of course we couldn’t completely catch up over one meal, so after we finished eating we went back to my apartment to have a movie night, while continuing to update one another on our lives.
Friday was our first full day together, which began with us going on a little Floridian adventure: an air-boat tour through the Everglades. We opted for the Captain Jack’s Mangrove tour. I had never been on one before and was pumped to experience it with Dana! This particular tour was about an hour long and came with free admission into a nearby animal sanctuary, owned by the same company. It was a perfect day for the tour: warm, but not scorching. The air boat provided the perfect breeze, and occasional misting. We were only able to see a couple of alligators along the way, but I loved how they could not care less that we were all just floating and staring at them for a while. Our guide was very informative and entertaining, and clearly could sense my need for speed. Any time we had a straight shot with decent distance, he took off.
Once the tour was over, we drove a little ways to Captain Jack’s Animal Sanctuary, where we were able to see some lions and tigers and alligators, oh my! (Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…) It was a pretty warm day, so every single animal was lazing around… I could really relate. Dana and I wandered for a little bit, checking out each station. I think we spend the most time at the Siberian Tiger pen. Or possibly at the African Lion, because we were waiting to see if they would get up and walk around. We got back to the “main stage” just in time to be able to hold a baby alligator, Casper. I was pretty proud of myself, younger me would never have done that. His skin felt leathery and damp. The employee made a horrible joke about the women there being used to that on handbags. Pretty tone deaf. SAVE ALL THE ANIMALS. We didn’t stay too long after that, just grabbed an ice cream snack by the exit and started the drive back to Fort Myers. We *may* have stopped at the big outlet mall on the way back, but that’s neither here nor there.
Friday night, Dana and I stayed in, choosing to cook instead of eating out, so that we could decide what to do on Saturday. Our first place to check was Groupon, obviously. We found one for paddle-boarding and Dana said she’d love to try it. It was perfect, as I had been wanting to try paddle-boarding for awhile. This meant that most of Saturday would be spent at my favorite Florida beach: Clearwater! Saturday morning we were on the road by 8am. Our goal was to be paddle-boarding shortly after 11am, as the Groupon was for a two-hour session and we didn’t want to do it at the hottest time of day. That was probably for the best, as apparently falling into the ocean over and over can make you work up a sweat. I must say, continually climbing back up on the paddle-board is the best workout I’ve ever gotten; I was feeling it the next day. Dana and I had so much fun attempting to paddle-board, I think we could only have been happier had we managed to stay up for any legitimate length of time. My generous estimate is that I was standing while paddling for a solid ten seconds. Although I could have paddled while sitting for days.
When we were done, I took Dana up to the main drag on Clearwater Beach so we could find a place for lunch and then relax by the water. We pretty much used up the rest of daylight hours on the beach, but as it was November that’s not saying much. When the sun had almost set, we hopped back into the car to go home and clean up before the game that night. No matter where in the world we are, we are Buckeyes. So we had made a plan to grab dinner at a local Buckeye bar, Stevie Tomato’s, to watch the Ohio State-Nebraska football game. Dana’s husband was actually *at* the game, so I’m guessing he actually had the better night. Ours was pretty good though, getting free jello shots every time the Buckeyes got a touchdown… Well, I was getting free jello shots, Dana is vegetarian.
Sunday morning meant that it was time for Dana to get back to real life and leave me. I was so happy that she made time in her busy life to come down and slum it with me! It has definitely been something to get used to: seeing her regularly, then semi-regularly, then not at all for a year, then back to semi-regularly, now maybe once a year 🙁 But I guess that’s how best friendships work, no matter how long it is between seeing each other, you can still fall back into your rhythm. My move to Florida has made me extremely grateful for the friends that I have stayed in contact with (you know who you are… well Dana obviously, but there are others). I hope they all know that no matter where in the world I live, I will always make sure I’m there for their big moments and that they have a standing invitation to get away and visit me!