It's been a very long hard summer. Our American Adventure was long planned. A mutually agreed holiday away from sailing and work. We wouldn't sail, he wouldn't work. Who would crack first?
When reports came on the BBC of Hurricane Matthew battering the Florida coast our hearts sunk a little. Would the holiday be cancelled? As some of you know, getting here was a little tricky. So the thought of it all being taken away was too much. I began to obsess with BBC weather forecast.
Our first week was in Orlando which was largely untouched by the storm. We had a great time. We met friends, rode water slides and went to the Solar Bears, the local Ice Hockey team in an unforgettable experience. We screamed, shouted, laughed and immersed ourselves in American Culture. We forgot about Daytona until we found overselves on the I92 headed for the coast.
We crossed the bridge over to Daytona Beach and found our hotel. We are situated on the 23rd floor, so we rode the lift, the boys fought the desire to mimic the accents and ride the suitcases and we burst through our door. Silence followed the giggles. The view was utterly breathtaking. For several seconds nobody spoke. From the front, we have uninterrupted sea views as far as the horizon, simply stunning, words cannot do it justice. I cannot stop staring at it. I've been sleeping with my bedroom curtains open so that I can see the view on waking and also watch the moonlight dance on the water during the night. I'm usually a heavy sleeper but I've found myself awake at 2am simply desperate to see the view. It's utterly entrancing.
It's hard to believe that merely 2 weeks ago this place was being battered by Hurricane Matthew.
We excitedly ran to the pool. Towels are provided, a lovely little luxury. I stood by the towel desk and noted the sign apologising for the storm damage. I took the opportunity to ask the towel attendant about the storm. The stories flowed.
The Thursday morning of the storm the whole hotel was evacuated. Originally the plan was to keep a skeleton staff as the hotels become prime targets for looters but, due to the severity of the storm the whole hotel was evacuated. The storm hit, waves surged and flooded the beach front properties, power cuts were abundant. Staff didn't return until the Saturday for the clear up operation. A week later the hotel opened. This was one of the lucky ones.
Daytona Beach's strap line is the World's Most Famous Beach. It has the most beautiful sand which is compacted hard. It's hard to understand quite how hard until you have walked on it. This leant itself to car racing along the sand and it became famous for racing and speed trials. Even today cars drive up and down the beach. Quite a bizarre proposition for Europeans who are used to treating the beaches as Meccas. We've spent several afternoons walking the beaches. The boys chucking a football. The distruction has been clear to see.
Trees have been uprooted, fences ripped clear, wooden staircases down to the beach washed away, swimming pools destroyed. It's hard not to stand and stare. Our hotel is a large one and the workforce clearly worked hard for a week to get it back on it's feet, other smaller ones have not been so lucky. The damage has been estimated at over $57M. My guess is much higher having seen it all first hand.
Having determinely devised a holiday that wasn't dictated by the wind speed and local weather conditions. Can we sail, will we sail? We have spent the build up obsessing with the weather and then observing the aftermath. The weather plays a larger part in our lives than we give credit for.
"Oh my, I love your accent. Where are you from?". Urrm. Surely that's blatantly obvious. What's the appropriate reply? A normal response might be, Oh Solihull, or Birmingham or even close to Stratford. But England seemed to pop out of my mouth. Was that too generic? Clearly not. "England. Wow!" Surely my accent gave that one away? I was hardly going to say Texas or Jacksonville. Talk more, oh I love it. The Americans have been incredibly welcoming, particularly in the face of recent disaster.
The Aftermath is still being felt, power cuts and the like are still common place. If we can help if only a little way by supporting the local economy then that's great. Yet again the warmth and embrace by another country has been overwhelming. America, we've had a blast and Canada here we come.