The Beach

Thursday, July 01, 2010

When we decided to make a trip to the beach part of Shug's third birthday celebration, we really wanted to accomplish two things: give the boys a wonderful experience on the same beaches that Av and I grew up playing on - and help the local economy there any very small way that we could.

When we got to our hotel (the Holiday Inn Express with all Gulf-front rooms (it's been voted #1 on Tripadvisor, and is *so* much nicer than anyone expects a HIE to be)), this was our view from the balcony:
Pensacola Beach, BP Oil Disaster 062810 062910
See that line of darkness in the pic above, midway between the chaise lounges and the water's edge?

I was hoping that was seaweed. Sometimes there's just a huge amount of seaweed in the water and on the beach. It doesn't happen very often but I was hoping...

Well, it wasn't seaweed.

In this pic below, Av went and spoke to the officer there whose said it was his job to 'spot' the oil and report where it is. Where we played, in the area around the chaise lounges, the sand was absolutely pristine. White, beautiful.
Pensacola Beach, BP Oil Disaster 062810 062910

...but between the water's edge and about 8-12 feet onto the beach, there was brown, oil-soaked sand and those tar balls that everyone has heard so much about:
Pensacola Beach, BP Oil Disaster 062810 062910

The officer told Av that if you had a shovel and dug into that sand a bit, you'd be able to see oil.


What else was heartbreaking was having our sons here on the beaches we've loved forever and not be able to walk with them there where the water laps up, tickling ankles. And there was absolutely no swimming in the water at all. We stayed far away from it.
Pensacola Beach, BP Oil Disaster 062810 062910

If the oil has coated something as smooth as a bottle this thickly...
Pensacola Beach, BP Oil Disaster 062810 062910
I was just nearly in tears.

Of course, the boys are young enough that they don't fully 'get' what's happened here, and I'm fine with that. I don't want to have the discussion about BP and the disaster yet, and how that's why we can't experience the beach as we have on previous family trips. As far as they knew, we were just here to play in the pretty sand.

One night as we were going back to our hotel, the parking lot where the beachball water tower is was full with at least six buses full of workers lining up for duty:
Pensacola Beach, BP Oil Disaster 062810 062910

The next morning, we saw them - this Gator was hauling plastic bags full of dirty sand and tarballs:
Pensacola Beach, BP Oil Disaster 062810 062910

Helicopters were flying overhead:
Pensacola Beach, BP Oil Disaster 062810 062910

...and as the morning went on, the workers got closer and closer to our section of the beach:
Pensacola Beach, BP Oil Disaster 062810 062910

Some of the bulldozer drivers stopped and spoke with us, especially when Shugie waved at them. Who can resist a 20-month-old toddler? They were all really friendly and wonderful - working at making the beach clean and beautiful again.
Pensacola Beach, BP Oil Disaster 062810 062910

The conditions at the beach change daily; this website is one guide. We would absolutely go back to Pensacola Beach - there's so much more than the beach there to do (incredible food, all kinds of other family activities, plus the city of Pensacola has so many great shops and museums and history...) so we'll be back soon.

Thank you to all the workers who are repairing what's been done, containing the ongoing situation, and doing their best to make things whole again.

We did not stay there on this trip (plus the rooms were over $300 and our hotel had the same Gulf-front views) but Jimmy Buffet's brand new Margaritaville Hotel is open.

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