Coastal Breeze News » Goodland Life http://www.coastalbreezenews.com Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:41:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Summer Fun, Island Style http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/09/09/summer-fun-island-style/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/09/09/summer-fun-island-style/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 01:15:53 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=41319 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinda@coastalbreezenews.com

Hello from my kayak to yours!

Hello from my kayak to yours!

It’s September, statistically the slowest month before the inevitable up-swing into another season, and finding fun things to do locally is getting more challenging. Thus, despite last weeks of record-breaking heat, my best friend, Alicia Cameron, and I set out on our first Goodland kayak journey; no small feat for a couple of full-time moms with full-time jobs.

A long-term shortage of recreation time has made me an unwilling indoor-girl — something I’ve always fought by taking last-minute adventures, often throwing caution to the wind. I once found myself clinging to the side of a cliff, mocked by my mind’s useless “would, should and could haves,” but through my past impulsiveness, I’ve learned the importance of planning things out.

Putting our easily burned bodies out in the hot, mid-afternoon sun proved to be the least of our worries. Alicia hadn’t kayaked since she was a kid, and I had only done so once before. Among losing my phone to the canal and shredding my hands on barnacles, the all-around failure of that first attempt had me feeling a bit wary. Fortunately, in the days leading up to our meticulously planned trip, everything started to fall into place.

Consulting the tide chart, we debated how and when we should go, and finally set the departure for 1:30 PM from my dock. The night before the trip, we promised each other that we would venture out no matter what. Alicia packed the snacks and beverages, having assembled practically a full picnic; she left nothing out. I gathered the safety items on our list. Early that Sunday morning, the weather man promised that we would see smooth kayaking later that afternoon.

As I found on my first trip, getting into the kayak was a piece of cake, and with an early start, we paddled against the tide with ease. The cool breeze that greeted us at the end of the canal felt glorious after the wall of humidity we’d hit coming out of the air-conditioned house.

We spent four hours exploring our home from this new point of view. Cruising in and out of Goodland’s many canals, we felt like a couple of professionals by the time we passed Marker 8.5. Floating around Buzzard Bay, we ate our lunch and snapped some silly “selfies” before heading back the way we had come.

We came to our last stop at the ramp in Margood Park. This was my moment of truth. A nagging worry silently grew throughout the day, and it had me dreading the end of our trip where I would be faced with getting out of my kayak. I was haunted by my previous attempt at exiting a kayak; it had been utterly graceless and pretty traumatic.

Thankfully, the day ended as perfectly as it had started. With a quick call to fellow Goodlander Jason Sines, who, until now, I knew only as “the kayak guy.” We got a little help up the ramp and a ride home for our boats. Anyone enjoying happy hour at Marker 8.5 later that evening probably witnessed our multiple high-fives; we felt wonderful, like we had really accomplished something.

Alicia and I have been best friends from virtually the moment we met, and getting some much needed “girl time” on our only mutual day off was just what I needed. The experience was only made better by the fact that we did something outdoors that required some physical activity. It may have been the adrenalin influencing my mood, but I’ve never been happier to be where I am. I love Goodland.

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426

 

 


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Goodland Gator http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/08/26/goodland-gator/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/08/26/goodland-gator/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 14:04:36 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=41041 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinda@coastalbreezenews.com

Working around so many alligators has desensitized me to some of the panic, but how can I not respect a big guy like Creepy, pictured here at Corey Billie's Airboats?

Working around so many alligators has desensitized me to some of the panic, but how can I not respect a big guy like Creepy, pictured here at Corey Billie’s Airboats?

There’s a new predator in town, and he’s causing quite a stir.

An alligator rumored to be at least eight feet long has been trolling the canals and causing unease amongst Goodland residents. Buzz about frequent sightings has been swirling for a few weeks now, but following a recent uncomfortably close encounter, a call notifying the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was placed. On Aug. 4, Ray Simonsen Sr., one of Collier County’s four nuisance alligator trappers, came down to assess the situation.

“With the influx of fresh water sheeting, and the end of alligator breeding season, it’s common for them to come closer to saltwater if they have sustained wounds fighting for territory or a mate,” said Simonsen.

There is now a 45-day permit on this particular alligator, but many times reports aren’t made because people equate calling the FWC to signing that animal’s death warrant. Simonsen said he doesn’t kill the animal unless it’s absolutely necessary. His class 2 license allows him to transfer a live animal to a farm, facility or attraction that can house them in a confined area; he deals with an alligator farm in LaBelle.

This may just ease the minds of residents and visitors at Calusa Marina, who have also had a few unnervingly close calls. Jamie Oglesby, a self-employed boat cleaner, does much of his work underwater at the marina. He said that there are two alligators that have been coming and going for months, but now the encounters are getting more dangerous.

“I’ve been diving with it in the water for a while, but I’ve seen people feeding it, and now it’s starting to come over and check everyone out,” said Oglesby.

Of particular concern are children playing in or around the water. Oglesby reported that recently the alligator approached two children who were playing on the boat ramp at Calusa Marina.

I keep a watchful eye on the water as my children swim in the canal behind our house.

I keep a watchful eye on the water as my children swim in the canal behind our house.

“People feed them fish guts, and they’re not supposed to; and if you’re feeding the fish, birds and turtles, then ultimately you’re feeding the gators,” said Simonsen. “It’s against the law. It’s a misdemeanor felony to feed the wildlife, especially gators. The FWC is cracking down on it, and they should. It’s going to put someone into serious jeopardy.”

I admit, at high tide, my kids love to swim right around our boat; it’s one of the only ways we’ve found to beat the heat here. Needless to say, I’m not quite as comfortable with that as I once was.

To report a nuisance alligator, call the FWC’s nuisance alligator hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR.

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426


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Sweet Victory http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/08/07/sweet-victory/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/08/07/sweet-victory/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 14:46:08 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=40752 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

In my experience, especially as a writer, learning about any new place always begins with getting to know its people. I love listening to the local stories, and I’m always eager to shine a well-deserved spotlight on the people that make their town great.

I’ve written once before about Goodland’s own, Nick Lemke, and his Shima Dojo at the Greater Marco Family YMCA. To this day, it ranks as one of my most favorite stories. So of course, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to do an update on all of the exciting things he and his students have been doing since we last met at their April fundraiser at Marker 8.5.

Everyone at Shima Dojo has been working hard, and they’ve seen that hard work pay off in the form of a recent run of tournament success; and it was all unplanned. With one month to prepare and learn a set of rules greatly differing from his traditional style of teaching, Lemke, his students and their families collectively decided to test their skills at this year’s AAU district karate tournament. There, each student took some variation of gold, silver and bronze medals, and have continued to do so at both state and national events.

“It was a little bit stressful, but well worth it. We went into the first one thinking ‘We’re not going to come back with anything.’ When we got our first medal, we were surprised; and what we did there was exactly what we had been doing here,” said 16-year-old Marco Island high school senior, Ford McKee.

On Friday, Aug. 1, Shima Dojo put forth yet another winning performance at this year’s AAU Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa. On a cross-country phone call immediately following the tournament and their traditional celebratory sushi dinner, the kids excitedly took turns telling me how they each did.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426

A24-CBN-8-8-14-7

From left to right: Sensei Nick Lemke, Chase Polley, Ford McKee, Connie Rausch and Leah McCardle. I really wanted to try this; it looked like so much fun. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Eight year-old Santino Galvez, pictured at the 2014 AAU Super Regional Tournament. Eight year-old Shima Dojo student, Chase Polley, enthusiastically told me about Kobudo, the weapons class I was going to see the next day.
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Surviving Year-Round in a Seasonal Town http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/07/25/surviving-year-round-in-a-seasonal-town/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/07/25/surviving-year-round-in-a-seasonal-town/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:00:26 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=40468 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

The smallest baby alligator at Corey Billie's. I named him Ducky.

The smallest baby alligator at Corey Billie’s. I named him Ducky.

Doldrums – a state of inactivity or stagnation; a dull, listless, depressed mood; low spirits.

The term “summer doldrums” is new to me, but apparently it describes what I’ve been experiencing but successfully fighting off. How does a person of modest means ensure survival when home is a place that lives and dies by the season? I admit, I’m no expert, but this Ohio girl is trying to quickly acclimate to her new home, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

When I think of survival, I think of basic necessities: food, clothing and shelter; but finding ways to combat boredom and enjoy life are equally important. Having money helps make survival and enjoyment possible. As thrifty as I try to be, my outgoing financial responsibilities always seem to exceed the money I bring in.

In addition to writing, I work at Corey Billie’s Airboat Rides, and I’m hoping to take on a third job for next season. I’ve never been one to save for a rainy day —something I now take literally — but I plan to squirrel away as much as possible in preparation for next summer.

Hands down, the best lightning photo I've ever taken.  PHOTOS BY MELINDA GRAY

Hands down, the best lightning photo I’ve ever taken. PHOTOS BY MELINDA GRAY

A survival strategy that my current budget allows: taking joy in the little things. When life slows down, the little things stand out, and they make for a constant source of free entertainment.

I’m used to living in the epicenter of what’s happening in America. After all, Ohio’s motto claims it to be “the heart of it all,” but here it feels like weather news is the only news that directly affects me. Somehow, southern Florida’s weather manages to be spontaneous and yet predictable at the same time. I take pictures of everything to ensure the inevitability of catching an impressive shot now and then, and this time of year is proving to be very photogenic.

High tides are getting higher as we get deeper into the summer, and while I love the excitement of dodging saltwater puddles on my way home from work, it makes roadside landscaping near impossible. In February, I inquired as to why the vegetation along San Marco Road looked like it had been beat into submission; I was told that it’s necessary to keep it from gobbling up the road. In recent weeks, that same plant-life I once pitied has indeed started reaching its green fingers toward traffic, as if it were on steroids.

The Great Gatsby and Atlas Shrugged are two of my favorite books, and I found them both here in Goodland's post office.

The Great Gatsby and Atlas Shrugged are two of my favorite books, and I found them both here in Goodland’s post office.

We’ve had an “el Niño” of tourism this year as a result of Marco Island’s award-winning beauty, and as an unexpected result, the long lines at Publix have not receded. Pool noodles, sun block and bug spray continue to fly off of the shelves.

This is the time when a lot of businesses shut down for a break, and the ones that choose to stay open slow substantially. Here in Goodland, The Old Marco Lodge, Marker 8.5 and Stan’s are still pulling people in on any given day of the week, and I’m still left wanting for a place to sit at the bar on Sundays.

Boredom and hellish heat make this the perfect time of year to enjoy a good book in a cool place, and the book-share area at the post office has grown. I read a lot, but haven’t had a new book to read since December. Now, there are so many more titles to choose from.

For me, northern summers saw snowbirds returning home in flocks from their winter migration in the South. While the slow, cold winter months offered a break from the crowd, harsh weather conditions weren’t exactly optimal to enjoying one’s surroundings. Braving a blizzard to go on an outdoor family adventure isn’t advisable.

A much-needed, after-work, happy hour beverage.

A much-needed, after-work, happy hour beverage.

On the contrary, getting in touch with some of SWFL’s nature only requires a portable source of drinking water and a talent for having fun while slow-roasting. It hasn’t been hard for me to keep busy. Watching alligator babies grow; training a stubborn puppy; watching Netflix; and annoying native Floridians with my enthusiasm for inclement weather are just the tip of the iceberg. I’m already devising my full-proof plan to combat next year’s summer blues. What can I say? I’m a Virgo; even if I have nothing else, I will always have a plan.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426

 

 

 


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Independence Day http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/07/11/independence-day/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/07/11/independence-day/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 20:54:43 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=40234 GOODLAND LIFE 
Melinda Gray 
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

Chef Mike Duncan spent Friday in constant motion. In addition to table-side greetings, he saw to the day's details.

Chef Mike Duncan spent Friday in constant motion. In addition to table-side greetings, he saw to the day’s details.

Living in a seasonal town is still very new to me. Though I am trying to acclimate quickly, many unfamiliar things about my home continue to surprise me.

My July 4th memories have always been made of Hallmark staples: red, white, blue, family, fireworks and food. But, they also were tainted by the woes of over-planning and stress. I expected this year to follow that time-tested recipe, sprinkled with a touch of homesickness. The sheer distance from my son, family and friends all but guaranteed a lonely, wistful holiday.

Contrary to my expectations, this Independence Day turned out to be a remarkably stress-free holiday, kicked off by Friday’s celebration at Marker 8.5. The atmosphere was familiar and informal, reminiscent of a family reunion or a backyard neighborhood barbecue. I didn’t once worry about keeping to a tight schedule or having too many things to accomplish, and that loathsome homesickness never even made an appearance.

I had a good time with new friends, ate delicious food, drank a few cold beers and listened to great music provided by Jim Allen. Even though the beautiful Southwest Florida day brought its signature oppressive heat, it became a catalyst for more socializing as people bounced from one shady spot to the next to take much-needed relief from the blistering mid-afternoon sun.

Goodlanders came out to enjoy the holiday in the company of family, friends and neighbors.

Goodlanders came out to enjoy the holiday in the company of family, friends and neighbors.

Among a markedly thinner population and a shrinking list of open establishments, the bash was another reminder of season’s end. This was the second year for the now annual Independence Day tradition hosted by the restaurant. Chef Mike Duncan has been consistent in his local-friendly, grounded approach to running things. Since purchasing the business April 1, 2013, he has made quite a few welcome changes to the historic watering hole, while keeping the history and charm of old Florida in Marker 8.5.

I’d like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Mike and the Marker 8.5 staff for their decision to remain open year-round. While off-season solitude, boredom, and monotony threaten to bring us down, full-time residents like me can still partake in some necessary human contact and happy hours.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426

Pre-party preparations for the over-heating staff. PHOTOS BY MELINDA GRAY On the day's menu was this yummy-looking slow-roasted pig. The smells reached out to the edges of the island. Local musician, Jim Allen entertained the slowly-roasting guests.

 

 


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The Anatomy of a Rumor http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/06/27/the-anatomy-of-a-rumor/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/06/27/the-anatomy-of-a-rumor/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 14:54:48 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=39982 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

With a job to be done, workers took relief from the high temperatures in their man-made shade.

With a job to be done, workers took relief from the high temperatures in their man-made shade.

It’s a well-known fact that big news, or any news for that matter, travels fast in a community as small as Goodland. It’s also widely accepted that as news travels farther from its source it tends to lose the original, factual information in favor of a more dramatic, sensationalized version. In short, minor issues feel like major happenings, especially this time of year.

I recently experienced this phenomenon first-hand when what eventually proved to be a routine, short-lived inconvenience was all anyone could talk about in the days leading up to the morning of June 16. Goodland was scheduled to be without water for the better part of that Monday while the island’s 15-year-old water meters were systematically replaced.

Reports describing dark days to come made their way across more than 1,800 miles, finding us in Ohio. Given the fact that we had yet to see the actual notice, the message got a little lost in translation.

Our initial understanding was that we would be without water for weeks, a worrisome situation to say the least. Forever the skeptic, I thought we should call some of our Goodland friends to see if anyone had the scoop because the story we were hearing was just so unbelievable.

We determined that some of our neighbors had seen the flyer in their doors, but weren’t sure of how many days the shut-off would last. Others hadn’t even gotten the notice, but were not happy to hear about the implied community Port-a-Johns we would allegedly all be sharing for an indeterminate amount of time.

Hours of debate were followed by a sort of resignation to the unknown, but when we finally made it home, we were eager to lay eyes on and interpret the official paperwork for ourselves. Thankfully, it contained almost none of the aforementioned doom and gloom that was expected. We set out in preparation, and when the day did arrive, the whole ordeal was virtually painless.

As promised, a small tent was set up across from Stan’s providing bottled water to anyone who needed it, and three Port-a-Johns were offered at the boat ramp. With our showers out of the way and the pets’ water dishes full, the convenience of running water wasn’t even missed until late into the afternoon when, sadly, happy hour was canceled as our four local restaurants were closed.

All in all, we survived the county imposed, day-long drought, and water service was restored as the evening hours approached. We were placed on a “precautionary water boil notice” for an additional two days, and on June 18, residents were informed that bacteriological testing had deemed all was good again in Goodland.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426


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The Long Trip Home http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/06/13/the-long-trip-home/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/06/13/the-long-trip-home/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 13:23:01 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=39513 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

The brisk Ohio morning brought some welcome sunshine, and just in time to tackle the last five hour leg of the trip.

The brisk Ohio morning brought some welcome sunshine, and just in time to tackle the last five hour leg of the trip.

The mission: a seemingly impossible road trip with the ultimate goal of packing up the last of my worldly possessions. I’ve got to gather what’s left in Ohio and bring it all back home to Goodland. I hear the “Mission Impossible” theme song in my head every time I think about the gravity of the situation, but it’s time to say goodbye to what was and start laying some permanent roots.

I will admit, in the weeks leading up to this mission I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Ohio. The daunting 24-hour drive promised to be just the beginning of a stressful week of hard labor to follow; and I honestly couldn’t remember needing anything I’d left behind. The part I dreaded most was saying goodbye to my son for the summer and dropping him off with his father. I knew I would cry.

I took solace in my love for a good road trip, knowing from experience that getting there is always half of the fun. If that held true, then this trip would be quite the adventure.

Rain and temperatures below 60 degrees made the drive through West Virginia feel positively serene. PHOTOS BY MELINDA GRAY

Rain and temperatures below 60 degrees made the drive through West Virginia feel positively serene. PHOTOS BY MELINDA GRAY

I’ve always found that timing is everything when trying to survive such a long trek, which is why I chose to get the flattest part out of the way while I was still fresh off of a good-night’s sleep. I wanted to hit the beautiful, scenic Appalachian Mountains just in time for sunrise, and we did. The cold rain had left ribbons of fluffy fog lying between the peaks and in the valleys. With ups, downs and twisty turns, mountains are always my favorite part of any drive.

My daughter, forever my sidekick, stayed awake with me the entire ride. We snapped hundreds of photos, stopped at way too many rest areas, and sang and danced like delirious, exhausted goofballs.

It was about 18 hours into the journey that I started to feel my aggravation rise in direct proportion to the increased speed and aggressiveness of northern drivers. When we finally passed under the “Welcome to Ohio” sign, I was relieved to see it.

Minutes after we arrived in Madison, Ohio — exactly 24 hours after leaving Goodland — I hit the first bed I could find and slept like a hibernating bear. Over the next few days, I made up half of the two-woman crew charged with packing and moving out of our three-bedroom lake house, filled with years of an eclectic array of accumulated belongings.

Although the trip started as a necessary evil, I’m happy to report that it yielded the desired positive outcome. I found some stuff I would have eventually missed, and more than a few things I really did need. We are coming back with a truck full of odds and ends, a new puppy and a very antisocial cat.

We say goodbye to our Ohio home after a long week of preparing it for sale.

We say goodbye to our Ohio home after a long week of preparing it for sale.

As a bonus, I got to see my two younger brothers; I’ve missed them so much these past few months. They will be joining us soon, though, as they plan to relocate to Southwest Florida before winter. My mom even took me to get my first ever professional massage to work the knots out of my road-weary neck and back. I fear I may be spoiled now; I just might need another one when we get back home.

Most importantly, my kids and I are official Florida residents. Goodland is where I plan to stay and raise them. In contrast to their scholastic struggles in Ohio, they are absolutely thriving in Collier County schools.

I’m surprised to actually be looking forward to that long drive back home, but I miss Goodland. I miss my friends, and I miss my cats. I even miss the heat! So here’s to leaving Ohio in my rear-view mirror and driving off into the sunset. Mission accomplished.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426


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It’s That Time Again… http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/06/03/its-that-time-again/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/06/03/its-that-time-again/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 13:22:52 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=39390 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

Kirk's lot has been overtaken by the 2,500 new traps being put together for Damas to crab next season.

Kirk’s lot has been overtaken by the 2,500 new traps being put together for Damas to crab next season.

The smell of crab traps in the open air — after months of being underwater — is a tell-tale sign of the end of stone crab season in Southwest Florida.

“It’s quite pungent over there,” said Pat Kirk, the matriarch of the Kirk family and owner of Kirk’s Fish Company. Anyone living or passing by Kirk’s downwind can confirm that, as over the past month crab traps have been systematically pulled and stacked next to the store in preparation for cleaning and repair. May 15 was the last day to legally collect those delicious stone crab claws, with ten additional days allowing crabbers to pull all of their traps by May 25.

“It worked out well for us; stone crab season is tourist season,” said Pat. “Our guys had a good year, but a lot of places did suffer. We did okay, but we could always do better in this business.” This season marked the Kirk family’s return to their Goodland store, after spending 17 years in Naples running Captain Kirk’s Stone Crabs and Fresh Seafood Market.

We say goodbye to stone crabs on the menu, for now.

We say goodbye to stone crabs on the menu, for now.

The Kirks confirmed that most of their big improvements are out of the way. Even the freshly planted grass is flourishing thanks to their recycled crab water-fertilizer. The family’s focus is now aimed at applying lessons learned this first season back in Goodland to ensure next year runs even more smoothly.

“It’s mostly wholesale that we do this time of year; and even though we’ve closed down the retail, we will gladly sell what’s in our freezer. If the door is open, just come and find us on the lot,” said Pat.

As another stone crab season closes, the folks at Kirk’s already have started the work necessary to get ready for the next season, which kicks off on October 15. The work that crabbers typically put in over the summer is grueling and expensive, which contributes to the high cost of the crabs. Keeping crabbing gear going is not only pricey, but completely out-of-pocket.

The Kirk family also has been busy with the essential preliminary work for Damas Kirk, owner and patriarch, to do some crabbing next season. They’ve put together 2,500 new traps and branded his buoys, painting them purple and white.

Buoys strung out and painted Damas's colors: purple and white.

Buoys strung out and painted Damas’s colors: purple and white.

“I’m bored. I tried to get off of the water; it didn’t work, but this is a smaller boat, a smaller crew and less stress. I couldn’t handle the big numbers anymore,” said Damas.

“He calls it old-man crabbing. He’s got a little boat and has to go out on nice days,” said Pat.

“And we told him that if he catches them, he has to come in and cook them himself,” said Kelly with a laugh.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426

 


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If We Build it, Will They Come? http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/05/19/if-we-build-it-will-they-come/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/05/19/if-we-build-it-will-they-come/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 13:55:44 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=39133 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

The overgrown volleyball court begs for renovation and beautification.

The overgrown volleyball court begs for renovation and beautification.

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Summer is quickly approaching, and with it come the horror stories warning first-timers like me of mutant bugs, face-melting heat and the unbearable boredom to come. Of course, I don’t believe everything I hear, but I do feel a kind of “something wicked this way comes,” and I have started to brace myself accordingly.

In my search for ways to keep the family cool this summer, I’ve noticed a glaring irony I’m unable to ignore: Goodland is surrounded by water, yet there aren’t any conveniently close, public places to swim.

As a child, I thought of Florida as a magical, far-away land, convinced that fun in the sun and swimming were just another part of those lucky Floridians’ daily lives. Moving here has me confronting a harsh reality — what it feels like to be in the middle of an ocean, needing nothing more than cool refreshing water, and finding none.

Our surrounding canals and channels are filled with some exotic, intimidating predators. The closest beach is a very long bike ride away, and the Marco Island YMCA is really the only other option.

Inevitably, I’ve started to wonder at the possibility of a community pool for Goodland. In asking around, testing the waters and researching how to best approach such a thing, I have found the general consensus suggests that a pool would be a welcome addition, if done right.

However, it will be no easy task. What is the best location for a pool? Who would shoulder the liability? Is the demand high enough to warrant such an investment, and how would it be funded?

Goodland Civic Association (GCA) President Greg Bello admits to having toyed with the idea of a community pool here in Goodland. “That thought has crossed a lot of our minds. I think it’s a great idea, but it’s one of those things where you wonder how many people would use it,” said Bello. “People talk about it, but you can’t just build it and then have everyone run the other way. It’s not going to be paid for by anyone but them. Who would commit financially, even a small amount?”

“The easiest way for us is if it’s done by the county. It would have to close at sunset because of noise, but the park already has liability insurance. It’s a county park. It’s already open until sunset. It’s already open to everyone in the county. Looking at it from that angle there aren’t any downsides. If they are funding it and we just use it, I think it would get the support,” said Bello.

Since this seed of an idea is still in the “what if” stage, let’s entertain a moment of hypothetical speculation when considering a prime location. Margood Park heads up the very short list of potential sites. Its volleyball court sits deserted without a net, and the grass growing up through the sand is quickly reclaiming the area.

“I don’t think the county would be against it; it’s just a matter of getting it approved,” said GCA member Connie Fulmer. “It would be nice to have a community pool. You just don’t find those anymore. I would go!”

Donna Fiala, County Commissioner for District 1, said she’s been advocating the need for a community pool for years, but the funding needed is a big hurdle to overcome.

“I think I’m a little closer now than I was. We have to raise a lot of money through the Community Foundation because there is no money in the county coffers for a pool right now. The Community Foundation is trying to find funding sources to step up to the plate, but it’s proving to be very difficult,” said Fiala. “I won’t give up because it would help all of these children so much, but it isn’t easy.”

Among the mountain of unanswered questions, it’s clear that the first necessary step will be presenting the idea at a Collier County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting. They advise the Board of County Commissioners on all park and recreational ideas in Collier County. The county commissioners would need to give their stamp of approval, providing they find merit in initiating a plan.

“That’s always a good way to test the waters and see what reaction you get; see if you can garner some interest,” said Barry Williams, director of Collier County Parks and Recreation.

“Do we have enough people to use it on a regular basis,” asked Williams, “taking into account that the operation of a pool is very expensive?”

Ultimately, aside from seeking county approval, finding funds and acquiring permits, putting a community pool in Goodland would need the support of the people here. If the people do support this issue, it promises to extend far beyond this column; it will require commitment and tenacity.

I admit to having a bit of an idealized view of my new home, but I’ve been listening and trying to learn everything I can about Goodland’s history. That includes getting a feel for how people here see its future. Preserving the character and integrity of Goodland is fundamental to any change, keeping in place everything that makes this village a place that time forgot.

The next Parks and Recreation meeting will be held at North Collier Regional Park on Wednesday, May 21, at 2 PM.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426

 


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The Goodland Good Life http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/05/01/the-goodland-good-life/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/05/01/the-goodland-good-life/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 14:19:21 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=38725 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

Life has been good in Goodland for J.W. “Dub” Abbott, who will turn 100 years old this month.

The Drop Anchor resident was born May 2, 1914, in Checotah, Oklahoma, to Wayne and Beulah Abbott, who had five other boys and one girl; his youngest brother is only 93 years young.

He says his mother gave him his initials because her other sons had all been given nicknames, and she didn’t like that. She thought that her method would prevent him from being nicknamed; he’s been known as “Dub” all his life.

Growing up with in a family of six boys, there was always something going on. They lived on a farm three miles from Checotah. Their father was a county commissioner and very active in the community. Two of his brothers and his sister were teachers in a country school. In fact, one of Dub’s brothers taught his algebra class; he failed and had to repeat it.

As a teenager, Dub and his older brother would hop on freight trains and take trips, and they never got caught. Having only traveled short distances, in 1932, they decided to go see an aunt in Texas. He attributes these trips for showing him so much of the country he would otherwise not have seen.

Dub went to Oklahoma State for three semesters, before deciding that college wasn’t for him. He joined the Marines in 1934 while at the World’s Fair in Chicago, and attended boot camp in Paris Island, South Carolina, later being sent to Virginia. He requested a sea assignment, and in 1935, he toured the Caribbean as he headed to California. It was there he boarded the aircraft carrier, USS Lexington. He spent a good part of 13 months anchored off Long Beach, California, and didn’t see any combat.

After returning home from the Marines, he married Mary Buckmaster in 1939. They farmed near his childhood home for several years before purchasing it after his father passed away. Dub’s four children: JoAnn, Tom, Jim and Bill, were born while living on the farm near Checotah. He now has 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Each winter, the family would visit Florida and rent a cottage so Dub could fish with friends. In 1985, they stayed for two months in a rented cottage on Henderson Creek until friends of theirs — living in Drop Anchor — told them of a unit for sale. When they left in the spring of 1985, they were proud owners of a trailer in Drop Anchor here in Goodland.

Dub absolutely loved Drop Anchor. His fishing boat was only a few yards from his front door, and he could be out into the Gulf and on way to his favorite fishing hole in about 15 minutes. His favorite fish to catch was the Sheepshead.

“Twenty-nine years ago, we could catch all the Sheepshead we wanted; no size limit and you could keep them all. Sometimes four or five boats of fisherman would go out 15 to 20 miles grouper fishing, and there was no limit on them. We would sell our catch at the Fish Market, and that money paid for the gas for our next day of fishing,” said Dub.

He recalls that every morning, the Drop Anchor docks were crowded with fishermen getting ready to go out for the day, but says fishing has changed the past few years. Now a fishing license is required, and there are regulations on the size and number of fish you can catch; plus, the fish just aren’t as plentifully.

Dub was living in Drop Anchor when it was purchased by the residence and given the name Drop Anchor Mobil Home Association.

Not only has fishing changed in Dub’s 29 years living in Drop Anchor; Dub has changed, too. He cannot see or hear as well as he once could. He’s lost a hip, and lost so many good friends. Dubs wife passed away in 2004. Still, he loves to fish, and he’s able to, thanks to his son-in-law, Don Methner, who has helped him fish these past eight years.

In 1992, Dub and his first mate were part of the cast in the movie, “Gone Fishing.” He was paid $100 each day for his boat, and the men were paid $60 each. They only worked about a week filming the movie.

Hurricane Wilma hit several homes in Drop Anchor in 2005, and Dub’s daughter, JoAnn, and her husband traveled to Goodland to help repair the damage done to his home. Wilma was responsible for damage to many other trailers, and Dub remembers how everyone joined together; neighbors helped neighbors.

The following year, Don and JoAnn purchased Dub’s trailer, but he continues to visit as much as he possibly can. In 2008, an infection in his left hip left Dub unable to walk, but he still gets all around Goodland in his power chair.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426

 


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Four Month Frenzy http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/04/23/four-month-frenzy/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/04/23/four-month-frenzy/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:39:25 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=38463 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

As this season, my first here in Goodland, draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on what it means for me. I’ve made so many friends in just a few short months. Some will go north for the summer and come back next season; some I expect to say farewell to permanently as they continue on from here; and some will stay in Goodland, and we will pass the long, hot summer together.

I can honestly say I am looking forward to the emptiness of the island, but will also miss all of the friends who are leaving and the frenetic activity I’ve become accustom to.

Visiting for the first time in December and moving here just two months later, I missed a busy October and November, but I still will be experiencing “firsts” for months to come.

That is why I’ve decided to devote this issue’s “Goodland Life” column to a quick wrap-up of what I’ve experienced so far this season and what I’m looking forward to before it comes to an end.

Working for Coastal Breeze News, I’ve been lucky enough to cover stories right in my own backyard. I’ve celebrated the 30th Annual Mullet Festival, two GCA Pancake Breakfasts, the annual GCA Spring Fling and the Mardi Gras Goodland Boat Parade.

Unfortunately, I missed seeing my mother, Carol Bryant, crowned this year’s Buzzard Queen. After all, I had to go back to Ohio and pack up sometime. I also missed the GCA Annual Holiday Bazaar, the GAA Arts and Crafts Fair and the Annual Harbor Arts and Music Festival, but I am looking forward to writing about them next year.

I am especially excited for the annual Spammy Jammy party hosted by the Little Bar on June 28, Stan’s End of Season Bash on May 2 and the Fourth of July Luau at Marker 8.5, complete with a pig-roast and an island party atmosphere. I’m also hoping to fit in a few more “Sunday Fundays” at Stan’s and some happy hours at The Old Marco Lodge.

Marker 8.5 stays open year-round, but the other local establishments each take a turn at closing for a summer break, though no dates are set in stone.

It’s this hectic pace I’m living in that has me wondering how I will pass my time as it all comes to a screeching halt for the summer. My son will be heading north to visit his father in Ohio, leaving my daughter and me to come up with creative ideas to stay entertained, yet cool. I still will be working and looking for stories here in Goodland, but all work and no play will make for a long, dreary off-season.

That is why I’m hoping everyone feels comfortable enough at this point to talk to me about whatever is on their minds. My predecessor, Natalie, has prepared me for what I can expect to be a slow couple of months for news.

I want to formally thank each and every one of you who have talked to me for my articles, read what I’ve written and offered such unexpected praise and feedback. You have made me feel more welcome here than anywhere else I’ve lived. I now consider Goodland my home, and although I can’t promise to be here forever — as there are so many more places I still want to visit — I can say that I will always come back home.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426


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Isle Be Jammin http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/04/09/isle-be-jammin/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/04/09/isle-be-jammin/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:27:56 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=37804 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

Recently reunited band, Snapper Grabber, posed for a quick shot after they finished their last set recently at Old Marco Lodge.

Recently reunited band, Snapper Grabber, posed for a quick shot after they finished their last set recently at Old Marco Lodge.

Anyone who knows me knows I love listening to live music and enjoying a cold drink with some friends. Music has always been very close to my heart. I’ll listen to almost any genre, depending on my mood: country for the “nothing else could go wrong” day; metal or punk if I’m angry or a little rebellious; electronic or dubstep if I’m in the dancing mood.

Where ever I go, I always check out the local music scene. I’ve known fantastic musicians in every place I’ve lived. I prefer small, unique venues and undiscovered talent. My favorite bar has a tree growing through the middle of the floor and out through the ceiling, and it hosts the best unknown bands.

In my short time here in Goodland, I’ve experienced some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard in a few of the coolest places I’ve ever visited. I was instantly enamored with the impressive talent and the variety of artists, both imported and homegrown.

I was pleasantly surprised to find “Goodlanders” take their music seriously. Stan’s Idle Hour, The Little Bar, Old Marco Lodge and Marker 8.5 each host popular acts that attract crowds eager to listen and have fun; many of the popular and talented performers call Goodland home.

Little Bar owner, Nicolette Bauer, says she tries to get a good variety from everywhere. She spends all summer traveling around the country looking for bands. Word of mouth helps bring great music to her as well.

“We get the word out there, and word travels fast because we are kind of known for our music,” said Bauer, “I book it all in and mix it up a little bit, so we don’t have the same thing over and over again.”

Billy Bridger sings “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” in his Boy George getup, complete with bright pink lipstick. PHOTOS BY MELINDA GRAY

Billy Bridger sings “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” in his Boy George getup, complete with bright pink lipstick. PHOTOS BY MELINDA GRAY

With an abundance of blues and jazz, artists who travel here to play at the Little Bar include Rosie Ladet, the Zydeco Queen; Grady Champion from Mississippi; and the Frank Corso Blues Band. The wonderful local flair includes: Sal; John Lowbridge; Smokin Joe and Connie; Raiford Starke; and Merrill.

Merrill first came to Goodland 20 years ago, and played his first gig in town at the Little Bar. Now, he’s a regular performer here. “If you want to see live music in Southwest Florida, Little Bar is the place to be,” said Merrill.

Raiford Starke moved to Goodland about three years ago, but has been playing in this area since around 1994. He’s been known to jam with the different blues bands that play at The Little Bar, and he puts on an awesome solo performance there regularly.

“It always seemed like a special place. When bands play, they are just blown away by the reception they get,” Starke noted. “I’ve played in places where you don’t get that appreciation.”

Stan’s has a similar process to that of The Little Bar. Trish Oehler, assistant manager of Stan’s, was first put in charge of finding the entertainment last season. She spends a lot of the summer online “following the link” from YouTube to band websites and everything in between, searching for music that catches her ear.

“We started going out of town looking for new bands last season. We like the local flavor, but want something different every now and then too,” said Oehler. “Still, most days we remain loyal to the ones who have been with us over the years. That was one of Stan’s pet peeves; he was always loyal to his Sunday Bands.”

Stan’s Sunday bands include Jeff Hilt & the Stampede Band; Southern Cross; FAKAHATCHEE; and The Hot Damn Band. Other local acts that play throughout the week are Dieter’s Blues Machine, Radio Flyer, Event Horizon, Pyrate Voodoo and Billy Bridger.

Raiford Starke giving a well-received solo performance to the crowd at the Little Bar.

Raiford Starke giving a well-received solo performance to the crowd at the Little Bar.

Billy Bridger performs each Thursday and Friday at Stan’s. He is known for his unique costumes and random acts of ventriloquism, which he incorporates into almost every song; he weaves his way through the tables, drawing the audience into his act.

Dieter’s Blues Machine, another crowd favorite, also can be seen every Sunday at Marker 8.5 and regularly at the Old Marco Lodge.

During season, live music can be heard anywhere in Goodland. The sound reaches almost every corner of the island. Some nights, I just sit on my lanai and enjoy a song. Through speaking with so many of the area musicians, I’ve found we all agree — life is good in Goodland.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426

 


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Honoring a Goodland Icon http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/03/28/honoring-a-goodland-icon/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/03/28/honoring-a-goodland-icon/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 11:11:36 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=37653 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

Fishing and being on the water were two  of his favorite things.

Fishing and being on the water were two of his favorite things.

Let me start by saying, this has been the most enlightening, yet hardest thing I’ve ever written. To try and capture in words, what this legend of a man has meant to everyone he’s loved and everyone who loves him, is almost impossible. Please take into consideration the fact that I never had the honor and pleasure of meeting Butch Cameron. Through talking to as many of you as I could, and attending his memorial, I feel like I almost know him by proxy, and thus I will try to honor him here in my Goodland Life column.

Butch’s wife, Nadine Cameron said that he would tell her, “If I die today, I’ve lived a full enough life.”

When someone is loved so much and makes such an impact on a small community like Goodland, it’s hard to fill the hole they leave behind, but it’s comforting to know he felt that way.

The people I talked to (my apologies for not mentioning everyone, but that would fill more space than I’m allowed), had similar things to tell me about Butch. He was always smiling. He loved life, the outdoors, hunting, fishing and his family. He was like a father to so many of the boys growing up here, teaching them to hunt and fish. He thought the world of his grandchildren; and he helped people that no one else would help.

Butch enjoyed spending time with his three grandsons.

Butch enjoyed spending time with his three grandsons.

No one was ready to let him go, and he will be missed by so many:

“When he came over here, he found a home. He was hooked. He never wanted to go back and would do anything just to stay here.” – Kenneth Cameron

“He was a great dad. He made sure I could come to see him every weekend. He was a hard worker and would teach anyone who wanted to learn how to fish.” – Greg Cameron

“Butch had a lot of great friends and he loved the water. This was his home.” – Tim Duffy

“He was my mentor. I thought I knew a lot about life until I met him.” – Kurt Beattie

“He was the most wonderful man I’ve ever met. If I had met him when I was 20 years old, I would have married him then and spent the rest of my life with him.” – Nadine Cameron

“Butch was always the first one out, and would catch the most crabs. He loved life.” – Nicolette Bauer

“He was an avid fisherman and hunter. That‘s all he ever wanted to do and that‘s what he did.” – Damas Kirk

“Butch was a very private person, but he would give you the shirt off of his back, if you deserved it.” – Jimmy Brooks

Butch and his wife, Nadine, at son Greg’s wedding. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Butch and his wife, Nadine, at son Greg’s wedding. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Clyde Stuart “Butch” Cameron was born August 14, 1943 in Turtle Creek, PA. He first visited Goodland with his brother, Kenneth Cameron, in 1951. After living in Miami and working as a plumber, he relocated to Goodland in 1974 where he worked as a fishing guide for a few years. He began stone crabbing for Capri Fishery before putting together his own boat, the Crabber Grabber. He bought his second boat, the Crabby Lady in 1979 and quickly gained a reputation as one of the hardest working crabbers around.

He and his second wife, Jo Cameron, opened the Crabby Lady restaurant, now Marker 8.5, in 1995. He married his third wife, Nadine Cameron in 2012.

Butch died January 20 after a six-year fight with a heart condition.

He is survived by his wife, Nadine Cameron; his son, Gregory Cameron; his brother Kenneth Cameron; and his three grandchildren Alex, James and Trevor.

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426

 

 


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Shock to the System http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/03/11/shock-to-the-system/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/03/11/shock-to-the-system/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 02:19:21 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=37173 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

In my 35 years, I’ve traveled all over the world. My mother and grandmother loved to see new places and experience different things. As a very young child, I was taken to various tourist destinations and third-world countries. I’ve known my fair share of culture shock.

Yet, as well-traveled as I am, I never expected to find myself so amazed at how different life could be just six states away. Goodland has delivered its own dose of culture shock; it’s unlike any place I’ve been in the world, including my former home in Ohio.

Here are the top five things that surprised me:

Time Warp

My first impression of Goodland brought to mind Kellerman’s Resort from the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing.” Goodland really does have that “Old Florida” feeling — something that harkens back to family vacations of the 1950’s where road-side stands and bungalows were commonplace.

The ambiance here is aimed at attracting tourists for our economic survival, but is balanced by the tightly-knit, working-class population that lives here year-round. Affluent travelers and “snow birds” travel across the U.S and around the world to see what we enjoy here every day. They are accepted into the community and made to feel welcome while they’re here, and then they go home.

My daughter said once that every day in Goodland feels like a vacation, and I think that’s the point.

Eco-centric

Something I noticed right away about my new home was how the animal and plant life native to this area coexist seamlessly with the people. I wake up in the morning to a cup of coffee and a pelican on the boat dock; driving over the Goodland Bridge on my way to work, there’s a dolphin playing in the water.

My kids and I jump in the car for a game of “let’s get lost,” and we see manatees, gopher tortoises, ospreys, alligators and burrowing owls. Palm trees, mangroves and exotic plants of all kinds grow in my backyard. Every day is a science lesson, and I love it!

Topographical Polar Opposites

My sense of direction is impeccable, but here on this tiny sideways-oriented, shell island, I feel like a compass spinning in a magnetic vortex. Anytime I relocate, I quickly learn my way around, and that hasn’t changed. Still, I need my GPS if I want to know which direction I’m facing here.

Growing up in Northeast Ohio, I became used to rolling hills and valleys, thick forests filled with towering oak and maple trees, and the distinct landscape of factories dotting the horizon. In contrast, it’s absolutely flat here with condominiums marking the skyline instead of smoke stacks. Standing atop the Goodland Bridge, I can see so far I’m able make out the curvature of the earth.

Isolation Suits Me

Not a fan of fast pace of city-living; I’m happiest away from civilization. I wander where I want and set up a life when I get there. Once I had my children, I had to forgo my need for seclusion in favor of my kids’ need for convenience and socialization.

Goodland suits me because I’ve found the isolation I crave. We close up shop around 9 PM every night. Even on weekends and holidays, people are home by 11 PM. There are no 24-hour gas stations or fast-food spots; no traffic lights or night traffic; no sirens screaming at 4 AM. There are no car stereos blasting bass that shake the house, and no night-life raging into the early morning hours.

I love that there is only one road in, no sidewalks, and for a few months each year, everyone goes home, and we are left with just a handful of full-time residents who look out for one another while still respecting privacy.

Golf Cart Mania

Street-legal golf carts are something I have never seen — anywhere. I did grow up in a in a rural town where people would ride their horses to and from the bar in hopes of avoiding a DUI. On a lazy summer day, one could see four-wheelers and tractors cruising by but never legally. If I had to get somewhere, I drove my car. The sheer distance would allow no less. Before I had my license, I would ride my bike seven miles just to visit my best friend.

In Goodland, everything is a stone’s throw away. I can leisurely walk and see the entire island in less than an hour. The only time cars outnumber golf carts here is on Sundays, when a throng of tourists come to visit Stan’s.

I’m in awe each time I see something here that I could never have seen in Ohio. I wake up happy each morning because I love Goodland; and my kids love it, too, which is so important to me. This truly is a unique place to live.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426

 


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My Life in Paradise Begins… http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/02/21/my-life-in-paradise-begins/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/02/21/my-life-in-paradise-begins/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 20:07:32 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=36767 GOODLAND LIFE
Melinda Gray
melinbrya3@yahoo.com

The first time I visited Goodland was just a few short months ago. My mother moved here a year earlier, and insisted I visit soon. So I planned to fly down with my two children, stay with my mom for a month and then return to snow-covered Ohio. My plans went out the window from the moment I woke up on my first morning in Goodland. I knew I would move proverbial mountains to make this paradise my home.

Over the last few years, my mother would visit Goodland, post beautiful pictures online, and swear she was arranging a way to move here. It’s not that I didn’t believe her; we moved around a lot when I was a kid. Still, we never really left Ohio for long, and eventually we always went back. So I knew that if my mother could leave everything she’d known as home and move here, Goodland must be amazing, and I had to see it for myself.

As my month here started to fly by, I saw just how amazing Goodland is. It’s not just the weather that makes this little island paradise so wonderful. It’s the people, the culture and daily life here. The Goodland community is a family, and they welcomed me like a long-lost daughter — finally returned home. Where ever I would go, people would wave and ask how I was. If I needed anything, there was always someone offering to help. I felt like I truly belonged here, and I dreaded leaving.

I started to look for any feasible way I could move to Goodland. I put in a few applications at local businesses and hoped I would get a call before my flight home. It was a gut-wrenching race against the calendar, but the day I received an email from Coastal Breeze, I smiled so much my face hurt. I was set to interview on a Thursday morning and fly home that same evening. I’ve never been so nervous in my life! This 10 minute meeting would determine the course my life would take next. Being asked to write for this newspaper was the best thing I could have hoped for. I left the interview with a plan in place and a smile on my face; I even cried a little.

I studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, but had yet to write for any publication long-term. Any job offers I did get usually involved driving 60 miles to and from work, or relocating to another part of Ohio. Winter driving has never been something I enjoy, nor was I even remotely comfortable with it. So I put my college education on the back-burner and worked general labor jobs: the local convenience store, restaurants and even an auto detailing shop. While I enjoyed becoming a “jack of all trades,” I really just wanted to write. It’s what I went to school for; it’s what I love; it’s what I’m good at. So when I say this is my dream-job, I truly mean it. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

I flew back to Ohio and immediately started to pack up what I could fit in my car, hoping I could come back for the rest later. Everyday, I was on the phone or on the road trying to transition our lives to Florida. I have a 15-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son, and moving children from what they know is never easy, but they weren’t doing well in Ohio. I expected an adjustment period, but I was also confident they would thrive here. I counted down the days impatiently, and then we made the 21-hour drive to our new home. I can honestly say I’ve never been so happy to spend that much time driving, but with every mile, we were closer to our new start.

My friends and family said things like, “Of course you want to move to Florida, we’re in the middle of winter,” and, “You won’t stay there long. Everything you’ve ever known is here in Ohio.” They were somewhat right on both counts, but I’ve had my fill of multiple feet of snow, frozen car doors and frigid wind chills. I did leave behind family and friends, and it was hard to do — scarier than anything I’ve ever done. I don’t give up easily, though, and I’m here, nonetheless.

I recently got a chance to meet Natalie Strom, and see what she means to Goodland and the people who live here. I have to admit I’m a little intimidated at the thought of trying to fill her shoes. My hope is to get to know everyone here, and represent Goodland as well as she has. I’m looking forward to meeting, and getting to know everyone here. My email address is melinbrya3@yahoo.com and I can also be reached at 239-896-0426.

 

Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at melinbrya3@yahoo.com or 239-896-0426

 


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