Kickin’ it on Cocoa Beach

29 Jan

I’m just back from a week in central Florida. I was there for work, so most of the daylight hours were spent indoors at a convention, but I used the time before and after meetings the best I could. I’d have to check the weather almanac, but it seems like this winter in Utah has been one of the coldest we’ve had in a while. And after months of scraping ice off my car windows and walking the streets of downtown Salt Lake City in sub-zero temps, this trip to the Sunshine State was a godsend.

I flew into Orlando in the evening, and my first order of business was to find some good barbecue- something unfortunately Utah lacks completely. After checking in, I drove over to the Orange Blossom Trail and had dinner at Sonny’s Barbecue on the recommendation of my brother, who served an LDS mission there for two years. I had the pork trio- ribs, pulled pork, and sliced pork, with coleslaw and beans on the side. It doesn’t beat any of my favorite BBQ joints in Texas, but it was still extremely delicious. Once nice touch that brought joy to my soul- when they brought me my check, they gave me a 32 oz. Diet Coke to go.

It was too late to make the 46 mile drive to Cocoa Beach, so I went to Walt Disney World and walked around Downtown Disney for a few hours.

The next morning I left my hotel at 4 AM and drove to Cocoa Beach. Heavy rain had drenched the little surf town and was still falling strong when I pulled into the parking lot of the famed Ron Jon Surf Shop, which is open 24/7. The Cocoa Beach store wasn’t the first Ron Jon’s, but it is arguably the chain’s most popular location.

The rain had left most of the beach area parking lots with 3-4 inches of water.

I have a lot of Ron Jon t-shirts- all of which I bought for $3 or less at the Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City, Utah. The manufacturer that Ron Jon contracts with for their clothing also has a contract with this little store to sell their “damaged” goods. So whenever a Ron Jon t-shirt or hoodie comes out of the factory with an ink stain or a logo that’s misplaced by a few millimeters, it ends up in this little Utah store for next to nothing.

Shirts in the actual store go for about $25.

I’m not sure where surf bums get their money, but they must be buying this outrageously priced clothing or companies like Quicksilver and Hurley would be going out of business. I was a little disappointed that all I could justify there was a bumper sticker (sorry, Hurley, as much as I dig your style and the “freedom company” tagline, what fool pays $45 for a mediocre quality shirt?).

When the rain stopped and the sun rose I walked to the Cocoa Beach Pier, a rustic combination of gift shops and restaurants- all of which were still closed. The pier itself was open, so I walked out and watched the waves, which seemed higher than usual- maybe because of the storm. A group of surfers were paddling the waves just off the pier, and the morning was so quiet that I could clearly hear all of their conversations.

Further in the distance a school of dolphins was surfing and hopping waves less than 50 yards from the shore. Aside from the dolphins, the surfers, some pelicans and myself, the beach was completely empty.

After strolling the pier, I returned to the sand and walked south for about a mile and back, picking up a few of the morning’s best seashells to take home for the boys. After a few hours on the beach I drove to the Kennedy Space Center, stopping along the way at a private orange orchard to buy and chug a pint of freshly squeezed OJ. I don’t know how I’ll ever drink Minute Maid again.


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