Welcome back to #TravelThursday. On Wednesday September 28TH 2022 Fort Myers Beach Florida changed forever as Category-4 Hurricane Ian made landfall just a few miles north of the area. The Southwest Florida Gulf coast from Flamingo northward to the Tampa Bay area experienced widespread damage. The area from Marco Island to Venice was especially hard hit, and Fort Myers Beach – “Ground Zero” – was virtually destroyed. The photos online have been heartbreaking. They have brought tears to my eyes.
The Southwest Florida coast is my favorite part of the state. Over the past 35 years I’ve enjoyed numerous short visits over there (about 2 to 3 hours away from home). My last visit was a daytrip to and from Naples 3 months ago. I wrote about it on a 2-part #TravelThursday this past July.
From 2011 to 2020 I visited Fort Myers Beach on 9 separate occasions. I spent a combined 17 nights on (or just off) the island at several different hotels on 7 of those 9 visits – both on the north-end and the south-end. I walked in the surf, drove on the streets, rode on the trolleys, shopped at the stores, and ate at the restaurants. I took 366 photos of the island. 122 of them are featured within my Fort Myers Beach album on my Flickr site. They are presented in chronological order from oldest to newest starting with April 28TH 2011. That was my very first day / night ever on the island, and I instantly fell in love with it. I soon decided that not only had I found my brand-new weekend vacation paradise getaway, but I had also found my eventual retirement landing spot.
After the first 6 visits – all between 2011 and 2013 – the idea of eventually moving to the island upon retirement had waned. But I would still visit on a regular basis. I became concerned during those early visits that if (when) a major hurricane makes landfall on the island or very near it – there would be catastrophic destruction similar to what I experienced here in Homestead after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. I thought that it would be the Gulf Of Mexico destroying the vulnerable island via storm surge rather than wind. That was one of the main reasons to change my mind about retiring there.
I’ve captured some of the most beautiful sunsets of my life on that island. One of my favorite things to do during those 17 nights was to exit my hotel room, walk directly onto the beach with my bare feet, head for the surf, and join the dozens of others just like me who had the same idea to prepare their smart phones and cameras to be aimed up the beach at the setting sun on the WNW horizon.
I was originally scheduled to drive to Fort Myers tomorrow (Friday) morning – and spend 2 nights there – and attend a concert at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall. The hotel was damaged, the concert hall was damaged, and the show was moved to next March. The entire area is a disaster zone, so the last thing they need right now is tourists. I canceled my trip to Fort Myers. (It would not have included a beach visit.)
It will take many years to rebuild Fort Myers Beach. It will never be the way that I knew it during those 9 visits and 17 nights on the island. I have my fond memories and 366 photos to look back on my former paradise on the Gulf Of Mexico.
Next #TravelThursday I’ll visit Fort Lauderdale Florida. Let’s keep traveling together.
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