Every year for the past five, I’ve spent a week in May with eleven other gay guys who rent a house for a week on Florida’s St. George Island.
This year, Randy Taylor (my partner since a trip to Italy with several friends last October) went with me to the beach – his first time there, although he knows most of the people who joined us there, all of whom, like Randy and myself, are veterans of Gay Spirit Visions conferences.
The other newcomer to the beach this year is also named Randy; he traveled all the way from Fort Wayne, Indiana. The rest of us (with the exception of Greg, who moved about a year ago from Atlanta to St. Petersburg, Florida) live in Atlanta or North Carolina.
Before arriving this year, the Atlanta Randy and I spent two days traveling elsewhere in Florida, driving down to Naples to see some property my mom and dad had purchased there decades ago. We spent the night on the way down with a friend of Randy’s (an antique dealer who lives in one of the most unusual houses I’ve ever been in) who lives near Tampa.
This pre-St. George leg of our trip featured a car breakdown incident in the remote and tiny town of Salem, Florida, midway between Naples (near the edge of the Everglades) and our backroads-using route northward to St. George.
Fortunately, our tow-truck driver got us to a motel for the night, and after a temporary repair in Perry, Florida, we managed to get the car as far as St. George so the friends who had joined us there could help us drop off the car at a mechanic’s shop on the mainland, and retrieve it later in the week. (My car repair shop here in Atlanta reimbursed me for the cost of the car repair, as I’d taken in the car for servicing shortly before our trip.)
While we all enjoyed a carefree week surrounded by the various luxuries and conveniences of Abijem, our spacious rental house:
Of course, some of us felt compelled to make a few temporary modifications in the house’s decor. For example, the living room mantel and mirror were quickly festooned with strings of lights, and we decided to festoon the gigantic flatscreen television set with a little festive drapery:
Also, one of the ornamental animal sculptures dotted about the house apparently needed a bit of tweaking:
This year’s beach trip featured all of the activities I had so enjoyed during previous trips to Abijem. We meditated together every morning, took trips into the nearby fishing towns of Apalachicola and Carrabelle for restaurant lunches and/or shopping, did a bit of reading, took some delicious naps, and engaged in plenty of catching-up conversations, general lollygagging, teasing, and frequent laughter.
We again prepared a week’s worth of memorable dinners for each other:
The group strolls along the beach took place mostly in the evening:
Although I didn’t get around to joining in on any of the bike rides or the two group massage sessions, I did manage a glorious foray into the waves with Randy one afternoon (ditto the hot tub), and, as in previous years, participated in a series of fiercely competitive rounds of Wizard. Sarong-wearing was popular again this year. Several of us visited (or re-visited) the small but excellent nature center on the mainland near the entrance to the St. George bridge. And Randy and I worked in a short visit with our friends Royce and Martha Hodge, who live on St. George.
The most distinctive difference between this year’s trip and previous ones was the unusual weather we had. Except for the first couple days, it rained at least once a day, although by late afternoon most days, the sun broke through the clouds and you’d never have guessed the island had been besieged by torrents of rainfall.
Some of the cloudscapes Randy took photos of:
Now for a few photos (most, though not all, taken by me) of my co-conspirators this year:
Randy and I prepared teas for the group on three of our afternoons together:
My last photo is of the sunset on our final evening at St. George: