Daytona Beach on zero dollars a day proved an interesting challenge. I ended up in Daytona Beach to avoid having to be out on the streets in Orlando. I had an unused voucher from Greyhound in my possession. By purchasing a round trip ticket with a 6 am departure for a Daytona beach visit, I was able to stay inside the Orlando Greyhound depot the previous night. I felt the beach might be a better place to try to stay than the streets.
Although, I eventually gained the advantage of having a place to store some of my luggage at the Greyhound station, I was fairly weighted down in general. Still, I was merely a stranded tourist.
I arrived in Daytona Beach sometime after 7:00 a.m. on the bus. The wi-fi at the Greyhound station in Daytona allowed me to update my blog and check my emails. During this time, I also used the facilities to brush my teeth and make sure I had plenty of water. I had been re-using a 32 oz bottle.
I left the Daytona Beach Greyhound and headed to the beach. It was a long walk and I wheeled my 37.5 lb. mini suitcase and carried a fairly full chrome bag down to the beach. It was a long walk, but as it was fairly early in the morning, it was low stress. When I arrived at the beach, I could no longer wheel the bag and carried it a short way down the beach. I set my suitcase and Chrome messenger bag down in the sand. The sounds of the ocean were very relaxing and I used my hat to cover my face while I laid back in the sand and got some rest. I had a restless night of sleep the night before in the Greyhound terminal at Orlando. All kinds of noises prevented me from sleeping very well in the terminal and the subsequent bus trip was too short to get much rest.
After a short rest, I kicked off my shoes and rolled up my pants to dip my feet into the water. It was cold and fun. I decided to change out of my jeans and into some shorts as the day was getting hotter. I went back to resting on the beach. Sometime later, I decided it was time for a swim. I slowly walked out into the water. It woke me right up. As I had not had a shower in some time, I decided I should clean the travel grime off of my body. I continued ahead into the water. The waves looked to be crashing a bit further out, so I thought I would try to catch one. Shuffling my feet, I went further and further out, but the waves kept cresting before I could really reach them. A few times, I came close to catching a wave, but never really took off. Refreshed, I got out of the water and needed to get a sense of time.
While I was at the beach, I met some a couple that frequented the beach. It turned out they had spent a considerable amount of time in Colorado. We had a very nice conversation about relaxing on Daytona beach as well as enjoying the scenic Rocky mountains. The couple did not know the time either, but suggested I ask the lifeguard. On my way to the lifeguard, I came across a clock at a merchant stand. Based upon the time, I decided I needed to get back to the Greyhound station to see what could be done about my travel situation.
I walked back to the station, but circumstances made it clear that I would not be leaving Daytona Beach that day. Even though it was not quite yet open, I spoke to the owner about exploring the possibility of changing my ticket time and he invited me inside. The phone lines were down for repair. I had no money and could not pay any change fee. An email exchange with my Aunt led to the conclusion it would be easier for me to stay stranded. No one seemed interested in paying the $36 dollars to change the ticket. No one in my family seemed interested in getting any kind of hotel rooms for me.
I had no money anyway. As I had stayed on Mission Beach near San Diego, I felt I had some experience in the matter. I think in some advanced societies like Japan, you can purchase lower cost short term “coffins”(See also: Cyberpunk 2020) for sleeping in, but America has no such options.
I suppose I could have tried to find a comic book store and sold some of my Magic cards at low value, but I opted not too. The operator of the Greyhound was going to allow me to keep my luggage on site. The lockers had been removed, but he was willing to keep the luggage there. The owner was in the process of selling the old lockers. As my luggage contained mostly Magic cards, it was not needed for this stage of my trip. It was at this point, that I made my first minor mistake and packed my jeans in the suitcase I left behind. There were many times when it became apparent I would have benefited from them. They would have kept me slightly warmer during the cool and windy night and blocked the sun. I ended up using a plethora of t-shirts to substitute for the jeans. It ultimately worked out without the jeans. The shirts were light-weight and could be adapted for many uses. Still, I think I would recommend going with a pair of jeans over shorts.
The Greyhound station manager warned me about the local riptides and what to do should I be caught in one. He also indicated it was possible to stay on the beach all the time, but that people were not supposed to sleep on it at night. They could sleep on the beach during the day. I crafted a simple plan to sleep on the beach during the day and walk in circles around my bag at night. I thought it would work smoothly.
I went back to the beach taking a packed Chrome bag with me. It had some extra clothing, my netbook, my water bottle, my toiletries, and was a bit heavy. I liked having the extra padding on the shoulder bag. The Chrome bag handled the weight well and showed no signs of wear. After my previous experiences in homelessness, I knew a good bag would come in handy in a situation just like this.
The day was getting very hot. I needed to sleep. I picked out a place and dealt with the next challenge- the sun. With no sunscreen, it was quickly apparent I needed to use my shirts to cover my entire body. I had a flowery Florida shirt which proved to be excellent and providing my upper body with the additional coverage it needed while allowing for a cooling breeze to get through. I laid back in the sand against my Chrome bag to get some sleep. The beach is an extremely noisy place. Planes and jets flew overhead. Kids played loudly in the sand. Automobiles drove by. People playfully screamed and shouted in the water. I attempted to compensate for this by stuffing paper in my ears and wrapping an extra t-shirt around the back of my head to cover my ears. It helped and I got some rest.
There were a lot of amenities at the beach during the day which would prove useful. A water fountain next to some outdoor showers provided me with access to all the water I would need. I could easily refill my bottle. It also had a bathroom which was open for most of the day. As I would soon discover, the public restrooms closed at night and this would be one of the next obstacles I would need to overcome.
In my experience as a stranded tourist, Daytona Beach had the benefit of access to a beach where people were are always welcome- with the following caveats. The beach’s public restroom is eventually closed at night. People are not allowed to sleep on the beach at night.
I was not sure what the point of having a beach open but closing the restrooms was. It certainly seemed to put many people in a bad spot. The long-term homeless would simply have to find an alternative- whether this means using restrooms of still open private businesses or the ocean or public property, it really diminishes the legitimacy of posting signs saying people are always welcome. If people were really always welcome, the public restrooms would always be open. I also think the business community, located on the beach in particular, would prefer that members of the public have access to public restrooms.
Later that night, I discovered all the public restrooms appeared to close.
This should reduce the ability of the government to successfully convict people of public urination. It seems unfair for the police to issue any citations for public urination as the government is providing no alternative to public urination.
I imagine a few unsuspecting tourists have wandered a bit too far from their hotel rooms, only to find themselves without a restroom. As a final aside, some of the public restrooms in the parks, notably the one between the public library and the court annex, were so poorly cleaned, that using them was still a terrible experience.
The other major caveat was that many of the locals suggested that sleeping on the beach at night was not allowed. Although. I planned to sleep on the beach during the day and stay up all night, this proved unrealistic. Too many distractions, derailed the plan. While I did find some nice locations to get rest, I eventually felt the effects of sleep deprivation.
As some storm clouds moved in, I decided it might be time to head into town and find a library. After a slight detour, I ended up on a road back to the library. The usefulness of libraries in this situations cannot be understated. The library has a restroom and drinking fountains. The library is cool and air-conditioned. The library has wi-fi.
Just before I reached the library, a person approached me to let me know about a free meal a church was offering. It required a person obtain a card, probably to provide funding tracking, and after my experiences in homelessness, I opted not to. In downtown Los Angeles, there was a place which provided meals and other services without the identification requirements. In any case, although I had finished off my granola bars, I still had my pretzels and after my former experiences, I tend to reduce interactions with homeless service providers. Pretzels it was.
I went into the library. I was unclear on the nature of the free limited the internet policies- it appeared they were trying to charge $5 for some kind of temporary access, but a more limited access could be secured for free. I was too tired to read or inquire about the details and I had my trusted netbook- still with me all these years- to access the free public wi-fi.
The extreme conditions my Asus eee-pc 1005 PEB has operated in, are an undeniable testament to the quality of its engineering and design. While the customer support issue with the windows license was never resolved, the machine itself has a very special place in my heart. I cannot tell you the number of times my netbook has saved me and once again the long battery life and light weight mobile device would prove invaluable.
I connected to the internet at the library.
I surfed the net at the library. Through Facebook, I saw that Eliza Dushku was holding an event to create a music video in Los Angeles. I dreamed of meeting her. An overwhelming flood of emotions ran through me. I also received an email from my mother saying she could pick me up the next day. I did not respond to it. I knew in all likelihood it would mean the end of my ordeal which inspired all kinds of mixed feelings.
Given the importance of the library, I was shocked to later discover the Orange County library system charges $10 for non-resident internet access. Obviously, this is bad for the homeless, transients, and tourists. I explained to the Orange County librarian that under Article 19, internet access is a human right, but she said I should simply go to McDonalds. (I did just that).
Anyway, I left the Daytona Beach library and went over to the park where I met some other homeless people who again were not at all optimistic about my plan to camp out on the beach. I was again warned about the possibility of receiving a citation or being arrested by police.
We shared some time together feeding the squirrels in the park. I discovered, the squirrels are very friendly and will take a pretzel from your hand. With some difficulty, I shared a Tore Loves Eliza press-release and made my way off to the beach.
The others were planning on hanging out in the area where a local baseball game was about to get underway.
The clouds threatened rain, but it also looked to be clearing up, so I returned to Daytona Beach. The beach patrol was leaving and it seemed like everyone else was leaving too. I buried my Chrome bag in the sand and then unburied it. Suddenly, people began to return to the beach. People began looking for puffer fish and sea life along the shores. From a distance, a young woman taking pictures along the beach reminded me of Eliza Dushku. Families and couples returned to the beach and the enthusiasm was somewhat infectious. Re-energized I walked down to the Pier near Joe’s Crab Shack which was a flurry of activity. The sunset was beautiful along the beach. I spent a short amount of time in the area, but then returned to more secluded areas. It was about this time, I noticed the restrooms were closed. I walked all the way back down the beach. It was now extremely dark and I was having difficult seeing where I was. I wanted to get back to the restrooms I first used. After walking a considerable distance I was disappointed that they too were closed.
Nature was calling but nature also provided a solution and I decided to get my feet wet. The ocean spray soaked my tennis shoes and socks.
Shoes soaked, I ended up going all the way back to the park near the library just to find out if that restroom was open or not. Along my trip, I passed many night revelers. The baseball game had just ended and those facilities were apparently accessible during the game, the park restroom was now closed as well. I reconnected with a street-person and they assured me there were no open public restrooms in Daytona. No further use in being at the park.
I headed back to the beach. When I got back to the beach, I opted to walk along the street by the beach rather than walk along the beach itself. My earlier walk showed that the sand, especially the soft sand, was much more tiring to walk in. To save energy, I used the sidewalks to walk along the beach until I found a public access point- a wooden ramp- that looked like a good place to return to the beach at. It proved to be an excellent decision. I investigated the area beneath the wooden ramp and concluded it would provide shelter in the event of rain and was a little off the beaten path.
I was tired. I opted to try to get some rest here. A few tourists apologetically disturbed my rest. No worries, I assured them. The falling temperatures and rising wind began to chill the air a bit. I quickly added layer upon layer of t-shirt and covered my legs as well. I rested on an off until just after 2 a.m. The city lights were providing quite an illuminating skyline. The light pollution gave me the false impression dawn might be breaking. I was wrong.
Still, I began to move. I went back up on the ramp and re-organized my bag near the corner of the ramp and the sidewalk. I discovered two things. My water bottle was missing. With all the drinking fountains along the beach, this could be overcome. The second thing I discovered was that I had developed a painful blister along my left heel. Too much walking. I adjusted my walking to shift the weight to the front of my left foot and take pressure away from my heel. My strange walk briefly attracted the attention of a police car, but nothing more came of it. After discovering it was only after 2 am, I limped down the sidewalk and returned to my starting point. I walked down the ramp, when someone’s crouched shadow startled me. I paused to avoid meeting the rising shadow on the other side of a small toll-style box. The figure rose completely and the man proceeded down the beach. It was probably just someone who did not want to be seen sleeping or sitting at that location. I think I saw them a bit later walking back out of the beach.
Near the lifeguard tower, I watched as a couple played and kissed. I could not see anything more than shadow play.
After they left, I went over to the tower. I spent some time there. I liked being near the structure because it reduced my visibility. On the other hand, I thought, if someone did come upon me, I might startle them like the shadowy figure had earlier startled me. I did not want to startle anyone. Still, my mind wandered, I can see the traffic of cars on the street and get some indication of what time it is based on the amount of passing traffic. I noticed the street light on the beach was completely out. Did I want it on? Light might make it harder to sleep, but visibility might increase my sense of security. Security… the issue ran through my mind. At this point, clear thinking does tend to become a bit impaired. Fatigue and sleep deprivation tend to begin to take their toll. I remembered President Bush’s (2) speech that the oceans would no longer protect us. I don’t know about that, I thought, “The ocean seems to have my back.” And so it did.
Finally, I decided that whether or not the lifeguard tower was or was not the best place to be, it might be time to simply head back to a place closer to where I began the day on the beach. Perhaps the safest thing was simply acting normal in an open space on the beach.
I laid back and looked up at the stars. The absence of lighting was now helpful for stargazing. The stars seemed to speed by but it was really the effects of the clouds passing over head. I may have drifted briefly into sleep.
It was time to get moving again. I walked up to the street. I passed a hotel sign with a vacancy. My mind paused briefly on the issue of abandoned houses and empty hotel rooms, before I made my way toward a 7-11 were I could see it was just after 4 a.m. Normally, this would be a bit too early to start walking but my pace would be slow.
I began heading back to the Greyhound station. It would open at 6:00 a.m. and I could collect my things. Sometime after 5:00 a.m., while walking back at a very slow pace, it began to rain very lightly. Nothing to be concerned with and a bit refreshing. At Greyhound, someone else was reading the newspaper. As I approached, he left despite my invitation to continue his time reading the paper. I connected to the wi-fi and sent the email to be picked up. When the station owner arrived at 6:00 a.m. I thanked him for allowing me to store my suitcase, (still full of Magic the Gathering cards), while I was there. I told him I would just get picked up later at the library.
On my way to the park, I ran into a street person who was also going to the park. She was sitting on a bridge watching the fish jump. I had seen the fish jumping a bit earlier when I crossed the bridge, but now it was calm. She commented on the good condition my suitcase was in. Her own bag was beginning to get torn apart. I agreed the suitcase I had was in good condition, but felt that my chrome bag was the real star of my luggage. I explained to her that I was just a stranded tourist at this time, but that I had homeless experiences. We fell into a conversation on the benefits of wearing jeans.
It turns out, she was headed to the park as well, so we went together.
She informed me she was going to feed and tend to the ducks in the area. She created a sort of duck pond by running the water in the area and within no time, the place was alive with all sorts of playful ducks. She used the water to brush her teeth and I used some of it to wash my hands. The restrooms had not re-opened. I changed into jeans. Some mosquitoes were beginning to bite and I no longer felt there was any point in wearing my shorts any longer.
At some point, she offered me some bandages for my blistered heel. She asked me if I had been wearing wet socks. I admitted I had earlier, but changed into dry socks earlier. Apparently, the wet socks were the reason for the blistering.
I asked her about the homeless shelters in the area and she indicated they had mostly emergency shelters only designed to open in the case of an extreme weather condition. I would think that under Jones et. al v. City of Los Angeles, this would suffice to avoid prosecutions for most citations for sleeping on the beach. The other options were the usual plethora of chemical dependency treatment housing available to those with chemical dependency problems. I’m still convinced this will lead to an over reporting of those issues.
The ducks were still proving a show, but the pigeons and squirrels were beginning to show up. The woman decided to leave asking me to turn off the water when the ducks receded from the pond. One of the female ducks decided to get my attention by spreading her wings and then shaking her tail. This must be where Disney gets it. In truth, the wildlife was an attraction for many people in Daytona Beach. People were fishing from the bridges, looking for sea life at the ocean, and enjoying the animals in the parks.
Someone else had arrived and began recharging their phone with one of the outlets at the park. My netbook still did not need any recharging, so I opted not to utilize those outlets.
The restrooms finally reopened. Despite the extremely unsanitary conditions, I carefully managed to brush my teeth. I returned from the restroom and it looked like the ducks no longer needed any water so I turned the water off.
I sat on a bench for a while. I felt quite sleepy.
Eventually, I moved over to the library. It had a sign that said no loitering. I didn’t know what time it was, but I decided it was time to wait for the library to open. It couldn’t be that much longer anyway. Sometime before the library opened, I was picked up. The trip was over. I felt tired, hungry, and a little ill. Now it was time for food, water, rest, and recovery.