Walk on the Beach
Home Up Headaches

Home Who Went Pictures One Pictures Two Plenty of Trouble Walk on the Beach Headaches


Story written by Rick Archer
First Published April 2009

For several years in a row, the annual SSQQ summer cruise did not make it to the Cayman Islands.  Every time we were scheduled to go there, a hurricane was either threatening the place or had recently knocked it for a loop. 

We missed the Caymans three years running.  I began to tease that the Cayman Islands didn't really exist.  Then one day it dawned on me that maybe the Caymans did exist, but that a small Mexican cruise town named Costa Maya had put a curse on the place. 

I wrote a story suggesting that a Costa Mayan voodoo ritual was responsible for sending an annual hurricane to the Caymans so the cruise lines would skip the Caymans and come visit Costa Maya instead.  (you should read it; this is my all-time favorite cruise story).

2007 - The Discovery of Seven Mile Beach

One of the big problems of all cruise trips is fighting the "Pound a Day" headache.  Faced with the opportunity to eat food 3, 4 times a day plus the constant struggle to resist the tempting desserts, many cruise passengers go bonkers when they return home and take a peek at the scales. 

The only solution that makes any sense is to step up your exercise program.  I have learned to take advantage of the ship's running track during our days at sea.  That helps fight the problem some.  Others use the gym.  However when we are in some ports - Costa Maya to name one - there isn't much to do.  Many people get off the ship, wander around for 15 minutes, buy a teeshirt, hit the nearest Carlos and Charlies, and head back to the ship.  Time for dinner.  That's when the pounds begin to accumulate. 

During our 2007 visit to the Caymans, Marla and I were determined to find a way to get some exercise on the island.  We had a great time taking a kayak trip through the beautiful waters of the Cayman Islands.  I was proud since we had found a way to do something physical and enjoy the island at the same time.  However, that night I heard an interesting story that sounded even better. 

At dinner that evening, Jean Wind told me a marvelous story about what her group had done.  Apparently her group of friends had taken a taxi to an outdoor cafe along Seven Mile Beach.   After they finished eating, they were getting ready to find a taxi when Phyllis Phrog, our famous Center of Attention and Troublemaker Numero Uno, pointed out the Conquest ship was docked in plain sight just up the beach.  A big smile crossed Jean's face.  She had an idea!  Jean suggested the group try walking back to the ship. It didn't seem that far away.  They had plenty of time and there was no way they could get lost - the ship was always in constant sight.  The highest point in the entire island is only about 50 feet; no way a colossus like the Conquest was going to disappear. 

So that was how the group decided to embark on a marvelous two-hour walk along one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. I don't know who all was in the group, but I know that Kurt and Jean Wind, Phyllis Phrog, Patty Harrison and Joe Lachner went.  Judging from the pictures, surely Mr. Handsome George Sargent went too.  Also pictured are Alf (Leslie Goldsmith), Peggy McElroy, Ron Fiske, John Frierson, and Danny Hurdy Gurdy Man.  I assume most of these people were part of the 2007 Cayman Beach Walk as well.

As Jean spoke to me of the long walk, she could not even begin to explain how much fun she had.  Oh sure, everyone complained along the way... "it's too far, I'm tired, it's too hot, how much longer, can we phone ahead and get the ship to send a small boat, blah blah blah."  However, despite the good-natured grumbling, the consensus was that this walk was a real hit with everyone.  

Jean said the walk did turn out to be longer than she had expected.  In the beginning the ship didn't seem that far off.  After all, it was right in front of their noses in plain sight.  However as the walk progressed Jean began to wonder if someone was moving the ship because they weren't getting any closer.  The walk ended up taking a couple of hours.  Jean said she couldn't have cared less how long it was.  That walk was so much fun she wished it would never end!  When it was over, everyone was in such a great mood.  They were proud of their big accomplishment!

As I listened to the story, I couldn't help but think this was a marvelous discovery. A long walk is healthy in so many ways.  For one thing, it is a great way to get to know people on a much deeper level.  Jean noticed that various people took turns walking side by side.  They would strike up the best conversations!   And then as if by some invisible cue, they would change partners and start up a conversation with their new partner.  Jean said she learned more about people during that walk than all the time she had known them at the dance studio combined.

In addition, there is something pretty romantic about a long walk on a beautiful beach.  Once in a while, her handsome husband Kurt would stride up beside Jean.  The next thing she knew they were holding hands just like teenagers again.  Jean said she couldn't stop smiling the entire time. 

As I listened to Jean, I was so envious!  This sounded like the most fun of all.  Mind you, I had thoroughly enjoyed my kayak trip.  It was great exercise and all that.  However, it had also cost Marla and me $200.  Curious, I asked Jean how much her walk had cost.  She looked at me funny.  Jean replied, "Well, if you count the taxi ride, I guess it was $5 a person.  But the beach is public.  It is open to anyone who wants to walk on it." 

A free beach!  I was impressed.  This was exactly the kind of neat thing that a lot of the SSQQ people would enjoy doing on future visits to the Caymans.  Not only would the walk be a simple and inexpensive way to get some exercise, it sounded like a marvelous experience.  I made a personal vow to retrace this walk the following year and see for myself what it was like.

Here is a picture of Phyllis and Jean walking together on their 2007 trek back to the boat.  There is another couple up ahead of them.  Now doesn't that walk on the beach look like fun?   

2008 - Kurt Wind, Albertin Gharcheghah, Rick Elizondo, Marsha Baxmann, Jean Wind, Tiffany Wind, Patty Harrison, Leslie Goldsmith, Phyllis Phrog, Marla Archer, Joe Lachner, Rick Archer.  The reason Albertin's lips are sealed is she had just kissed a Stingray.  She wanted to keep the memory alive as long as she possibly could.

2008 - Stingray City

As the 2008 Trip rolled around, I still had Seven Mile Beach penciled in as my Cayman activity for this year's visit.  No kayaking this time.  This year I was going for a walk!  However, first things first.  Our Group wanted to visit the Stingrays in the morning.  So it was off to Stingray City, a famous tourist spot in the Caymans.

I had some misgivings about this adventure.  After all, who can forget the tragic death of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin?   He was killed when a stingray's venomous barb pierced his heart back in September 2006.  I knew that his death was the result of a highly unusual accident, but I couldn't forget the footage that showed Irwin pulling the stingray's barb out of his chest before losing consciousness.  There was no denying it - Stingrays got their name for a reason.  Their barbs are poisonous. 

It turns out that stingray deaths are absurdly rare.  In Irwin's case, there was speculation that the stingray felt threatened because it was boxed in.  Irwin was alongside and there was a cameraman directly ahead filming.  That made some sense - Irwin got his fame due to his uncanny ability to get right in the face of one lethal creature after another.  Plus it was a shame the barb had to hit his heart, the most vulnerable part of his body.  It was a freak accident, one that saddened us all.  However, this tragic accident ran just the opposite of the reports that stingrays are very gentle creatures.  I decided as long as no one asked me to hug one, I would give it a try.

Indeed, our Cayman guide addressed the safety concerns right up front.  He warned us not to make any sudden movements.  As long as we stood still, we would be safe.  That warning proved trickier to adhere to than I guessed.  As soon as they tossed some food in the water, an entire ARMY of stingrays came hurtling in out of nowhere.  Dozens of these large fish came darting right at us. 

I wanted to flee that very moment.  Instead I kept repeating over and over, "Stand Still. Stand Still."  Then one stingray came right at me.  I mean - dead on.  "Dead on"?  I stood still and crossed my fingers.  That stupid stingray swam right into me!  Stingrays are pretty big fish and with momentum behind them, the collision had the same effect as a football player taking out my legs.  I went crashing under the water.  This fish could play for the Texans.

Fortunately the stingray had no intentions of killing me.  It just wanted to eat. Unbeknownst to me, one of the guides was feeding the fish right behind my back.  The stingray that tackled me was merely taking the most direct route to the food - straight through me.

It is pretty obvious these guides and the stingray group have a good thing going.  The stingrays get a daily meal and the guides make a steady living.  I was surprised when our guide picked up one stingray and called him by name.  These stingrays are like pets to these men.  Amazing.

As you can see, not everyone in our group had the same qualms about getting close and personal with stingrays that I did.  In one picture, you can see Albertin preparing to smooch a stingray.  She later said it was 'special', almost like being kissed by Elvis.  How would she know?

Kurt Wind was another courageous member of our group.  Kurt participated in stingray osculation.  He held the stingray in his arms and planted a wet one smack dab on the stingray's lips.  I couldn't help but be jealous.  Those handsome guys get all the fish.


Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Seven Mile Beach is a long crescent of coral-sand beach on the western shore of Grand Cayman island. The beach is world renowned for its beauty, recently receiving the honor of "The Caribbean's Best Beach" from Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine.  Due to its beauty and fame, Seven Mile Beach has become the most developed area of Grand Cayman.  It is home to the majority of the island's luxury resorts and hotels.

Despite the name, the beach is only about 5.5 miles (8.9 km) long.  The beach falls victim to annual erosion, which has reduced its size in some areas. Like the rest of Grand Cayman, the development around Seven Mile Beach was severely damaged in Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.  Fortunately many condominiums and hotels are now back and running at full or almost full capacity.

Seven Mile Beach is public property.  It is possible to walk the full length past many hotels and villas. There are restaurants open to the public at most of the resorts, and several public beach bars. Some small reefs are located just off shore which offer good snorkeling, most notably by the Marriott Hotel (an artificial reef), the Governor's Residence, and just north of the public beach.

There are few restrictions on use of the beach. Open grilling is allowed, and pets are free to roam the beach off leash. Loud music and public nudity are, however, strictly prohibited.

Directly to the south of Seven Mile Beach is George Town, the capital city of the Cayman Islands.  To the north of Seven Mile Beach is the town of West Bay, which features a turtle farm and the limestone formations of Hell. One thing you must remember is not to purchase any turtle shell items. Though precious and beautiful, they are illegal in the US and many other Western countries.

Fodor's Review of Seven Mile Beach

Grand Cayman's west coast is dominated by the famous Seven Mile Beach - actually a 6.5 mile long (10km) expanse of powdery white sand overseeing lapis water stippled with a rainbow of parasails and kayaks.  The width of the beach varies with the season; toward the south end it narrows and disappears altogether south of the Marriott, leaving only rock and ironshore. It starts to broaden into its normal silky softness anywhere between Tarquyn Manor and the Reef Grill at Royal Palms.

Free of litter and pesky peddlers, it's an unspoiled (though often crowded) environment.  Most of the island's resorts, restaurants, and shopping centers sit along this strip.  At the public beach toward the north end you can find chairs for rent ($10 for the day, including a beverage), a playground, water toys aplenty, two beach bars, restrooms, and showers. The best snorkeling is at either end, by the Marriott and Treasure Island or off the northern section called Cemetery Reef Beach.

Rick's Note: #39 is where my walk began. #26 is where
the walk ended. That left one more mile to the ship.

Question and Answer About Seven Mile Beach
(this is an edited version of useful internet email exchange I found)

Question - If you have been to Seven Mile Beach within the last year, would you tell me if it is worth going to?  If so, do you go by tour guide or taxi?  Also, other than booking by ship, is there a good tour guide to use there?

Answer 1 - My wife & I were in Cayman 11 years ago. I'm sure that seven mile beach is as awesome now as it was then.

I highly recommend that you take a bus out to Cemetery Beach. Someone can help you with the location for the bus but it is fairly simple. Just tell the driver you want to get off at Cemetery Beach. It is on the northern portion of Seven Mile Beach and you will have most of that area to yourself.

And the fish! Wait till you see the fish ... just 5 yards into the water. I've seen many beautiful beaches in the world but none compare with Cemetery Beach and its beautiful fish!!   You will love it!!

Seven Mile Beach is so beautiful. It's one of the top 5 of all the beaches I've seen around the world! Not only is the beach and the Caribbean Sea beautiful, but so are the expensive condos that line the beach. There are parts of Malibu Beach in California where I come from that are off-limits to the public. These are the homes of the "rich and famous" with their own private beaches complete with armed security guards and guard dogs.  god forbid that we should touch their precious sand! 

Not in Cayman - you can walk right in front of million dollar condos and ogle till your eyeballs drop out.  And the only dogs you will see on Seven Mile Beach will wag their tails and ask to be petted.  Much better.

You can swim anywhere you want.  You can have your picture taken anywhere you want.  The beach is free to the wealthy and poor alike... except poor people are nowhere to be seen.  I never did figure out where they hide them.  (Rick Archer's Note: I found a picture of some poor people!)

Answer 2 -
There is nothing like a day at the beach, and this is even more true at Cayman Islands Seven Mile Beach. The sands are white, clean and beautiful. The Caribbean ocean is calm and clear. Perfect for tanning, sculpting, or any other beach and sun activity.  Plus there are plenty of places to get a bite to eat.

There are many "van buses" leaving from the center of Georgetown in the area of the harbor. Last time we were there it was only 3 or 4 dollars per person to go to Seven Mile Beach. I am sure that there is probably regular bus service as well, probably cheaper. There is a tourist information station right near the main pier, and they will tell you how to proceed.

You must be going on a cruise?  Seven Mile Beach is within walking distance of the main pier, if you love to walk, but if you want to see the far end of the beach, you will want to get a bus or taxi.

The beach is free, and as you walk down the street you will see small signs indicating public access points for the beach. That was not made clear to me when I went on a cruise. I do agree with others that the fish are incredible!

Are you going to Sting Ray City? I would recommend it!  If you do a little online research, you will find some good recommendations. And probably a lot more personal and less expensive than the ones suggested by the cruise lines. Have fun!  Wish I could go again.

Answer 3 - Many people use a taxi if you are only there a day. If you are familiar with Cayman, use the bus, it is a lot cheaper than a taxi.  The island is not that large that you would need to rent a car, not cost effective.  Lots of motor scooters around, rentals of those cost less but I think they were too risky.

If you have time, have them drop you at Cemetery Beach at the end and snorkel out to the reef. It is quite a swim.  The last hurricane did considered damage to that reef, but it is coming back. Also there is a beach restaurant just past downtown--walking distance from pier-for a bite to eat and terrific snorkeling off their area. You just swim a way out. There are huge tarpon there and the water is clear.

This place is a real paradise.

Rick Archer's Note:  My 2008 walk started at the area titled Royal Palms (see the red arrow).  My walk terminated at the yellow arrow.  Using Google Earth to retrace my walk, I could have extended the trip a little further, but not much.  The last mile from the yellow arrow to the ship would definitely have to use the sidewalk of the nearby West Bay Road (long road in red).  By my estimate, my Beach walk was about two miles long (based on the mileage marker in the map above). 

Jean's 2007 Group took about two hours.  I think I did my 2008 trip in one hour, but then I ran a good part of the way to make up time.  These times are not scientific; neither Jean nor I actually timed our trips. 

Rick's Walk on Seven Mile Beach


After the Stingray adventure, The Stingray tour bus dropped us off back in Georgetown near the cruise ship.  Now it was time to eat.  We were all pretty hungry.

The group took a ten-passenger taxi van to the Royal Palms, an outdoor cafe.  Splitting the fare, it cost us each about $5 for the three mile ride.

Our sumptuous meal was pretty wonderful.  It was complete with Margaritas, Mai Tais and Daiquiris.  Pretty soon, we were a very happy bunch indeed.  We were also stuffed to the gills.

Now it was time for our Group Beach Walk to begin.  We headed north, the direction away from the ship.  Along the way, we oohed and aahed at the spectacular condos that lined the beach.  This place was like the River Oaks of Cayman.  There were some very expensive structures indeed.

One thing weird about the day was that we all knew there was a hurricane headed this way.  We weren't the only people who knew.  I don't know if the other people in our group noticed, but I spotted workmen boarding up windows throughout the day.  In fact, our cruise ship completely bypassed our scheduled trip to Jamaica to avoid getting too close.  Even with this safety measure, Hurricane Gustav was still only about 48 hours behind us. This massive Category 3 storm would dog us for the entire trip.  In fact, there was a lot of concern among all of us whether it would hit Houston or not.

Sad to say, Gustav hit the Cayman Islands right on the nose.  Sure enough, two days later I saw CNN hurricane footage filmed on Seven Mile Beach.  The Cayman Islands are like a Ten Pin in the middle of the Caribbean Sea's Hurricane bowling alley.  The Caymans get hit at least a partial hit five times every ten years. I wonder how these people feel about risking their million dollar homes in such a vulnerable area.  They may have a million dollar view, but their homes are very exposed to damage.

When Gustav did eventually hit the United States, it made landfall in Louisiana several hundred miles west of New Orleans.  We all breathed a sigh of relief, figuring Houston had dodged a bullet for another year.  Three weeks later came a storm known as Ike.  But that's another story.

Tired from the visit to Stingray City and with our bellies full, we weren't making much progress.  In fact, I don't recall making any progress at all.  I was itching to go, but glaciers move faster than these guys did. The main activity was posing for pictures.  That's Kurt (Mr. Stingray) in the white shirt on the left, Tiffany, Jean, Marla, Rick, Phyllis Phrog, Alf, Peppermint Patty, Joe, and Albertin. 


Some of you might be asking where the name Phyllis Phrog came from.  Good question.  I have been unhappy with Phyllis' Center of Attention nickname for some time now.  Let's face it, the name is accurate, but it isn't very catchy.  Recently I noticed Phyllis' email name is P Phrog.  I have no idea where this moniker came from, but this peculiar email name definitely works for me. 

Perhaps it dates back to Phyllis' wild adventures at Senor Frogs in Cozumel.  Don't worry; I am sure Phyllis will have something to say about it soon enough.  In the meantime, I am not going to make any jokes or any comments.  I am just going to announce that the Center of Attention nickname is being retired and replaced by Phyllis Phrog or P Phrog for short, sort of like her idol P Diddy.  I just hope P Phrog isn't hopping mad about this important decision. 


As I said, posing for pictures had become our group's favorite activity.  That's the Carnival Conquest in the background.  I estimate it was about three miles away.

It was about this point that I was getting restless.  This group was moving at the speed of molasses.   If you are wondering where the "Action" shots are, don't hold your breath.  My friends were thoroughly content to enjoy the warm Caribbean waters and the wonderful Caribbean winds.  It was balmy and breezy.  Everyone wanted to kick back and be lazy.  Every single one of them acted like they were out at sea or on vacation or some equally lame excuse. 

There was only one person bristling for action - me.  That is because I had agenda.  I had been looking forward to the long trek back to the ship for an entire year.  This was my golden opportunity.   I wouldn't have this chance again for another year.  And if another hurricane came along, it might be several years before I got another crack at taking my walk.  It was Elvis time - Now or Never.

I asked Jean if she thought we had enough time to duplicate the previous year's walk. Jean frowned and shook her head.  She didn't think so.  Last year's walk had started much earlier in the day.  In addition, since they didn't visit the stingrays last year, everyone had a lot more energy than our current bunch of sand slugs.  The entire group looked like they were stuck in quicksand.  Quicksand?  Not these guys. This group was stuck in Slow-sand! 

I was discouraged.  This year's walk was doomed. Or was it?  I pulled Marla aside. She already knew this was supposed to be the highlight of my trip this year.  I explained to her that with or without the group I really wanted to take this walk.  Did she mind if I cut loose and went on ahead by myself? 

Marla gave me one of those "Are you out of your mind?" looks that I am sorry to say I have seen several times in the past.  In fact, now that I think about it, I see that look at least once every trip we take.  By coincidence, I even got a photo of "The Look".  If you study the picture, Marla has turned around to stare at me like I am crazy with her head half-cocked. 

Marla reminded me it was getting late.  We had maybe an hour to get back to the ship.  Did I honestly believe I could travel that kind of distance in one hour?  What if I was wrong?  What if I missed the last tender boat back to the ship?  She stated I probably didn't have to the time do this. 

Marla added that since I had never done this before, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  Was I prepared to take this kind of chance?

I frowned.  I hate it when Marla uses that "voice of reason" approach with me.  Of course she was right.  Why take a chance on being late?  Why not just stay with the Sand Slugs, chill out and enjoy the lazy day like everyone else? 

But in her heart Marla knew what I was going to do.  She knew full well no matter what she said I was planning to take off.  She just had to say what she had to say for the record.  This was what is known in our family as "The Responsibility Talk". 

If this turned out badly, Marla wanted to make sure she had dotted my eyes and crossed my tees so there wouldn't be any whining from me later on.  She wanted to make it clear that I should not to expect even a drop of sympathy from her if I screwed up.  Just go straight to the doghouse.

I nodded.  Message received.  And off I went.


I was on my own now.  I wasn't worried about getting lost.  After all, the ship was clearly visible.  I just didn't know if I had enough time. 

As a way to share my long walk with everyone back home, I decided to photograph every condo I passed.  I didn't have time to inspect them for names, so I decided to give each building a special unique name of my own creation.  One, Two, Three, Four...

I was able to identify to only one structure.  The Marriott Hotel was the fourth building I passed.

Who could miss the large construction crane next to the Marriott?  I used this crane throughout my trip as a reference point since I could always see it.  The crane was the tallest structure in all of Cayman. 

Along the way, I marveled at the beautiful condos.  Wouldn't it be nice to own of these? 

At a certain point, I decided to turn around and photograph where I had come from. 

That large crane was involved in the construction of Condo 5.  This is the same crane that was in the 2007 picture of Phyllis and Jean walking on the beach.  I guess this means some condo projects take more than a year to build.

For fun, count four condos to the left of the crane.  The condo with the blue roof on far left of the picture is next to the Royal Palms where I started my trip.

According to the map, it is half a mile from the Royal Palms to the Marriott.  Since I passed 17 condos in all, this suggests my trip was about 2 miles long.


As you can see, the next few hundred yards of my trip wasn't very glamorous.  There was practically no beach at all.  I had read that the Seven Mile Beach constantly suffers from an erosion problem.  At the time, I assumed I was getting a first hand look. 

However it wasn't till I wrote this story that I realized the lack of beach had nothing to do with erosion, but rather human stupidity.  This beach problem was caused when the owner of the property built his fence right up to the edge of the waterline and fenced his property in.  Then to ensure privacy, he created a green wall.  To accommodate his wall of foliage, a lot of beach was deliberately destroyed.

This house went so clearly against the "open beach policy" that I got the feeling that security was a major concern for this property.  I had heard the Governor's House was on Seven Mile Beach.  Maybe this was it?  That might explain why an exception was made in allowing the beach to be destroyed and letting a chain link fence be built as well. 

I know all this thanks to Google Earth.  As I wrote this article in 2009, I used Google Earth to attempt to retrace my steps.

I couldn't find any in-depth maps of Seven Mile Beach on the Internet to help me understand how the long beach is laid out.  That's when I got the idea to zoom in using Google Earth. 

What an amazing tool!  In this case, Google Earth gave me a clear picture of what was going on. Immediately I was allowed to walk the beach again.  Guess what?  You can do it too!   Google Earth is free to everyone.  Real Estate people love it.

In the aerial picture of this property, it is evident that it wasn't nature that extended the foliage to the sea line, but rather a human hand. As you can see, the properties on either side had a good forty feet of sand. 

As a result, this particular fenced-in property stuck out like a "green thumb". 

After I passed the Green Thumb property, I saw more beach again in front of Condo Nine.  My spirits lifted.  When I first saw the fence, I had been worried the Beach had ended.

However this was the point when I began to really worry about the time.  I didn't have a watch.  Marla's words kept ringing in my mind - "Are you out of your mind?  You probably don't have enough time to do this!  Are you prepared to take this chance?"

I had been jogging most of the way.  This was about this point when I decided it might be prudent to start jogging FASTER.  The ship was getting closer, but not fast enough for my comfort.

Condo Twelve had some odd rock barriers in front of it.  Looking below, the photo on the left shows an artificial barrier.  The picture on the right using Google Earth shows the same barrier from an aerial perspective.  Unfortunately I didn't have a clue what the purpose of this barrier is.  The water is no deeper than a wading pool.  Not only was it ugly, it didn't seem to accomplish a thing.

Now look at Condo Twelve again (above).  Notice the red roof.  Now look at the Google Earth photo.

There is no red roof to be seen.  The yellow arrow marks where the red roof should be.

Google Earth said it was using 2007 imagery.  I can only assume that the red roof structure wasn't around in 2007. 

Condo 13 had a swimming pool just 20 feet from the ocean. Notice the Google Earth aerial shows this same swimming pool from above.  I was really hot. There was no one in sight.  I was sorely tempted to jump in and cool off.  Only my growing sense of emergency stopped me from doing just that!

In fact, I was so worried about being late that I wasn't "jogging" any more.  Instead now I was running just as fast  as I had the strength to.  

Unfortunately, my sandals weren't up to the task.  The strain of running full out was too much for one of the shoes.  A major strap broke.  This sandal was useless.  I was only halfway there and now I was down to one shoe.

Staring at my broken sandal, an odd memory stirred in the back of my mind. I recalled the Greek Myth about Jason and the Argonauts, one of the greatest "Quest Sagas" in literature.  According to Greek Mythology, Jason had lost a sandal as he carried an old woman across a river.  That old woman had turned out to be Hera, Queen of the Gods, in disguise.  She was testing him.  After the good deed, Hera promised Jason that if he ever got in trouble, she would come to his aid. 

By chance, an ancient oracle had predicted that one day a handsome youth wearing one solitary sandal would someday enter the Kingdom of Iolcos to reclaim his rightful throne and meet his future bride as well.  That youth, of course, turned out be none other than Jason himself.

I smiled grimly.  I didn't have any throne to reclaim.  I certainly didn't have any youth.  And I definitely didn't have Hera to bail me out.  All I had was the broken sandal.

And the only thing I was certain of was that I would have to find a new bride if I missed the boat! 

I knew I was in trouble.  Big trouble.  My ace in the hole all along had been my ability to make up time by running.  That wasn't going to do me a bit of good now.  Now that I was getting to the end of the Seven Mile Beach, there were hundreds of rocks sprinkled throughout the sand.  There was practically no safe place to step any more. I knew this for a fact because I was constantly stepping on small rocks in the sand with my bare foot.  There was no way I could run on this surface.

Furthermore the constant heat of the sun was really taking its toll on me.  As a fair-skinned Nordic, throughout my life I always wilt any time I get an overdose of sun.  Today was no different.  I was fading fast.  Plus I was getting sunburned. 

As exhaustion took hold, I realized my ancient weakness to the Sun was kicking in again. 

Plus I was thirsty.  Very thirsty. 

Every part of my body ached in some way.  I was beginning to feel desperate. 

For the first time, I wasn't so sure I was going to make it back to the ship on time. 

After I passed Condo 15, I stopped at a sandy curve to assess my situation (see picture).  As I stared out into the distance, I could see the Conquest on the other side of the bay.  It looked like the ship was a good mile to two miles away.  I gulped with fear.  This was going to be really tight. 

Just past the sandy curve,
the terrain changed dramatically.  There was about 400 yards of barren wasteland filled with all sorts of nasty rocky areas.  Plus there was a series of strange and quite ugly artificial reefs in the water that seemed to serve no purpose.  This barren landscape could not possibly be part of Seven Mile Beach.  No way.  Yuck.

Way up ahead, I spotted a very pretty condominium (#16).  I guess that was where I was headed next.  Although there were rocks everywhere, there was enough sand for me to carefully tiptoe my way across this desolate section to get to Condo 16.  But first I wanted a closer look at the strange reef.

Here are two different views of the strange artificial reef.  The Google Earth picture on the right gives a very clear idea of just how ugly this particular area was. 

The Google Earth pictures confirms I left the Seven Mile Beach far behind.  This certainly was not an inviting stretch by any means.

The first picture on the right offers a look at a second artificial reef.  I got the impression that these ugly rock and cement structures in the water had out-lived their purpose long ago.  Now they were just waiting to be torn down by the next developer.   This barren area was pretty long, maybe the length of four football fields.  As I looked around, I assumed this area would be occupied by a beautiful hotel someday.  Just bring the crane over when you are through at the Marriott. 

However at the moment this area was not a pretty sight at all.  Note how rocky the sand is in these pictures.  I had an absolute fit weaving my way through this stuff.  More than once I grimaced as I stepped on a hidden rock with my bare foot.  I got lots of scrapes, but fortunately I didn't cut myself in the process.  The hardest part to cross was that dark area in the picture.  That stuff was like lava rock.  Not only was it jagged, there was no way around it.  I literally had to hop on one foot for twenty yards!  Once I lost my balance and stepped on that stuff with my bare foot.  I scraped it really bad.  Ouch!

Fortunately, once I passed the nasty rock field, things got pretty again.  The sand returned and the lovely Condo 16 beckoned to me. 
When I got to Condo 16, I noticed the beach had mysteriously disappeared.  If you look at the picture carefully, that is a long seawall stretching out in front of the building.  Someone had extended this structure right out over the waterline.  No beach.  I didn't see what choice I had, so I climbed the steps and walked up past the seawall.

I got the impression that Condo 16 was special in some way.  This place seemed more like a Pavilion than it did a Condo.  If you look at the closeup, you will see lovely outdoor decking complete with tasteful fences.  This place seemed brand new. It didn't look occupied at all.  Perhaps this Pavilion was meant to be a restaurant or a community clubhouse.  I honestly didn't know what to make of the place.  Too bad I didn't have the time to figure out.  Maybe next trip. 

I was able to walk on a lovely cool brand-new tile surface in the Pavilion.  Now that the surface was smooth again, my tender bare foot was much happier.  As I crossed under an outdoor roof, something jumped on top of my shoulder out of the rafters.  I saw it coming but had no idea what it was.  I was so startled I swear I nearly jumped in the water!  My attacker turned out to be a little bitty lizard.  Stupid lizard.  Why the heck the lizard jumped on me was a mystery.  I do remember thinking this wasn't a particularly good omen.  Too weird.  Things weren't looking very good. 

Once I passed the Pavilion, I discovered there was yet another long stretch of barren land.  There were no more pretty structures to photograph.  There was sand, but definitely no pretty beach.  As you can see, huge nasty rock fields separated the sand from the water.

I assumed I had left the Seven Mile Beach long ago.  However, as long as there was sand, I would keep plugging forward.

I was weary, I was hot, I was thirsty.  My bare foot burned with pain from the scratches and the hot sand.  I felt the back of my neck searing with sunburn.  The Sun was beating me down and robbing me of all resolve.  Plus I had been attacked by a killer lizard.  This adventure was supposed to be fun, but it wasn't fun anymore.

I wasn't going to give up without a fight though.  I gamely hobbled across this new barren area.

300 yards past the Pavilion, I came to the end of the line.   There was a massive rock field in front of me.  The rocks were so thick I had no hope of continuing on my bare foot. I decided it was time to pack it in and look for the road. 

As you can see, Condo 17 was a much more modest structure than the beach-side palaces I had seen along the Seven Mile Beach.  This place looked like four separate apartments for middle class occupants. 

As the red arrow indicates, I passed Condo 17 and turned left on my way to West Bay Road.

It was time to start the final leg of my journey.  I was feeling pretty grim.  Nevertheless I stopped to take a picture of the Kentucky Fried Chicken building to use as a landmark for future trips.

Just as I took the picture, a van suddenly veered out of traffic (I actually got a picture of it!)  The van was aiming right at me! 

It was such an awkward and sudden motion that I honestly thought the driver had lost control and was about to hit me. 

Frightened, I jumped behind a parked car for cover! 


To my absolute shock, the van was filled with the SSQQ group I had left behind an hour ago.  They were heading back to the ship.  When they saw me taking the picture, they ordered the driver to turn.  What incredible luck.  If I had been just 10 seconds later to this spot, they would have already driven past me.

So why did the cab nearly kill me?  What I didn't know at the time was there was a difference of opinion going on in the cab.  Jean Wind told the driver to pull over.  Marla told him to keep going; it would teach Rick a lesson he needed to learn.  She was fed up with my foolhardy ways. 

Fortunately for me, the rest of the group were a little more sympathetic.  The cab driver added it up: more money to pick me up than to ditch me.  At the last second he decided to swerve and come get me.  

An eerie feeling came over me.  This was not an accident!  I was Jason with the broken sandal, a Greek hero who had overcome a great ordeal!  The attack lizard was the mighty Hera in disguise. Hera was testing me to see whether I would try to hurt the little lizard.  When I showed that I meant no harm, the mighty Hera guided the van to my rescue. It was all so clear!

Marla snapped me out of my reverie. "Rick Archer, you have to be the luckiest you-know-what on the entire planet.  I cannot believe you got away with this stunt.  One of these days, you are going to try one stupid trick too many and that's when you will watch as your ship sails away!"

Marla had a point.  I was extraordinarily fortunate.  Thanks to the magic taxi ride, I was able to catch the last shuttle to the ship with ten minutes to spare. 

Had I remained on foot, I seriously doubt I would have made it to the ship in time. 



Rick Archer's Note:  My 2008 walk started at the Royal Palms and ended at the yellow arrow.  By my estimate, my Beach walk was about two miles long (based on the mileage marker in the map above).  Jean's 2007 Group did this walk in about two hours.  I think I did my trip in one hour, but don't forget I ran most of the way to make up time.  Also keep in mind the speed of a large group is limited by the speed of its slowest member. 

As I stare at the map above, the next time I take this trip, I am tempted to try an all-day adventure.  I could have the taxi drop me off at the Public Beach area (see map).  A four mile walk will take me to the Royal Palms for lunch followed by a three mile walk to the ship.  Less adventurous people can start their walk at the Royal Palms and retrace Jean's 2007 footsteps. 

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