Lost on the Beach

Dec 30, 2020

Not too long ago, we arrived at the beach for a short fall vacation.  We checked into our condo around 4 PM and decided to walk down to the beach to check it out.  The beaches we have visited before on the Atlantic coast were flat and great for running.  That appeared to be the case this time.  Paula was planning to run two hours and fifteen minutes.  I was planning to run but didn’t have anything specific in mind.  I had been nursing a hamstring issue, so I scaled back listening to my body (get to the starting line healthy).

We went back to the condo and began getting ready to run.  We both realized that night was approaching, and we may be finishing in the dark.  What could go wrong?

We both headed south on the beach into the head wind.  Starting “into the head wind” is a good rule of thumb to not turn around miles down the beach and realize how strong the wind will be on the return.

Paula and I run at different paces most of the time.  I ran on ahead.  Several miles down the beach, I noticed a fisherman walking away from the water.  What I didn’t realize was that he had a fishing line strung across the beach and I ran into it.  So, I backed up and navigated around.  As I continued, I began to worry that Paula would run into it also, so I turned around.  About a quarter mile back we crossed paths and I turned around again so I could warn her.  Then I pressed on continuing farther south.

Thinking about the approaching darkness, my thought was to run out five miles and turn around.  It would be easy to find our condo when I reached ten miles.  But now having zig zagged around, I wasn’t so sure.  I expected to get back to the condo well before Paula and be waiting to let her know its location.

After doing simple math, I decided where the condo would be.  When I stopped at that distance on my watch in total darkness, I began looking for the path and bridge that would take me to the condo.  I looked and looked.  I couldn’t even see the paths and bridges.  I stumbled onto a few, but they were not mine.  And every bridge had a locked gate.  So, I had no way to find the condo and no way to get off the beach.

I decided I needed help.  I searched the beach for assistance and saw a dim light not too far away and ran to it.  A family offered their assistance by looking up what I thought was our condo’s address.  I had overshot it (so I thought) and needed to go back south.  As I went south again, I stopped another person who didn’t have a phone but was headed back to his condo and he offered to let me through the gate so I could get to the road and find the condo from the street.

When I made it to the road, I wasn’t sure which direction to go. I asked a guard at the front of one complex to look up the address again. I still needed to go south.

As I darted up and down A1A, looking at each complex, I couldn’t find the entrance that I expected to see.

At this point, I can’t find my condo and I have no way to get back to the beach to help Paula.

I spotted a sheriff officer pulling out of a complex as I was darting down the sidewalk.  He waited for me to cross.  Then I decided I could use his help, spun around, and started waving my arms.  He noticed and turned on his flashing lights.  As I approached, I realized that running towards him may not be a good idea.  I slowed and stayed on the opposite side of the car to let him approach me.  Another sheriff officer pulled over with lights flashing.  I explained the situation:

  • I can’t find my condo
  • I don’t have my phone
  • I don’t remember the address or name of the complex or anything close to it (we’d only been in town a few hours and that was all on the beach)
  • I was worried about Paula possibly running past our condo and me not being able to find her
  • In my panic, I couldn’t remember my daughter Bethanie's phone number who was waiting for us in the condo.

The officers were great.  They calmly considered the situation and started troubleshooting.  I was of no help, because of all the bullets listed above.

Then I thought about my son who was back home.  I remembered his phone number.  The officer called Jacob.  He didn’t answer.  The officer called again.  This time Jacob answered.  Picture getting this phone call.

“Is this Jacob?  This is the officer Smith with the sheriff’s department.  Everything is ok.  I’m with your dad.  He is lost.  Do you know your sister’s phone number?”

His date night with wife Shelby was ruined.

Then the officer called Bethanie.

“Is this Bethanie?  This is officer Smith with the sheriff’s department.  Everything is ok.  I’m with your dad.  He is lost.  Is your mom with you?  Do you know the name of the complex where you are at?”

The officer hung up the phone and told me two things: Bethanie was distraught, but she knew the name of the condo complex.

The officer said he would give me a ride to the condo.  I approached the passenger’s side and apologetically said that I didn’t want to get in his car sweaty.  He says, “What are you doing? You will get in over here.  You can’t sit up front.”  So, for the first time in my life I am asked to get in the back of a sheriff’s car.  I’m not sure what I was expecting. (I certainly wasn’t expecting my first day of vacation to include being carted down the street by the police.)  The seat was heavy duty plastic.  Makes sense.  When someone sweaty like me gets lost and needs a ride, it needs to be easy to clean.  This is during the COVID pandemic.  I’m sitting in the back wondering how often this seat is cleaned to keep from spreading the virus.

The officer dropped me off at my condo and I raced upstairs to get my phone.  Bethanie was very worried.  She was on the phone with Jacob.  I raced back down to the beach in the dark.
I prayed that God would keep Paula safe and that she would find me.  I wasn’t leaving my spot.  I waved my phone flashlight in the air one direction and then the other like a lighthouse on the beach.  I shouted “Paula!” as loud as I could in each direction.

Within a couple of minutes, I heard someone in the dark yell something back.  It was Paula.  I was so relieved and thankful.

Together we went up to the condo to reassure Bethanie and Jacob that we were ok.  

Paula and I both had good runs.  My nagging ache was fine.  Paula was pleased with her run.  In fact, she was never lost.  She had noticed the distance when she turned around and knew when to stop.  She overshot by one complex and was casually walking back when she heard my yelling.  She wasn’t worried at all.

Lessons Learned

Having been through this, I learned several things that would have prevented this:

  • Know where you are staying
  • Don’t run in the dark on the beach when you have no way to identify where to exit the beach
  • Stay calm and troubleshoot the problem instead of running back and forth in the dark
  • Know what your watch is capable of

Had I thought about the technology on my wrist, I could have found my way home.  The Garmin watches I’ve had over the years have all had GPS navigation features.  The Forerunner 935 has an option to “navigate to the starting point of your last saved activity”.  By saving my run, I could have used my watch to lead me very close to where I started my run.  Maybe your watch does this also.  Figure this about before you get lost.

Do you feel lost?  Why is our country so divided?  Why did the pandemic occur?  There were things I could have done to keep from getting lost on the beach.  When Paula and I ran our bikes into the same deer, there was nothing we could do (another time, another story).

Thankfully, Jesus is the answer!  If you would like prayer, use our contact page.


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