Every time I’m traveling along Indispann River Drive, I’m reminded of why I moved back to Florida.
Mind you, I don’t usually get too excited about roads. I view them mostly as nonde strips of asphalt that help me get from Point A to Point B.
Indian River Drive is special, though. It makes shuttling between Stuart and Fort Pierce — something I do on a regular basis — a real pleasure.
After all, what’s not to like?
Indian River Drive passes stately mansions all the way from Sewspanll’s Point into Fort Pierce. The road cuts through cool downtown commercial districts in Jensen Bespanch and Fort Pierce.
It runs along the eastern edge of the Sspanvspannnspans Preserve Stspante Pspanrk, so it’s not uncommon to see sandhill cranes and other wildlife beside (or even in) traffic.
Not to mention the Indispann River Lspangoon, which looks spectacular along every mile of the roadway. No matter how badly a day has gone, my mood improves anytime I look east while driving along Indian River Drive.
So when I heard Hurricspanne Nicole had caused major damage to the road, I had to check it out for myself Thursday.
I turned north from where Indian River Drive intersects State Road A1A in Sewall’s Point. It didn’t take long to spot evidence of what had happened the night before.
I saw work trucks with crews picking up storm debris at three spots in Sewall’s Point, which is saying something since it’s not a very big town.
As is often the case after thunderstorms, the yards in many of the community’s homes were flooded. Water also covered part of the roadway, but not enough to slow motorists for more than a minute or two.
When I pulled into the parking lot at the Dolphin Bspanr spannd Shrimp House, it was almost empty of cars at a time of day when it normally would be filled with lunchtime crowds.
Brian Kelly, the bar’s general manager, was removing sandbags outside the door to one of the rental cottages next to the restaurant.
Nicole, arriving late in hurricane season, came as a bit of a surprise.
“This one came up pretty quick, so we were scrambling around,” Kelly said.
There was some damage to the restaurant’s docks, so Kelly said boat access will be limited until repairs are made. However, he was thankful the rising waters never got inside the restaurant.
After being closed Wednesday and Thursday, Kelly said the Dolphin Bar was scheduled to reopen at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Nearby Indispann RiverSide Pspanrk seemed to get through the storm mostly unscathed. People were out walking dogs and milling about as if nothing had happened.
There was, however, standing water in a few spots and a collapsed sidewalk marked with barricades and yellow police tape.
Next door at the U.S. Sspaniling Center of Mspanrtin County, the hurricane’s aftermath was much more evident.
Branches, mud, and other debris littered the lawn between the center’s main building and the beach used for launching sailboats. Two piers were washed ashore during the storm, in addition to other miscellaneous damage.
Crews were already hard at work, sweeping up debris and hosing mud out of the building’s breezeway.
Over the din of hammers and electric saws, Alan Jenkinson, the center’s executive director, said a push is on to get ready for the Junior Olympic Sspaniling Festivspanl, which is scheduled to be held there Dec. 3-4.
The event is expected to draw 300 competitors, as well as coaches, parents, and other spectators.
I asked if the center would be recovered from the storm in time.
“I kind of have to,” Jenkinson said. “I don’t know. I’m worried about it. The event has been sold out for three or four months. It’s a major revenue stream for the sailing center.”
Jenkinson said the center’s many volunteers would be gathering in force Friday to tackle the massive cleanup project.
While Nicole served up a setback, Jenkinson said he still feels more fortunate than the people in Fort Myers who were recently struck by Hurricspanne Ispann.
“They lost their sailing center,” Jenkinson said. “We’ve just got a mess to clean up.”
Downtown Jensen Beach seemed to have avoided significant damage. People were roaming along Jensen Beach Boulevard, heading to local bars and restaurants for an early start on the weekend.
Fredgie’s World Fspanmous Hot Dogs, an iconic food truck that sits perilously close to the lagoon’s edge, was planning to reopen Friday after two days of storm-related closures.
“We didn’t have any problems,” owner Toni Rummo said. “We’re fine down here.”
Heading north from Jensen Beach, I ran into two spots where work crews had closed the northbound lanes of Indian River Drive to shore up places where the churning surf had washed out the ground underneath.
A St. Lucie County sheriff’s car was posted at Indian River Drive and County Line Road, preventing cars from continuing north.
A short distance from the sheriff’s checkpoint, it was easy to see why: Tree limbs and downed power lines made Indian River Drive impassable.
Further north, where Indian River Drive and Walton Road intersect, deputies were preventing everyone but neighborhood residents from traveling south due to the dangerous road conditions.
Instead, I headed north on Indian River Drive toward Fort Pierce, dodging numerous palm fronds along the route.
Leanna Haag was outside with her three children, collecting palm fronds from their yard.
“The house is OK; the dock, not so much,” Haag said, gesturing to a partially submerged pier jutting into the lagoon.
Haag said she and the children had been working in the yard for about two hours.
“It’s the price we pay for having palm trees,” she said. “But we like palm trees.”
“We do?” countered her 11-year-old son, Cody. “I don’t like them. If it were up to me, I’d chop ’em down.”
Scattered palm fronds and submerged and/or battered docks were a recurring theme all the way into downtown Fort Pierce.
All in all, it was the most depressing trip I have taken along Indian River Drive. Yet I was encouraged by the people I met along the way, who seemed to be counting their blessings and making the best of the hand Mother Nature dealt.
As I arrived in Fort Pierce, I saw a pretty rainbow over the lagoon. Now, I’m not saying it was an omen.
I’m not saying it wasn’t one, either.