By the time this column goes to print, I should be stress-testing the outer weight limits of an aluminum-frame beach chair somewhere near a large body of water.
Although that beach chair may have wished the condo girl would have just as soon left it locked in its beach box by the time I will be done with it, it does serve an important purpose. It is the thought of that very chair that has gotten me through the last 12 months of my sorry land-locked existence.
Some people take great vacations.
When the inspiration hits them, they grab their passport, cash in a few airline miles and jet off to lands with exotic foods and culture like Orlando or Branson. These are the people on Facebook who make you wonder how is it humanly possible to go on vacation in February? Don’t they know it’s basketball season? Nevertheless, it is the pursuit that devil-may-care attitude that keeps me plugging toward my five days in the sun.
My personal vacation ceiling is not very high. It is limited to a week in a condo about every summer, where all I really want is to get up early, have a coffee, look at the ocean and guess what random pattern the umbrella girl will use today. My wife would like to try the mountains some year, but I told her that if God wanted people to vacation in the mountains, he would have put them in Pensacola.
I really like the beach, at least until some well-meaning soul screams “roll him back in” and begins to ladle salt water on my back and says in a reassuring way, “Don’t worry, big fella, we will get you back to open water.”
As I said, I do love the ocean, though. Some of my best Navy memories were the quiet moments standing the mid-morning watch, just scanning the horizon and knowing you were thousands of miles from anywhere in any direction. Shortly afterward, my 5,000 shipmates and 80 airplanes seemed to get moving about and things weren’t quite that peaceful after all.
However, I do have certain rules to abide by when I am on vacation.
First, on seafood night, find the seafood restaurant with the largest inflatable octopus outside. Just as we learned during the presidential debate, size matters. If a restaurant can afford a giant rubber octopus, they can afford to have unlimited amounts of imitation crab legs on your buffet.
Even if they don’t have an inflatable octopus, you might still be OK, as long as you are greeted by a friendly pirate. The big thing to remember is that these pirates REALLY like to be friendly with your teenage daughter. But tomorrow morning, they will not be a pirate anymore, just a college kid with dreadlocks, a 12-pack of Corona, listening to Bob Marley and playing hacky-sack with your 16-year-old baby.
Although my children have outgrown the beach-side miniature golf courses, once again size matters. Only go to biggest courses with the most realistic volcanoes, actual plane crashes and real dinosaurs. Since it is going to be 100 degrees and it it will take four hours to play, try and not drink any water the whole time to fully understand the jungle survival experience. Hopefully, you will also get stuck between a pair of really loud families from Georgia AND Staten Island for a full multi-cultural endeavor. Just remember a hole-in-one on the last hole earns one free return play (along with $9.75 for each of your other three kids to play, and don’t forget the $36 for a second round of slushies).
The final key to a successful vacation is to support local businesses. As soon as we arrive at the condo, it is time to head to everyone’s favorite beach merchant — Walmart. There is nothing like buying exotic staples like hot dogs, French’s yellow mustard, coffee filters, bologna and frozen pizza from America’s favorite beach-side cabana. Throw in two cheap beach towels with SpongeBob printed on them and you have truly begun your Margaritaville experience.
I know it’s not much, but it’s still a better week than the first Florida vacationers had, as most of the early Spanish died of disease or were beheaded by the Seminoles.
So there you have it, 357 days of toil made worthwhile in seven days of family fun. Who knows maybe next year we will even go climb Mount Pensacola.
By Todd Lancaster
Follow Todd on Twitter @blasterdog.