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How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Day One

August 11, 2007

For our annual get-a-way, the family planned a vacation down to Destin, Florida, for a few days on the beach. Let me extrapolate that a bit. When I say “the family” what I actually mean is I got a phone call at work one day a couple of months previous explaining how we really needed to get away for a couple of days and we had yet to plan anything; wouldn’t be expensive, just a quick trip to the beach. Having been beaten into fairly routine submission from some ten years of continuously raising at least one teenager, with overlapping years of two teenagers, along with being married to SWMBO (as the acronym suggests, “Must Be Obeyed;” i.e., if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy), I was pretty much destined (no pun intended) to go along.

So, on Aug 1st, we were packed and headed out just after 7:00am, which is amazing for this family; I was operating on four hours sleep, but the excitement of five days away from work plus numerous variations of the alphabet driving game kept drowsiness at bay. You have any idea how hard it is to randomly drive by something that starts with “Q,” “X,” or “Z”? If I had known where a quarry was located, I’d have detoured to it.

First stop, excepting some bathroom breaks, was shortly after passing through Mobile, Alabama, for lunch at the Original Oyster House. Though I wanted ’em, I refused to break my cardinal rule of “no raw oysters in a month without an ‘r’,” * but we all had seafood of one sort or the other. Number One daughter had the grilled shrimp salad, her boyfriend (along for the trip, henceforth called “Boyfriend”) had a fried fish (grouper) basket as did Number One son. SWMBO had some sort of fish with a hollandaise sauce while I had the seafood gumbo. All was quite tasty. It’s here that I’ll point out what I discovered after our return: we suck at photo chronicling. A ton of pictures at the beach, very few of anywhere else on the trip — in fact, none taken of the inside of the condo. But so you know, the OOH is a nice — though busy — place to stop for seafood. A sandy playground on the bottom floor for the (younger than my) kids, you go upstairs to eat. Our table — incidentally the same table where I sat when there the week before on a business trip — overlooked the neck of water that runs behind the OOH, so we saw a few small boats passing through while eating. Along with the boats were silvery flashes that started up a discussion of whether it was sunlight on waves or schools of fish hitting the top of the water, with SWMBO going for fish and Number One Son falling on the side of waves; I mentally went along with my son, but kept quiet. I think the end result was Number One Son winning the argument, but in any case all differences were settled while splitting a frozen chocolate-peanut butter pie thingy that was fantastic and, after the meals, plenty for all five of us to share.

A few more hours of driving and, around four-thirty that afternoon, we arrived at our chosen condominium. Through some internet searching we (and the “we” here is used in the sense that I made the telephone call to reserve the condo) had decided on Jetty East as our condo of choice and had reserved a three bedroom with two balconies overlooking the ocean, one in the living room and one in the master bedroom. I’ll point out in passing that the cost of the condo for four nights was roughly double the entire trip’s budget that was thrown at me in the original telephone call, but I had never bought that number for a second anyway.

The two photos here (both ‘clickable’ for larger views) show the view down the beach on one and in the other the view of the beach below our condo. We’ve stayed at a number of condos over the years but this one had the absolute easiest access to the beach.

You’ll also notice the tennis courts, the pool, and the pavilion on the beach – we used none of these. The folks using the tennis courts were running around, sweating, whapping tennis balls — it all looked like work to me, and this was a vacation. The pavilion had grills and tables where you could take some dead animal parts of one sort or another, light a fire, roast said animal parts, and eat on the tables, all to the accompaniment of the ocean breeze, the ocean sounds, and the ocean view . . . but let’s face it, while this looked somewhat fun, we discovered there were many places in Destin where you go in, sit down, tell some nice folks what you want, and they cook it and bring it too you — and then clean up afterward! We decided this was a much better plan. As for the pool, while it might be inviting when otherwise landlocked, it seemed silly to use that little dot of water with an entire ocean just steps away providing not only splashing area but a continuous wave-pool environment that was totally missing from the man-made version.

For dinner that first night we went to Fisherman’s Wharf and sat on the deck overlooking the Destin marina. It was late afternoon, and the boats were returning so it was nice to sit, eat, talk, and watch the activity of the marina as darkness approached. Fisherman’s Warf is a great place for seafood, and if the weather permits the deck is the way to go. I immediately broke my afore-mentioned cardinal rule of “no raw oysters in a month without an “r” and had half a dozen as an appetizer. Nobody was willing to try one of my oysters, as expected — otherwise I’d have ordered a dozen. The restaurant had some sort of “guarantee” of quality, and I, wanting raw oysters, quickly bought into the guarantee.

For the main course I, along with Number One Daughter, went with the grilled grouper while SWMBO had the Grouper Destin; it was the special of the night though we don’t remember what made it special as opposed to the grilled grouper. Boyfriend had chicken alfredo (yes, we verbally beat him up over a “chicken while by the sea” choice). Number One Son had pasta as well, but went with the seafood pasta.

Afterward we stopped off at Win-Dixie and loaded a basket of “condo staples” and, in the process, realized two things: we would still need to stop at Wal*mart for items not carried at a grocer and, two, without a Win-Dixie card everything was way overpriced. There was a gaggle of folks at the customer service line where you had to get the card and I wasn’t waiting, so we abandoned the cart and headed for Wal*mart. For us, this approaches a criminal act and was rationalized away by Win-Dixie’s choice of going with the “shopper’s card” methodology. SWMBO wanted to put everything back, I abandoned not only the cart but the discussion and went to the wine shop next door (where I got both wine and directions to the Wal*mart super-center) and the ‘yoots’ of the bunch talked SWMBO into a compromise of returning the refrigerated items to the shelf and leaving the rest. We did all agree to blame it on Win-Dixie and their shopping card, as we would have gone ahead with the purchase otherwise.

The stock up of staples was considerable, with lots of quickie breakfast items (pop tarts, cereal, milk) and some lunch items (bread, peanut butter, sandwich meats) along with some junk (popcorn, cookies) and drinks, not to mention toilet paper, paper towels, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent — you’d think, for $400+ per night, they could throw in a box of cascade.

We went back to the condo, unloaded everything, and while I took a short walk to the couch with a book, SWMBO spent a bit of time on the balcony, the yoots took a long nighttime stroll on the beach with a newly acquired Wal*mart flashlight each. Afterward reports indicate few sand crabs, but much chasing of Number One Daughter around the sand with a pretend crab. I doubt either Number One Son or Boyfriend would actually pick up a live crab, but that apparently didn’t occur to Number One Daughter.

Thus ended our day one of my summer vacation.

*I am amazed at the foresight of the long ago Calendar Planning Committee for not only pulling off the number-of-days-in-the-month-by-the-knuckle trick, but including the oyster rule in the month names as well. If such superb planning was displayed in the meetings I attend at my job, we’d own the business world. 

From → Ramblings

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