What I Learned During My Summer Vacation

I spent last week with my family in sunny St. Augustine, Florida and had a blast. The week I spend with my wife and kids on the beach is one of my favorite times of the year. What follows is a list of what I learned.

1. As much as it pains me to say it,

I like the Atlantic better than the Gulf.

Saying this reminds me of the first time I tried cornbread with sugar in it and thought, “Hey, this doesn’t taste like burlap” only too feel like I was dishonoring my grandmother if I took one more bite. I haven’t had sweetened cornbread since.

I grew up going to the Gulf. People I grew up with believed that if you lived a good enough life you got to go to Panama City Beach when you died. What’s not to love about the Gulf?

Here’s one thing. It’s the airbrush t-shirt capital of the world. I think there’s a law somewhere on the books that requires any visitor of any gulf beach to purchase an airbrushed t-shirt before leaving. There are bonus points for the picture of sunglasses with your name in one lens and your BFF/boyfriend/dog’s name on the other lens. If you can’t afford the extra ink for the sunglasses a simple letter n sandwiched between two squiggly lines will suffice. See example below.

Tracy

~n~

Cody

Panama City

Spring Break

1986

I saw none of that in St. Augustine. If you think that means I got ripped off you should probably stop reading this and get back to Farmville. Instead we went to a beach town that forces you to reflect on a cool theologian from Hippo. Also, there are waves in the Atlantic Ocean. Usually the only time you see waves in the Gulf is when you look behind the lunatic from The Weather Channel standing on the beach telling us how windy it is just before another hurricane makes landfall.

Another great thing about St. Augustine was the lack of current and former frat boys loaded up on PBR and Molly Hatchet looking to impress the ladies with their new tan. The drunken frat boy at the beach is annoying. The drunken 47 year old former frat boy at the beach is criminal. Both seem to prefer the Gulf to the Atlantic and this gives the final and decisive death blow to the Gulf. Sorry Gulf. It was a good run but we’re through.

2. I’m proud of both of my sons.

Last year, my oldest son was scared to jump off the side of the pool while I was holding his hand. This year, he couldn’t stop. He also enjoyed getting obliterated by waves. It’s a real relief to see your son do a non-voluntary cartwheel thanks to a runaway wave only to pop up out of the water begging for more.

My youngest son hated the ocean when he first saw it. By the end of the week he was digging in the mud, trying to catch crabs and surfing. I’m exaggerating on the trying to catch crabs part. He’s also really good at walking up to complete strangers and getting all up on their towels and staring at them like they’re from Alabama. I, on the other hand, am not good at explaining my way out those situations.

Along with the fun of playing in the waves, it’s also a great joy to see your kid’s relief when you tell them they are allowed to do a number one in the ocean. So if you’re ever at the beach and you see my boys standing in the ocean, be sure to drop by and say hello.

3. Walking on the beach with the love of your life

is greatly underrated.

No matter how many times you hear about this kind of thing or read it in sappy poems or see it in cheesy romance films, it still doesn’t get old. It actually exceeds expectations. I don’t really know why but it does. This year we met people from Pittsburgh and wrote messages in the sand for people to read later on. Here’s the one I wrote.

Please Help Me!!!

Marsha made me erase it before I could leave a license plate number.

4. Northern Florida is for sale.

Some woman named Jean is the seller and she has billboards up all over northern Florida. I wish I was rich so I could buy Gainesville and turn it in to the north Florida extension of the University of Georgia.

5. Southern Georgia is the billboard capital of America.

You may not know this but there is a law in many south Georgia counties that requires billboards to be no further apart than 37 inches. Also, they must be yellow, contain grammatical errors and every fifth one must have something to do with the adult entertainment industry. This has done wonders for the landscape down that way. Highway Advertising Engineering is currently the most popular major at Valdosta State University. Go Blazers!

6. Tough economic times

call for creative advertising.

The billboard (yes this was located in south Georgia) read, “Heated Pool”. Unfortunately, this sign failed to include a translation for the word “heated”. When we drove a bit further we saw a concrete pond covered by a green house that was at least 20 years old. No one was using the heated pool at the moment we drove by.

7. Tough economic times

call for small businesses to be versatile.

I learned this lesson in south Georgia as well. I drove by a huge pickem-up truck (local vernacular) pulling a huge trailer. The logo on the side of the trailer said “Victory Lane Mobile Chapel”, and then just below the logo, “and racing team”. This is a lesson for all churches that have fallen on hard economic times. Take it on the road and start a racing team on the side. I hear a Victory Lane cosmetics line is coming in the fall.