My daughter spends a few weeks each year over the summer with her grandfather in Pensacola Beach. It’s a lot like summer camp, without the exorbitant costs and child molestation. Just a short, 11 hour drive across three states, and she’s there. Really, people I know hear Florida and think, “Disney World”. That’s only 7 hours away from us (which is why you see so many Disney World posts on here). Miami is 11-12 hours away. You wouldn’t think that Pensacola Beach would be so far, but it’s practically Alabama, the bit of Alabama that sticks down on the ocean… To put it in perspective, I can drive to Miami in 669 miles. Pensacola, when I go down I-95 instead of around Atlanta, is 682 miles. So – it’s more like driving to Key West… Hey now THAT’s an Idea!
Despite the distance, however, I do love the area. Clean white beaches, interesting places to eat, generally not as crowded as Myrtle Beach (which is only two hours away), and free lodging. There’s a pool there as well, which seems silly since the ocean is 200 yards away, but sometimes there’s jellyfish, which seem to have an affinity for my daughter, and which we have never found in the pool.
The only time the place gets REALLY busy is July, between the 4th, which for some reason they shoot off lots of fireworks and traffic is terrible for hours afterwards, and the following week, the Blue Angels hold a series of practices and ultimately an Air Show, so if you want to go anywhere at all for about 3 days, it better be on foot. On Saturday, There is not a parking space on the island to be had, if there is dirt without a roped off section, there will be a car on it.
Thankfully there is plenty to entertain yourself with, and the Condo my father lives at is close enough to the main drag that we can see some of the airshow without dragging ourselves down to the crowded main viewing area, and the planes fly right by, rather loudly.
And when, as it happens in Florida, sudden thunderstorms come up, you don’t find yourself running for the car only to sit still in traffic for three hours like some people did. The airshow presents a unique set of problems for those just visiting, mainly the lack of public toilets on the far end of the beach from the pier. While watching from the balcony, my stepmother saw a group of people wander over to the condo property’s gate and try to get in. They didn’t appear to know the code, and someone wandered over to the gate, punched in the code, and let them in. There were a group of adults and about five kids, and once inside by the pool, they didn’t know the code for the lobby door, either, and sent someone to the front to let them in from the other side. We went to the first floor to see what was going on, under the pretense of getting something from the car. The group was hanging around in the lobby and using the first floor pool area bathroom. When they went to leave, they didn’t know the gate code to get out, either.
Someone let them out, and they watched, rather intently, as the gate code was punched in. About ten minutes later two of the group returned with more children and adults in tow, and tried to get back in the gate. My step-mother was understandably distressed at all the random people coming in, as people leave things a mess, break things, leave water running, and damage things. I shouted down from the balcony, “Are you staying here?” The response was, “No – we are coming to use the bathroom.” I told them, “This is private property, not a public restroom, you can’t come in unless you stay or rent here.” The results were some dirty looks, and a couple of the girls taking photos of me with phone cameras as they left. I understand their plight, but as a matter of course, you don’t just wander into private property to use the bathroom. Hopefully the people in charge of the island put out some port-potties for next year.
But when the weather is nice, there’s one thing Florida has in abundance, and that is SUNSHINE. They don’t call it the sunshine state for nothing. So we brought out our tent (the same tent that Myrtle Beach has made illegal, take that Myrtle Beach!) and set it up a couple of days before and after all the airshow antics. Diligently I sprayed my arms and legs with sunscreen. intending mainly to sit under the tent and enjoy the views and look for the odd shell or two. We also played a game, called “oh no they didn’t”, which is a lot like I-Spy, only a LOT more judgmental. Mainly it involves people in inappropriate attire, or barely there attire (thong bathing suits are legal here, another point for Pensacola that Myrtle Beach makes illegal). The first person to see, for example, someone in a bikini that is mostly covered by their fat rolls says “oh no she didn’t!” discreetly, pointing with their eyes. Its best to play discreetly, avoiding the chance of getting your ass kicked. Other than that, the water is gorgeous, and recently beach erosion has shaped the coast into a series of sandbars and little tidal pools great for people that don’t like waves or don’t swim well.
My fearless daughter kept pestering me to come swimming, having gotten bored burying my feet and looking at the same people standing around. So I stripped off my shirt and headed to the water. It is at this point I will remind you that I sprayed my arms and legs, with the intent of staying under the tent, or getting shells. So I float around on her boogie board for 30-45 minutes, with the full expanse of my white pastiness exposed to the radiation on a burning thermonuclear explosion only 92 million miles away, possible causing someone else to score a point in the “oh know he didn’t!” game. We returned, hot, tired, and jellyfish stung (the stings we got were unpleasant, but not terrible, going away after only a few minutes). Putting away the tent and going inside didn’t take long, and my wife said, “your back is burnt”. Oops, at this point I realized the error of my ways.
So, the following morning we returned, all 11 hours, to home with our stuff, my back itchy and uncomfortable. Along the way she gets invited to Myrtle Beach to see other family members. I have to work, and having had enough of sitting on a beach in the sun for a while, I offer to drive her, since she doesn’t like traffic.
Oatmeal baths become my friend, and after a four hour trip (2 each way) to Myrtle Beach, I take another one, and try to rub down my itchy reddened back. Why is it that sunburns look worse two days later?
The following day I go back to Myrtle Beach to pick up the wife and kid, and on the way back a discussion ensues that goes down as one of the weirdest in history. My daughter starts relating the tale of how my sister-in-law’s new cat crapped on the carpet. Not only did I not need to know about that, that was one thing I prefer NOT to hear about. It’s one reason I hold dogs and cats in disdain, and prefer to stay away from people who have dogs and cats in their house. I don’t want to hear, see, or be around animals that routinely poop where they aren’t supposed to, namely inside. So they go on and on about this cat and it’s bowel habits, and finally, sunburned and exhausted from driving 11 hours, then 4 then 4 more over the course of a few days, I tell them, “can we please stop discussing the cat shit? I’ve heard all I ever needed to know about cat shit, I never needed to hear the first thing about cat shit, and yet here we are, five minutes later, discussing the cat and its shit on the rug”. My wife asks me if there’s a contest I am in to see how many times in one minute I can say “cat shit”. Then she makes the mistake of taking a long drink from her coke can.
In response to her query, I reply: “No, but it’s just that every time you mention it, I picture this turd on the rug, and that’s a visual I just don’t need while I’m driving in traffic.”
Her response is to spew out about half a cup of coke all over herself, the car seat, her jeans, and her feet. Oh well, at least we stopped talking about cat shit.