A Relaxing Spring Break in Florida (with thousands of college and high school students)
It’s almost midnight and 5 teenagers are in the back of our Suburban. Not like that picture above. They’re asleep now. It’s the only time they’ve been asleep at this late hour all week. Just like babies, they’re so well-behaved that way. There’s been a steady rain the past seven hours. It’s been a day of burger runs and potty breaks in out-of-the-way outposts like Tallulah, Hattiesburg, Eudora and Conway. Now, after 14 hours and 25 minutes of staring at the faded white lines on the road and hypnotized by the back-and-forth of windshield wipers, my burb is finally pulling into the garage. My wife and I are back from our annual pilgrimage to the beach. Snow was forecast in Tulsa, and spring break in Florida was calling our name. And we answered.
We’ve been making the trek from Tulsa to Destin for four years now after finally giving in to advice from our friends. “Why do you always go out to California?”, they would ask me. “Don’t you know the beaches along the Florida Gulf Coast are fantastic?” I didn’t believe them, until I sank my toes into the sugary, cool, white sand and swam in the crystal clear emerald Gulf. They were right.
Our trips to Destin have been paradise, but they haven’t been without drama too. The 14 hour drive home gives me plenty of time to recall a few of the highlights. Or lowlights. In 2010, we were there soon after the BP oil spill (see links to stories below). It killed fish, washed small oily blobs up onto the white sands, shut down stretches of pristine beaches, forced fishing charter boats to remained anchored in the marinas, and scared many tourists away. Doom and gloom prophets forecast an ecological disaster that would take years, maybe decades, to recover from. Thankfully they were wrong.
Most of the drama though has come from within our ranks. By ranks I mean my boys and their friends we always bring along on vacations. Like the time my wife and I returned to our high-rise condo from a walk to be greeted by a security guard and sheriff’s deputy at our door. “Uh, we got calls that some teenagers were launching water balloons from the balcony,” they said. “They were hitting people waiting outside for a table at the restaurant across the street.” Not good.
Or that time when I rented the jet skis for one of my boys, his friend, and two girls they just met from Indiana who were also on vacation. When I came back an hour later, he was arguing with the owner. “Your son put a gash in the jet ski,” the owner told me. “He’s lying,” shot back my son. “You’ll pay for this,” the owner threatened, glaring at me. My parental philosophy is simple, and the opposite of our judicial system: my boys are guilty until proven innocent. It’s a mantra I normally obey … but for some reason not this time. “Are you sure you didn’t do it?” I grilled my son. “Positive, dad.” I must have made a fool of myself defending him that day. Later that night, over dinner, my boy confessed. Guilty until proven innocent. Never forget it.
There was some drama this time too. We usually do this trip during the summer. Not spring break when we share the beaches with thousands of college kids. Gators. Tigers. Sooners. Longhorns. Cowboys. Roll Tide. Pig Sooie. Bud Light. Bikinis. Hormones. St. Patrick’s Day. Cops. Lots of cops. The recipe for trouble? What do you think? A chat with one cop on day one revealed that an entire group of college kids had already been evicted from their condo. Day one.
By the second day our gang was growing. Our condo couch and chairs occupied by more sleeping college kids.
Their sleeping habits are a bit different from the rest of society. In bed by 3 or 4 am, up no earlier than noon, nap between 8 and 10 pm, party until 3 or 4 am, and then do it all over again. One of our group (not one of my boys) stumbled in the door around 9 o’clock one morning. Here’s how our conversation went:
- Me: “You don’t look very good . What happened?”
- Him: “I don’t really know.”
- Me: “You don’t know?”
- Him: “Yeah, I woke up this morning in someone’s Jeep Wrangler.”
- Me: “Whose was it?”
- Him: “Beats me. Some Jeep on the street.”
- Me: “Oh, I see. So how do you end up there?”
- Him: “I don’t remember.”
- Me: “Try.”
- Him: “All I remember is there were a lot of college kids at some condo.”
- Me: “Okay. Go on.”
- Him: “And someone must have called the cops.”
- Me: “That’s not good.”
- Him: “Then I ran out the back.”
- Me: “Where’d you go?”
- Him: “I ran into another condo.”
- Me: “Did you know whose?”
- Him: “No man.”
- Me: “Continue.”
- Him: “Then I woke up in the Jeep.”
- Me: “I bet you’re tired.”
- Him: “Sure am.”
- Me: “Good night.”
Pulling into the garage after that 14 and a half hour drive never felt so good. I’m sure my co-workers will think I had a nice relaxing week at the beach. They have no idea. No idea whatsoever.
But my wife and I aren’t complaining. In fact, we made this video that my father-in-law said the Chamber of Commerce can borrow anytime. Minus the thousands of college kids on the beach of course.
Links to past stories: