This past weekend, our family got away for some low-key beach time – October is not the busy season at Florida beachfront resorts. The weather is cooler than what we’d find in the broiling heat of August, plus the crowds are thinner, and the rooms are cheaper. No complaints about any of that.
There was a lot of awesomness throughout the weekend. Our list begins with…
1.) Playing in the ocean at sundown. When we arrived at the condo at about 6:00 pm, instead of wanting to hit the two pools or Nickelodeon-colored play area (complete with slides, water guns, and a huge tipping bucket of water that would douse the place every thirty seconds or so), the kids wanted to get to that beach. Hardly anyone else was out there, and we got to enjoy the mild water and the prettiest sunset that we saw all weekend.
2.) Getting the inside scoop on the local dives. Before we left Atlanta, our neighbors said we HAD to try Thomas’ Donut Shop.
As we are not people to brush aside a really good reason to carbo-load before 9 am, we did indeed indulge in some deep-fried beauties the first morning we were there. I loved them so much I bought a coffee mug from the place. That I’m drinking out of right now. If you ever find yourself on Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach, and you value your quality of life, stop at Thomas’ and get the cream-filled long john. Two words – homemade cream. Hummunahhummunahhummunah….
3.) Laser Tag. Per the suggestion of the CVS cashier I chatted with while buying extra toilet paper, we went to a fun palace designed to look like an overturned building called Wonderworks.
While there, we got to lie on a bed of nails, experience the tilt of the Titanic’s deck as it slipped into the ocean one hundred years ago, feel the full force of 74 mph winds, climb on a ropes course, remind the kids that no, we are not visiting the gift shop today, and of course, run around in the dark with a laser gun trying to kill all our family members.
Highlights: Evan won both rounds, and Jon watched as I ran right into a wall and nearly got the wind knocked out of me. (I still came in second place.)
Bonus picture: Evan picking a Founding Father’s nose:
4.) The kindness of strangers. One night, the kids wanted to get flashlights and swarm all over the beach to look for crabs. They are these ghost-white things that are hardly bigger than a nickel that come out of the sands at night. Our kids managed to make themselves a part of a gaggle of children who had a bucket practically filled with the things, and they taught Evan and Hailey how to look for the crabs and catch them. Hailey and Evan had a blast and would have stayed on the beach until dawn had we not insisted that they go to bed to have some energy to run wild the next day.
5.) More pool/beach time. I’m skipping the part where we played putt-putt (that’s what miniature golf is called in the South), and broke up into teams to do a large outdoor maze. (Jon and Evan were in and out in twelve minutes, while Hailey and I would still be trapped in that thing, begging for water, if it wasn’t for the emergency exit door we found.)
We had our fun in the water, both the salty and chlorinated. By the last evening we were there, the temps were starting to cool off, so Evan and I went to the pool, looking to grab some hot tub time. We arrived, and the hot tub looked like a seething, simmering human crock pot.
Evan didn’t mind the bubbling cesspool, as his thoughts were not on the kid crouched on the steps with a far-off look in his eyes that read, ‘Hmmm, it is really soothing to drop a deuce in my swim diaper in this warm water…’ I dipped my feet in, but was afraid to go any further.
We got one last shot at the beach, and Evan played some catch with his dad in the shallows, while Hailey went diving for shells in the very calm surf. Happy campers, all.
In the spirit of equal time, I have to say there was some minor not-too-awesome things from the trip that really boiled down to a lazy cleaning crew. Jon and I realized that our pillows were not clean – mine had a 1/4″ drop of fresh, unwashed blood on it, and Jon’s had a sprouting of mold across it’s surface. The toilet had not been cleaned in a long time, and there was quite a bit of mold on the shower curtains.
We called the owner, who sent out a guy to do some cleaning. He did change my pillowcase, though he just left the dirty one there on the bed. He did some minor re-caulking of the master bathtub – and left the old caulking he peeled off sitting in the toilet…which he also did not clean. He didn’t even attempt to clean the shower curtain as he said they would replace them, and he needed authorization to do that. Good grief. Never renting that owners place again. You’ve been warned – steer clear of unit 702 at the Splash resort in PCB.
But, we can’t end on a low note, so our last awesome thing is:
6.) Thankfulness. I’m so glad we got the chance to do these things with our kids and share new experiences with them. It gave us a chance to just enjoy each other and get out of the 24-hour-news-cycle kind of days we experience in our normal home life. I hope some of the great memories stick with the kids: we saw dolphins jumping out of the water, manta rays right up in the surf, no more than five feet away from us, and we got a free fireworks show one night out on the beach, for no particular reason we could determine.
So, bottom line, we had a great vacation that we don’t take for granted.
Also, it was a real relief not to hear about Romney or Obama for three days. Just sayin’.