Returning to a Simpler Vacation

Returning to a simpler vacation.

When I was a kid, my family took vacations. They weren’t usually extravagant, but they were loads of fun. Lots of those vacations involved amusement parks and beaches.

The beaches were almost always Gulf Coast beaches, because those were the closest to where we lived, and let’s face it, they are the prettiest. Argue if you want, but I know the truth…it’s hard to beat the powder-white sand and crystal-clear waters of the Gulf Coast. Sure, I’ve had fun on Atlantic beaches (lots of great memories on Maine beaches) and Pacific beaches, but the most beautiful beaches in the US? Gulf Coast. Sure, Caribbean beaches are incredible, but with air travel being a little iffy right now? Gulf Coast.

When I was growing up, we tended to visit the Gulf Coast beaches of the Florida Panhandle. Often, it was Panama City Beach…the most-developed beaches of the area. It was great fun. Back in the day, there was Miracle Strip Amusement Park…lots of great memories were made there. The rides were legendary: the Starliner rollercoaster; the Abominable Snowman; Dante’s Inferno; and lots of other midway-like rides. We loved it. Aside from Miracle Strip Amusement Park, there was also Shipwreck Island, a waterpark with a wave pool (a big deal in the 1980s) and waterslides that were so big they gave you wedgies. Great memories!

The beaches were beautiful. Restaurants and gift shops were plentiful. And often, our friends were there too, so we would run into someone we knew.

We also visited Destin and Fort Walton. A couple of times, we stayed in Seagrove Beach with family friends, and one year, our whole family…with all our aunts, uncles, and cousins, spent a few days in Mexico Beach, a quiet beach community in the Panhandle…we made some great memories on that trip. Mexico Beach is still a quieter village than most beach towns, and back then, there wasn’t an amusement park or arcade in sight. We spent time on the quiet beaches. We went scalloping in Port St. Joe. We sat around laughing and playing games. We made some great memories. In fact, we talked a lot about streaking, because the Ray Stevens song, The Streak, was popular at the time.

Even more funny is that we often traveled in a Volkswagen bus. My mother, for whatever reason, decided in the early 1970s that she wanted a VW bus, and she got one. Daddy thought it was funny that she wanted one, because Mother couldn’t even drive a car with a manual transmission. But you know what? She learned. He bought the VW, and he then taught her how to drive it.

After we got the VW, we took it on all our family vacations. Daddy used to laugh at the fact that we had two perfectly good air-conditioned cars sitting in the driveway, but we opted to drive that VW, sans A/C, on our crazy vacations. For whatever reason, vacations were just more fun in that vehicle. I’m not sure why my parents eventually decided to sell it…maybe it had something to do with the perpetual oil leak that no one could seem to repair. But it was fun while it lasted.

So, this summer, since flying is not an option till at least July for us, we’ll be reliving some of those vacations of my childhood. I’m taking my daughter to a Florida beach to hang out with her cousin who lives nearby. They’re about a year apart in age, and I’m hoping they’ll make some great memories just like I made there. Hopefully, I’ll get to spend some time with my cousins and my aunt too. We have friends from Ohio meeting us later in the visit, and maybe I’ll have the chance to show them some of the things I loved in that area when I was a kid. We won’t be staying in Panama City Beach. We’ll be staying in the resort area between there and Destin, and it’s a lot different than it was when I was a kid, so I’ll be figuring it all out too.

Later in the summer, we will visit the beaches in Alabama…also beautiful, white sand beaches, but I don’t often tell people about them, because those beaches are the best-kept secret in the country. My husband grew up on the Alabama beaches. We visited them when I was growing up too, but he practically lived there in the summer. We’ve been taking our daughter there for years, and we had our own place on the beach there several years ago, but we sold it, because I didn’t like feeling like we needed to go there. But now that our daughter is 16 and can drive, it will likely be a different experience for her. She has a friend who lives there too, and she will likely take a friend with her, so she will have lots of fun. I’ll likely get to see some friends from college (I’m talking to you, Suzan and Cupcake) and some friends from the Mobile area (where I lived before moving to Charlotte).

We do have a vacation to Puerto Rico planned for July…still holding out hope that it will happen. It looks like we won’t visit California this summer…the first time in years we won’t spend at least a week there in June. But we don’t want to go if restaurants and stores aren’t open. That’s a big part of the fun there. So that’s off the table…but Puerto Rico…we still have our fingers crossed on that one.

Other than Puerto Rico, though, it will be totally old school beach vacations for us. And that’s OK. No matter what, we will have fun. I’m actually looking forward to spending time in the car with my daughter…extra time to talk and see different things as we go. And we will get to enjoy more time with family just hanging out at the beach.

I sure wish we had an old school VW bus to drive.

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