We were headed out of Jackson with a mission of getting the heck to the beach fast by 8 a.m. We skipped Shoney’s breakfast buffet, which is not something we’d typically do when given the opportunity. And something that my brother I’m sure would think blasphemous. We didn’t tell him it was an option though so as far as he was concerned the eggs and sausage in chafing dishes in the hotel lobby meant that all was right with the world.
We do a lot of road tripping with our kids. I’ve been asked a lot what’s the trick. I learned a lot from the backseat as a child of avid road trippers. Make some loose plans and hotel reservations so you don’t feel stressed find a place to sleep. But I think the key is just being flexible. If you pass something that seems like something you must see, stop. If someone has to pee, turn it into an impromptu track and field event for the kids. Have a sing along. And make everything seem like the most exciting thing you have ever done, seen or eaten. The South makes that easy cause there is so much to do, eat and see. Mom and Keyton had carved out a route that wound more through small towns than breezed us to the beach on interstates. So we got to see farm stands, trees with Spanish moss hanging off the branches and it wasn’t too long before we could actually see ocean. Also a good tip is to make sure you take full advantage of Happy Hour — which is every hour when you are on vacation.
My Mom tried to buy a tall-boy at one gas station as a joke — the joke being that it was time for a beer after 4 hours in the car on the second full day of driving. However, it was Sunday … in Mississippi. Apparently they frown on such hedonistic behavior before noon on Sundays. The clerk yelled to Mom from across the truck stop that she could not buy beer. I’m still wondering if their lasting impression was that she was out of her mind to make chili on a day that it was 400 degrees outside as she suggested was the purpose of her failed heinous purchase or if it was just that she was a hedon.
By 11:15 we were nearing Mobile, Alabama. And since it was vacation we wanted to make sure we ate at least 6 times a day. So we pulled out our iPhones to do a little Mobile (no pun intended, but that was a good one) dining research and decided on Felix’s based on the shrimp and grits menu option. Keyton said a friend of his actually had recommended that place. That’s the way he rolls. I think he likes to let us think that we picked a place, but really he already knows. So to be nice he just doesn’t mention it until we’ve already scoured the entire Internet for information on the best place to go. He just likes to make us feel involved in the decisions. As soon as we saw it though we knew it was a good choice no matter how we arrived at it. It looks like an old rickety fish camp with rusted metal all over the place and fish net and drift wood strewn about the walls.
We arrived promptly at 11:30 and it was perfect timing as the Southern Sunday church crowd came in droves behind us further proving that we’d hit the jackpot. People in their Sunday best waited all over the bar where they’d found us a table for 10 on a day full of reservations in the main dining room. And this is where the first oysters of our beach vacation were consumed. It went down something like this.
Erin: Gut wrenching grimace. (She announced a couple of days prior to our vacation departure that she’d be giving birth to a new member of our road tripping family shortly after the new year.)
Mario: It’s OK. I won’t eat any.
Erin: No. It’s OK. Eat some.
Lindsey to self: Shut up, Erin.
Erin: Really just EAT THEM!
Mario: Are you sure?
Lindsey to self: NO!!!!!
Mario: I just want to be supportive.
Hug. Hug. Kiss. Kiss. Gag me AND I have to share the damn oysters with my supportive brother-in-law. What a jerk!
But never to fear. There were plenty of menu items that did not have warning labels next to them for people who might be pregnant or have a weakened immune system. Erin got fried green tomatoes with crab cakes on them. And yes they were as good as that sounds. Mom got shrimp and grits. Keyton got a shrimp po boy. Jay got fish tacos. It was a definite win.
The restaurant sits right on Mobile Bay so the kids could go look over the ledge at the water and even saw an alligator while we waited for our food. There was also the USS Alabama out there to look at. And a guy with a guitar played in the bar where were sitting so the kids got to jump around and be crazy a little too.
We got back in that 12 passenger van that was getting close to looking post-apocalyptic and headed south to drive along the ocean for the final 3ish-hour stretch of road. It wasn’t too long before we crossed the Florida state line. We were constantly in and out of small beach towns with tons to look at, crossing bridges where we could watch for dolphins and dreaming about living in this house or that. And then we were there.
The white sandy beaches before us as far as we could see in two directions and the blue ocean laid out in the middle. You could taste salt on your face and feel ocean air on your skin. And everything was right with the world. Bob was so overcome by it she fell to the ground and started rolling in the sand. It was all we had to do and the only place to be for 4 days.
NOTE: Some conversations in the above post were exaggerated for pure entertainment value. Anything that seems to be an exact quote is purely coincidental.