Spring Break Biggie

It’s a Nephew Duty day so getting this out a little later than I planned.

OK, now for the trip itself.

First off, I must say, I can not recommend enough traveling on off-days during spring break. I believe we saved a little on the airfare by doing a Thur-Thur trip. More importantly, the airports were breezes to get through. Immigration in Mexico was a stupid easy; last year it took us nearly an hour to get processed. This year we got to the front of the line so quickly – less than 10 minutes – that we actually had to wave people past us when reached the front as we still had girls in the restroom. That’s the difference between two planes landing at the same time and 20 or whatever it was last year. Same on the way home: we switched planes in Dallas and, thus, had to get processed there. Even with us getting pulled to the “special” line – I assume because of S’s new passport – there was literally no one in front of us. We waited longer to drop our bags and get new boarding passes than we did to clear immigration and customs.

I had an interesting person sitting next to me on our flight from Charlotte to Cancun. She was a young, pretty biracial woman. Seriously, she had about the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.[1] She was very chatty at first and I did not mind because that meant I got to look at her eyes. She told me how excited she was for her trip. She had been to Cancun several times with girlfriends but this time was with a boyfriend – across the aisle – and was ready to PAR-TAY!!! M was sitting next to me and my new friend nodded at her and asked if it was just the two of us. I think she assumed M was my partner rather than my daughter, which was a little weird. Or a lot weird, actually.

I asked where she was from and she said, “Bowie.” That’s it. I’ve heard of Bowie, MD before, but since we were in North Carolina I didn’t want to assume.

“Where is that?”

“MARYLAND!”in a tone like everyone knew that. Silly me…

Later in the flight, when we were filling out our Mexican immigration forms, she asked for some help. She didn’t understand the difference between nation of residence and citizenship. Which, to be fair, can be tricky. Moments later, after finishing her form, she noticed the airline safety pamphlet in the seat pocket with the aircraft model on it: A321. She tapped my arm and said, “That’s not our flight number, is it? Because I put something else on my form.”

Mercy. Good for her that she had pretty eyes and people have probably always been looking out for her.

We stayed at the Dreams Sands resort. If you’re familiar with the geography of Cancun, it is located just after you make the turn at the top of the “7” of the strip. It ended up being a fantastic location. We were protected from waves and tides, so the water was gentle all day long. One morning L and I took a walk around the corner, to the long side of the 7. About three hotels away, when you make the turn south, there were consistent, decent-sized waves coming in and a clear high-tide line.

As I mentioned, our old neighbors and some church friends of theirs were staying at the same place. Both families have daughters M’s and C’s ages, which worked out well. L went back-and-forth between groups all week. Since we are a family of five, we had two rooms and let the older girls have sleepovers with friends in their room a couple nights. L slept with us every night, naturally.

The resort was nice. The beach was fantastic. Every morning my old neighbor and I would head to the beach around 7:00 to grab a group of chairs. We would both usually start reading then and continue until one wife or the other came down to go to breakfast. After we’d return, slather on the sunscreen, and hang out until late afternoon. It was real, real nice, Clark.

Our actual beach was rather narrow, maybe 100 feet deep. But the water was classic Cancun water: shallow for about 200–250 feet. I could easily walk 150 feet out before the water even reached above my waist. And it was all beautiful, white sand. In the water were no stingrays to worry about and hardly any fish.

After a couple nights we noticed there were no mosquitos or lizards anywhere. It was really weird. We wondered what kind of biological agent they had dropped on our area to wipe out the pests.

There were lots of birds, though. And there was a guy who, we think, worked for the resort who would patrol with a blowgun and shoot something at the birds to get them to fly away. Which was also weird because we only saw him twice all week and there were about a million birds. One day one of our friends left her lunch plate at her chair when she left to use the restroom. Within seconds there were seagulls everywhere getting after her leftover guac.

The food was decent all week. I think the buffet at the place we stayed at in Playa del Carmen last year was better. But the regular restaurants were better this year. There was a second buffet right on the beach where you could get snacks all day, which was nice. I made a habit of getting french fries and queso each afternoon. Most nights the adults sat at one table for dinner, the girls at another. A couple nights we even let the kids go to a different place than us.

One of the things included in our resort were the use of small Hobie Cat catamarans. I think max occupancy was six. You had to reserve them a day in advance, and then only had them for 30 minutes. But our group took them out at least 10 times over the week. We would sail out about 15 minutes, get pretty far off the coast, then turn and come back. The water was absolutely amazing. We would cross some deeper, darker water and then suddenly break into shallow, sandy water that looked like a tropical screen saver from the Windows ‘98 days. One of our friends showed L how to manage the catamaran and she got to sail us for a little bit, which she loved.

On Tuesday we took our one excursion for the week, a large catamaran trip to Isla Mujeres. S and I took a similar trip 18 years ago, although that was on a larger, public ferry ship and then we took a smaller snorkeling boat out to a reef.

This time we had maybe 30 people with us, including a group of about 10 college aged kids that seemed excited about liquor. We stopped at a sandy area on the way out where people could snorkel. I was going to try – I hadn’t snorkeled since our honeymoon in 2003 – but realized that since I wear glasses now, the mask they offered me wouldn’t fit over it. And I wouldn’t see a damn thing without glasses. So I stayed on board and had another beer. L tried it, but she got in the water, got a little overwhelmed, and came right back out. M and C loved it, though. It was a quick swim, maybe 10 minutes. And they weren’t on a reef so there wasn’t a lot to see. But they still had fun.

We went over to Isla Mujeres for a couple hours. S and I had gone there in 2001, but only had about 30 minutes and thus avoided the town. This time we wandered around the shops, interacting with the merchants. Most of them were funny and good natured. “Amigo! Tequila!” “Special price today only, 99% off!” One even lured one of our friend in by saying, “Lady, come in because, what the hell?” That was good enough for her.

The only thing we bought were three beers for less than $5. Seemed like a bargain.

While waiting for our return trip, we ate chips and salsa at the restaurant near our pier. There was a guy sitting near us who looked almost exactly like a guy I worked with in the dorm cafeteria nearly 30 years ago. That guy was from Peru, but I could not remember his name. And it just isn’t in my nature to bug strangers. “Excuse me, did you work in McCollum Hall from 1989–1991?” I figured he wouldn’t remember me, anyway, as he never did a double-take when he looked my way.

We were sailing home at sunset, which was nice. Nicer still since the families all congregated at the front of the catamaran and the college kids stayed below decks near the bar. The captain pulled L up to his perch and let her pilot the boat for awhile. Again, she was thrilled.

When we got off the boat one of the college kids came up to us and whispered, “Hey, we weren’t assholes, were we? We didn’t bother your family did we?” I thought that was solid.

Along those lines, our resort was filled mostly with families or adults. Not a lot of dumb, college spring break nonsense. We only saw one alcohol incident. One night while heading for dinner we noticed a woman in her early 20s who was being helped to a wheelchair, where she collapsed and then puked all over herself. A fine teaching moment for our teenagers. “See, this is what happens if you drink!”

We needed some souvenirs so a few of us walked about half a mile to a big tourist-trap shop Wednesday morning. M got a t-shirt, L got a hat. But what I will always remember of that shop is the tiny Mayan women who were working there. I swear two were shorter than L, who is not a tall kid. L would look at me with big, wide eyes each time one of these señoras passed her.

Many of our waiters had little jokes to help ease the language gap. They were always willing to pour you some tequila, and would often joke that the water was tequila. One night at dinner, after our waiter had called water tequila three times, I decided to go along with the joke. “Señor, dos más tequilas, por favor,” clearly pointing at our water glasses and laughing. So of course he comes back with two shots of tequila and no water. I guess if you’re dumb enough to say the magic word they will hook you up.

Our girls got along fairly well most of the week. There was some arguing over the bathroom, which is to be expected. There was some tension between the sister groups at times. But they did a good job.

Until our last night. That was going to be picture night. We planned on getting pics of every family at sunset. The girls went down early to take their own pics. S and I were almost out the door when C returned, in tears. Apparently she had become fed up with being told what to do by her big sister all week and bailed. S summoned M to our room and sent me down to dinner, so I missed 30–45 minutes filled with yelling and tears between our oldest girls. Which, you know, is going to happen when you’re away from home together for a week. But I was just pissed that we left the trip with zero family pics and our only pictures of all three girls came on the catamaran with bad hair.

Yes, I will be reminding them of this for years. Especially next year when we don’t have enough pics for our family calendar. Seriously, these girls take 8000 stupid pictures a day to keep all their dumb social media “streaks” going, but can’t suck it up for 10 minutes to take a picture with their family that we can use to remember this trip for years to come.

No, you’re bitter…

We avoided stomach issues this year, which was a big win. No throwing up at the pool because of bad shrimp (M) or throwing up in the middle of the night (C and L). We did have a few missed spots with sunscreen issues, though. One day I apparently forgot to do my face and just got roasted. Real smart.

The trip home was fine. We were delayed about 30 minutes getting out of Cancun. Then we were a couple hours late getting out of Dallas. But that gave us enough time to eat and be sure to get through immigration without having to sprint to our connecting flight. We laughed while eating our meal at DFW. When we were done the girls started to get up and leave. “Wait, we still have to pay!” A week of all-inclusive dining had ruined them.

A few other notes:
* Mexico has boring passport stamps. And they’re trying to process people so quickly that you can often only see part of the stamp. Doesn’t make flipping through your passport very fun.
* It was funny trying to search for things online from Mexico. Web results showed prices were in pesos, and if you searched for a store it would pull up the nearest Mexican location.
* The hotel elevators had little video screens that ran constant commercials for activities on site. The volume was always cranked up to about 15. We all still have one song stuck in our heads.
* Every calendar year I pack on a few pounds in the last quarter. I know I’m not alone in this. The change in weather, holidays with lots of treats, and extra drinks are a bad combination when you’re on the back side of 40. It doesn’t help that every year I eat approximately 800 mini cheese cake bites in the days after Christmas. My January 1 weight was higher than it’s been in awhile. But I worked hard and had lost seven pounds by spring break. My post-vacation weigh in showed that I gained five of them back. Time to get back at it…
* Finally, it was fun to arrive home, walk inside, and still notice some new house smell.

Other than the no picture thing, it was a successful spring break. When we got home M immediately started counting down the days until her eighth grade trip to Washington, DC and C and L started counting the remaining days of school. Spring sports games start tonight. And we have a summer trip already booked. It will get here quick.


  1. Not a euphemism.  ↩