I forget if I warned my loyal readers that I would be disappearing for over a week as we traveled south for spring break. Facebook friends know the deal, and hopefully the rest of you figured it out on your own.
We are back, safe, tanned, and not entirely well-rested. I dropped the girls back at school about an hour ago and S. is off for a couple meetings. So I suppose I should get back in the swing of things, too, and share some details of our trip.
We returned to Captiva Island in Florida, where we spent spring break 2013. This time, though, rather than going alone and staying at the South Seas resort, we rented a large home with a significant chunk of S.’s family. Three of her sisters, who brought two husbands and two kids, and their dad and step-mom came from Indy and Denver.
Our home was right around the corner from the resort, so we were in a familiar spot. We had a pool and hot tub in the backyard and were just a quick walk away from the beach. For the most part, we had exceptional weather, unlike the cool spring of ’13. A little rain marred Monday afternoon, and then Friday was a complete washout as a big storm moved through after lunch that did not let up until the evening. But, as that was our last day, it gave everyone a chance to chill out a little and get an early start on having everything packed for early departures on Saturday.
It wasn’t quite as weird as two years ago, when it seemed like every time we turned around we saw someone either from Indianapolis or Kansas City, but there were still plenty of Midwesterners around. Last Saturday, on our second leg to Captiva, we stopped at lunch at the Siesta Key exit. We walked into a sandwich shop and a few moments later, a family of three came in, the high school-aged boy wearing a shirt from a Catholic high school in Indy. We asked if that was where he went, told the parents our girls were at St. P’s, and they laughed and said that’s where their son had gone to grade/middle school. Nine-hundred miles from home!
Then Tuesday night we were on the beach watching the sunset and the mother of one of C.’s grade-mates came over and said hello. Unfortunately C. got sick while we were in Florida and she stayed home that night, so she didn’t get to hang out with her friend while the parents shared a drink. Two years ago we ran into a couple St. P’s families at the resort, but this was a little more random because this family was actually staying on Sanibel. They had just come up because they said this is the best spot to watch sunsets.1
Our only real disappointment of the week was that we didn’t see a single dolphin. Two years ago they seemed to be everywhere, and one memorably “walked” along the beach with us for nearly half an hour, swimming as close as ten feet from the shore and staying with us as we walked over a mile. This year, nothing. Not even behind the dolphin cruise boats, which seemed to always have a pod of dolphins jumping through their wakes two years ago. I never heard an explanation for why they weren’t around this year. Maybe it was just bad luck. But we spent time on the beach every day, at different times, so it seemed odd.
Our drives were mostly uneventful. We drove through crazy-thick fog in the mountains of Tennessee on the way down. We laughed at the pimped-out county sheriff SUVs in Georgia that all had a label slapped on the back that said, “Purchased with money seized in drug raids.” I imagine there was some complaining by the locals that the sheriffs had big SUVs with tinted windows and custom wheels and these decals were an attempt to mute those criticisms.
I’ve now made three driving trips through the south. And each time I marvel at how southern drivers will just sit in the far left lane of 3-lane highways and not move even if there is a line of traffic behind them going faster. You can ride their bumpers, veer out to the left, flash your brights. Nothing works. I decided that drivers ed down there must involve a discussion that goes something like this, “Ya’ll jest need to find ya’llselves a lane where ya’ll feel comfortable and then spread out and stay there awhile. Don’t matter how fast ya’ll go. And don’t worry but no one else. They’ll go right around ya’ll.”
Late Friday evening, on the way down, there was a big accident on the north-bound side of I-75 that had all three lanes completely stopped and traffic backed up for miles. We came upon a car doing about 60 in the left lane. After a few moments we realized both the passenger AND THE DRIVER were holding their phones up and taking pictures of the stranded cars on the other side of the road. Idiots.
And we passed a woman in northern Florida going about 65 in the left lane who was putting her makeup on while veering around in her lane.
Keep in mind, most people were going 80-85 in the left lane when one of these yahoos wasn’t blocking traffic.
We stopped in Valdosta, GA for the evening on the way down. Saturday morning at breakfast we sat next to an older couple of snowbirds who were on their way back to St. Louis after three months in Florida. The moment my ass hit the seat, the man began asking me questions and telling me their story. They were really nice. As we were saying our goodbyes, he said, “Watch out for the old people going slow in the left lane!” and cackled. Which made me wonder, was he just really self-aware, or is he the rare old guy who puts the hammer down?
They also told us they had seen a 40-mile backup during their travels the previous day. We’ve heard about these crazy backups but had been lucky enough to never hit one that bad. Until Saturday on our way back. Between Macon and Atlanta, we hit a stretch that Google said would take us nearly two hours to travel under 30 miles. We did some quick map checking and got off of I-75 and used some state highways and get into Atlanta. Which then dumped us right into the eternal traffic-jam that is the ATL. We avoided the big bottleneck, but it still took us about three hours to go around 100 miles.
Between that nonsense, the time commitment, and the way these drives suck the life out of you, we decided our next spring break beach trip will involve planning further out and paying for airfare. We’ll have to pack more carefully, and airports are their own special kind of hell during spring break, but we can’t do the 20+ hours in a car thing again.
My nephew from Denver is five, and he and L. are like two peas in the proverbial pod. He’s really into singing, and one of his favorite current songs is “Uptown Funk.” We’d be walking to the beach and he’d be yelling, in his loud, little kid voice, “Up-town, funk you up. Uptown funk you up!” over and over. Once L. joined in, we got a few odd looks from people.
When we got off I-75 and tried the side roads, we came across something we had never seen nor heard of before: the Chik-Fil-A Dwarf House restaurants. I’m still not sure if these are just supposed to be charming, fairy tale-like attractions or if they’re actually aimed at little people. You never really know in the south.
Favorite billboard, seen in Georgia. One put up by the League of the South, an organization known for its progressive views on pretty much everything. The billboard had a simple message: #Secede
I love the hashtag attached to the ancient, tired, defeated-in-battle cause. Bringing the old to the new.
We laughed to ourselves when we heard it was snowing in Indianapolis during our first couple days on the beach. Despite knowing the spring is almost always reluctant to bloom in full in our part of the world, it was still disappointing to come home to temperatures in the 40s and the lawns not yet fully green and the trees still ugly and bare. There should be a switch that flips while away in warmer climes that makes your home at least look like spring when you return. I could handle a few more weeks where it stays cool if things were just green again, finally.
It was a fantastic trip. We were (mostly) smart with the sunscreen, so only some limited, minor burns for the pale Midwestern folks. Everyone was well-behaved. Other than one big storm, we had excellent weather. And everyone travelled safely.
Kickball practice begins today. Softball Wednesday. And soccer Thursday. And the summer swim team sent out the late April date for the informational meeting while we were away. We’re instantly in the spring crush. Summer will be here before you know it.
- They come to Sanibel every year, so I trust their judgement. ↩