Monday, October 28, 2013

The Beach

     If I had to choose a home away from home it would easily be Perdido Key, FL. When it comes to childhood memories of summer, if my mind doesn't land on Camp McDowell the only other alternative is the Gulf Coast. Every summer of my childhood, we took a trip to the beach that included all of our small family: my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and my cousins. Over the years there was not much of this area that we did not explore. I became familiar with the ins and outs of this beach city and the ones surrounding it. 
     Before we discovered the beaches of Perdido Key and the quaint surrounding community, we vacationed at the Gulf State Park. I remember them less clearly but in my head they were more or less hotel rooms with a great view. There was also a poolside snack bar that had great nachos. Unfortunately these structures were largely destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and torn down.
     I don't know exactly when it happened but at some point my folks decided to buy a beach property and the vacations moved to a building of condos called Ocean Breeze West. These were much nicer accommodations and much less crowded than our previous locale. Our unit was formerly the leasing and sales office, ground floor with an excellent view and easy access to the sand and surf. In a word, it was paradise.
     Over the years, I watched businesses come and go. One year a store front would sell us stunt kites and the next we'd be enjoying pizza coming out of the same door. There was a group of retail shops down the street called Colors named for the loud, tropical paint schemes on the buildings. At times we would get beach towels or inflatables from stores there or play mini golf. It always seemed to struggle. Ivan was the last nail in the coffin, though someone rebuilt on the property and it seems to be doing well.
     I could do a huge series of posts about my coastal favorites and all the things and places I love about this area but I will spare you and get to the point. A couple weeks back we had our first family beach trip to Perdido Key to give the next generation some memories of their own. Off season beach trips are much more comfortable, affordable and everything is less crowded. No lines and no waiting is important when you have hungry or excited young children.
     The surf was rough at times but the water was still warm enough to swim. Over the course of our stay we built sand castles, flew kites, walked casually and collected shells, ate great seafood and took the girls to see some of the attractions. No trip would be complete without stops at staples like Lambert's, Souvenir City and Adventure island. On the last day the temperature took a dive so we enjoyed the views and sounds from the couch with the sliding glass door open.
     As always, leaving is difficult but we managed to jam a lot into our stay. Packing the car, I could feel the occasional sting of sand blown through the air and smell the salt water just yards away. Driving out, we crossed the bridge that connects the island to the rest of the world and took in our last views of the gulf. Hopefully this is the start of a tradition that will continue for years to come. One of the greatest gifts I can give my children is the joy of memories and experience that my parents gave me. These were some of the best times of my life, times I will never forget. Hopefully one day, my girls will see the sand and feel exactly the same way.


  1. Great post! My story is similar, but in the mountains of the Great Smoky Mountain Nat. Park. Lots of great memories there and I STILL love to visit.

  2. Most folks I know have a favorite home away from home or vacation spot. I am always interested to hear what they are and the stories behind them.