By far one of the best things we did when our daughters were growing up was visit the beach; it was essentially an annual ritual when the girls were young.  We often went with another couple who had a daughter the same age as Katie.  Robin and the male friend were classmates in school so we had a string friendship already.  One of the rituals of our beach trips was sculpting a large sand display- not a castle, however.  I wasn’t creative enough to build a castle, plus I think the Gulf beaches’ powdery white sand was the wrong building material for a castle.  We made animals.  I can remember making a turtle, an octopus, maybe an alligator.  We made a mermaid and maybe a sand-woman lying on the beach.  The girls did most of the heavy work hauling pail after pail of wet packable sand but it was a family project.  Once we had a big pile of sand we’d go to work on our agreed-to work of art. 

Our normal destination for these trips was Orange Beach or Gulf Shores, Alabama and another ritual of the trip was multiple visits to Sea-n-Suds, a local seafood restaurant built on poles over the Gulf waters below.  More often than not we ate fried blue crab claws, and they were delicious.  If you went for lunch you could get out of the hot sun for a while, avoid the huge dinner crowds and watch others frolic on the beach while enjoying your meal. 

Although I’ve tried to block two experiences from my memory, I have been unsuccessful.  We often took the kids to an amusement park in Gulf Shores and on one particular visit Katie wanted to ride the Sky Coaster.  On this ride you are strapped into the equivalent of the rock strap of a sling shot.  Then you are winched up backwards until the people below look like ants.  The operators count down “3…2…1…fly” and you (I) pull a rip cord that begins a free- fall down, down, down; then up, up, up the other side.  After that you just swing back and forth until the pendulum stops.  The other adventure was parasailing behind a boat driven by what appeared to be young teens.  These seem like enjoyable things to do EXCEPT I’m afraid of heights.  So, for these two adventures I plead temporary insanity and I’m so thankful Rachel never asked me to ride the Sky Coaster with her.  I will point out that Robin and the girls have parasailed together and they really had a great time but for me- I think I’m “one and done.”

Once the kids were gone Robin and I continued our beach trips when we could, but not every year.  We switched destinations to Pensacola Beach, Fl.  Our fried crab claw obsession is satisfied by Peg Leg Pete’s in Pensacola and the beaches in the Gulf Islands National Seashore are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen; particularly towards Ft. Pickens. 

I have so many great memories of being at the beach; napping in my chair, walking on the beach at night watching the sand crabs scamper in front of you, looking for figures in the white fluffy clouds, playing cards with Robin, watching the sun set over the gulf waters…

As comedian Ron White quotes his dog, Sluggo, “It’s going to be good day Tater.”  And the bumper sticker pretty well sums it up: “A bad day at the beach is better than a good day at the office.”

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