Holiday Road Panama City Edition
Whether you are well to do, or robbing Peter to pay Paul, if you’re a true Southerner there is only 1 summer vacation destination you consider. I’m talking about Panama City Beach, people. Redneck paradise. I’m writing this blog poolside from PCB. 4 adults, 10 children. AAAhhh the memories. Let me break it down for you.
From Carrolton to Eufaula it is singing and dancing from the waste up. The window is down and the radio is up blasting the top 200 good songs on the play list. You ain’t never heard a white women rap like I can when I’m in the car. It’s amazing. By the time we hit Dothan boredom sets in. “I gotta pee.” “She touched me.” “How much longer?” “I’m hot.” “His armpits stink.” “Get off me.” I’m beginning to scrape the bottom of the playlist with Jon Secada. It’s getting rough. And stinky. 13 year old boys are stinky y’all. We stop and get gas and Slim Jims and Mountain Dew at a convenient store that has alligators in a pond in the back. We pass 48 peach stands, 57 hot boiled stands, and now they are selling Emu oil in stands. Emu. It’s an ostrich looking thing, I think. I don’t know if they milk the darn thing for oil or what. I don’t want to know. I’m not putting bird oil on anything I got. I do not stop for Emu oil. Then we finally see it. The big bridge. The kids are screaming, the music goes back up and I almost shed a tear. We have made it.
There’s just not a lot of places like Thomas Drive. There is a whole bunch of people in swim suits riding mopeds. It’s awkward but totally acceptable. I had this crazy memory come flooding back as we drove down the strip. When I was a kid I came to PCB regularly with my family. My parents were in ministry so our family vacation was usually spent with the folks they were in ministry with. A Christian Night club opened on the strip. Let me repeat that. Christian night club. It was called “The Ark” and it was shaped like a little boat. This didn’t do a whole lot for the cool factor. I was maybe 10 years old and I had a blonde mullet when we busted in there, and I remember feeling like a hard core biker or something. You know, because I was a baptist kid in a “night club.” There were about 10 people sitting around looking at the dance floor that was completely empty. That’s when I learned drinking was the whole point of night clubs and maybe Christian clubbing wasn’t going to take off. Outside of the out of business Christian night club boat, the strip has about 50 head shops where you can buy a water bong and a ink pen with a naked woman on it.
There are staple things that Southerners do in Panama, like eat at Angelo’s and have your families picture made in front of a ginormous bull private and put it on Facebook. I have no idea why we are compelled to do such a thing but I can’t imagine not. You eat at Pineaple Willy’s and buy a tshirt. The tshirt is imperative as proof to all your friends at home that you were actually there. You play put-put golf. You ride go-carts. You buy your kids airbrush shirts, hermit crabs, boogie boards, and seashell necklaces. You have a piece of your daughter’s hair wrapped in colorful yarn. You get lost in a wooden maze in blazing desert like heat. You rub diaper rash cream on your kids nipples because they are so raw from boogie boarding. It’s all part of the experience.
On the big family vacations there is usually a Nana. Nana has probably paid for the condo or house and most of the groceries. She spends her week making sandwiches, washing clothes, keeping the beach towels picked up and dry, and sweeping sand off the floor. You may catch her in 5 minute snatches of relaxation, reading a Nora Roberts book. She may or may not even get on the beach. She’s to busy taking care of her children, even though they are grown. When I was younger I felt really sorry for the Nana’s in my life because it seemed like to me that wasn’t much of a vacation. Now that I have children of my own I get it. Nana ain’t in Panama City for a tan. She is there to take care of and love on her sandy, salty, sticky, babies and grand babies. She may never verbalize this, but what I’m telling you is true.
Panama City Beach time is slow. You have time to get bored. It’s time to literally lie around and talk and catch up on all the stuff you have missed in the craziness of life. It’s cousin time, which means laughing time and fighting time. It’s no makeup and sandy bare feet and cut offs and tshirts. It’s a time when even the kids realize they are growing fast. “Whoa!! You have got tons of armpit hair!” It is memory making time and if you will excuse me, I am off to do just that.