On the beach, part two

Call this episode “Day One”.

It’s important when you’re spending a week on the beach to set the scene. We set up the tent on Saturday and spent some time admiring the water, but Sunday was the real first day.

I got up at the early hour of nine. Note that we’re in Central time, so it was more like 10. Don woke up early, as he always does. He might have been on his second pot of coffee. It was time to get ready. We packed Don’s giant cooler with ice, beer, and not much else. The wives were going to the grocery store.

What does one bring to the beach? I had a towel, a book (Zach’s beach reading book reviews will come later in the week), sunscreen, my iPod in a zip-loc container, and one of the room keycards that sported an ad for Dominos.

We went down. It was time to erect the tent. In Year One of our beach trip all we had for shade was my Titans umbrella. It didn’t offer much salvation from the sun. Don, ever the competitive one, bought a replacement. We put up the canvas, spread out the tent and pulled up the legs at each corner. The one and only Chicago Bears tent in the state of Alabama was up, with the “C” logo facing our room. We unfolded our chairs and cracked the first beer of the day.

Normally I’m a beer snob. When you’re on the beach and likely to drink half a dozen before “cocktail hour”, you go with the Lite stuff. We assumed the positions. Don sat on his chair and alternated between his iPod and crossword puzzles. I read my book and sometimes listened to podcasts on my iPod. Who needs conversation on the beach?

I ventured out after a while to do something Don called “seeing the turtles”. That meant one of us had to go to the bathroom. On the first day of our trip, we saw a yellow flag. That meant the water was somewhat choppy. The waves topped out at three feet. It was not what you’d call rough. The water itself is a constant shade of dark green. The gulf was free of debris but you weren’t able to see to the bottom. The opening shelf, before you really got in the water, was full of shells. I walked out maybe twenty yards into the gulf. Problem was, I had to go out another thirty or so to get to waist-level water. That was my introduction to the beach. Something underwater grabbed at my foot, but other than that, nature did not interfere.

Later in the day I decided to bring out one of my Titans floaties that my mom bought for me a while back. It was circular with a hole in the middle about a foot in diameter. I spent a good 15 minutes on our opening day blowing the two items up. I wasn’t sure that I’d fit in this device.

It was sunny so I kept my sunglasses on. Ideally I’d get out deep enough in the water, flop my butt into the hole and relax for a spell. I could have used a drink holder. I got into the proper spot, pushed the inflatable down, and jumped. I bounced off the edge. My glasses fell off. Miraculously, they sunk right to where my foot was. I didn’t bring my sunglasses into the water again. Later in the week I found that I fit, albeit barely.

Day 1 is the most likely day to get sunburned. We found that out when we went back to the room for cocktail hour. Don hadn’t applied sunscreen at all and was medium rare. I had applied sunscreen, although not as often as I should. I had the trademark Zachy splotchy burn. If I miss a spot, it looks like a modern art masterpiece. Half of my right forearm, an area from the middle of my right bicep to my shoulder, and both legs from mid-thigh to just below the knee were red.

We weren’t allowed to slow down. My wife made blender drinks. From the first year of our trip, she has been in charge of the cocktail hour. It’s either rum or vodka and a can of those frozen drink mixes. We had strawberry. They were very good and in no way slowed me down from drinking a few Abita Strawberries later in the evening.

Near the bridge to the beach is the cooking station. There are four charcoal grills. The property is well maintained, and the grills are usually cleaned every day. The grill we chose was clear of charcoal but had a little water. We had our lighter-fluid free charcoal but no lighter. We borrowed a lighter and ripped off pieces of paper from the charcoal bag to start the fire. I’m a landlubber so I had chicken. We had grouper in foil. The ladies were boiling the “royal red” shrimp upstairs. Don was not happy with the fire. Later he purchased additional charcoal and lighter fluid. Even though I had a brand-new grill set with the coolest spatula ever, Don preferred to flip the chicken manually. I kid you not.

Why is it the coolest spatula ever? It has a beer opener. That’s the only reason. Don thought it was cool as well. The ladies were less impressed.

We had our feast upstairs and drank a few more. It was maybe ten in the evening when we went to bed. Our master bedroom featured a king-sized bed, a flat-screen TV with DVD player, a bathtub with jacuzzi jets, and a stand-up shower. One downfall of the bed was that it was impossible to get all of the sand out, and every time I rolled over I got some on my burned legs and arm.

That’s my report from day one. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Drinking is a given.

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