Thursday, March 31, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Breaking at the beach

Pam and I followed up the trip to Washington, D.C. for the Government Affairs Conference with a family vacation to Orange Beach, Ala., during spring break.

Pam and the kids left Sunday morning (after Pam and I got back from Washington on Saturday night). I stayed in Holly Springs through Monday night to do my part in getting the week’s newspaper to press.

A particular three-floor structure of condominiums called Sugar Beach has become a regular get-away spot for us. I guess we first started visiting there about seven or eight years ago. It’s quiet, mostly retirees, with security.

This was our first trip since Hurricane Ivan struck last September, and we knew when we made reservations that things were far from being “back to normal.”

The devastation is still there – many beach homes destroyed, restaurant/souvenir shops/hotels and other businesses closed because of heavy damage. We rode several miles along the beach, checking out the destruction and the rebuilding progress.

Construction crews were everywhere – including our vacation place of residence. Some are repairing their houses and businesses. Others are tearing what’s left of the old ones down and totally rebuilding.

The stay was almost as relaxing as ever. We didn’t have swimming pools at the condo. The back wooden deck and the pool area were completely gone.

Our walk out back to the beach wasn’t a typical walk. We had to take a route around the construction folks. But it was no big hassle.

The beach was just fine. We pretty much had it all to ourselves.

The weather just didn’t cooperate. Most of the week it was cool, windy and rainy. We saw little sunshine until Friday – the day before we drove home.

One of our favorite pastimes is looking for the best shells. They were plentiful, and as usual, we brought several back for our collection.

We went out a couple of times at night but didn’t stay long because of the weather.

The seafood-to-go place across from our condo was back in business – thank goodness, and we made our first trip to Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores. It was perhaps our best dining experience ever in the beach area.

Pam and I shared a basket of seafood – which included shrimp, crab claws, grouper and oysters. And the entertainment was wonderful. The entire family had a great time.

We brought back three new hermit crabs, which also has become a beach trip tradition.

We almost came back with a puppy from a pet shop, but its price tag was $699, so I nixed that additional pet.

The only souvenir I came back with was a little pirate man made out of a coconut. They had an entire collection of them at our favorite souvenir shop (which you enter through the mouth of a shark). Maybe I can start a collection.

Erin picked out a small shark that squeaks loudly when it is squeezed. Needless to say, we got a bit tired of that noise.

On the trip home we stopped in Laurel, where we resided for two years, and visited with good friends.

One thing we do while traveling, that helps pass the time, is keep up with how many car tags we see from other states. On this trip, I think Pam and the children spotted 29. They also kept up with tags from different Mississippi counties and saw 34 of those.

The relaxation was nice, but after four days in Washington and five at the beach, I was glad to get back to Holly Springs.

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