SUNDAY
Twelve hours is an uncomfortable length of time to spend in a car, even with someone you love.
I can’t pinpoint the exact day Bessie first dropped the B-word, but it had to come at some point during the most brutal winter in the history of Indiana–at least the worst since 2004 or so.
“I want to go to the beach,” she said, and doting husband that I am, I made it my life’s purpose to make it so.
OK, let me be clear–Bessie was the one doing most of the legwork when it came to deciding when and where to go for our first vacation in a good long while.
It’s not like we hadn’t had getaways, of course. But there’s a difference between getting away for a weekend, or going to visit family, when compared to a real vacation. Just the two of us, staying somewhere we’ve never been.
With a tight budget, flying was not an option. Neither of us wanted to drive all the way to Florida, but we wanted something on the Gulf.
Hence, Orange Beach, Alabama.
As vacation time got closer, we crunched the numbers, compared hotels to condos for rent and settled on a little efficiency for rent in a condo complex right on the beach.
Well, not right on the beach; that would be poor design and lead to some sort of building collapse. You can’t build on sand, guy.
So, condo rented, beachwear bought and packed, a week off from work. All that was left to do was get there.
Oh my Lord, what a chore it was to get there.

We left just after 4 a.m. on Sunday, knowing that we were looking at 11 1/2 to 12 hours, depending on traffic. The idea being, of course, that we could get to Orange Beach early enough to actually see the beach our first night there while getting to bed early enough to make our super-early wakeup time worth it.
I’ve never been the type who can sleep in a car. I think it’s a control thing, because of course I can save us from the passenger seat if quick reactions are necessary to avoid a potential accident.
But there’s something about waking up at 3:30 in the morning, washing down the vitamins, taking care of any last minute, um, duties, and riding down the interstate at 80 or 90 mph that puts one at ease enough to nod off. Two or three times.
(OK, maybe Bessie wasn’t driving that fast. How would I know? I was asleep.)
Anyway, I woke up enough to play navigator for what we expected to be our first boondoggle–construction on I-65 at Louisville. There had been plenty of warnings about lane closures and traffic jams and whatnot–another reason we chose to leave when we did.
Something you learn going through Louisville, Kentucky, at 6 in the morning: there are very few other people out there to avoid. SPOILER: That isn’t the case on a Friday afternoon.
So let’s jump ahead a bit, glossing over our trip through Kentucky and Tennessee. After all, Alabama took something like 12 days to drive through.
OK, maybe not that long. But there is a notable lack of exits along I-65 once you get past Montgomery. And once we left the interstate, the road kept going. And going. And going.
This is where my wonderfulness comes into play. We were alternating drivers, and Bessie was in the driver’s seat for this final stretch, which meant I was looking at the atlas to see just how close we were. “We’re almost there, dear” became a mantra of sorts.
When we stopped at the agent’s office to pick up the keys to the condo, we got a pep talk. “You really are almost there, guys.” And once we finally saw the ocean, our spirits were lifted … at least enough for the final few miles.

By the time we had unpacked the car, we were both on the verge of exhaustion. But there were two things left to do: food and a trip to the beach itself.
The nice thing about renting a condo on the beach is that, well, you’re on the beach. Duh, right? So after finally finding a pizza place to deliver–even though it wasn’t the one recommended to us. I mean, seriously, does every pizza place have to have Pappa in the name?–we went down to the beach to watch the sun set.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Absolutely. Now let’s call it a day.”
A long, long day.

STILL TO COME: Rain, rain go away.