30A: 2015 Oops Edition.

We were getting ready to go on our annual family vacation when I remembered that I never ever finished LAST YEAR’S annual vacation blog post. We’ve even been to 30A again since this unpublished post occurred, but no matter. I dug it out of drafts to publish as a comparison to this year’s trip. Because why not? It’s my blog and I can publish a year late if I want to. So first I’ll share last year, and my next post will have pictures of this year’s trip.

30A. The phrase (can you call it a phrase?) started showing up on bumper stickers all over Birmingham a few years ago. At first I had no idea what it meant. Slowly, I began to form an idea that it had something to do with Florida beaches…near Seaside…maybe?

I was no expert. I don’t go to Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches very often – I either go to Alabama’s gulf coast beaches or Atlantic beaches. I’m pretty sure this has to do with my subconscious anger at Florida in their beach hogging tendencies. I mean, how many coastline miles did they already have? And they had to swipe the coastline in front of Alabama?

But I digress.

I may not ever forgive Florida for stealing the bulk of our beaches, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still appreciate those sandy shores {that should be ours} every now and then.

When we started this annual tradition, there were no Grandkids – just a bunch of boring adults. Now, we have a full set that look forward to these trips more than perhaps even the grownups do.

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This year for our family vacation, we headed to 30A. This was our eleventh annual family vacation, funded by not giving each other Christmas, Birthday, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day presents. It’s a pretty fantastic deal, not having to pick out small kitchen appliances that each other won’t use anyway.

I was pretty excited to see what this magical place worthy of bumper stickers was all about. I’ve never even been to Panama City (I know right?), so our trip to the beach was a completely new set of small Alabama highways for me to experience. I missed all sorts of fabulous photo ops, such as a field of cows with each one surrounded by its own set of long-necked birds (I suppose they have a symbiotic relationship where the cow attracts bugs and the birds eat the bugs?), and a cotton field with massive cotton picking machines baling up cotton.

But I did manage to catch a few.

Such as this sign. I mean – have you seen Plar Poop that cheap since 1989? I haven’t.

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We were bewildered by what that sign could possibly mean, until we found this one.

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Those tricksters. Switching letters around at the local Kangaroo must be as much fun as cow-tipping.

We traveled through Opp, Alabama for the first time in my life – all I’d ever heard about Opp was their famous Rattlesnake Races. No one ever mentioned Betty’s flamboyant reputation.

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And then there was the restaurant, taking advantage of everyone’s indecisiveness and capitalizing on that mess.

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“Where ya wanna eat supper, honey?”

“It don’t matter.”

“Okay then. We’ll go there.”

And then, as we got closer to the coast, we found the place that must have inspired the character of Bubba in Forrest Gump.

BDB29EEF-802D-45B9-B3EB-57954D078E50“We got Shrimp Stew, Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Sandwiches, Shrimp Snow Cones…”

But aside from the rural treats pictured above, we found some really spectacular sights on the way down there, too – such as an Alabama State Park that I had never heard of – Florala State Park.

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(Which is now Florala City Park, thanks to our state’s politician’s State Park budget cuts.)

We also saw plenty of gorgeous cotton fields, just begging me to get out and photograph them (and maybe pick just one piece of cotton. For the children’s education and all.)

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We arrived at 30A and some settled in quicker than others.

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Try carrying luggage past this. It works really great.

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I have a beach quirk: I HAVE to go out to the beach the first day we arrive, no matter how late, and I DESPISE going out on the beach the day we’re leaving, because it’s depressing.

So as soon as we got our bags out of the car, I headed to the beach with the kids while Chris did the grocery shopping.

(He has a quirk that he loves doing a gigantic grocery shopping trip at the beach.)

(I think his quirk is way quirkier.)

As soon as I reached the beach, I realized why people adored 30A the way they do. The water was Turquoise. I had never seen water outside of pictures that beautiful.

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The kids and I stayed out until sunset, loving the beautiful water and sand.

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Each morning, my parents made their traditional breakfast of EVERYTHING,

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And each evening, I made the traditional trek out to the beach for sunset.

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…and moonrise, since they conveniently go together.

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Chris and I took advantage of the long, flat running path to grab my longest run ever – 17 miles.

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Because that’s relaxing, right?

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And the kids, of course, found all sorts of ways to entertain themselves at the beach.

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9EDD5890-ECE1-4022-9E91-221AE09F564FA188414D-2668-41B6-993C-1D31C5B5DCA1…Until it was discovered that the water was full of jellyfish. At which point they panicked.

…Until the ever-present brave young male beach stranger came up and announced “The Jellyfish don’t sting!! See??”

It took us a few rounds of watching him hold jellyfish to believe him, but sure enough, they did not sting. And so I got to hold a jellyfish in the palm of my hand – not exactly a lifelong dream, but an experience nonetheless.

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The neighborhoods of 30A are also fantastic to explore – shops and streets and fountains at which to pose for beautiful photography.

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Every house has a porch swing and cozy windows to relax on,

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Giving one a chance to be charming to one’s mother,

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After having a complete screaming breakdown that morning about getting stuck in one’s own backwards clothing.

FullSizeRender 7Of course I rescued him. AFTER I took a picture. Or ten.

At the end of the trip, there was a giant cousin group hug, that turned into a giant group noogie, as all cousin hugs are supposed to end.

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It helps with the whole family bonding thing, after all. As do annual vacations.

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