It had been nigh on two decades since the eldest of our clan (yeah, me) had set foot in salty water. The youngest, the grand-saw and adorably doted upon Tot (a.k.a. Gabe) had never seen the ocean. Lil’ Red (a.k.a. the spouse) fell somewhere in between. So needless to say anticipation for a forgotten, new and refreshed adventure mounted as we hit the open road to seaside adventure.

Have you ever noticed that when you take a road trip, that on the way there everyone’s super-crazy excited? The car is filled with endless chatter of what you’ll do when you get to where you’re going. Everybody happily sings along with all the familiar songs you pre-recorded for the trip. Yet with all this time passing activity, it seems to take a small eternity to get there. Yay—Waffle House—a must stop on any road trip!

Beyond greasy burgers, chocolate chip waffles and a one-night stand at an overpriced hotel, we arrived at our first “beach” destination, Ripley’s Aquarium. Initially the Tot was befuddled and kept asking (as he had… every day… for the past month), “When are we going to the beach?” One trip through the shark tunnel set his mind at ease. Sharks…one cannot fathom the mysterious unrequited love and fascination of all 6 year-olds for these dead eyed denizens of the deep. After that, his interest in aquatic life spiked and we had to go through all the exhibits multiple  times. However, once Red had finally seen her elusive sea turtle on our 3rd or 4th (I lost count) trip through the tunnel, we were done. “Can we go to the beach now?” We bid farewell to the man made undersea kingdom and began the final leg of our journey.

Along the way, I pulled into a parking lot with beach access. Red opted to stay in the car, but I bid the toddler to come with me. We made our way hand in hand up the boardwalk, onto the sand and I watched his eyes grow wide with wonder at the sheer enormity of it all. It touches my dark heart to know that his first glimpse of the ocean was by my side. It is a memory I will forever cherish and hope that he will hold onto in his young mind.

Sentimentality aside, we finally arrived at our little beach side getaway. Now all that was left to do was to enjoy some quality family time and a little R&R…after, of course, we hauled all our gear 50 feet straight up. Our affordable condo had no elevator and placed us approximately four stories from the beach (and there’s this week’s clever play-on-words title). By the time we got up and unpacked, the desire to go back down wasn’t there. But a wiry excited kid had already dug out his bathing suit and so down we went.

Needless to say this vacation had quite a few ups and downs…literally.

For the next few days we enjoyed all the beach had to offer. Initially the Tot was obsessed with going to the pool. We found ourselves repeating time and time again that he could visit a pool anytime and that we had come for the ocean. By the second day his interest in being pool side waned and he opted for the ocean. At first I thought the constantly drunk Virginians and their overly boisterous brats who monopolized the pool had something to do with that. As it turned out he had found the love of the ocean shared by his grandfather.

Lil’ Red showed him how to wave jump and watch for the “fun waves” that would gently lift you off the sea floor. I taught him how to body surf and we rode the waves in, laughing side by side. He gained an understanding and respect for the undertow, how to avoid it and how it’s best not to fight the ocean (you will forever lose) and just go with the flow.

Mornings and afternoons were spent beachcombing. Though keeping him out of the surf long enough to find shells was impossible and that was just fine.

Away from the sand and surf there was the classic sea side arcade where we spent the afternoons. Hooray! You hit the jackpot! 300 tickets on your first try! Now, let’s test your little boy’s patience waiting for the machine to spit out all 300 of them. The jump zone was also entertaining, he’d never jumped 20 feet high before. And of course there were all the beach burgers, pizza and ice cream you could eat…and he did. Although Red did insist that one night we dine at a nice “sit-down” restaurant. Now the kid has developed a taste for calamari and keeps asking when we can go for seafood again.

All in all, it was a pretty good trip. The little fellow had lots of new and wonderfully fun experiences. Red got to look super cute on the beach and eat seafood by the sea. As for myself, all my pleasure was derived from the smiles on their faces…that and I found a vintage comic shop and scored a handful of classic Heavy Metal fantasy mags. Yes, we all had a great time…but all good things must come to an end.

Have you ever noticed that when you take a road trip, that on the way back everyone seems exhausted and borderline depressed? The car is filled with numb discussions of what you’ll have to do when you get home. After a few miles the pre-recorded tunes play for an audience of one as everyone, but the driver, passes out. Yet with all this drag-assed negativity, the ride back passes in no time at all? Out on the open road you feel almost desperate. If only there were some way to make the trip last just a little bit longer. Yay—Waffle House—a must stop on any road trip!

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Hope to hear from ya, until then try and stay focused. See ya!