My Very First Real Vacation or How to Cook Yourself

No words are needed

No words are needed

In this story, (link), I wrote about getting engaged the second time, the last time.  It was just before the summer of 1978 and we had set a date for marriage in October.  I was working as an Assistant Manager at Taco Bell and had just begun my correspondence study.  Kim had not yet begun her LPN program where she had earned a scholarship.  The time was ripe for a vacation, our very first road trip.

As a kid, I had not ever really had a ‘real’ vacation where we actually went somewhere unique as a family.  Typically our vacations were spent in Vincennes, Indiana where my parents’ families lived, (and of course we kids had our pop bottles jingling in the car with us – story link).
Kim’s family, contrarily, had taken lots of vacations.  To me, they were like a rich family.  Truth be told though, they were just “normal”, average hard working middle class people who loved their kids and wanted to treat them to fun places.  In high school, Kim was a sun worshipper.  Her skin was just like her grandma’s, (Brown Mom), it didn’t burn, it tanned.  One of her favorite vacation spots was Florida – specifically, the beaches of Florida.
Kim was the one who suggested, (as any future wife would “suggest”), we take a Florida vacation together.  She had Clearwater Beach in mind, said she’d been there with her parents and loved it.  Clearwater Beach it is then.
There was no internet back then.  Everything was ‘old school’.  Think about it for a moment:
The infamous TripTik

The infamous TripTik

* No GPS or map apps on smartphones – all direction was planned out using good old foldout paper maps.  The best planning tool in this area was to contact AAA who would plan your route for you, giving you a trip planner, (“TRIPTIK”), that was a 5×10 spiral bound booklet.  Each page would present a high level pic of the travel route and would open up for more detail.  If you got lost while driving, you drove around in circles until your wife or girlfriend begged you to stop at a gas station for directions.
* No cell phones – if you needed to make a phone call along the route, there were plenty of public phone booths (Google it to see a pic if you don’t know what these are)
* No internet – reservations were made over a land line phone (ask your parents what these are).  If you wanted to know what there was to do or what businesses were in various vacation areas, you either found someone who’d been there recently, you spoke to the AAA travel agent or you did like we did – we found out when we got there.
Kim’s parents were AAA members though, so after we had determined our destination, Kim’s dad got us a TRIPTIK.  We decided to take a week off and to drive straight through.  Kim had her 8 cylinder Firebird and I had my 6 cylinder Camaro, (link), which got better gas mileage so we decided to drive it for our trip.  To this very day, if I hear Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, it always takes me back to Gulfview Blvd in Clearwater Beach, taking a corner in that Camaro.
Yup, us from 1978

Yup, us from 1978

We left late in the day at Kim’s direction as she wanted to arrive at a time when she’d be able to get most of the Florida beach sun.  We drove straight through without incident and arrived a little too early for our check-in at the Travelodge Inn on the beach.  We were able to get changed into our swimsuits and hit the beach.
Wow!….Florida sun – what is that, only a hundred meters from the sun?  I had spent a couple of summers laying out up at Hueston Woods with Kim and had actually turned a bit brown but nothing had prepared me for the sun in Florida.  Kim had tried to warn me, I distinctly remember her telling me that the Florida sun was going to be much hotter than Ohio’s and that I should wear a really big number skin protection lotion.  I wore none, went naked…and paid the price!
I spent one day, count ’em 1 day, in the sun.  The result?  Sun poisoning!  My sternum and my shins bore the worst results.  I looked like a map pointer, pointed northward, etched by aliens in a cornfield.  I felt horrible – nauseous and in terrible, tender pain.  Another lesson learned the hard way.
My Camaro and my balcony somewhere up there

My Camaro and my balcony somewhere up there

Well, I have plenty of study time now.  I had recently enrolled in the CDS, (Center for Degree Studies), program for my Associates degree in Accounting and had dragged along with me one of the big, thick binders they used to use to dole out the homework and practice testing.
The best I can describe the feeling of having sun poisoning would be to imagine that you are a vampire – any little bit of sunlight burns your skin.  I was a vampire before it became fashionable, not able to leave my hotel room until the sun went down.  Our hotel room was on the northern side of the building and had a balcony.  While Kim went down to the beach to bathe herself in the sun and ocean, I obediently sat out on our balcony studying, occasionally waving to my fiancé who was enjoying her own private beach vacation.  When the sun peaked its head around the corner and began touching my shins, I’d have to back into my room so that I didn’t end up like Claudia from Interview with a Vampire.
Poor Claudia

Poor Claudia

My skin went from blood red to dark brown to peeling like a snake in a period of a week.  I remember getting water blisters on my chest before the peeling began.  It peeled for a couple of weeks.  Nice vacation.  Hey, but On the bright side, I got a lot of studying done and was now well on my way to working towards my first degree.  I would be the first red accountant in Hamiltucky!
The vacation wasn’t a total loss for me.  At least we did make it over to Disney World and the evenings in Clearwater were good.  We walked and walked the night beach and the always-awake Gulfview Blvd, loaded with its bars, souvenir and tee shirt shops.  I was 20 years old, soon to be married and on my first real vacation.  My skin was miserable but most of my memories from that trip are good.  I was with my girl and we were out on our first road trip, away from the care of parents, trying to figure out how we would soon make it out in the world on our own.
From Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty:
When you wake up it’s a new morning
The sun is shining, it’s a new morning
You’re going, you’re going home

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