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The Redneck Riviera '92

Growing up, my family would take two vacations to the same two locations every year since I can remember. But in the summer of 1992, we went somewhere different. A place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano, a magical place called... Panama City Beach, Florida or as it's called to most people, "The Redneck Riviera". You would think most of my memories of vacation would revolve around where I've been every year of my young life, but no, whenever I think of traveling or vacation I think of this underwhelming random one trip stand. 

Most vacations we would leave our house at the completely logical time of 4:00 a.m., you know, to beat the traffic. But my dad was feeling kind of saucy this trip and decided to travel in the evening instead. As we rode through the night in our burgundy conversion van, the Dirty Dancing soundtrack was the music of choice for my mom and sisters for every car trip for the past 5 years. I had a strong assumption that the cassette tape was stuck in the player for all of eternity, but I could be just jumping to conclusions about that one. After questioning my manhood from listening to the sweet, sultry voice of Patrick Swayze singing "She's Like the Wind" for the umpteenth time, my sister started telling me about a movie she had just seen, Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs. The title alone was enough to keep me up for weeks but she started telling me the see/hear/speak no evil rules and their gruesome punishments AKA CUTTING YOUR TONGUE OUT. Suddenly my mom trying to channel her inner Jennifer Grey wasn't the scariest thing running through my head at that moment.

As we arrived at the hotel, to my despair our room was on the fourth floor with no working elevators. All I could think of were the people that were inevitably waiting for me under the stairs ready to grab my ankle and cut my tongue out the first chance they had. In case you were wondering, that ended up not happening at all. We safely made it up to our room with all of our tongues intact so that I could live to tell about this mediocre vacation 25 years later. 

Being both the youngest and a boy always meant that you had to sleep on the pullout couch on trips, while my parents and sisters occupied the 2 bedrooms. But on the plus side, I could watch TV as late as I wanted to keep the "stair people" nightmares at bay. For whatever reason, the television journey I ended up taking was from the reggae group Inner Circle performing a live concert on a local station. This was the first time I experienced the catchy 90's hit  "Sweat (A La La La La Long)". It was no Swayze but to my young 8 year-old self, it was certainly a good way to distract myself from my fears blossoming in my head.

The next morning, after dreaming of a Rastafarian Patrick Swayze with no tongue, I awoke to the surprise that our hotel room was right along the beautiful beach shore. I jumped out of my bed excited to officially begin my beach vacation but ran to get the TV remote off the table and cannonballed back into bed instead. What on TV could be better than the marvelous wonder of a roaring ocean? 90's Saturday morning cartoons, that's what! Since I was unfamiliar with the area's channel order, I began to channel surf until I saw some of that beautifully vibrant hand drawn animation staring back at me. What stopped me in my tracks was the opening credits to a Bill & Ted animated show that somehow I was completely unaware existed. Being a huge fan of William and Theodore's theatrical work, no form of nature's splendor could pull me away from the cathode rays of that cheap hotel television. After consuming that most excellent adventure, I came across another show I didn't know graced the airwaves, ProStars, a show that starred the animated counterparts of Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Bo Jackson as superheroes. Umm... Yes, please!

So far, whatever Saturday morning wormhole I slipped into was way worth the 9-hour Dirty Dancing sing-a-long to get to this beachside cartoon lineup. Whatever you do, please don't go back in time and tell me I could literally experience all of these shows every week from the comfort of my own home, all I had to do was change the channel from my usual cartoon block routine. Sadly this concludes the extent of my memory of this trip. I don't remember going out on the beach, I don't remember family bonding time, and I don't remember driving home. I realize none of these things require a vacation to happen. I could listen to family enjoying a soundtrack for hours on end at home, I could be frightened by my sister at home, and I could definitely watch cartoons all day at home. But did you really want to read about my family's usual visit to the first schoolhouse or The Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine for the twelfth time? I didn't think so.
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Hoju Koolander Posted on Jun 19, 2018 at 04:53 PM

A well told tale of terror and TV. I too always looked forward to discovering new kids shows while on family vacations. For example, I watched the premiere of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on a motel TV in Hershey, PA before taking a tour of the Hershey's chocolate factory in the 90s. (Love the podcast by the way)

Superman Posted on Jun 18, 2018 at 11:25 PM

Leave it to a sibling to scare you and give you nightmares of the most unusual kind.

Vaporman87 Posted on Jun 18, 2018 at 07:03 PM

It's crazy to think it, but sometimes the most memorable things about trips and vacations are the little things. Looks like that is the case here. Most people who might ask you about a trip to the beach would expect a lot of stuff involving THE BEACH. But not so here. Great story Wes!

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