All Night Drive to Paradise

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Each Summer everyone on my dad’s side of the family goes on vacation to Orange Beach, Alabama, which in my opinion gives Disney World a run for its’ money as being the “the happiest place on earth.” My grandparents have a condo that sits on the beach and there is truly no greater feeling than sitting on their back porch, drinking coffee in the morning, and watching the sun come up. Sometimes you’re even lucky enough to see dolphins dancing in the shallow waves beneath the morning light, splashing their way along the coast. I love everything about Orange Beach; the beautifully unspoiled white sand, the restaurants, getting to spend a whole week with the family, and the relaxing, care free atmosphere that the vacation in paradise provides. About ten years ago, my dad picked me up on Wednesday afternoon in Little Rock, as was customary for our beach trips. The vacation dates always run Thursday to Thursday so we would spend Wednesday night in Memphis and get up early the next morning and make the drive to the Gulf coast of Alabama.

On this particular Wednesday, as we were on the way to Memphis, we received a phone call from my grandparents who said that they’d decided to go to the beach a day early and we could join them if we wanted, a nice thought but really quite ridiculous. We weren’t even back to Memphis yet and it was after five o’clock, so if we were to join them at the beach that day we would have to drive an additional seven hours, that is after we made a stop at my dad’s house so he could get his suitcase. At first it was out of the question, but the closer we got to Memphis, the more we got to talking about it and all the advantages it would hold. Instead of traveling half the day Thursday we would already be there, practically giving us a whole extra day at the beach. I think what decided it was talking about waking up the following morning and drinking coffee on the back porch overlooking the ocean, so we stopped by my dad’s house and he packed quickly, then we were out on the road once again, headed towards paradise.

It was dark when we stopped for dinner in small town Mississippi at a Krystal drive thru, not willing to push our arrival time back any further by dining in an actual restaurant. I don’t know if it was from the excitement of everything or something in the water in Mississippi, but those were some of the most delicious burgers I’ve ever had. We kept driving through the night, crossing the state line into Alabama somewhere around bed time. As we approached the long stretch of two lane highway we stopped at a gas station to get some drinks to help us stay awake. This was the last really long stretch before we got to Mobile, then on to Orange Beach, so close we could almost taste the salty air and we weren’t going to let fatigue keep us from our ultimate goal. My dad got a coffee and I got a rockstar energy drink. Something you should know about me is that when I was younger, caffeine didn’t really affect me. One night in high school I stayed up all night watching a tennis match and downed a couple of five hour energy’s before school, and was asleep in class within the hour, so this particular night I was hoping for a miracle, that the rockstar would reenergize me and carry me smoothly through the rest of the drive.

Within fifteen minutes of drinking the energy drink, I was trying desperately to keep my eyes open, to no avail. I took a nap and woke up when we got to Mobile, just in time to hold my breath for good luck as we went through the underwater tunnel. We crossed the long bridge into Spanish Fort and kept driving, inching our way closer and closer to the Gulf of Mexico. We rolled down the windows and let the fresh night air, that definitely smelled of the ocean now, rejuvenate us and guide us to our destination. We pulled into the parking lot of the condo after two in the morning, exhausted, but thrilled that we’d finally made it. It was all worth it later that morning as we sat on the back porch, drinking coffee, and enjoying the paradise that would be all ours for the next week.

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