When Mel and I got married we decided that every year around our anniversary (which is in August) we would take a trip somewhere we hadn’t previously been.  That decision held firm until this year, when we found out that we were going to be parents.  So this year, instead of jaunting off to some international destination we decided to head south in the late spring / early summer and hit Panama City Beach, Florida for some relaxing time on the beach.

We were able to secure a condo on the beach for an unbelievably reasonable price and to top it off the condo was on the 16th floor.  Neither of us had ever stayed in a room that high off the beach, so we figured it would be fun.  With our luggage in tow and our dogs happily docked at Mel’s parents house we headed south on I-65 to see what this vacation would hold for us.

The trip through Alabama, down through Montgomery and into North Florida was really pretty easy.  We were really, really glad we had XM Satellite Radio to keep us company on the way down.  It was really, nice not to have to worry about searching for good music on the radio or changing CDs or… even worse… having to talk to each other!  (just kidding, of course)

Once you hit North Florida, though, the traffic laws begin to keep things interesting.  It’s really a game of cat and mouse as the speed limit changes every 100 feet, going from 65mph, to 35mph and back again 300 feet later.  While we saw a lot of cops and enjoyed the small towns, we were able to successfully navigate the speed traps brake tests without incident.

Probably the most entertaining portion of the trip down / first day was Mel trying to navigate us to the beaches.  We had directions to the location we were looking for and planned to follow them, but at the very first intersection which had a sign that said “beaches” along with an arrow Mel yelled, really loudly, that I should be turning across two lanes of traffic to head that direction.  Of course, we didn’t… and continued on towards Panama City Beach.  We have now scientifically determined that pregnancy does NOT improve your sense of direction.

As we crossed the final bridge towards Thomas Drive… and if you’ve been down to this section of Florida you know that the bridges are 100ft+ high… there was a man fishing from the top of the bridge.  Now, the simple logistics of carrying enough fishing line on a standard rod and reel to actually fish from that height what’s the best case scenario?  You catch a fish (a small one) and spend the next 10 minutes reeling it up the 100ft and hoping a bird doesn’t grab it?  It just struck me as odd.

Of course, this is a Garvich trip, so things have to be a little crazy once we finally arrive at our destination.  This trip didn’t disappoint.  Once we got to the condominium building the desk worker saw our reservation and said that there was someone already in our room.  Her words were something along the lines of, “It wouldn’t be the first time those Jamaicans have taken someone’s room.  Go up and tell them they have to leave.”  So, I was being asked to head upstairs to a room full of Jamaicans who were in the habit of room-squatting and telling them they had to leave.  My response, “Sure, I’ll be back in a second.”  After heading up 16 floors and knocking on the door, it turns out the desk worker must have been smoking the ganja to have seen said Jamaicans because no one was there.  We packed up our luggage and prepared to head upstairs.

Everything actually fit on one cart, which fit into the elevator with Mel, myself and a mother and her (maybe 6 year old) son.  Mel and I gave each other a happy glance as we both considered what it was going to be like to bring Bree to the beach.  Then the son went straight nuts-o and began yelling that he “wants to go to the POOL!”  Mel and I exchanged a different glance and tried to enjoy the 10 floors of slow elevator ride with the ear piercing pool demands.

Once we got to the room, things were all better.  The 16th floor balcony is absolutely, positively worth it.

16th Floor Balcony View

After we took a few minutes to unwind after the trip down we began to focus… ok, obsess… about food.  One of our favorite things to do anywhere is eat, but especially at the beach!  So we decided to head to Montego Bay in search of dinner.

We decided to try their “death by frying” appetizer (our name, not theirs) which had buffalo wings, chicken tenders, alligator bites, coconut shrimp and onion straws, each with their own dipping sauce.  The thing was huge and could have easily served as our entire dinner.  But Mel and I never stop with enough food on vacation, so we also got entrees.  Mel went with Cajun Chicken Pasta and I had Fried Gulf Scallops with new potatoes.  Both were great.

After dinner we headed to Wal-Mart to pick up things we had forgotten to bring along and snacks and drinks we would need for the week.  While the trip to Wal-Mart was fun, and Wal-Mart is always an interesting place to people watch, this place was Crazy Town, USA.  As soon as we could get what we needed we headed out the door and back to the condominium to watch the sun set.

The sunset on our first day in PCB

After a relaxing sunset we headed back into the condominium to check out the generous DVD collection the owners kept on hand.  We settled on “Munich” and settled in for the night.

Written on May 18th, 2008 , Panama City Beach, Travel

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