I’m behind the camera. I think I secretly knew Facebook was coming, even though Zuck was only a 6th grader at the time and the Internet really wasn’t a thing yet. See, Al Gore was still busy being VP so we had time to make these horrible decisions and still duck under the radar.
The year was 1998. 6 friends decided at 10 p.m. on a Friday night they couldn’t wait for Saturday morning to leave on Spring Break. We piled into 2 cars – one beat up Buick and one even more beat up Ford sedan. We set off, all of us under the age of 21, with a car trunk full of beer (and Zima for me, because I was a total chick who did and still does hate beer), a few clothes (more room for beer), a few pooled dollars and our sights set on a fuzzy description of a rockin beach house on the shore of Panama Beach one of our friends assured us was awesome. We drove that beer over five state lines for the next 22+ hours, rotating driving shifts. We had 2 walkie talkies (no cell phones yet) to talk back and forth between us and were occasionally entertained by a raunchy trucker to break up the monotony.
We arrived in a massive rainstorm mid evening if I remember correctly. Set to party for the next week on our Ohio sourced beer, Zimas and Cuervo. We carted all 800 lbs of beverages along with our bags inside and only then took a moment to survey our surroundings. It is here I find it hard to describe the magnitude of what we saw. I’m not sure what everyone else was expecting, but I had hoped it was kind of like a smaller version of the Golden Girls’ house. A nice open bungalow with an airy lanai upon which we could drink our morning coffees and watch the sunrise, while gentle breezes blew the surf in over the sand and gulls cawed above nearby. Leave me alone, I was 20 and really really naïve.
Let’s just say my fantasy wasn’t even close. It wasn’t even a crappy cottage. One that we could stay in relatively comfortably that provided basic amenities for survival for a bunch of 20 somethings. This was not it by a longshot. This was a desolate wasteland. An outbuilding of a destroyed house that survived a hurricane 10 years prior. I remember the shower amenity was outside and frankly, I don’t even remember a toilet being there. I remember A LOT of sand and strewn about furniture that had seen better days and had its own war stories to share.
After some heated debate about said conditions and who knew what about said present condition, 5 of the 6 friends deemed the house uninhabitable and not hospitable to getting drunk nightly. So, we decided to pack up and head for greener pastures. The lone friend left behind was pissed we were leaving and refused to come along with us. (I personally never knew what happened to him. I wasn’t really close to him. I am assuming he lived and has a very different version of the following story.) Therefore, we were down one beat up car and had to fit 5 people in one car along with all of our stuff for yet another trip across the state to by chance catch up with some other friends in Daytona Beach. By chance.
Vast amounts of the above pictured beer and liquor were left as casualties of that decision. With one trunk, 5 people in a 5 seat Buick sedan, hard choices had to be made. Sadly, most of the Milwaukee’s Best (aka Beast) were left, as well as most of the pop (who needed that anyways) as we tried to condense everything into one small car. We drove across the state for another 6 hours hoping to rendezvous with 2 fraternity brothers who had won their spring break trip to Daytona Beach. Now remember, no cell phones. We had NO way of contacting them. All we knew was they were in Daytona at a Holiday Inn and their names. Yeah, we had their names. So we had that going for us.
We arrived late that night and headed to A1A Beachfront Avenue (Sorry, couldn’t resist). We found a pay phone with a phone book. Yes, I just said those two things, and we looked up the Holiday Inn and on a wing and prayer called and asked for our friend’s room. The hotel would not put us through because they didn’t know who we were, so we drove down the strip to find contingency plans. A crappy motel was picked as too crappy to be fully booked and quite possibly in our price range. As we were driving down the main drag, we noticed someone familiar. By chance, the friend we were hoping to reach just happened to be walking down the street. Hanging out of the car like lunatics, we flagged him down. Miraculously, he told us to come on up to their room and yes, all 5 of us could stay the week with him and his friend. In their room with 2 double beds and a permanently locked balcony door (because let’s face it, high rise balconies and young idiot spring breakers do not mix).
Elated, we all group hugged and talked about our dramatic trip so far and proceeded to head out on the town. 2 girls, 5 guys. Makes you cringe now as parents doesn’t it? About to get shit-faced as best as possible whilst underage in downtown Daytona. Thank God for stowaway Zima and Beast beer. And now, one friend of age who helped supply the fun while you hid your underage stamped hand in your pocket. We were good to go.
The rest of the week was about what you’d expect. One friend won a belly flop contest. It was actually pretty freakin freezing, but damn if we weren’t going to wear shorts and flippy floppies on the beach and follow the guys around as they desperately tried to catch each and every wet T-shirt contest available (and no, us ladies did not participate, but really, if I knew what was going to happen to my body, you bet your ass I’d be up there shaking what was apparently a nice set of boobs that, unbeknownst to me, came with an expiration date. But I digress). Basically it was bars, bars, and more bars. Mornings spent sleeping it off. Afternoons spent replenishing on greasy food as sustenance for the night to come. Now, at mid-30 something, one night of this would probably kill us, let alone an entire week of it, but we were 20 and invincible.
A few us took a day trip to Universal Studios, whereupon my future husband promptly lost the car keys on the Back to the Future Ride. Problem was we didn’t notice it until we were headed to the car at the end of the day and, lo and behold, no keys. Oh and the owner of the car stayed back in Daytona, so we had to bribe the AAA guy to basically make us an $80 key to a car we couldn’t prove belonged to us. My husband has never quite lived that one down, but it does make a great story.
At the end of the week, our 2 gracious hosts got on their plane to go home and the remaining 3 guys and 2 girls piled into the teeny tiny Buick (complete with a brand new, very expensive, shiny spare key) and headed back to northern Ohio. Straight shot. Squished in the middle almost the whole time. Sometimes being the skinny bitch had its disadvantages. They never did let me drive. I had a bad driving rep even then.
So, there’s my spring break story. Will I ever let my kids go on Spring Break? Between this trip and my senior year trip to Cancun, oh hells to the no. Although, I guess by the time they are 20, I can’t stop them, HOWEVER, I can follow them down to wherever they go and spy on them the whole time. Hey, at least they’d have cell phones, so 90% of these stories wouldn’t have happened, but me, I’d take my pay phone and beat up Buick memories any day. Thank God I lived to talk about it.
File this under stories our kids will never hear. Heck, this may even be the first time our moms are hearing this story. I’m not quite sure they are ready now, 15+ years later. Sorry moms, but hey we returned OK!
Disclaimer* This is my recollection of the events. I’d love to hear from the other 8 people involved as they remember it. I won’t tag you or mentioned any names for fear your grown up cover will be blown, but you all know who you are. I hope you have the same fond, hilarious memories that I do, which most of the time are ended with the thought, “God we were stupid!”