Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 23, 1991: ROAD TRIP!!

Front row: Rick; Back row (l-r): Jon, Rolf and Brad

It was a dreary Spring morning in St Paul on Saturday, March 23, 1991. But for my three best friends and I, we were bouncing off the ceiling in anticipation of our nearly 1,700-mile trek to Fort Myers, FL. Our favorite baseball team, the Minnesota Twins, would be christening a brand new Spring Training facility in Fort Myers, so we wanted to go check it out. The fact it would be sunny and 80+ degrees didn't hurt either.

Despite Jon and I going to different colleges, our respective Spring Breaks fell on the same week! And since Rolf and Rick were already in the job world and had plenty of vacation time, we made plans sometime around New Years that we would indeed partake in a road trip to Florida that March! Once we set our plans in stone, I began a countdown to our departure date. From about mid-January on, you could ask me how many days it was until we left for Fort Myers and I could tell you instantly.

As we pulled out of the driveway on that Saturday morning in March, we agreed that we didn't want to stop for anything other than gassing up (and seeing Rick's girlfriend, who was going to college in Indianapolis). Since we left home at about 8:00 a.m. CT, our ETA at our hotel was sometime Sunday afternoon.

After a looooong trek through several states, we crossed the Georgia-Florida border around 8:00 am Sunday morning. I happened to be driving at the time and was so tired that I swear I could hear myself blinking. But when I saw the sign indicating to us that we were entering the state of Florida, I let a loud YAHOOOOOO, thus waking up all three of my slumbering buddies. Sure they were less than amused but soon shared in my excitement, as we were less than five hours from our destination.

Around 3:00 pm we FINALLY pulled up to our hotel and sprang out of the car. We got to our room, frantically unpacked and decided to head to the outdoor swimming pool. It had been a long Winter in Minnesota, so just taking time to bask in the sun was a welcome activity! Invariably, we fell asleep in our deck chairs as we watched the beautiful sunset.

We decided to sleep in Monday since the Twins didn't play until late afternoon. As we pulled up to Hammond Stadium that day, there wasn't a parking spot to be had. As a result, we parked near the cow pasture beyond the stadium grounds. But when we arrived at the ticket window, we learned that every single ticket for the entire spring season had been sold. Since we weren't willing to pay a scalper $20 for a $5 ticket, we decided to head to the beach. As we got within a mile of Fort Myers Beach, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic. Most of the cars were filled to capacity with college-aged students, which told us we were heading in the right direction. As we found a parking spot within a block of the beach, we got out of the car and practically sprinted to that sandy paradise. And thus began our week-long tradition of rising in the morning, heading straight to the beach after breakfast, hanging out there about 4-5 hours, resting up at the hotel, dinner and flippant frivolity at night and then back to the hotel so we can get some rest in anticipation of the following day.

If you're waiting for seedier details of the trip (i.e. wild keg parties, picking up hot chicks, etc.), I'm sorry to disappoint you. Although I will say we were enticed to stay another day by a couple of attractive (and bikini-clad) Southern belles. On what was supposed to be our last day in Florida before heading home, I happened to be sitting by myself while my buddies were off grabbing some lunch. The aforementioned co-eds approached me and said "Excuse me? Did I hear y'all say you were from Minnesota?" Now when a hot chick would talk to me back in the day, typically I would get this feeling of my heart dropping into my stomach, splashing my innards, causing condensation on my brain thus rendering me speechless. Somehow, though, I managed a "yes" in this situation. We engaged in some small talk but I was actually stalling for time in the hopes my friends would return and provide me a little backup. Unfortunately, the gals had to move on but did indicate a little interest in another meeting. "Well, if y'all are in this same spot tomorrow, maybe we'll see ya." A few minutes later my friends returned and I shared with them the conversation I had. Naturally I was hammered incessantly for not getting a phone number or arranging a meet-up that evening, etc. Whatever the case, we decided to stay for another day and returned to that exact same spot on the beach. However, the fetching lasses never returned so we merely spent our time engaging in the same activities as the previous days. That is, we laid in the sun and gawked at all the attractive co-eds as they walked by.

Compared to some of the debauchery you hear about on a typical Spring Break, our time in Florida may seem incredibly boring. But to us, it was the trip of a lifetime. Whenever I happen to see one of my three buddies these days, rarely does a conversation take place where some facet of that adventure isn't brought up. And while there aren't a lot of photos from that trip, there is a VHS video cassette featuring some of the more memorable outtakes. If one were to sit down and watch that today, one would seriously question whether any of the four of us should bear children. Turns out, there are seven kids courtesy of my three pals. And you'll be happy to know that each of us is still in his first marriage, with each couple having been together for more than 10 years (in the case of Rick and Wendy, they'll be celebrating 20 years of wedded bliss this November).

I guess the moral of the story is Spring Break doesn't necessarily corrupt all of America's youth. A few of us occasionally turn out OK.


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