June 27, 2013

Publisher's Notebook: Living with the family on vacation

By Willie Sawyers

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Judging from the all the traffic heading to the Emerald Coast of Florida last Saturday, the recession finally is over. Or, everyone and their brother decided to take a vacation the third week of June.

It was the first time we’ve been to the white sandy beaches and the blue-green water of the Emerald Coast in about seven years. We stayed at Inlet-Rosemary Beach halfway between Destin and Panama City. I must say it was my favorite location. It was secluded, yet close enough to the major tourist and dining centers.

This year, we tried a bold, and perhaps risky, experiment. My whole clan — all the kids and grandkids —decided to spend seven days and six nights in the same house. Fourteen of us shared the same living quarters for a week.

How’d that work out? Great, for about the first four days. Then, we started getting on each other’s nerves over little stuff. No one was killed, although some shots were fired. Fortunately, the house was huge and each family had its own living area to retreat to for some alone time.

Everyone left on speaking terms and we all felt a little sadness when we got home because we missed being together. It was great quality time with the family.

One thing I learned very quickly on this vacation: I wasn’t going to be able to sleep in, no matter if I’d just driven for 11 hours. The grandkids got up at the crack of dawn and weren’t satisfied, or quiet, until everyone else was up and at it. My bedroom was directly over the living room, and I swear some mornings it sounded like they were dropping bowling balls off the couch. Anyway, the sunrises in Florida are breathtaking.

I must say it was a thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable week. I loved watching the grandkids frolic on the beach and dance with the waves. A couple of them are getting old enough to truly enjoy the experience.

I loved floating aimlessly in the clear-blue ocean on my $12 Winn Dixie air mattress. I loved riding a bicycle after the warm sun dropped below the horizon. I loved sitting on the balcony at night after a delicious meal and smoking a smooth, sweet cigar, watching lightning in the distance. I was truly on vacation.

My wife and kids claim I enjoyed vacation so much because I didn’t do anything, just lounged around all day. Well, as patriarch of the family I’ve earned a few perks surely.

There were a couple of things that I didn’t enjoy about the vacation, mostly driving to the beach. Alabama and Florida need to build a better road into the Destin-Panama City area. Those are major tourist areas and are reachable primarily by two-lane roads. It took us three hours to reach the beach Saturday afternoon after leaving I-65 below Montgomery. It was bumper-to-bumper traffic as vacationers tried to make the 4 p.m. check-in.

It was like putting all the interstate traffic on Ky. 229 and driving that way for a few hundred miles. Thousands of cars from up north were speeding through tiny burgs like Brantley, Ala., population 920, and Paxton, Fla., population 753. It’s beautiful countryside, but not the best way to travel to major tourist centers.

Of course, Alabama and Tennessee both need to upgrade their existing major highways before building new ones. I-65 in Alabama and I-75 in Tennessee still are mostly two lanes running north and south and often are swamped by traffic.

I-75 between Chattanooga and Knoxville is wall-to-wall traffic that makes me nervous. That section of highway desperately needs to upgraded to six lanes. Kentucky has done a better job of handling increased interstate traffic by expanding I-75 to at least six lanes all the way from Cincinnati to south of Berea, with plans to eventually expand it to the state line.

Oh well, all the family made it back home safely and that’s all the matters. We have fond memories of the vacation that we spent together.