Have you ever wanted a quiet beach vacation? One without the throngs of people crowding the parcel of sand in front of your condo? Where you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to claim your lounge chair by the pool, or deal with August humidity and heat? Well…be careful what you wish for! I just had that type of respite in South Padre Island and it was more like “The Shining” than “The Holiday.”
It started with a phone call from my eldest daughter, who had a week off from grad school and wanted to lay on a beach and do nothing. She wondered if we’d like to take her to South Padre Island. “Are you kidding me,” I asked, “that place is crawling with hundreds of thousands of crazy spring breakers this time of year.” In her best academic tone she replied that she’d done her research, and learned that no schools for miles around had spring break this particular week. “It’ll just be winter Texans and us,” she proclaimed, hopefully. Sure enough, I made a couple of phone calls and found that condo rental rates were back down to pre-crazy-spring-break prices beginning the day that we wished to head down there. So, we were off for a few days!
We checked into our condo around 5:00 last Tuesday afternoon. Entering the beautiful, light-filled lobby, we marveled at the gorgeous upholstered lounge chairs and huge Easter island-style sculptures. The receptionist went over “the rules” with us. “Absolutely no inappropriate behavior,” was one of our favorites. Then, she affixed sapphire-colored bands to each of our wrists, explaining that they must be worn at all times or we could be asked to leave the premises, and there would be a fee to replace them if lost. Wow, I thought; this place must be really special. We headed up to our room on the 17th floor. Beautiful! We all admired the modern vibe of the place, black leather sofa, red leather swivel chairs, granite countertops, silver pendant light fixtures. I fixed cocktails, poured them into red solo cups, and we headed to the beach for a stroll. We passed two giant swimming pools, the largest hot tub I’d ever seen, and probably 200 empty lounge chairs. “Look, there’s the bar,” declared my daughter. I looked over to see a bucket and shovel abandoned in the sink and a discarded bottle of sunscreen on the counter, along with some yellow caution tape all around it. “Maybe it will be open this weekend,” I said. We walked out onto the boardwalk to the beach. It was a beautiful spring evening, with a light breeze blowing and the water gleaming blue-green. A few couples strolled hand in hand and we began to unwind. Just then we heard a plane overhead, pulling a banner. “Look up! What does it say?” I shouted over the noise. “Oh lord,” said my eldest. I squinted. “TROJAN. NEW! STUDDED BARESKIN,” was its message. Guess that was meant for last week’s crowd.
The next morning, we arose and slipped into our swimsuits for our first day at the beach. As it was partly cloudy, we lingered over breakfast before heading out for a long walk. Leaving our condo, we noticed an eery silence; there was no one on this property. No one in the elevators, no one in the hallways, no one in the lobby and not a soul by the pool. Outside, there were just a few people walking along the edge of the Gulf, which was still very cold. But, the plane and its offending banner were circling purposefully. By the end of our stroll, we noticed the clouds had thickened so we decided to abandon the beach and go into town for lunch. Entering a local seafood joint, we saw rows of chairs and benches outside the door as if a crowd frequently gathered there. Inside, there were only two tables of people – us and one other. It was 12:30 on a Wednesday! Where was everyone? My daughter remarked that she felt guilty being on vacation; the lack of people on this island made her feel like she should be at work or school. We ordered strawberry daiquiris and felt better. The rain started in earnest after lunch, so we watched Netflix movies and napped, followed by dinner out at a restaurant where the tables were mostly full. We began to feel normal again.
On Thursday morning, I awoke to hear my husband chuckling from the den. “Look out your window,” he said. Pulling up the blind, I saw fog so thick I could not even see the ground. It was spooky, like living in a giant grey cloud. Everything felt damp. The modern vibe of the condo was beginning to seem sterile and industrial. I tried to think of something we could do in this weather. “Anyone up for the turtle farm?” We decided to go downstairs to the fitness room and work out; that’s always a good use of spare time! After an hour or so, my husband said, “I think the clouds are parting.” I dared to hope, and, as if rewarding us for our effort, the big fog lifted, and the sun began to peek out. The three of us changed into our swimsuits in record time, grabbed sunscreen and magazines and raced out to the pool. Ahh. We lounged and sprawled for about an hour, then the wind picked up. I don’t mean a gentle breeze; this was a full-fledged norther with wind gusts up to 35 miles per hour. I watched my flip flops take flight, sail across the pool and lodge next to the hot tub, several yards away. Our beach towels were flapping madly, and the poolside furniture begin to move. “Hurry! Let’s get inside,” yelled my husband. And, just as quickly as we’d made our way out, we found ourselves back in again. A few hours later, my husband, determined to remain undefeated by Mother Nature, bundled up and went for a stroll on the beach. I watched from my 17th floor perch and saw not another single soul outside as far as I could see in either direction. Not even the Trojan aircraft was flying. When my husband came in, he swore the blowing sand had ruined the finish on his eyeglass lenses.
Finally, Friday dawned bright and beautiful, a perfect 68 degrees, with a clear blue sky. We all three collapsed into lounge chairs by the pool and watched as people began slowly and silently emerging from their rooms, like butterflies who’d been kept in their cocoons too long. The sun’s rays felt warm and curative; a slight, cool breeze kept us comfortable all day. Our books and magazines seemed more interesting than the day before, and we felt relaxed. As the day went on, more people arrived at the resort and their happy chatter lifted our spirits. Then, we heard it. The plane! I looked up and read, “GEICO. 15 minutes could save you 15% or more.” I smiled. Different weekend. Different audience.