Column | Dolphins and fireworks and toto - oh my!
Welcome to another installment of “Things you should do before the highlight of your week is lime Jell-O Thursday!”
This year, in my family’s ongoing quest to turn ourselves into an enormous package of extra-salty beef jerky, we decided to take a family road trip to South Padre Island, Texas, for the third summer in a row.
Because I have a wife and three daughters, preparing for such a trip is like mounting a major military campaign to the Middle East. Unable to cram all of our luggage into our Ford Expedition without triggering the air bags, I resorted to using the dreaded roof-mounted luggage container, which my daughters fondly refer to as “the turtle.” Unfortunately, “the turtle” is getting older and occasionally suffers from shell-closure dysfunction. As a result, I found myself periodically thrusting my head out of the window like a drooling Labrador retriever to see if the Gorilla Tape and bungee cords were keeping “the turtle” from scattering my underwear all over US 77.
Another harrowing aspect of our trip was the lack of service stations on the remote highway to South Padre Island. Near the town of Riviera, we saw a sign indicating that there wouldn’t be another service station (complete with squalid restrooms) for 60 miles. Despite having already taken approximately 37 potty-breaks, I warned everyone that they should go now, or risk choosing between a large grove of roadside prickly-pear cacti and a Sonic cup.
Once we finally arrived on the golden shores of South Padre Island, we spent several days enjoying typical beach activities, like being paranoid about flesh-eating bacteria, fighting off plagues of Cheezit-crazed seagulls, and asphyxiating ourselves with spray-on sunscreen fumes. But the highlight of the trip was a relaxing dolphin, sunset, fireworks, and overpriced beverages cruise on our last evening.
Because we wanted a genuine experience, we booked with a company called “The Original Dolphin Watch.” (We weren’t about to stand for some imitation cruise featuring off-brand dolphins imported from Taiwan.) Our boat had two decks, so when we boarded, my daughters immediately proceeded to the top level - for maximum UV ray exposure. Once I was comfortably settled into my seat, the girls asked if I would go back down to purchase them a few sodas, the cost of which ensured that the captain and his deck hands could send their kids to elite private colleges.
Shortly after we left the dock, the captain warned us that the ride might get “a little rough” as he took us out to where the dolphins were hanging out with their squad. Once the boat stopped rocking and I managed to extract my iPhone from my left nostril, the captain alerted us to the presence of dolphins, always directing us to look on the side of the boat opposite from where I was standing. By the time I had stumbled over to the correct side for “original” dolphin viewing, all I saw was an elderly dude in a kayak wearing nothing but a zebra striped Speedo.
Next on the agenda was a relaxing sunset journey to the fireworks launch site. As we motored out alongside the Queen Isabella Causeway, the crew dropped a net and brought up several ocean creatures for display. They caught a blue crab, a starfish, and several other cast members from “SpongeBob SquarePants.” My wife and I were also delighted that after the perfunctory playing of “Margaritaville,” the on-board music featured hits from the ‘80s, when almost every song had that “Dude, this new synthesizer is totally rad” moment. My children really enjoyed it when I let loose to Toto’s “Africa,” especially since I never get the lyrics right.
“I guess it rains down in Aaaafricaaa!”
The highlight of the evening was a spectacular fireworks display over the bay. After the show ended and we cruised back to the dock, I reflected on the special time I had spent with my family and couldn’t resist singing along with Corey Hart’s “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night.”
“Don’t be afraaaaid of the guy with shakes, oh no!”
My kids now refuse to sit by me in public when music is playing. I’m not sure why.