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9th of August

The Time Given


Last weekend offered something all of us pray for, whether it’s an audible, breathed prayer or not:

Time with people we love and care for and MISS as the clock pulls us forward

My hometown library hosted a book signing, and Lindsey S. Frantz (a childhood best friend) and I were able to attend, and sign, our newest works. That in itself was a great blessing. To be able to write and share our stories with others. But the best was still yet to come that day.

We had friends and family in attendance, when so many other things were happening in the lake community of Monticello. It meant so much that people chose to stop by and say, “Hello!”

We saw people we hadn’t seen since the days Monticello High School stood three stories high on Cave Street. And that in itself was also like walking into the wonderful past.

I saw teachers I respected and still talk to this day. Vicki York Davis. Carolyn Harris. Betty Hyden. Allyson Upchurch Tucker. Beth Brewerton. And family was there. And best friends. The library gave us a solid 2 hour window. And the reunion saw people staying well beyond that.

Then, the night held more reunions with best friends opening up their home in Somerset and allowing all of us to eat dinner together. And Sunday permitted my wife and I to see my grandparents, for the first time in many years. My brother, sister, and their families were also in town. I was able to see nine-month-old, Henry, for the first time.

Before we left, Mom packed up yellow and green tomatoes from her garden and put them in our car.

We were exhausted arriving in Chattanooga. But the time permitted us to see a microcosm of what I imagine heaven to be. It was worth it.

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31st of August

Dedicated to a Brave Maine Coon


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(Kujo, circa 2004)

It’s difficult to lose a pet.

I got that call yesterday.

When you experience it, it’s difficult to respond.

How do you respond without feeling foolish?

It was a pet. An animal.

I’m working through it, but I know it’s been even harder to lose one that had such personality.

With me throughout middle & high school, college & graduate school, work & marriage and until yesterday.

The memories of returning from trips and seeing a Maine Coon saunter out to greet us in the driveway. The van still ticking and hot to the touch from miles upon miles on I-75.

Kujo. Such an ill-suited, ironic name for so lovable a cat. But, I laugh thinking about the day my sister named him. Stephen King would be proud.

Mom called last night to confirm that he’d been sick for a while. She took him to the vet. Kidney failure & a host of other problems. The knowledge of him being sick as heavy as the absence of him on the back porch today, I’m sure.

Mom said she buried him where the plum tree once stood. He’d like that, I know. Always one to follow her out to the garden and watch her weed & water the squash and peppers. A country cat. Indoor / outdoor. Super smart and always aware of when tuna cans were being opened.

I’m happy he’s at rest. As I’m sure you’ve felt the same about pets and friends and family.

My heart goes out to those who’ve lost loved ones. (Pets or not.) It’s amazing the memories they can provide. How pets can bring warring parties together. If you told me a Maine Coon could’ve helped deter arguments fifteen years ago, I would’ve laughed. But now I know, even pets, can be agents for good.

Take this sappy entry today and use it, if you’d like. I hope it brings you closure to issues you might be wrestling with this year. God wants us all to live fully, freely, and passionately. All of us. Even pets and animals like the ones Lewis wrote about in The Chronicles of Narnia. They too serve a purpose. Even if it’s to be a daily reminder that it’s okay to let our guard down. It’s okay to love and be loved.

 

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Categories:  brianltucker thankfulness
23rd of August

Meeting Kevin Costner: Renaissance Man


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Well, standing 500 feet away from him, I should say.

But who cares? We were in the SAME auditorium for a concert. His concert.

Did you know Kevin Costner even played music?

I didn’t either, but Leah said we had 2 tickets (to paradise) & a Kevin Costner concert – compliments of her workplace.

So, I did what any red-blooded, Tin Cup/Bull Durham/Waterworld/Dances with Wolves/Field of Dreams/The Untouchables/Robin Hood-watching guy would do: turned to Spotify for help.

I found Costner and his band Modern West. Of course, I dug the moniker. Kevin Costner was a living, breathing Western to me. Always had been. His name (like Eastwood’s) is synonymous with awesome. He’s Joe Cool. Pre-Camel cigarettes cool.

We got gussied up. My wife, me, and two friends. Saturday came, and we went to see Costner perform.

It was a black tie event. Naturally I wore a blue one. Kevin Costner wore boots, I think.

While I didn’t recognize his music, (none of the songs were household tunes) they weren’t half bad. Costner requested the reverb be cut waaaay down and the spotlight to be cut completely off him. And, he sang like a bird and eventually closed the set down with Dylan’s Tambourine Man.

All in all it was a delightful time. Even though Costner never came over to our table and signed anything, I’d like to think he would’ve if asked. There were baseballs stationed on each table, and I wanted mine signed by Billy Chapel pretty bad. Similarly, none of us on the back row received a Costner wink, but we still felt included in Modern West’s concert.

If you have the time, check out Costner when he’s not on the big screen. He’s Joe Cool, people. Here are some upcoming dates:

 

Tour

Date City Venue Country
08/24/16 Kevin Costner & Modern West in Alexandria, VA The Birchmere United States
Time: 7:30pm. Address: 3701 Mount Vernon Avenue. Buy tickets
08/26/16 Kevin Costner & Modern West in Poplarville, MS Brownstone Center United States
Time: 7:00pm. Address: 101 Hwy 11 N. Buy tickets
08/27/16 Kevin Costner & Modern West in Ocala, FL Circle Square Cultural Center United States
Time: 7:00pm. Address: 8395 SW 80th Street. Buy tickets
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2nd of June

Life in Prepositions


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In life…

…Beneath covers

Between parents…

…For months, years

Since birth…

…Until milestones

On the road…

…Among friends

Outside the office…

…Beside the ocean

Opposite the love of your life…

…Plus kids

Minus some…

…Without others

With God…

…Versus the devil

Within life…

…Before the end

Above ground…

…Near it all

Like heaven…

…But not really

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Categories:  adventure thankfulness
27th of April

5 Things To-Do Before Vacation Starts


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Prior to hitting the road –

  1. Setting aside swimming trunks (getting to use them in warmer climes after they’ve clogged your drawer space ALL YEAR LONG)
  2. Packing that 1 book you’ve been meaning to read FOR EONS
  3. Buying some favorite “road warrior” snacks – examples include: Beef jerky (Mingua, if you can find it), Clif bars (Carrot Cake), Twizzlers (Cherry Pull ‘n’ Peel), enough Coke Zero to get to Destination: Wherever
  4. Printing paper directions [Just in Case – power on the Eastern seaboard abates, cell phones die, tech fails mid-trip]
  5. Adding those top 10 favorite albums to your car playlist (yes, Bob Marley should be in there…somewhere)

Bobmarleygold

Let’s go!

 

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Categories:  adventure thankfulness
3rd of September

Chest Pains.


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In 2001, during a one-mile run my junior year of high school, I felt chest pains. My heart started racing. I remember leaning against the side of my car and praying Not again.

I had been seeing a heart specialist in Somerset, KY to monitor irregular heartbeats which had started causing my heart to palpitate. A company in Atlanta had requested that I send results to them through a heart monitor every day for the past month. (Imagine the cool points that bad boy won amongst my peers.) After the run, I remember getting to my house, collapsing on the floor, and recording the heart rate with the attached monitor. The rate was above 250 beats per minute, and it kept this pace up for an hour. A week later, my cardiologist had me visit Lexington for a heart ablation – so that the heartbeat would return to normal. We prayed. And, they were able to successfully burn eight spots that were instigating the additional heartbeat, and…things felt much better!

A few months later, I remember returning to the basketball courts and being afraid that the arrhythmia would return. Every time I took a jump shot or started to jog, the fear of being out-of-control would return. Thankfully, the arrhythmia remained absent for the rest of my junior year and all of my senior year of high school. The choice to push ahead was solely mine, but I didn’t want to let anyone down either. My senior year was a tough experience, and I was able to encourage the under-classmen in athletics (and academics), I hoped. I went to college and didn’t think this health ailment or any other would affect me again.


Fast forward to the spring of 2005, I was a sophomore at the University of Kentucky. I felt the strain of a busy finals week and the side effects of an unhealthy diet (‘Thank you, DiGiorno’s’), and I knew something else was awry. One morning I found myself tanked on the side of the bathroom tile floor, face wedged beside the tp dispenser. Suffice it to say: I survived that finals week operating at a crawl.

When I went home for the summer, I remember having an insatiable thirst and visiting the refrigerator countless times my first week back. Mom asked, “How long have you felt this way?” I shrugged my shoulders and turned a bottle of Gatorade up into the air. She shook her head, “We’re going to the doctor.” I remember closing the fridge and asking her something, but I don’t remember the drive to the medical center, the doctor saying, “Type 1 diabetes,” or my mom’s response. I wasn’t sure what to do next.


It wasn’t hereditary and no one else in the family suffered from sugar problems. I was devastated. In less than a week, I was scheduled to work at a program called the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program at Bellarmine University in Louisville. My role was to be a resident advisor and also a seminar teacher. With this new obstacle added to my cache, uncertainty of how well I’d be able to monitor my health (and teach in a classroom) loomed like the Headless Horseman. On the first day of class, I remember asking if any student would be willing to help assist. There were several hands that shot into the air. Then, I proceeded to explain my recent diagnosis, and I exclaimed that I was learning about this condition with them. One student said “I have a sister with that.” So, I nominated her as the first week’s helper. When I’d have a sugar low, I’d point to the student assistant, say, “Lead on,” and the other students rallied around that day’s helper, played some motivational song of the 2005 summer on our communal stereo I’d brought. This provided us all a chance to work together, and I’m still grateful for their willingness to help. I wish I knew the finally tally of Nerd boxes I consumed.


These “health” obstacles have helped me learn a lot about perseverance. Just in the few years since I’ve developed them, I’ve learned that succumbing to something shouldn’t be my first thought. My students at GSP taught me that. I appreciated their belief in me (and loyalty to the classroom). For these reasons and countless others, I know that battles must be won, or at the very least—fought for e-v-e-r-y d-a-y. For-ev-errr (imagine Squint from Sandlot saying this). The resolve of my coaches, teammates, parents, and former students to have faith in me has developed character that I didn’t know existed. The more I think about these “setbacks” I recognize that without battles, daily living really could not be fully appreciated. I’m thankful for these obstacles in my life, and I’m even more appreciative of the people who’ve helped me with them.

You know who you are!

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13th of July

Wish I Knew His Name.


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My wife and I vacationed recently. HAVE I TOLD YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE VACATION? Sorry, I’m not screaming AT you…just TO you out of excitement. Yesterday, we made it back from a 2-week hiatus at the Florida Gulf Coast and then a couple’s cruise.

Now, let me tell you one story that sticks out most clearly in my mind. You’re reading this thinking…I don’t want to hear about the Caribbean, or, Brian’s encounters with sharks, but I promise this is that “other” experience abroad. Just follow along. It goes like this…

We arrived at Port Canaveral on July 4th (mid-afternoon) to check-in at the Radisson. I stand in-line and await my turn. There’s an Asian American man of medium build wrestling with a couple of youngsters (I assume they are his), and he’s sweating profusely. The attendant helps him check-in, and he departs with the anxious Lilliputians in tow.

I check us into the hotel. We rest. We eat Subway. Nothing too glamorous here. (Are you still with me?)

We awake on July 5th, after having slept a restful, fireworks bombarded night. I check us out of the Radisson. We are shuttled to Port Canaveral and our new home, a big ship.

It’s ginormous, my wife says. It’s magnificent, I say. The embarkation goes smoothly. We set sail at 5pmish EST. We dine at 6pm. The ship is like a city. You forget you’re moving, plowing towards Caribbean-filled air at 21 nautical knots.

Then, I spot the same Asian American man wrestling with two elderly folks at the Schooner Bar on deck 4. Where have the two younger rapscallions gone? I wonder. He’s yapping at the two elderly folks, and I know he’s trying to get to dinner just like we are. It’s a big ship, I tell myself again. Plenty of room to not be disturbed. 15 stories. C’mon. Maybe I should just introduce myself and make it less weird? I don’t, but move into the dining hall and feast on salmon.

Day 2–a day at sea.

We lounge on the top deck, my wife and I. I plant my face in a waterfall of cascading agua and threaten to not remove my head until we arrive in Haiti. Leah humors me, says “You’ll drown.”

Again, I see the man with the two young kids sitting across from us on the 11th floor, the sunbathing deck. Here, I also see the two elderly folks with him. At the Solarium bar, I see him order a drink. Still, it’s gone too far for introductions. I chalk it up as “we just happen to travel in the same circles” and laugh it off.

Have you ever wondered how you and someone else could literally travel in the same circles? Even at sea on a boat that’s colossal in size?

Day 3–Labadee, Haiti. We dock. We swim on a beach. The same Asian American man walks in front of our chairs 7-10 times in the course of our 2 hours there. I kid you not!

Day 4–Falmouth, Jamaica. We dock. Leah shops. I shop. We board the boat quickly. Jamaica isn’t a place to linger, unless you have a shore excursion. (I do not see the man, the kids, or the grandparents, I assume are his.)

Day 5–Cozumel, Mexico. We dock. The family leaves the ship right in front of us. We see them in the shops. I spot them walking past Carl’s Jr. (Yes, that’s the same franchise as Hardee’s, but with a different name. And, yes. There’s a random one in Mexico. And, yes again. They do serve the Loaded Omelet Biscuit in Mexico as well.) Leah says innocently, “Where have we seen them before?”

I remain silent. Shocked that this phenomenon has happened and equally so that no one else is noticing it but me. Does God want me to talk to this man or what? Wow!

Then, Day 6–day at sea. We see him, his family. It’s gone too far to strike up a conversation at this point. On a ship with 3,000+ guests there’s no way to fathom how I’d strike up a conversation at this point without seeming touched. It would go something like, “So, I’ve seen you. I know, you’ve seen me. Where are you from?”

And silence would follow. He just wants to enjoy his vacation. I’m enjoying mine, I say to myself. Just let sleeping dogs lie.

Day 7 arrives–sadly. The debarkation. We are one of the few EARLY ones that choose to lug our bags off before the maddening crowd awakes. I spot a trio of dolphins in Port Canaveral. Leah says, “There must be a lot of fish nearby.” I agree. Then, the same man with his family marches past me in the line, and he’s sweating again. The kids are a bit calmer at 6:30am–maybe just grumpy now. The grandparents are stoically staring out at the sea. The soon-forgotten trip is in everyone’s mind.

But, I don’t forget anything yet, because we are suddenly shuttled back to the Radisson parking lot. Leah offers to drive, and we take a different road northwest towards Chattanooga. This one offers countless toll roads. We stop 5+ times and shell out the extravagant payments that keep Florida highways looking so pristine. We try to make it around Disney, Orlando, the mice infestation. We succeed. And, when we’ve finally struck highways with numbers we recognize, Leah exhales and decides to stop at a Dunkin Donuts. When we exit, I run to the restroom like one of those mad children from earlier. Leah follows behind me. The ladies room is unoccupied. We recognize a sign on the men’s room which reads “Please knock before entering…Door doesn’t lock!” She laughs at me and ducks into the women’s room. I hesitantly knock on the door, where the wood is off-colored, because so many other fists have knocked before. I wait. No answer. I call out, “Anybody in there?” Nothing. So, I throw open the door and…

Who do you think should be squatting there?

Yep. You guessed it! The same man from our previous jaunt across the southwestern Caribbean. The same man of 9 days previously! The two wild children were in the lobby with the grandparents, I guessed. It was just he and I. I said, “Oh, I’m ssss-so–ssorry!” and slammed the door shut on his bewildered face.

He mumbled, “Aaaaghhh!” and tried to block his face from view. I shut the door so quickly, his face hadn’t registered with me yet. I was too focused on the embarrassment from seeing another grown man indisposed. But, the seconds ticked by as the door remained closed. I heard a flush. I thought about the previous 9 days.

“No way?!” I mutter under my breath, stifling a laugh.

A lady behind me says, “Don’t you just wish you could just clear those images from your head?”

She was really funny. We both cracked up, but I tried to keep my voice down, because he was literally on the other side of the door. My doppelganger of sorts. We traveled the exact same circles and now we were in a random Dunkin bathroom in southern Georgia at 10am or so after all of our time together…and I still didn’t know his name.

He exited and laughed nervously with us.

I said, “I’m sorry about that.”

He waves it off with a smile, says, “The sign clearly reads that the lock doesn’t work. It’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault,” and he laughs again.

I think I should say, “Hey. I know you from somewhere,” but I know it’ll open a can of awkward worms. Over a week’s worth.

He doesn’t admit our connection either, but marches to the front, orders, and collects his family.

What if we lived in the same exact city and didn’t know it? Pretty odd, huh? How many people have the same circles and just don’t know it? Maybe it takes a 9-day voyage to realize it? I still don’t know his or his family’s name. But, I imagine they live right here in southeastern TN alongside me.

We made it back to our apartment last night, and I still have an odd mix of vertigo and disorientation going on inside my head. The realization that this man and I were so similar is unnerving. He’s out there, and he’s busy. I can only imagine that if we ever have children, and we go on another trip like this, and my folks come with us, I’ll be sweating and running around exactly like he was.

I just hope I’m not trying to use a Dunkin Donuts’ bathroom without a lock and laughing off the intruders as they enter my brief bit of solitude.

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3rd of June

5 Phases of Writing.


5 PHASES OF WRITING (in summary):

 

Phase 1: The Excitement!

You shout, “This is the BEST thing since sliced bread! I LOVE YOU book! Go make it BIG.” (Click on picture for fun celebratory dance.)

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Phase 2: Nervous Nelly.

Question you send to publisher, agent, editor: “Soooo did you love my book?” Followed by sweaty palms galore. (see, Chandler Bing)

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Phase 3: Awkward Silence…

…Days, weeks, months.

You say to yourself, “Where is that darn reply?”

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Phase 4: Rejection. Rejection. Rejection.

Publisher writes, “We’re sorry but this work just isn’t right for us at this time. We wish you the best with it elsewhere. Keep us in mind for future projects. Thanks.”

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Phase 5: The Attempt To Stand Back Up.

Recover. Pick up the spilled milk. March on towards that next publisher, say, “Pick me!”

**All the while not walking with a limp.

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May your encounters be sweet in the publishing world this week! Remember: they’re just words typed on a keyboard – somewhere. Nothing personal. Keep at it!

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Categories:  writing tips
28th of May

Farm-Living.


palomino

Have I told you about how I grew up on a farm?

(Some of you just read that and probably thought: O boy. Here we go.)

Most of my times were enjoyable on the farm.

A lot of heavy lifting. Baling hay. Etc.

But, the item that stands out most solidly was something that started as a love of mine and became (ever-so-gradually) a fear, then full-blown hatred about farm life.

It was…my horse.

That’s right.

Backstory: I had had the best pony you could imagine. He was part-human, I swear. Like a big, loyal puppy dog. He followed me everywhere. Going on trail rides with my family was a treat. (I even asked if he could come in the house once or twice.)

Then, 2 things happened:

1.) I grew about 1-foot one summer, gained 50 pounds

2.) My mom said I needed a ‘horse’

So, the hunt started and stopped at an auction in central Kentucky.  We found a palomino! (I’d always wanted one of those.)

I wish I could say the story got better.

Ryker’s Brand Gold dust (her official name) became Gold dust and then Babydoll, because me and my brother thought it sounded better.

She was deathly thin when we bought her. Her next stop probably would’ve been the glue factory had we not stepped in.

She gained weight. We fed her non-stop. Then, I started training her. She gained a little life from the food and training. You could see it in her eyes. I was excited to try this new ride, even though I missed my always faithful pony, Arrow.

Babydoll was beautiful. (Just like the color of gold dust when she was let out into our fields to graze, to take in sunshine, and to mingle with the herd.)

Then, I asked the question, “Since she’s trained, could we take her on the next trail ride?”

We did.

She jumped into the horse trailer, no problem. She unloaded no problem. She rode the trail (at first) no problem.

Then, some proverbial dam bust somewhere in her head.

The happy, content, fat, gold-coated Babydoll went haywire. She refused to cross small watering holes. Started biting other horses. And at one point, she turned and ran through dense trees and brush piles. But, it was obvious she wasn’t just going crazy…she was MEAN. Babydoll tried her hardest to knock me off with branches, tree trunks, and debris. (It was the largest beating I’ve ever sustained on a horse to this day.)

Fast forward to the evening, and I was devastated. We let her graze with the rest, and we left it at that. The next day, my brother and I were going out to fill the water troughs, and Babydoll perked up her ears. Neither Jared nor I thought much of it, because most of the herd loved to check out the water tanks.

But, she did a bit more. She lowered her head and lunged at us. Jared was faster and scaled a fence and looked back. He saw me getting rammed by the rock-like head of the horse. Luckily it knocked me sideways in my run, and I didn’t take the brunt of her force. I recovered and sprinted to another gate and hopped over just as she smacked that gate with her head.

She had become a demon (almost overnight).

Then, we talked about it as a family. We thought she’d come out of it. But, deep down I felt otherwise.

Over the next 2 years, we watched her give birth to foals. Then, we watched her kick at them non-stop and refuse to let them nurse. Luckily, we had other mares to let Babydoll’s offspring choose from.

The trail rides became worse and worse. She kept trying to do the “fling off” method. Rather than enjoy the trips, I just spent most of my weekends whipping her and trying not to die.

2 things happened:

1.) I became great at dodging disasters/death every Sunday

2.) Babydoll took on a constant Hulk-like persona among the other horses.

My family agreed that my sole job was to keep Babydoll from killing the others in the herd. Talk about great riding motivation. But, I did.

Babydoll was hateful, and I missed Arrow, the pony. It was night and day between the two animals’ personalities. Maybe it’s what caused me to steer away from farm life. Either way, I know that Babydoll is somewhere today wreaking havoc upon some other poor soul.

Arrow at 20-something years of age is still offering rides and helping to train the future riders of America! (You should visit him at a stable in Monticello, KY.)

To you Arrow, I say, “Thank you for the many miles, compadre!”

To Babydoll, “No one liked you when you were angry.” (Hulk reference)

 

Throwback Thursday!

 

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20th of May

Best Road Trip Ever!


activity-bus

Think of your favorite road trip.

Do you have yours?

What’s the best *spontaneous* trip you’ve ever taken?

Not a vacation. Not a pre-set engagement. Just a “get-in-the-car-and-go” moment.

Mine happened in the Spring 2007. March. (I remember, because it was 2 months before I got engaged to my beautiful wife.)

 

My buddy, JT says: “We should go somewhere.”

My pal, Danielle confirms, “Somewhere with a beach.”

This was the extent of our plan.

1._ We should go somewhere. & 2._ We should find a beach.

 

So, we embarked South on I-65. No beach criteria other than it’s warmer than Kentucky, in March, and there were some good times ahead.

Pedal down.

 

JT’s Mercury Sable shook intermittently, as we drove sometimes above and sometimes below the speed limit.

We made the coast in record time.

What coast? Gulf.

What beach? We’d thought Gulf Shores, but discovered Orange Beach was, in fact, this one.

We were ecstatic to hit water!

The skies were dreary, but our moods wouldn’t be controlled by some foul weather.

 

We RAN to the water. Our plan looked to be a success. We figured 3-4 days at non-Gulf Shores would be just the trick for our poor, post-Winter, pre-Spring blues.

The skies…did I mention they were dark? Well, they were.

The water was FRIGID!

I remember Danielle had a really awesome camera. She thought JT & I were crazy for risking our necks in barely above freezing water.

Not only was the water almost frozen, but the coastline was empty. It was JUST us. The 3 amigos. (Adam and Lindsey had been too cool to join us in no-man’s land, this time.)

The coast looked like the set from the Cormac McCarthy novel-to-movie adaptation of “The Road.” There was nothing but rough waves, and we yelled to try to hear one another.

JT did something I’d never seen him do. He swam farther out…(Jo Carol, if you’re reading this, please know that I would’ve done my best to save him, had he drowned.)

Yes. JT, the doctor, swam farther out to sea in 40 degree-Farenheit water. I did the only thing a best friend should do: I followed. Plus, I had an ego the size of Texas and had been growing a Jesus beard and couldn’t be out-done. So, out we went.

Danielle snapped pictures and watched from an ever-increasing distance. Our ill-planned trip was all right, if you didn’t count the hypothermia, and “water-so-cold-it-burned” component. But…

The waves pulled us out farther. JT didn’t seem to mind. I noticed the swift current and started to resist. (Again, my Texan complex should not go unnoticed.) Well, the waves were winning, and I couldn’t just LET them. So, I resisted.

JT seemed to wait for the waves to crest at just the right moments and eventually, he decided to “tuck-tail-and-surf” back into the mainland. I tried to follow, but the rip current caught me and pulled me out farther. The timing was off. I was only about 3 feet behind JT, but it resulted in a constant drag outward to sea. I fought mother nature, and she won. I was so tired, I started to think I wasn’t going to make it back. I began to think “Great. I don’t think I even told Mom where I was going,” and started to panic at the turbulence.

When I looked up and saw JT almost back to Danielle on the beach, I decided I couldn’t let THIS be the end (ego rejoined). This was life or death. Orange Beach couldn’t be the end.

I swam as hard as I could with each swell, and even kicked through the rip currents, until finally I was pushed onto shore with a burst that drove me into sand. JT and Dani looked down and hadn’t noticed how much I’d worked to not die. They hadn’t been able to see my panic. (Truth be told: it’s the closest…2nd closest…I’ve ever come to dying.)

But, we survived our first rendezvous with Spring Break.

 

Fast forward to dinner that evening. (We’d placed our bags in some hotel that had availability. Actually they all had availability. Apparently, Gulf Shores, Panama City, and Pensacola were the Spring Break hot spots. Not Orange Beach. So lodging had been no problem.) At dinner, we found a nice seafood restaurant and JT ordered gumbo.

I remember the gumbo, because Danielle and I had commented on New Orleans and made small talk with the waitress. She’d gone on to tell us that Orange Beach wasn’t usually too popular during this time of the year. We added bits and pieces to the conversation about where we were from (small-town USA, Kentucky). She admitted that Kentucky was a place she’d always wanted to visit. The rain kept falling HARD against the metal roof of this establishment.

Her comment about this not being a touristy destination didn’t register right away with us.

Danielle had said, “With this being so close to Gulf Shores, AL, I figured there’d be more people over here.”

The girl had re-filled our waters and nodded. “You’d think that, but I meant because of the storms, and the weather.”

“It’s March.” JT added, “You’d think it’s kinda understood that bad weather happens.”

The girl nodded again. “Of course. It rains a ton. Thunderstorms when there’s not hurricanes. But, I didn’t mean just the weather. I meant what the weather brings with it…” she trailed off.

We just stared at her. Waited for her to continue.

“The sharks,” she said matter-of-factly.

None of us spoke. JT finally piped up, “Sharks? C’mon.”

“Seriously. The bull sharks. They come up close during these thunderstorms and feed close to the shoreline.”

Danielle looked at me. “But, they’re not that dangerous are they?”

The waitress went on, “Only the most. They’ve attacked a few people just a few weeks back. That’s why they’ve asked people to stay away from the water. Until…it clears up anyways.”

JT swalled a big gulp of now colder gumbo.

“You’d have to be insane to be out there in the water. If the waves didn’t get you, the sharks would.”

“That’s why the beach was empty,” I said out loud. “That makes sense,” I tried to laugh, now in a cold sweat.

“You all weren’t in it were you?” she asked.

JT shook his head yes and told her we had.

She called us N-U-T-S and told us we were lucky to be alive.

 

The remainder of that impromptu road trip was spent watching it rain, singing random songs the 3 of us knew, and playing frisbee against some tropical winds.

Safe to say, none of us swam the rest of that trip. We were alone on a beach without any traffic, any commitments, and plenty of bull sharks watching us.

JT looked for the fins poking out of the water. I worked on my Jesus beard. Danielle (camera amateur-turned-pro) took phenomenal pictures of the storms raging power.

It was a road trip unlike any I’ve ever had. Do I miss Orange Beach? Not at all. But, would I delete that memory and the dangerous elements of that trip? Not in a million years.

It was a season I’ll not soon forget. Thank you for the adventurous camaraderie guys!

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