It’s my favorite time of the year – Mancation time! For those of you who have been following my blog over the past 2 years know I do this trip every year. My three best friends and I travel somewhere around the country to eat BBQ, relax and catch up with each other.
2018 is our tenth anniversary of doing these trips together. I never dreamed that after our first trip to Memphis in 2009, we would still be doing this 10 years later. During out trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas in 2017, we discussed options for this 10 year trip. I suggested bringing our wives with us as a show of appreciation for the years of indulgence they have granted us. The other guys agreed that would be a good move. We all agreed that Florida might be a suitable destination to escape the Ohio winter. Boy were we right on all accounts!
Our long weekend kicked off at 3:45am Friday morning. My wife and I left our house at 4;30am to drive to the airport. Who had the bright idea to book at 6:35am flight?? It was a quick – but bumpy- flight from Columbus to Nashville. After a short layover and breakfast we were on our way to Pensacola, FL.
We landed in Pensacola by 9:30am central time. My friend Derrill picked us up at the airport and took us back to his hotel. We lounged around the pool in the 70 degree warmth.
We loaded in the rental car and the four of us drove to our rental house in Destin, Florida. Since my role in the group is “The Plan” I booked our house and researched most of the restaurants and activity options for us. I arranged for an early check-in to our house since I knew we would be arriving by 1pm. It was exactly what I had hoped.
Four bedrooms and four bathrooms, spacious kitchen and only one block from the beach. Rob and his wife flew directly into the Destin airport. Larry and his wife drove down from Ohio and picked up Rob / Caryn from the airport. What a reunion if was for the 8 of us. Our friendships span over 20 years at this point.
We loaded all our luggage inside and sorted out who would get each one of the four bedrooms. Next order of business; Eating. Route 83 BBQ was our first destination and turned out to be our best. As you can see, we took advantage of the arcade games after we ate.
We drove back to our house after lunch to nap, watch the Olympics, read or take a walk. One of our many traditions on Mancation is to bring gifts to commemorate the trip. My friend Derrill works for Goodyear and always brings really cool Goodyear clothing as a keepsake with special embroidery marking the year and our destination. In addition to being the team planner, I am also the unofficial archivist. I keep all the pictures, menus of places we eat, journal logs, movie ticket stubs and other memorable items. My contribution to each of the guys was hard cover book containing photos of our last 10 years. Larry got us each Zippo lighters.
By 5pm, none of us were hungry so we took a stroll down to the beach in time to catch the sunset.
We loaded in the cars and drove to a Destin classic for dinner; McGuire’s Irish Pub. I can’t imagine how packed this place would be during peak tourist season. McGuire’s is famous for the literal millions of one dollar bills hanging on the walls & ceiling.
Day 1 of mancation was in the books. 3:45am felt like a long time ago by the time we got back to the house.
Day 2: I awoke to the smell of coffee and baking food. Larry was already up making breakfast burritos filled with rib meat he bought from Edley’s in Nashville on his way down. Edley’s ribs are just as good served with eggs and cheese wrapped in a burrito.
We decided to split guy & gals for the morning. The ladies wanted to do some shopping while we wanted to wander the local Bass Pro Shop. We re-grouped for lunch at Jim ‘N Nicks BBQ. Once again, the ladies fully embraced the experience of seeing us eat BBQ in our natural habitat. They got it, and joined us in trying the various sauces, commenting on smoke flavor, texture, moisture and how the sides stacked up against other places. The joke for the weekend became, “The girls earned their spurs.”
The panhandle of Florida is known as the Emerald Coast. My cell phone pictures don’t do it justice but the waters truly are an emerald color.
On each mancation, there is some phrase, some event, some place we eat that causes us to remember it and have it permanently etched into mancation lore. Dinner at Hog’s Breath Saloon was it. We were all gathered having a leisurely dinner on the outdoor patio when some guy from two tables away yells something about Goodyear. He recognized the Goodyear logo on our shirts and proceeded to join us at our table for the next 15 minutes. Darren turned out to be one of those larger than life personalities that has never met a stranger. Darren’s Dad worked for Goodyear for 30 years in Ohio so this piqued his curiosity about our matching shirts and why we were all in Destin. You can’t make up things like this.
If you didn’t know better, you might dismiss Darren as a local homeless guy. You would be wrong, Darren is retired military, very intelligent and the proprietor of a local donut shop. Tune back in to my next post for more about the donut shop and our grand finale dinner overlooking the beach….