Dimon Kendrick-Holmes

Don’t let double red flags spoil your Florida beach vacation

The double red flag means get out of the water — and stay out.
The double red flag means get out of the water — and stay out. Ledger-Enquirer

My favorite part of a beach vacation is probably the drive there, especially the very first couple of miles when we pull out of our driveway, glide down our street, hop on I-185 and then hit that long ramp onto J.R. Allen Parkway.

Man, I love it.

I love it so much because I’m leaving: leaving the mind-numbing busyness of home, leaving the daily grind of work, and probably most of all leaving behind this reply for anyone who in the next week will be sending me an email: “I will be out of the office until Monday, June 4, with limited access to email. If you need anything, please contact (name of random lucky person).”

In fact, I feel deep envy when I’m not on vacation and I’m out on J.R. Allen and somebody from Cobb or Gwinnett County breezes by in an SUV loaded down with bikes and little boats and everybody inside is laughing and singing and looking fondly at one another — you know, because they’re headed to the beach and life is good.

A couple of weeks ago, we were headed to the beach. It was a little weird because we were doing so under a tropical storm watch, but we didn’t feel so anxious because:

• We’d called the company that we’d rented our beach house from, and the nice lady in the office assured us that the weather there was beautiful at that very moment. (If you want to feel good about the weather, call somebody who rents beachfront property by the week and ask them for a report.)

• Also, as the nice lady in the office pointed out, we were under a storm watch and not a storm warning. Big difference. There’s no actual storm, just the potential of one. And as Bear Bryant once said, “Potential means you don’t have any.” He was referring to football players, but you can compare anything to football, right?

• And besides, we couldn’t get a refund on our rental unless there was a mandatory evacuation order. At least, that’s what the nice lady told us.

• Oh, and the road was packed with other SUVs heading south filled with families laughing and singing and looking fondly at one another. So at least we were in good company.

As it turned out, we had nothing to worry about.

And the waves were awesome.

This made me nostalgic because when I was a boy, we could actually swim when the waves were awesome. We had tractor trailer inner tubes and we’d hook an arm around these tubes and fight our way out into the ocean until we could get on top of one of those awesome waves and ride it all the way to the shore.

I did this when I was 10 years old and my brother was 8. My mother did have one rule: we had to go out together so that one of us could save the other one if we got caught in a riptide or something.

In 1979, right before Hurricane Frederick hit the Gulf Coast, we were out there riding the waves on our giant tubes and a helicopter flew down the beach with a loud speaker telling us — not to get out of the water — to get our parents and evacuate the coast.

Now I’m an adult and I’m on the beach with my three sons, ages 16 to 19 and all strong swimmers, and we’re just standing there because there’s a double red flag prohibiting us from even dipping a toe in the ocean.

The sheriff’s even out on the beach writing tickets to people who do dip a toe.

And it’s not even a tropical storm. It’s potentially a tropical storm, which means it’s not.

But we’re at the beach which is better than being at home, right?