We woke up at a motel outside of Pensacola. I had been pushing for more water attractions, and this was the day I had convinced Tom and Sarah that it was time to experience something new — parasailing. Not to be confused with hang gliding (Tom’s original guess), parasailing is when there is a winch on the back of a boat with a cable attached to a harness and a parachute — and the harness is attached to one or more people. Everyone is loaded on the boat and as it starts moving the parachute fills with air and lifts the harness and attached person(s) above and behind the moving boat. As the winch lets more cable out the parachute and riders go farther back and higher up. Think Benjamin Franklin and a kite with keys attached, only Ben is a moving boat, the kite is a parachute, you are the keys, and there is no rain or lightning. Well there isn’t supposed to be rain or lightning. On this day, there was.
The drive to Pensacola Beach was interesting. The buildings reminded me of a newer, fresher Daytona Beach, and the drive to the island vaguely reminded me of a much shorter island hopping Key West drive. We arrived about an hour early and watched the parasailing group right before us depart; I wasn’t sure if we would have been able to go as part of this group if we had been five minutes earlier, but in either case we missed the boat and walked over to the beach shack to start figuring out payment and filling out forms. I had arranged for a “triple” by calling ahead from the road; Tom, Sarah and I would be hauled up in the same specially designed harness sitting side by side.
I was especially resistant to any pricing shenanigans after the previous night, when we arrived at a motel to have an extra ten bucks tacked on to the price quoted on the phone. Along with Tom’s experience buying a laptop charger in Miami, this was leading me to believe that more folks in this area have a greater propensity to engage in questionable business ethics. The parasailing shack was no exception. Without previously mentioning it on the phone, they informed us that we were way over the weight limit for the three person parachute. It was 425 pounds. The rain was slowly picking up. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have the toned body of a gymnast, but four hundred and twenty five pounds?! You couldn’t have mentioned that we might be over the weight limit before we came? Is it so odd for three adult Americans’ average weight to be over 140 pounds each? Normally, I would have been indifferent (or even happy) about the fifteen extra bucks we shelled out for an upgrade to two double rides, but I was tired of being jerked around. Sarah gave me a “don’t make a big deal” look and I paid the difference out of our road trip fund.
Sarah was the most squeamish about parasailing, so Tom and I quickly decided that she would be the one to go up in each of the double rides (once accompanying each of us). We waited for the rain to slow down. It started pouring. We went to Side Lines Sports Bar and Restaurant down the road for some food and beers.
I know. This is not the post you wanted to read from your cubicle—or wherever you’re reading from. You don’t come to this website to hear what a pitiful time we are having on a particular day (actually it wasn’t really that bad; we were on the beach and taking most everything in stride.) Well things get more interesting. Remember the title? “Fortunate bad weather” must mean something. Keep reading.
We were enjoying our plates and talking to the bartender. An old man at the bar kept talking about how Michael Jackson’s funeral wasn’t a big deal, and the news should be talking about our troops overseas instead. The servers were happy to point out that he was the only person in the restaurant making a big deal out of it. We got a good meal in us, had a couple laughs and, best of all, the rain slowed down dramatically.
We went back to the beach shack, and though it was still too rainy for parasailing, it had cleared up enough for wave runners. We happily selected two wave runners and got a refund for the price difference (including the extra paid for the weight issue). After a quick boaters safety course we were off.
This was easily the single most fun half hour of the trip for all of us so far. Tom got his own watercraft and Sarah hopped on the back of mine. Tom’s had a speedometer and got up to fifty one miles per hour; Sarah and I were going about the same speed. Let me assure you: fifty one miles an hour seems much faster on the water than it does in a car on the highway. Sarah screamed “Joey! Slow down! Joey!” and I stopped.
“Sarah, if you’re just going to scream the whole time, we’re not going to have any fun.”
As soon as I finished with the speed trials, it was time for some 360’s. I sped up again, and then let my hand off the gas. A second before the wave runner came to a complete stop, I turned the handlebars and gunned it. Water shot out of the back of the wave runner, and we suddenly transitioned from skipping across the water to being propelled into a leftward hairpin turn; our momentum carried us forward but this sudden new force spun us around at the same time. Sarah held on to my lifejacket for dear life. The rest of the half hour was more of the same.
About twenty minutes into our half hour, I asked Sarah if she wanted me to flip the wave runner and assured her that we would just flip it over us, not fling ourselves off or hit the water hard.
“Nonononononono!” was the quick response. She later informed me that that is something you do on your second or third wave runner ride.
By the end my thighs and knuckles were sore from holding myself in place in a semi-standing position for the tricks. Sarah was crazy to put up with all of this for the whole time she was on the back. I would have never ridden passenger for such a ridiculous ride.
The rest of the day saw us driving along the Florida panhandle coast for several hours, going shopping, and ending at an Extended Stay hotel in Mobile, Ala. We ate Sarah’s fabulous taco salads with beef, homemade guacamole (!), fresh salsa, and some cheese that my Aunt Denise was kind enough to give us before we left Atlanta.
What a day.