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break with tradition
a tale of travel and teenagers
by jack bradley

“Anyone have a good spring break story?” my friend Marty asked. Her 17-year-old son was leaving for Spring Break, and she was wondering whether or not to be worried.

“I do,” I answered. “But I can’t tell you all of it. I don't think the statute of limitations has expired for at least two parts of the tale.”

She didn’t look relieved by my comment, so I decided to tell her about it to put her mind at ease. After all, my story is set many years ago…back when Spring Break didn’t mean that you should pack Kevlar underwear in order to survive the weekend. So I started my story, intending to do a good deed.

Now, I warn you…if you are a mother with a college-age son (or if you are MY mother) then you should skip this column. Really. This means you, Mom.

insert wavy flashback effect here

I was 17 going on 28. I intended to spend my own money, and I claimed to be spending the weekend with the brother of one of the guys going. Technically I only claimed that after the fact…since I neglected to inform my parents that I was going at all. Of the five guys going, none of us had brothers in Florida and none of us notified our parents of our intended whereabouts. We didn’t have the money to fly to Florida, so we decided to drive. From Raleigh, NC to Key West. Five guys, one car, 18 hours. No one who had been to Key West before. No map.

It’s a wonder that we didn’t end up in Montreal.

Our plan was to leave early the next day and make it to Daytona the first night. We all agreed upon the time (6am the following morning) and the place (the parking lot outside of Hardee’s™), and then decided to have a beer to celebrate our upcoming vacation. This would prove to be a bad idea. No one made it to Hardee’s™ at 6am the next morning, mainly because there is no such thing as a group of college guys having “a beer.”

We left Raleigh at 10am the next day with one huge suitcase full of T-shirts and shorts for all of us to wear, half of a cooked turkey, two boxes of Girl Scout Cookies™, a birthday cake, five cases of Busch™ beer, and five raging hangovers. We were driving my 246-ft long Buick Electra, which I had bought off the neighbor lady when she couldn't drive anymore. The guys complained that it still had 'old-lady' smell in it, but it was the only vehicle that we owned that would a) make the trip, and b) hold all five of us and our beer comfortably. Trust me, five is not a crowd in a boat like a Buick Electra…unless you plan on sleeping in it. Which we did.

In Florida.

In the summertime.

Virginia is north of North Carolina. Key West is south of North Carolina. Virginia was still a wonderful and unforgettable part of our trip, and I highly recommend the Lucky Ricky’s Truck Stop and Fireworks Emporium just outside of Richmond. They make a great cheeseburger, and give helpful advice…such as “Buy a map.” And they don’t laugh until you turn your back.

Back on the road and headed finally for Florida, the five of us decided to while away the time by telling stories, spotting cops, and speculating on the things we would do once we made it to Key West. This fun lasted for about an hour before we all began to get on each other’s nerves, so we turned our attention to the supplies.

The Girl Scout Cookies™ were listed as the first casualty since they didn't make it to the North Carolina border. The birthday cake didn't make it to Georgia (it was chocolate.) The beer made it until we got to the hotel in Daytona (at 4am. Don’t ask.) but didn't last the night. The turkey carcass not only made it to Florida, but managed to elude our notice until we were on the way home (10 days later) and someone said “Dude! Who forgot to bathe before we left?”

"Finally," I thought...realizing that there had been a decaying turkey in the trunk of my car for a week in the Florida sun. "No more old lady smell."

The days in between are better left a bit vague. We made it to Key West and spent the days on the beach, the evenings drinking and dancing, and the nights fighting for leg-space as we tried to sleep in the stuffy, smelly interior of a drab green Buick. We rarely met anyone that would hang around with us (“Dude! What’s that smell?”), but that was okay. We were on Spring Break in Key West, and in seven days we saw the biggest boats we’d ever seen, drank too much beer, bought cheesy T-shirts with profane slogans on them, wore cheap sunglasses (day and night), snorkeled on the reef, and discovered that having at least one person get seasick on a boat is a great way to insure that you’ll see lots of fish. I told my friend Marty about all this, expecting her to start telling me how her sweet 17-year-old son would never do those things. Instead, she just looked at me. “How old are you?” she asked.

“Thirty-four,” I said.

“That explains it,” she said. “I’m not worried about anything you just told me. I WISH he was just going to spend the week drinking and chasing girls and horking up cheap beer.”

“Actually, I was just wondering if I should let him take the .38 for protection,” she finished.

Times have changed since I was a teenager, and I guess my stories didn’t help Marty much.

Maybe they’ll make my Mom feel better.

Jack Bradley
April 2, 2001
Sydney, Australia


Born the son of a circus monkey, Jack had to overcome the stigma of having an address south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Struggling against all odds, he finally got his HS diploma from some guy on the corner, and proceeded to attend NC State University, where his records are now the "running joke" in the admissions office. In February of 2000, he moved to Sydney, Australia, to pursue a writing career full-time. Jack currently has a husband but no wife, no children, and a dog with great fashion sense.

more about jack bradley


culture shock
where women glow, men chunder, and the spiders can kill you
by jack bradley
topic: humor
published: 4.26.00

it ain't no day at the beach
and you thought sand in your shorts was bad
by jack bradley
topic: humor
published: 1.26.01


adam kraemer
4.23.01 @ 9:58a

I did Spring Break in the Bahamas my Junior year (1995) and I don't remember feeling like I needed to pack heat.

joe procopio
4.23.01 @ 10:27a

I have almost the same story except I was 16, it was Syracuse to Myrtle Beach, there were 20 of us, and only 5 of us didn't get kicked out of our various hotels by the end of the trip. God bless freshmen at all girls' schools (or are they freshpersons?) who put most of us up as long as we bought the beer.

So... by association, God bless fake IDs.

scott gaines
4.23.01 @ 12:32p

This brings back memories of sleeping in a Camaro on Daytona Beach, and not discovering until the next morning exactly what "high tide marker line" meant. On the plus side the tow driver knew some great bars to hang out in while we waited for repairs.

michelle von euw
4.23.01 @ 4:12p

I met my (soon-to-be) husband because I went to Ft. Lauderdale on spring break in 1994. Oh, he wasn't actually there, it's a longish 6 degrees of separation story that I won't bore you with, but it justifies the whole experience. And Scott, at least your car made it to Florida -we had to leave my roommate's somewhere in Georgia.

jack bradley
4.23.01 @ 10:31p

Scott: My Buick went onto the beach at Daytona, as well. We discovered that it would start to sink as soon as you stopped moving, so we just drove up and down and up and down...before finally realizing that we had to stop sometime. We also met a nice, well-informed tow-truck driver. I shoulda' given him the turkey.

gina childress
4.24.01 @ 9:15a

Jack! Great article but I'm shocked!

I'm telling Mom!

Love, Sis

adam kraemer
4.24.01 @ 9:57a

Yes, but none of you had the Spring Break experience of hearing Clarence Carter's "Strokin'" every time you walked into the local souvenir shop. Well, maybe some of you did.

jael mchenry
4.24.01 @ 10:02a

Adam, I remember this for some reason, even though I wasn't there -- we must have made it a Zamboni theme.

adam kraemer
4.24.01 @ 10:13a

Oh, we definitely did. Bill even bought the greatest hits CD (currently in my posession). And knowing the general luck the Zamboni staff had with dating, it was more than appropriate.

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