Beach memories offer winter escape

As I was wading through a snow drift the other day, the thought suddenly occurred to me that it would be much more enjoyable to be traipsing through hot sand on a sunny beach.

I think this became most clear to me as I made one wrong step that sent a handful of snow right up my pant legs and consequently down into the sole of my shoe.

These past several weeks of freezing weather have inspired a lot of beach-themed fantasies for me. In fact, while walking into blustering, frozen winds, I was literally imagining that I was on a beach with cloudless, 90-degree weather.

It?s funny to think that five months ago I was imagining something quite opposite.

That?s because for a few days in August, I really was on a beach with cloudless, 90-degree weather.

South Padre Island?a little tropical landmass just off the southern tip of Texas?was the destination for a vacation I took with my girlfriend Shelby and her family. Even Mocha, Shelby?s small-sized and small-bladdered dog, was in tow as we headed to the beaches for a few days of some proverbial fun in the sun.

After a two-day drive, I clearly remember the excitement I felt as we pulled into the small parking lot by a public beach. And even more vividly do I remember the excruciating pain that met my tender feet as they were touched by the burning-white sand.

You know that sizzle you get when you first put a piece of raw meet on a flaming barbeque grill?

Enough said.

Without warning, a relaxing day at the beach had become an impromptu war game of dodging flaming landmines. And by ?flaming landmines? I mean ?trying to walk across the sand without letting it creep between your flip-flop and the sole of your foot.?

For the uninitiated, let me explain that this is easier typed than done, especially when moving as fast as possible because the heat itself is smoldering through the cheap flip-flop foam.

The only relief from burning feet was to stand in the wet sand right off the ocean, and once I was that close there was nothing I wanted more than to go all the way into the water.

This meant that my sunscreen application process was a quick rubdown that ultimately ended with two untreated areas: one large spot behind both armpits.

As if that wasn?t uncomfortable enough, a day spent at the South Padre Island Schlitter?bahn Waterpark?where patrons spend the majority of their time folded into an inner tube as they float through the park?s network of lazy rivers?resulted in some awkward sunburn creases.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy the island vacation, but after just a couple of days my blistering feet, shoulder blades and zebra-like stripes on my stomach were becoming keen on the whole idea of chilled and refreshing snow.

(To set the record straight, I really did enjoy the whole vacation, even though I lost two great pairs of sunglasses to waves wielded by unforgiving Poseidon.)

I think it?s interesting how the complete opposite seems so much more preferable. It seems that most people are prone to the grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side syndrome.

When we?re hot, we want cold. And when we?re cold, we want hot.

Dogs, on the other hand, don?t suffer from this at all.

I make this assumption after having observed Mocha both on Padre Island and in this month?s snow.

Dogs are smart enough to know when they?ve had enough of a good thing. (This is in complete contrast to me: even when I felt the sunburn developing on my back, I continued to play in the waves without the slightest consideration of stopping to apply sunscreen.)

In the snow, Mocha will race around the yard for a few minutes, and then decide that she?s had enough. But when it?s time to tinkle and it?s cold out, instead of subjecting herself to the harsh elements, Mocha simply walks a few feet out the back door, does her business right there in the snow on the deck, and trots back inside.

Mocha may be a small dog that can?t distinguish between a chew toy and dirty laundry, but she?s not dumb.

(However, perhaps it should also be noted that on South Padre Island, Mocha only did her business next to a dead pelican a couple hundred feet away from our camper.)

I think we can all learn something from Mocha when we start to fantasize about a place that seems much better than our current weather.

Just don?t do it on the deck.

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