Spring Break In Florida Was Way Different When I Was Young


My uncle owned a motorcycle store in Broward back when Fort Lauderdale was the exotic vacation destination for college-age spring breakers. This was before Cancun, Cabo San Lucas and Jamaica took over. Back when I was in college, a lot of kids like me paid their own tuition and, therefore, sought out a sunny location that met their primary requirement of being within hitchhiking range.

I didn’t hitchhike to Fort Lauderdale but saved up for two years so I could fly. My cost-saving plan was to take off on a wing and a prayer with a 21-year-old, first-time pilot, who had tacked an index card onto the campus bulletin board. It would be him, two of his friends, two more strangers and me.

Long story short? The weather was so horrific that the control tower sent us out over the gulf so that our inevitable crash wouldn’t be into houses. I may have had a near-death experience before we landed. And then, even though he’d taken my round-trip airfare, the pilot “ran out of money” and re-sold my seat, leaving Florida early without me. Fun times.

But you know, kids. Resilient. I had a place to stay (my uncle’s), so I figured I’d get my refund when I got back to Milwaukee. No sweat. Also, no refund.

But we must return to my story after that 100-word essay detour to What-I-Did-On-My-College-Spring-Break Land.

My uncle owned a motorcycle shop. And, because of that, our family was into motorcycles. Both my brothers became absolute fanatics after working for him a few summers, and even I had a bright yellow 60 cc scooter.

My youngest brother (rapidly approaching retirement age) currently owns a paint and body shop where he has pre-painted more than 30 motorcycle gas tanks in preparation for the idyllic gear-head decades stretching ahead of him. He can’t wait.

My other brother Jim (an unsung creative genius) took a full-size Triumph cycle, “sliced” it in half horizontally with a piece of tempered glass and turned it into a coffee table. As a bonus, there was a one-of-a-kind table lamp which revved to life when you pressed down on the accelerator.

My two brothers displayed these companion pieces of art in a Wisconsin bar during a cycle show, and Jim was immediately offered $30,000 for the set on opening day ($50,000 in today’s money). However, because he’s an artist, he turned that down because “they’re not really for sale” and “anyway, no one has seen them yet.” This museum-quality mentality almost cost him a divorce, in addition to 30 grand.

As for me, I had a great time on my scooter. I didn’t give it up until I flopped my helmet onto my ob/gyn’s examination table at eight-and-a-half months pregnant, and he gently suggested I garage the bike for a while. I ended up selling it because (as he already knew, and I didn’t), it’s not really safe to cram an infant into a wire basket and take off.

Sometimes it’s hard being a girl.