It had almost become an annual event–until Hurricane Ivan rained on our parade a few years ago—that we would spend a week vacationing in a cushy condo overlooking the white sandy Gulf of Mexico beach at Perdido Key which is located just past the Alabama-Florida state line in the Sunshine State.

The area has been restored beautifully but it took three years of missing this annual trek before we were able to enjoy the vacation as we used to.

Although the trip is the same number of miles as it used to be, it took us three more hours to drive down Interstate 10 because so many more people are choosing this area for their vacations, too.

Throw in some rainy weather both coming and going and a gross mis-management of traffic flow around Mobile, Ala. and it’s a 10-hour trip instead of the usual seven hours. IH 10 has a two-lane underwater tunnel and four-lanes of traffic leading to it in the heart of downtown Mobile. Traffic moves at a snail’s pace for miles.

Luckily that is only Eastbound, but it has happened with the same traffic congestion the last couple of times we traveled through Mobile. However, the return trip home heading west was no problem, because there are not four lanes of traffic approaching the tunnel.

Susan and I traveled in our car while our daughter Cathy Whitehead, husband Brian, grand-daughters Jennifer 14 and Shannon 11 led the way in their vehicle. We tried to stay close together and utilized the old’ reliable cell phones whenever we lost sight of each other.

We were about 10 miles from the Mississippi-Alabama state line when this bozo in a full-sized import nudged his way between us in the left-hand lane. It had been raining and the line of traffic was slowing down periodically.

One time the line slowed down but the bozo must have been texting or something and had to jam on his brakes. The next thing we knew his car was perpendicular to mine and Brian’s car, sliding toward the right-hand lane which also was laden with traffic.

As his car spun to complete a 360 degree circle, I saw the most terrified look I’ve ever witnessed on the driver. When he cleared my path I accelerated in case someone from the right lane swerved into my lane to avoid the anticipated collision.

I heard a big bang and thought the truck next to me with the word “EXPLOSIVES” written on the side had hit me. But the sound came from a car rear-ending the truck. We had to keep moving but in my mirror I saw at least half-dozen cars off the right side of the road.

We arrived safely at Perdido Key late that afternoon and settled into our three-bedroom condo on the fifth floor with a veranda that was less than 100 feet from the Gulf.

Monday was the only cloudless day, perfect for a round of golf. I asked if there was a special rate for seniors and was told that nearly everyone that plays are seniors, but there was a twilight rate after 1 p.m. which sounded good.

The Perdido Bay Golf Club was only a couple of miles from the condo and thanks to all the rain that fell this summer, the course was a lush green. I shot about 10 strokes better than the last time I played there a few years ago, crediting the shorter senior distances rather than an increase in talent.

The Blue Angels were practicing Wednesday morning so Brian and I took the girls to Pensacola Naval Air Station, which was only about five miles from the condo and were amazed at the precise maneuvers and tight formations of those six jet pilots.  The key to enjoying the air show was having ear plugs, because those low-flying jets are loud.

Brian and I made a trip to the Pensacola Dog Track and watched those greyhounds chase a mechanical rabbit around the track at 40 mph. That was exciting even though our choices didn’t hit the pay station very often.

Our trip back to Orange in the rain was uneventful except when Susan saw a billboard advertising a Steak N Shake near Covington, La. and had to stop. She remembers eating at that restaurant chain while traveling through Arkansas when she was a little girl.

Her reminiscing was not conducive to my Weight Watchers program.

KWICKIES…The Sunset Grove Country Club’s Men’s Golf Association held its annual Club Championship last Saturday and Sunday.  The Championship Flight was won by Jerrod Landry with Tom Toal second; First Flight winner was Mark Magnuson with Bart Williams and Dwayne Mims tied for second; Second Flight was won by Kelly Cordova with Keith Grissom and Glenn Aldredge tying for second place; Third Flight winner was Bill Van and Donnie Mires and Ed Keegan tied for second; Fourth Flight was won by Cimron Campbell, second was Mike Hughes and third was Randy Brown.

The sports section of the Pensacola News Journal had a couple of big stories about a trio of local athletes– Bubba Watson getting ready to play in the British Open,   Alabama star running back Trent Richardson, who was the only No. 1 pick in the recent NFL draft who has yet to sign a contract and NBA veteran player Reggie Evans, who was traded earlier this month from the LA Clippers to the Brooklyn Nets. Watson was among the first-round leaders while Richardson was a graduate of Escambia High School, the same alma mater as Emmitt Smith. Evans had NBA stops at Seattle, Denver, Philadelphia, Toronto and the Clippers.

NCAA President Mark Emmert came down hard on Penn State Monday morning by fining the institution a whopping $60 million, banning the football team from the post-season including all bowl games for four years, making the school forfeit 112 football victories from 1998-2011, eliminating 20 football scholarships per year and putting the football program on probation for five years. Penn State players and new recruits may transfer to another Division I institution and be able to play immediately. It’s a shame that the football program Head Coach Joe Paterno took decades to build into national prominence was torn down by one perverted assistant coach. So many people (players and fans) are being punished for something with which they had nothing to do.

Former West Orange-Stark Mustang and University of Texas standout Deon Beasley is presently starting at cornerback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League. The Blue Bombers made it to the championship game last season but is off to an 0-4 start so far this season, which begins two months earlier than the NFL because of Canada’s different climate.

Australian golfer Adam Scott proved once again that a player or team cannot play NOT to lose but must continue doing what got them to the brink of victory. Scott led by four shots with four holes remaining in last weekend’s British Open and was defeated by a surprised Ernie Els, who won his fourth major tourney. The easy-going South African felt really bad about his good friend Scott’s late collapse, but Els did play well enough to win. Tiger Woods had his chances, but made a major mistake by not taking a drop from a bunker and ended up with a triple-bogey seven on the hole. Tiger finished tied for third place with Brandt Snedeker, four strokes off Els’ winning score of 273.

JUST BETWEEN US…I was appalled when I checked Sunday’s Houston Chronicle and saw how the Astros front office dismantled the team’s pitching staff, which at one time was pretty good. The team had reduced its average age to 27 years old and the number of bona fide major league players to single digits. The next thing they probably will do is fire Manager Brad Mills for not winning enough games. But how can a team of minor leaguers compete against real major leaguers? And how can management in good conscience ask patrons to pay major league prices to watch the Astros create new ways of losing games?