Tybee Island Burn

Tonight on the drive home, aside from counting how many times John Tesh could say his own name in 40 minutes (20), I was humored to hear Rick Springfield’s song, Jesse’s Girl.  Flashbacks came from that summer it first came out.

It was 1981 and I was not quite 20, ready to take on some of my own adventures.   Recall from a previous entry that my family adventures usually end up in predicaments.

A solo drive to Tybee Island Beach was in order.  Tybee was the beach we grew up on before it became the celeb magnet it is today.

I packed up my 1968 canary yellow Triumph TR250, with its red wall tires and no speedometer to head to the beach.

Of course at that age, my idea of packing up involved a bathing suit, towel, one change of clothing and a cooler filled with iced Mello Yellow.

I had recently lost a good deal of weight and was going to be sporting a two piece suit for the first time since I was probably, oh – five.

Before I pulled out of the driveway, my mother admonished me to be careful, watch the road and not get burned.

The ride down was great.  It was the first time I had traveled any real distance in the car by myself.  My parents didn’t allow us to get driver’s licenses until we hit 17 and had taken driver’s ed. I remember feeling very accomplished.

The top was down and freedom sang in the wind. I kept with the traffic to keep an even speed.  The police tend to be attracted to bright yellow sports cars almost as much as the hello, officer red ones and my parents would have killed me if I came home with a little blue slip.

Classical music blared from the cassette deck.  How mature and sophisticated.

I didn’t even let the kids in the Statesboro McDonald’s, who so rudely asked if I was a boy or a girl get me down.  I simply opened the door of my cool sports car and pretended to be from some European country and didn’t speak English.  I peeled out of the lot laughing at my genius.

I arrived at the beach around 10am, set up my towel and cooler, stripped down to my awesome red and white two piece bathing suit and proceeded to fry myself during the four hours of most direct sunlight one is now cautioned to stay out of.

Never touched the water.  Nope.  Peter Benchley had seen to the end of my ocean swimming days in 1974.  I had a hardback first edition of Jaws and whatever my imagination didn’t fill in from the book, the movie sealed a year later, despite the fact there hadn’t been an observed shark off the coast of Georgia since 1932.

I dutifully turned over every 15 – 30 minutes and remembered to stay hydrated by downing several of the Mello Yellows.  Nineteen year olds can be rather stupid.

Jesse’s Girl played several times that afternoon on radios across the beach.  I seem to recall having a bit of a conversation with a cute guy concerning the catchy tune.  Strike one – talking to strangers on the beach, not safe.

Around 2pm, I called it quits.  I mean, there’s only so much basking one can do.  I think I had finished my book, too. I packed up my stuff, pulled on my clothes, made the requisite visit to Chu’s and the Sugar Shack and then headed into Savannah.  I wanted to stop by and visit with my grandmother before I left for home.

Mama was delighted to see me and I her.  She tried to convince me to stay the night because it was a first Saturday in Savannah.  She and my aunt (of the desert drowning incident) were going to the Riverfront to walk around and enjoy the evening’s entertainment.

I said no, that I had to get on back.  I had promised my mom not to be too late getting home.  Ah, the days before cell phones and easy access. I could have called, but it would have cost my grandmother for the long distance.

So, I bid Mama farewell and got back on the road.  It wasn’t long before I started feeling strange.  My legs seemed tender inside my jeans and I felt unusually cold.  I pulled off the highway and put the top up on the canary.

I was so distracted that I ended up taking the turn off of I16 too early.  I took the 80 exit instead of the 17.  I’d never been on 80 by myself.  I basically had no idea where I was headed, but figured if I stayed on the highway I would eventually recognize something.  Strike two – watch the road.

It was about 10 miles down the 80 highway when the real chills started.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I was hot as blazes, but shivering.  My clothing was beginning to feel tight.

I was never so happy as to find out that 80 dumped right into Statesboro.  I was half way home.

The next hour or so on the road I don’t remember so well.  I do remember walking into the house, smiling that I had come full circle of my lone adventure and then seeing my mother’s face.  She seemed a bit, shall we say, perturbed.  Strike three – don’t get burned.

People, I was so red I was glowing.  You could feel the heat emanating from my body. And over the course of the next 24 hours, my extremities became so swollen that I could push my finger into my leg and the dent would stay. Blisters developed on my legs, back, chest and face.

I had second degree sunburn all over my two piece bathing suit exposed body.

My individual career as an adventurer had begun, marked by an incredibly stupid afternoon spent in the sun, a great car and a cheesy 80’s pop tune.

Life was good, painful, but good.  Jesse’s Girl will always make me smile…and wince.



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