Even though I sit here confined by the walls of my Green Street office, I can smell just the faintest hint of the southwest Alabama beach air.

It’s what you might call an anticipatory whiff.

Next week at this time, I’ll be headed that way. Lynn and I will spend Wednesday through Saturday nights next week in Orange Beach.

Four nights will seem like a lifetime.

I haven’t had a vacation since I started work here at TPI almost three years ago. It’s difficult to find the time to do so when you work for small-staff newspapers. But I decided I would carve out some time to stick my toes in the sugar-white sand of the Alabama beach, gorge myself on a strictly seafood diet for a few days, slather on a handful of SPF 99 and, hopefully, recharge my batteries.

(Chances are when I get back I won’t care to see an oyster, shrimp or scallop for some time.)

I’ve long been an aficionado of the beach. Growing up in Opp in extreme south Alabama, we often made beach trips as day trips of the family. Mom would pack a lunch, we’d don our swimsuits and the five of us would pile into whatever vehicle we owned at the time and head south. It was only about a 90-minute to two-hour drive to Panama City from my childhood home.

Oh, the fun we had! Swimming in the salt water, building sandcastles – just generally doing the things kids do when they’re frolicking on the shore of that awesome, seemingly endless body of water.

Next week, Lynn and I are hopeful that our grandkids will join us for at least a couple of days. We look forward to doing with them the things we did as youngsters on trips to Panama City, Destin and Orange Beach/Gulf Shores. We look forward to seeing their awe at the enormity of the Gulf, at the thought of what must lie underneath the surface of its waters. We look forward to building intricate sandcastles, to collecting the shells that wash up along the shore.

A few years back, Lynn and I cruised to the Bahamas. We decided to drive down (big mistake!). Along the way, we stopped for a night in St. Augustine. It was my first real exposure to an Atlantic beach.

I hated it.

It was rocky and brown and, when you’re used to Alabama’s beaches, just icky.

Here in Alabama, we are spoiled. We have easy access to perhaps the most beautiful beaches in the world. Yes, I can remember when Orange Beach was just a few beach bungalows. There was very little commercialization, if any at all. It has been discovered now and has become more commercial, but still far less so than the better known beaches of Florida.

Plus, as Alabamians, it’s our beach. Just one more thing about our state of which we can be proud.

So when Lynn and I take that trip south next weekend for some much-needed rest and relaxation, we don’t even have to leave the state and we can enjoy some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and some great times.

I’m guessing the closest we’ll come to Florida is the Flora-Bama.