Summer Travel Map

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 24-30: Finally getting to the Alabama Gulf

October 30, 2013
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, Alabama

We’ve been visiting Alabama for years. With family and friends in Albertville and Birmingham, we’re honorary Alabamans. But, we’ve never been to the Alabama Gulf Coast so we made plans to stop this year.

There isn’t a whole lot of coastline in LA (Lower Alabama), but there are quite a few RV Parks in the Gulf Shores-Orange Beach-Foley area to choose from. After some research, I selected Gulf State Park. Now, we don’t often stay in state parks because of our size and power requirements, but this place was super. Large sites, full utilities, excellent power; what more could you ask for?

We left Destin West right on schedule, at the leisurely time of 10:35 AM. This wasn’t actually late, since we only had 71 miles to drive! We stayed on US-98 to and through Pensacola, then FL-295/FL-292 along the coast to the Alabama line. From there, AL-182 brought us to Gulf State Park. After consulting with the office staff, we picked a nice spot and were soon parked.

We had a huge back-in site with a large paved patio. Taking advantage of the space (and realizing that we’d have had more afternoon shade if we’d have parked facing the other way), we even deployed our “EZ-up” canopy in addition to the outdoor kitchen gear.

The next few days are a bit of a blur. Our friends Linda and Wendell were down from Birmingham, visiting their friends Pat and Clarence who recently moved to Foley.

We headed to Foley Saturday and had a great day and evening. Pat and Clarence had their friends Mary and Jack over as well, so we had a crowd. Brunch and Bloody Marys, catching up, a round of Redneck Horseshoes (bean bag toss), a road trip and a fantastic dinner (with wine, of course) made for a full day! Merlin and Maya Lynn came along and had fun wandering around the house and yard, and making new friends.

Our “road trip” was a mini bar crawl in the afternoon (you have to wait until afternoon, right?) down along the beach. We started at “The Flora-Bama Lounge and Package”, sometimes called “Americas Last Great Roadhouse”. It’s built right on the Florida-Alabama state line. Duh. We opted for beer instead of the famous Bushwacker ice cream cocktails and enjoyed the “ambiance” for a spell. After a bit, we continued on to “Happy Harbor Tiki Bar & Pizzeria” for another round calling it a day.

From the Flora-Bama deck, you can look straight across the Gulf to Cancun. At least part way...

No need for anyone else to buy a lottery ticket after Wendell picked the "winner".

In honor of the regulars at The Rez Bar & Grill in CT...

You know you're in a dive bar when...

Sunday was beach day. We met up in Orange Beach, planted umbrellas, and hung out for a while, until everyone deemed it “done”. We then retired back to Pat and Clarence’s for another dinner. We brought some wine, Linda and Wendell really brought some wine, and another good day came to an end.

Now THAT'S a bottle of Merlot!

On Monday, we rested. While the rest of the crowd made another beach run, Geri and I relaxed with the pups and got ready for hosting the evening’s dinner. Linda and Wendell have been taking a sushi class, so they brought some excellent rolls. We cooked and ate outside, and enjoyed some wine and after-dinner drinks before wrapping up just at the 10:00 PM “quiet time” start. There's a rumor that a group photo exists but, well, let's just say nobody's 100% sure...

Tuesday, we recovered. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

Wednesday, we did our standard pre-departure tasks a bit early, and then met Pat and Clarence at a local restaurant, Cosmo’s, known for meal-sized appetizers and happy hour prices. Their reputation is well deserved! We had shrimp, tuna and probably something else I don’t recall, along with a couple of glasses of wine. It was nice to “hang” with Pat and Clarence and this made for a good close to our visit to “LA”.

As always, please feel free to click on any picture to enlarge it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 17-23: Back in the Panhandle

October 23, 2013
Destin West RV Resort, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

After our great week in Cedar Key, this stop in Destin/Fort Walton Beach was quieter and less noteworthy. But, we had a good week nonetheless!

We’ve been to Destin, well west on the Florida Panhandle, before. Although we had a nice spot, the park we used had way too many rules and not so nice sites. So, my research identified another spot for us to try. Although it’s called “Destin West”, it’s way west, actually in Fort Walton Beach.

We had another easy driving day, this time with no Interstates involved. We headed back out FL-24 to the US-19 junction, then north to Perry where we picked up FL-20 heading west. We bypassed Tallahassee, had lunch at a roadside stop, and soon turned on US-331 back to the beach. A few miles through Destin on US-98 and we were at the Destin West RV Resort.

This is a nicely laid out, newer park. It’s on the bay side as opposed to the beach, and it was relatively quiet even though right on the “main drag”. I suspect that might not be the case during the summer season, but we were fine. Actually, the only noise we heard was from the “Halloween Fun House” next door.

We didn’t plan or attempt to do much, and all expectations were met nicely. We walked the pups around the park, watched the birds and fish by the dock, caught up on some e-reading and nap time, made a couple of shopping runs and ate well, and not much else. All in all, a relaxing week…

Tagliatelle with Sausage and Red Peppers...

...and Chicken Thighs with Yellow Rice made for nice meals!

This was the second place we saw cranes just hanging out.

And the sunsets just keep on coming!

As always, please feel free to click on any picture to enlarge it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 10-16: Livin’ the Low Key Lifestyle

October 16, 2013
Low Key Hideaway, Cedar Key, Florida

This week’s stop was probably the most interesting place we stayed this year. Similar to the Red Coconut last week, I found it via Internet searches. Essentially, I was looking for a place to “drop anchor” for a week somewhere between Fort Myers and Destin/Fort Walton Beach in the Florida Panhandle.

Looking at the map, I noticed a little peninsula with a town called Cedar Key that seemed right where we needed to be. In researching RV Parks, I found that a lot of people mentioned heading for the local Tiki Bar for sunsets. A little more looking and I found that the Tiki was at a place called the “Low Key Hideaway Motel, RV & Tiki”. Wait a minute. “RV”? Let’s check this out.

A little more poking around and a quick phone call, and we were booked into one of the 4 RV spots that sit adjacent to the 5-room motel. Yes, this is a small place in a small town. We ended up being glad we found it!

Our travel day was easy and uneventful. Because of our mastery of night-before preparations, we pulled the coach out of our tight little spot around 8:45 and were on the road before 9:00 AM. Our route retraced our steps back to I-75 where we headed north. This marked the beginning of our trek back to our winter place in Arizona.

After a fuel break at the smallest truck stop we’ve ever seen and a rest stop for the pups, and us, we stayed on I-75 through the Tampa area. Near Ocala, we broke off onto US-27/US-27A, and then turned left on FL-24, which took us right to Cedar Key. We were soon parked and ready to begin our low key adventure.

This is the view out the windshield
Although Cedar Key is located on the Gulf, the Low Key Hideaway is actually on a back bay or bayou facing west. The RV spots are positioned so you can get the best view out the windshield.

Maya says "I like it here"!

Once again, our week consisted of, well, not much. Funny how it went by so quickly, though! The owners of the place, Pat and Cindy, were full-time RVers for several years before buying the motel and “settling down”. It’s “eclectic” to the max, with much of the activity centering on evenings at the Tiki and sunsets. During the day, we were able to watch a pair of osprey build a nest on a platform out in the water.

"Hey! We've seen that sign at The Rez Bar & Grill, too!"

Sounds like a plan to me!

It only took a couple of days for a pair of osprey to start nesting on this platform.

During the week, we made a couple of trips into town, sampling local (OK, “Florida”) beer and getting Geri a seafood fix. It wasn’t far, or crowded. The local “entertainment district” is essentially built on an old pier, right on the water.

Decent, but not awesome...


Sunsets were the highlight of the evenings. We only had one night where there weren’t enough clouds to make for nice color. We took advantage of the deck right outside the coach, and spent part of most evenings over at the Tiki.

Doesn't get much better...

...unless it's this!

It’s an obvious place for motel/RV guests to go, but also a hangout for quite a few locals. One of the “regulars” works at the local marina and has access to fresh seafood (a lot of commerce is done via the barter system locally), and when he heard how much Geri likes clams, he brought a bag of (over) 100 for steaming on the grill. Another night, he brought Spanish Mackerel (even I enjoyed that!) and Red Snapper for the bar to share. Awesome!

We’ll end with a couple of sunset views, taken from roughly the same place but with different tides…

As always, please feel free to click on any picture to enlarge it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 3-9: Back to the Beach!

October 9, 2013
Red Coconut RV Resort, Fort Myers Beach, Florida

In researching potential stops for this leg of our trip, I came across several interesting RV Parks. Red Coconut is definitely one of them, and we had another nice week at the beach.

Our travel day was relatively easy. We had a leisurely morning, hitting the road just before 11:00 AM. I love not having to rush in the morning! Heading west on I-4 for one exit, we turned south on I-75. It was a non-stop run down to Fort Myers, where we headed for the little burg of Fort Myers Beach, actually on Estero Island.

For some reason, this stretch of I-75 between Sarasota and Naples seems to be a very long drive, but it only took a couple of hours. As we passed through Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, we thought of my Mom and Dad. Both of their ashes are here; they really loved their time in Florida.

I found this RV Park via the Internet, because I was looking to keep with the “beach” theme. It’s an interesting place, with essentially split personalities. The main part of the park, behind the office is a mix on mobile homes and RV spaces laid out in a traditional manner. Across the road, on the beach side, is a big sand lot partitioned off into the tightest RV parking spaces we’ve ever seen. Because of our length, we were given a corner spot, which provided a bit more breathing room in the back, but definitely not in the front!

Being 100 feet away from the beach, a totally dog-friendly beach at that, made our stay quite nice and very predictable. Out with the dogs in the morning for a walk (“Shall we go left or right today?”), back in the coach during the heat-and-humidity-and-buggy part of the day, back to the beach before or after dinner for sunset pictures. Mix in a shopping trip or two and that’s about it.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

Lots of interesting stuff to see and smell on the beach

Nice sunrise. Yes, we were up to see a few sunrises!

Dog-friendly beach!

No, we didn't starve. Chicken thighs, pizza, Beef cutlets and even the odd grilled cheese sandwich.

"Wait for me, Mom"!


Even the photographer enjoyed sitting on the beach!

Our regular evening spot

The payoff

As always, please feel free to click on any picture to enlarge it.