Thursday, December 14, 2017

Destination Destin: Cruising the Cool Emerald Coast

Doug and I had trained up ... long beach walks, bike rides, and more beach walks ... all in preparation for the arrival of Doug's "energizer bunny" friend, Dave. We were thrilled that he planned a vacation visit to correspond with our stay at Henderson Beach State Park in Destin, Florida.

And we knew that there would be no sitting around ...

We looked forward to embracing Dave's vacation motto: "Three activities a day" as we prepared a list of all the fun adventures that "Destination Destin" has to offer!

But sorry Dave, surfing did not make the list.

Our campground was once again located on the Gulf of Mexico in the panhandle of Florida, so we were all looking forward to a week of glorious weather. Unfortunately, a "Polar Vortex" decided to follow Dave from Minnesota.

But true and hardy Minnesotans never let a little weather get in the way of their fun! We were happy that we were able to do so many "cool" activities despite a few clouds, wind, rain, and ... shiver ... temps in the 40s.

Beach Time

Dave arrived a little ahead of the cold front, so we were able to treat him to a few warm beach walks. Notice ... no long pants, shoes, hats, gloves, or parkas needed yet!

It is easy to see how the Emerald Coast gets its name ... Beautiful shades of emerald green water as far as eye can see.

Dave was happy to be able to get an ocean swim in before the unseasonably cool temps arrived.

As the cold front approached and rain threatened, we still were able to cruise up and down the coast taking in the beautiful and fairly deserted beaches of Henderson, Grayton, Seaside, Santa Rosa, and Navarre.

If Frosty can still be smiling, it can't be that bad!
Being the only ones on the beach,
we were able to lay claim to a treasure of
huge seashells that were swept up by the waves!

Biking Time

Since we had explored this area before, I cheerfully gave up my bike and volunteered to drive the warm car to pick them up at the end of their ride on the Timpoochee Bike Trail. Along the way they enjoyed forests, lakes, coastline, and quiet seaside towns. A picnic lunch, an IPA and a new coaster from Grayton Beer Company was a great reward for Doug who doesn't tolerate "cool" temps very well since he became a Florida resident!

Sightseeing Time

Another one of Dave's vacation mottos is "I have a rental car with unlimited mileage and am not afraid to use it". Therefore, we researched all the sights within a 150 mile radius, looked at the weather forecast, and planned our cruising course. It was great fun for Dave and I ... and exhausting for Doug ... to able to visit a variety of attractions in the area.

Gulf Islands National Seashore

The rain held off as we toured the historical fort.
We checked out Fort Pickens'
cannons that were used to defend Pensacola Bay,

... and got lost exploring the maze
of thick brick walls and tunnels.

Pensacola, Florida

The guided tours at the National Naval Aviation Museum
are lead by enthusiastic retired military personnel.
They educated us on aviation history from WWI to present time
while sharing their personal stories of skill and bravery.

The visit also gave Dave grand ideas of
a new "hobby" that he may want to try out.

Mobile, Alabama

Neither rain nor sleet nor cold could keep us away
from touring the USS Alabama battleship
... but if it starts snowing, Doug is heading further south!

Our "tour guide" Dave, aided by the app
on his phone, pointed out all the intricacies
of the systems as only a true computer geek could do!

The massive guns on deck filled us with a somber
respect for the sacrifices our brave military veterans
made to defend our freedom.

Marianna, Florida

Usually one visits a cave to cool off, but
on this 40 degree day, the cavern felt like a sauna
when we stepped into the 65 degree underground chamber.

The festive colors amid the unusual formations
in the Christmas Room made us think
that somehow we had stumbled upon the Grinch's den!

Niceville, Florida

The rain finally moved on, and even though
the cold temps lingered, the warmth of the sun
made for a pleasant hike through Rocky Bayou State Park,

... and convinced the boys to paddle out
in the bayou to observe dolphins up close and personal.

Sunset Time

Despite the clouds, rain, and cool temps, there were still many opportunities to enjoy our favorite Destin destination ... sunset on the beach.

One can never tire ...

of the unique colors ...

and the magnificence ...
and the grandeur ...

and the peacefulness ...

of the promise ... 

of another day of friendship and fun!

Until next time ... cruise around "cool" destinations with a friend ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Gulf State Park: Paradise for the Active RVer

Stay a month in one place? Not something that is high on our RV wish list. But after spending six days at Gulf State Park two years ago, we decided that this was a place that we would like to explore some more.  So with our RV buddies, Joanne and Gary, we hung out for the month of November at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Let the activities begin!

Gulf State Park has a 496 site campground on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and the BP oil spill in 2010, the area has come back bigger and better than before. The park has a two week stay limit during the summer, but from November through April they allow monthly and seasonal rentals. A month in one of the large full hookup sites runs $711 ... quite a bargain when we realized that we had arrived in a ...

Paradise for the Active RVer!

Bike trails, boardwalks, and bike friendly roads as far as the eye can see! Gulf State Park has been busy building and improving the bike ways since our last visit. From our campsite, we could bike to the beach (1 mile), pier (2 miles), grocery store (3 miles), and church (4 miles). 

Or we could just pedal through the park
to pay a visit to "Lefty", the resident alligator.

What? We can bike to a brewery?? Bonus!!!

The Sandlot Volleyball Gang meets up on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and they quickly welcomed us to join the fun and games.

These active golden agers encouraged
 Doug to jump to new heights!

Gulf State Park has a large activity complex complete with a pool (unheated, so not so desireable in the cooler temps), nature center, activity building, laundromat, tennis and pickleball courts.

The star of the "Owl Encounter" educational program
and a few of her friends could be heard
serenading us at night.
By playing pickleball on the non-volleyball days,
I actually improved enough to win a game or two!
It was much easier to get my laundry assistant to help
when we could stream The Big Bang Theory
through the wifi that is accessible in the laundromat.

To these active RVers, however, the call to the beach was a strong daily occurrence. A short bike ride brought us to our prime sea shell hunting, nature observing, and sunset watching area.

Joanne, on the hunt for the
elusive sand dollar.
Hey, is that a bat ray?

Joanne and Doug are inventing a new exercise
called "Photo Squats".

We can never tire of the unique beauty of each sunset.

Our month at Gulf State Park went quickly. But that is to be expected since we found ourselves in the midst of so many activities while hanging out with good friends who like to join in the fun!

Until next time ... stay active with those you love ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Tomorrow we say "so long for now" to our friends Joanne and Gary as they head west and we continue east.

Safe travels until we meet around
the campfire in Minnesota next summer!

Glad that we don't have to say goodbye to the beach as we are heading to Destin, Florida for more biking and hiking ... and sunsets!