A week on the beach.
My first email:
As Brunhillda informed us we were nearing our condo location we had decided to load up on groceries to start our week. The USA seems to me to be over retailed to begin with and in tourist locations like this it is so easy to find any store you want it took less than a minute to see a grocery store and pull in to shop.
It was a moment of self discovery…… the checkout girl asked “do you have your Winn Dixie card?” and I felt a flush of pride as Pat said “Yes!”. We’ve discovered that we’re Winn Dixie shoppers. We’re not interested in those modern, new fangled stores like Publix or Rouse….we’re more comfortable with the faded glory type of atmosphere you find in the Winn Dixie or the Piggly Wiggly. Yes, this is senior living; we’re now in full circling the drain mode. Or, as Tynan said, ‘you guys are on a glide path – its just how high you can stay for how long’. Fine ……. so long as we still have access to the cockpit.
Food is about the same cost here. Booze is much cheaper! I’m finding Keystone beer is available most everywhere here and I’m blaming Bob for getting me hooked on the brand.
The condo is fine; typical 2nd floor shoebox arrangement. I like the second floor so you can use the stairs – so much better to be able to avoid the elevator hassles. Its the first floor in reality because everything here is built with an open first floor to avoid damage from the frequent storm surge flooding. The beach sand is the finest talcum powder white. We’ve had a bunch of 80 F days so plenty of time for lounging at the beach or more often on our veranda which faces South but has enough shade spots to work all day.
We brought our bikes…….really worth the small effort as you discover so much more about your location. Another reason to drive an SUV; the bikes go inside easily and are out of the weather and more theft controlled still leaving lots of room for any amount of luggage. I find bikes create an important part of that ‘free range’ senior living experience. Lots of trails around here that are amazingly well set up and maintained. The paths have to be paved or made with compacted crush…you can’t bike on the sand soil here, it is way too soft. The locals have preserved a section of the original “bush” and it is interesting. It ranges from open wiregrass Savannah to glades of live oaks with full Spanish moss coverage.
Good jogging area. Flat can be a bit boring but the wind off the ocean can really create a different sort of challenge. I like the idea of being at sea level where the oxygen level is the highest possible. As a senior jogger I need maximum oxygen! And you should see Pat fly on her bike…..I clocked her at > 30 KPH yesterday on a biking path…..while she laughed gaily at her appalling speeding in a posted 10 MPH limit area.
Don and Pat
The 2nd email:
There is an older community in Gulf Shores called Gulf Highlands. Beautiful. We biked through the area and stopped and talked to a lady who was cleaning up her lawn. She’s retiring to live there full time later this year. Her description of life there was really attractive. Its just a minute from the beach but the area is so quiet and serene. A semi tropical climate and you can see from the pic with Pat on her bike that the trees and landscaping is wonderful. I asked her about the heat in the summer and she commented that she liked the heat and if you slowed down a bit it was fine.
A bunch of houses have access to canals that allow you to have a boat with access to the ocean. Evidently the fishing is fantastic…..more on that.
We continued to the local Gulf State Park and went out on the pier there. Wow. It is a HUGE structure and the view from there is brilliant. There is a huge fishing community that works off the pier regularly. I talked to couple of guys and they told me about the Sheephead and Pompano that they were angling for. I saw several men cleaning their catches. These are big fish.
One of the guys told me that earlier this week a woman who was only 100 lbs hooked a big Kingfish and fought it for a long while before landing it …. it was a 25 pounder over 3 feet long.
Another guy was from Kitchener and comes down every year to stay for several months. He had his grandson with him and they looked like they were having a great time.
Most of the hard core fisherman had these carts you can see in the pic with a complete set up of tackle and bait and all the stuff they need. They pull the cart back to their car/truck in the parking lot and it makes the whole thing easy-peasy.
The bird looks like some kind of Egret. It was on the dock and was hanging out near the fish cleaning station where I guess folks would toss it some of the fish cleanings from time to time.
The water was 68F . I had thought about swimming in the ocean earlier in the week and it is just TOO COLD for an old man. I have been planning to try some kite boarding this summer and that cold water spurred me on the buy a full wetsuit which I’ll pick up on Ogdensburg on the way home tomorrow to take advantage of the $800 of tax free import for being out of Canada for more than a week. I also went to a Cabela’s and found a set of neoprene waders (like your duck hunting waders Steven) that I’ll use for the salmon fishing in April in Bowmanville. They were in their Clearout section upstairs and were a good deal.
The driving home experience has been no big drama. We’re taking 3 days…….no hurry. Once in a while we got off the super highways and ducked into some of the small towns on the original trail. Interesting but we didn’t spend enough time to see too much. Some big old houses that indicated past wealth but it appears, for the most part, that those days are past. People are trying to keep them up but they are slowly fading………and some are looking really bad. Now nothing but poor rooming houses.
I talked to another traveler heading to Canada in the parking lot last night and he says they made the mistake of trying to go through Atlanta…..which we had decided to deliberately avoid, going by way of Birmingham instead … and I’m glad we did. He hit a 4 hr traffic jam due to construction. Brutal.
We should be back tomorrow by 5 pm?
And the final email:
Started to see snow in the forest in Pennsylvania. I’m sure the altitude had an affect; its colder up there.
In NY state just north of Binghamton we started to see clusters of deer feeding in the grasslands verging the highway. And lots of deer bodies beside the road obviously hit by cars and trucks. There were a lot of bodies. I can’t imagine the amount of car damage that must have been wrought.
As we came around one corner we saw a cop just putting his shotgun back into the trunk of his car and the dead deer he had just “put down” was over on the edge of the fast lane where we were driving.
There were so many deer feeding beside the highway…..it just looked very abnormal. Perhaps the cold winter and late spring has driven them to the highway verge because that’s where they can get at the grass most easily? Whatever the reason it was creating a dangerous driving situation……..I’m sure the ones that were hit had just bolted onto the road……the drivers would have very little time to react and on those mountain roads there are no safe shoulders, just huge rock walls and steep drop offs, so it would be crazy to try to make any move to dodge. You could only hold the wheel steady and try not to get knocked off the road after the impact. Anyway, it looked like dangerous.
Update: Cary tells me it was a Great Blue Heron.
The beach pic is just meant to be artsy.
I did a calibration of the trip data from Gulf Shores back to Northern Secret and included it for your amusement. My mileage is not as good as I hoped…..but the gas only cost $167 US for the whole 1,500 mile return trip. 23 hours driving……OK. But for a few hours more we could have been on Marco Island or there abouts? We loved touring the Mississippi Delta on this trip….many more are planned ….. just calibrating for future possibilities.
Love Don and Pat
And here’s the pics: