A month in Florida is hard to beat: a perfect mix of sunny weather, sparkling clear water, a white sandy beach and plenty of little fish to chase around the water. That’s been our June so far, with a few stories to share. We don’t have wifi here in St. Andrews State Park so it has been a convenient excuse to postpone updating the blog and just enjoy the sand and surf. But a trip to Starbucks will give me time to share what’s been happening:
We love Panama City Beach and St. Andrews State Park. For us it is a very casual, friendly and laid-back vacation spot. Can’t beat the campsite, with a view of the Lower Lagoon, a nice breeze and lots of kids on bikes and golf carts zipping around. We arrived just as the rain stopped from tropical storm Colin and many of the sites were underwater. A high tide surge added a little more waterfront to many sites, too.
Nice (?) waterfront site
High and dry at St. Andrews
The storm cut into the dunes along the Gulf beach, creating a cliff of sand. You know how kids always want to get buried in the sand at the beach? It usually means someone gets totally covered in sand and has to rinse off. Well, sadly, a teenager who had been digging tunnels and caves in this particular sand wall was trapped when the sand collapsed on him. We were watching the boys dig the tunnels, but minutes after we left the beach emergency crews arrived to dig him out and administer CPR. Unfortunately he died the next day. Kind of a rough start to the week.
Ready for the beach
Jackie’s sister Judy and family came down to PC Beach mid-week and we spent time at the beach together, snorkeling along the rock jetty and splashing around in the surf. Just had to snap a shot of us all getting slathered with sunscreen! We joked about the long trek to the water with all the gear and laughed about the big deck umbrella they brought along. One afternoon a dark line of thunderstorms moved along the coast as we watched and debated when to pack up. That decision was made quickly when the wind rack kicked up and umbrellas started to go inside-out. Jackie grabbed and shut ours down just as we watched Judy’s umbrella go airborne in a slow-motion tumble that pierced itself on a pole, then lifted and tumbled further over the dune. Ok, time to go.
Tut, tut looks like rain!
Back at camp we got a phone call that our niece lost her glasses in the scramble. Could we come help look for them? Tracing our steps back from the parking lot, down the long boardwalk, up and over the sand dunes and down the beach to the scene of the crime, we looked earnestly for the purple frames. Not much luck, but I brought a small fan rake and began to skim the area where we were sitting. Probably useless, but just maybe … wait, what’s that? Something popped up out of the sand as I scraped along and Presto! there were the glasses. Great save.
Another vacation goal was to seek out local craft breweries and compare the samplings. We found Nivol Brewery in a strip shopping center and were pleasantly surprised by their operation. Had some samples of wheat, porter and red ales – they have only been open a month, but have a good selection of local beers on tap. With their full license pending, we had to buy a souvenir pint glass but could then have a fill of our choice of beer. We chatted up the brewmaster, who already knew about and carried Burnt Hickory brand and had been visited by Dry County (they have the same tank system), but of course we talked up Southern Sky Brewing, too.
Maybe the strangest craft beer sampling came the next day. An internet search listed “Screw and Brew” locally, so I just HAD to see what that was all about. A definite pint glass purchase, I figured. Jackie helped navigate the location, “wait, you just passed it” … well, according to the online maps, but we didn’t see anything. U-turn and try again. “Turn here,” as we drove past a small hardware store and through their side parking lot into a pretty gnarly back lot. Hmm, that wasn’t right. Back out front we noticed a small sign in the window “home brewing supplies” and thought what-the-heck. I left Jackie in the car (this was doubtful) and I ventured in.
Hmm, inside it was pretty much a hardware store, with a wall of home-brew supplies. “Can I help you?” Uhh, well, I guess I got the wrong spot. We are on a hunt for local craft breweries. A smiling clerk said he could recommend several spots (Fishale, Nivol) and I said those were already on our list. “Ok, well thanks, I guess I got the information wrong.”
“Hang on, I do have some wheat beer if you’d like a sample” he said, and I cautiously nodded okay. “Just follow me out back.” Ok, this was speakeasy creepy and I was wondering if I would have to know a secret password or handshake. Out through the stockroom to that gnarly section of the back room and garage … a rusty fridge had a tap installed and an off-kilter kegerator was nearby. “Don’t have any fancy glassware, (oh darn, the whole point of the visit), but if you are ok with Styrofoam…” Next thing I know I have a cup of foamy beer in my hand. “What do you think? It’s better this week.” Well, here goes nothing – lot of head but it’s actually not bad. We walk back into the store and he says he just can’t keep the beer cold enough in the kegerator, it keeps tripping the circuit breaker…
I thank him for the beer, wish him well, take the rest of the cup back out to the car for Jackie to finish (I mean, seriously, am I supposed to just drive off with this beer? No DUI for me, thank you). So chalk that one up to the weirdest sampling ever.
Local samplings at Fishale
Just down the road we stopped in at Fishale, which was a real pub that featured a lot of real craft brews on tap. Spent time sampling all sorts of Florida brews and decided to visit Grayton Beer on our way west later in the month, since we liked their 30A Beach Blonde.
Best Grouper Sandwich!
Caught up with one of our fellow teachers from school when we learned she was staying in PC Beach with a friend, too. Our suggestion was to meet up for the best grouper sandwich in town at Sharky’s on the beach – which lived up to expectations. Still the best sandwich in town! We shared stories and encouraged her to join the ranks of the retired (just maybe one more year of teaching she thinks!). Good fun all around.
So as I wrap up this posting, I should probably share one last story that just goes to prove that you really do need to check and double check your vacation plans no matter how careful a person you are. We came back from the beach on our last day in camp and sat out to enjoy an adult beverage and the nice breeze. We had been talking about what we needed to pack up so we could roll out easily the next day, Monday. Our plans from 11 months ago were to stay Monday to Monday (2 weeks) and then move to Topsail Hill State Park for 10 days.
A golf cart with two park rangers pulls up … “You know that checkout is 1:00 pm.” Yes we do, we plan to be out tomorrow by noon for sure. “You were supposed to be out TODAY by 1:00 (it was now about 6:00). Yikes, no way, we had a Monday check out. We scrambled to pull up the reservation info on our phone as he explained that they found another site for the folks who DID have the next reservation and we didn’t have to leave until the morning. But would we please settle up with the Camp Office in the morning?
So what was the story? Turns out we had a Sunday to Sunday reservation but put it into our Google calendar as Monday to Monday. The reservation at Topsail Hill was fine, but we got the one at St. Andrews goofed up by one day. Kept wanting to say, “that’s not us, we aren’t those kind of people… we are rule followers and are well-planned… we are retired teachers (and are always right) …we went out West for 6 weeks… “
Ah well, (sigh), honest mistake.
Happy Birthday drink for Jackie!
Jackie’s birthday celebration at Dewey Destin’s Harborfront restaurant.
Next stop is Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. Probably won’t get to post until we are back home.
Check out lots of great photos of the parks here.