Here it is spring already and 2019! I know, we have been quiet since we got back from our Maine trip and the Halloween cruise, but that doesn’t mean we have been hibernating all fall and winter. We winterized the motorhome after hosting family for Thanksgiving, we had more family with us for Christmas and have spent some quality time with our grandsons.
I made a trip to Hilton Head to check on Dad, we made a few improvements to the house, I crafted several more glass totems and Jackie was busy with crochet projects.
But the worst news was when we had our reservations cancelled to St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach for this summer. The damage from Hurricane Michael has been pretty devastating to the area and the campground has only limited sites available, so the decision was made to cancel all reservations for the year and open it to walk-in (drive up) only. That’s pretty risky when you have to drive 6 hours with fingers crossed that you can find an opening when only 30 of the 200 sites are even available to campers. So St. Andrews is off the schedule this year.
About that Florida Chill
Our first camping adventure is to Big Lagoon State Park in Florida (west of Pensacola Beach next to Perdido Key) for an early adventure with family (Colin and Rachel’s school is on spring break). We uncovered the motorhome, rinsed and sanitized the water system (and yes, the hot water does flow!), checked to see that the fridge works, put air in all the tires and packed up for about a week along the Gulf coast. Now we consider ourselves pretty sharp, but I don’t know what we were thinking when we packed our gear for this trip. We had bathing suits, flip flops, snorkel gear, beach chairs and umbrellas, paddleboards and a kayak all loaded – but as we rolled out on Saturday the temperature was 40 degrees! Needs to warm up a bit.
It didn’t get much warmer as we approached Peridido Key and it was overcast and breezy. But we made camp in a very nice campsite and caught up with Judy, Craig, Colin and Rachel once they arrived. Naturally, we all had to explore the trails, boardwalk and waterways the next day to see what fun we could get into and we all quickly learned that it was not at all swim weather, or paddleboard weather, or kayak weather (Gulf water temperature was maybe 63 degrees).
A short drive into Pensacola for lunch followed our hike, but this was St. Patrick’s Day and we weren’t sure what to expect along their entertainment district. No problem, we had a nice walk along Palafox Street and stopped in at World of Beer for some good food and cold beer. After placing orders for several flights of beer we were told, “no flights today” so settled for some pints of local brews instead. I ordered the deal of the day: an amazing andouille sausage sandwich with slaw that was huge and the table shared wings and a big pretzel. One last stop at Perfect Plain brewery for a flight (I liked the Carrot and Ginger Saison) and we were set to head back to the campground.
The forecast said we would be warming to the mid 60’s with some sunshine soon, so we decided to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum the next day and then check out the beach on Perdido Key. We spent a lot more time exploring the museum than we expected, since it was a great (and free) attraction. I recommend you visit if you are in the area and have a look at some amazing aircraft, including the Blue Angels, of course. But aircraft ran the spectrum from helium balloons to WW1 and WW2 aircraft, Vietnam-era Hueys, Coast Guard helicopters, a Marine One helicopter and plenty of jets.
Later in the afternoon we tried the beach for maybe a half hour, but it was just too windy and chilly. Maybe tomorrow. Oh, but those plans got changed to be a Segway tour around historic Pensacola in the morning, which turned out to be sunny and warmer. Now Jackie and I have done a Segway tour in Washington, DC, so we figured we had this one nailed.
And, yes, we did just fine the six of us zipping behind our tour guide along the streets and sidewalks of downtown like a swarm of bees buzzing along. However, about midway through the tour I got a little flummoxed and lost my balance forward just a bit. If you know how Segways operate, you know that is the instruction to go faster, so zipppp I go forward a lot faster than intended. I tried to dig in my heels to slow down, but meantime the curb came up fast and I was soon bouncing and spinning circles, dragging around the road. Finally let go, got my foot untangled, dusted off my pride and we got going again. Yep, I have a few brush burns on my knee, but otherwise lucky that was all. Oh, but hotshot nephew Colin had an encounter with a bush that left him sprawled on the ground later, so it isn’t always smooth running on these “simple” scooters. Emerald Coast Tours did a great job of showing us the historic district and we learned a lot (for instance, did you know Pensacola was the first colony in the New World – before Plymouth Rock and Jamestown?). I was surprised to learn that Andrew Jackson was Florida’s first governor – wasn’t he a Tennessee native?
Well, I needed to recover after that, so we found one more spot for lunch, Big Top Brewing, and had ourselves a flight and some fish tacos. Beer was good, tacos were tasty, but it was the first time I had mullet fried in a taco. Was I eating bait? Actually, the Hawaiian Lion Coconut Coffee Porter was good. Before we ended the day around the campfire we tried about an hour at the beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore, but it was windy and chilly despite the sun.
Last day in camp it was sunny, upper 60’s and we all went different directions for a while, bike riding, walking along the lagoon, and an aborted kayak attempt. Finally packed into the car and over to the beach at Gulf Islands NS (with our senior passes it was free admission), and spent the afternoon in beach chairs. It is a gorgeous beach, but it was just a bit too early to enjoy the water.
Dinner was a great spot along the water in Pensacola, the Oar House, where we started with drinks on the patio but moved indoors when the sun went down and it got cold again. The grouper po’ boy I had is a serious contender for best grouper sandwich. This one was a monster slab of grouper on a bun with remoulade sauce and lettuce – a big mouthful for sure. Judy had ahi tuna, Craig had shrimp and grits, Colin shared some of his fried oysters, which were very soft and tasty – everyone enjoyed the food. This place was fun and would be an ideal spot in warmer weather, with a big outside bar overlooking the marina. Good choice.
We got ourselves packed up and out of Pensacola the next day, which of course was a cloudless blue sky, and were soon headed north to Montgomery, Auburn and Atlanta. And of course to welcome us home, I-285 started with a wreck, major backup and plenty of traffic. But it was all good. Pulled in, unpacked some stuff, ate a quick dinner and off to bed.
Consider this a successful first camping adventure of the 2019 season, even if we miscalculated the Florida panhandle temperatures in March. We might just try next year’s week in Grayton Beach State Park but with far less of the watersports gear (in fact, none). But seriously, isn’t March a little early for a school to have Spring Break?
We have plans for May camping in the Georgia mountains and might head to the Okefenokee this fall, but no big multiple-week trips have been planned out. Of course our BrewCrew will be volunteering at the Kennesaw Beer Fest in April and we plan to host a final retirement party for one last group of our good friends who are saying goodbye to teaching. Gosh, retirement is rough.
Thanks for reading along – check out some of the previous posts and enjoy the photos.