January 13, 2021 – January 16, 2021
I have often wondered when looking at the map of this area why Alabama didn’t get the panhandle part of Florida which would have given it more of the beautiful beaches. Apparently the first annex of the Mississippi Territory which included Alabama didn’t include any waterfront property but that changed with a land grab by the US in the early 1800’s. The remaining beach front swaths of land beneath Alabama had additional early attempts mostly in the 19th century to take them over but mostly based on political maneuvering it never happened. It seems with state capital of Florida being Tallahassee and all the revenue it now generates from tourism, those ships have now sailed.
A wonderful thing about true laughter is that it just destroys any kind of system of dividing people.John Cleese
On a personal note, I had someone suggest how incredible it is that Lysette and I can spend every day together. As we reflected on that we decided it takes good old communication, compassion, and sometimes just allowing the other to have a bad moment. But for us, it is laughing together that eases the tension and brings light to most stresses, especially, and as my older sister can attest, when I can be annoying. Her favorite story of my being annoying as children, or was it during adolescence, was me deploying my Three Stooges noises and hand motion skit directed at her, usually first thing in the morning.
Lysette and I laugh lots, mostly at ourselves, circumstances we find ourselves in, conversations we have with others, and always when we get around family. I was recently reading a book where the mother of a lady in love said to her daughter something to the extent of, looks will fade but if you can laugh together, then that will last the lifetime.
As we prepared to publish this blog entry we honestly found ourselves completely bored with it. Even with the inserted link to Sweet Home Alabama, the blog just doesn’t inspire us. The activities were good but mundane, the trails weren’t all that exciting but provided activity, and quite frankly, we only spent two days there. So with that I offer you an option. Option 1 is to read the travel journal below. Option 2 is to skip option 1 and scroll down and read something uncomfortably funny that happened in my past, or at least it was a sort of train wreck that I now laugh at. There is always the 3rd option which is to read it in its entirety and then judge for yourself.
There is no better music to have come of age to than this little ditty of a southern rock song by the Lynyrd Skynyrd band. We didn’t actually play it as we drove in, but certainly broke into song as we passed the state line and seeing the Sweet Home Alabama state sign. Our drive along highway 292 through Pensacola, Perdido Key, Orange Beach, and finally Gulf Shores, Alabama maintained the same coastal feel as the other beach communities we passed through in Florida with mostly large high rise condos that did seem to thin out just a bit as we rolled into the state. We remained in awe of the devastation still visible from the hurricanes and the state park was a refreshing site as it maintained a large swath of natural area along the coast free of development for all folks to enjoy.
Option 1. Gulf Shores: Small Town, Big Beach
We made a few stops in the town of Gulf Shores for provisions before registering and pulling into our campsite number 52 at Gulf State Park. The campground is huge with our little loop being a nice reprieve from the other long runs of trailers and RV’s. The only downside is our site sits about three-quarters of a mile from the closest of only three open bath houses. There are eleven bath houses in total within the camp but eight are closed due to damage from this year’s hurricanes. On the positive side of things, the extra distance will help us get some additional cycling miles while here.
The park where the campground sits occupies both sides of the coastal highway connected by road or one of two pedestrian bridges. This distance from the campsites requires a big effort to walk, ride, or drive to the beachfront, but that’s okay. There appear to be lots of trails to run and hike and opportunities to ride our bikes. It isn’t a remote camping experience but one where I think we can find some fun, especially with the weather forecast for the next few days being SUN, sweet sunshine!
Sun, as advertised, was the flavor of day one at Gulf Shore, a welcomed bright warm star along our journey that had been missing the last few days. With running clothes on, dog properly leashed to a six foot tether, we set off to run the state park. We first hit the campground trail that borders the park then hucked a left onto Bear Creek trail before another hard right on to Alligator Marsh. Alligator Marsh would take us back around to the Campground Trail where we’d run along elevated boardwalks through pine forest and swamp. This trail merged into Catman Trail until we intersected with Rosemary Dunes.
There were interesting shrubs in the herb family that we stopped and read about. The rosemary one, as the sign points out, is actually a mint herb that smells more like lavender to me.
We moved along missing the right turn that would have taken us back into the park and instead delivered us to the main highway running between the park and the beach. We decided to move along in this direction so we ran a bit along the highway before crossing over into the state park beachside parking lot. There, we stopped to talk to a park volunteer. She and her husband had just retired from some place in Missouri to spend the season here as volunteers. Their current job was to monitor and maintain the parking lot and beach side facilities. She was in the golf cart watching for those less than desirables who don’t pay to park, to write them a warning note. Her husband was farther away with a large blower, cleaning the parking lot in preparation for visitors.
After a short conversation we set off over the road along the elevated pedestrian bridge that landed us back inside the main park boundaries and trails. We made our way back to camp with six miles in the bag, a really pleasant start to the day.
After gorging on a large breakfast, a few minutes of lounging, and with Toohey properly and comfortably placed inside the Tacoma to protect the assets, we set off for a bike ride. The afternoon crowds were out along most paths to include other cyclists, those riding bikes, runners, and walkers. We spotted a bald eagle perched in a pine tree but only after seeing someone photographing it. We enjoyed watching three armadillos along the road as they scurried about in the underbrush and leaves for insects and not giving us much attention. It was a good ride of around 20 miles and all within the park boundaries.
Gulf State Park is large in terms of area and busy based on the number of campsites. The trail system is extensive and well maintained. Amenities include beach access to the white sand and clear emerald waters of the gulf coast. The facilities include rental cottages, a restaurant, huge laundry, pavilions, tennis and pickleball courts, an event center, and lodge along the beach, bike rental stations, and I’m sure other things we haven’t seen yet or I fail to remember. Oh, and the wifi is better than any RV park we’ve stayed which is a definite bonus. There were lots of active people out walking the trails, riding, and even group workout events happening. This place is nice, sunny, and active.
The team made the decision for the day two activity to make the drive out along the peninsula to Fort Morgan. This spot of land sitting at the end looks out over Mobile Bay and has provided some level of military fortress for the Spanish, English, French, and the US governments. It has overlooked navy battles in the waters of the Mobile Bay. The fort now sits as a historical site for all to enjoy and best, is completely dog friendly.
Ft Morgan sits on the eastern point of the bay’s entrance overlooking the place where the Gulf of Mexico meets Mobile Bay. On the opposite side is Dauphin Island, Alabama. The land in front of the point is surrounded by beautiful beaches strewn with debris from the recent storms. This otherwise splendid coastal scene is splattered with the industrial views of offshore oil rigs.
The drive there was through a thin slice of coastal land, mostly beach dunes and pine forest with many beach communities having modest beach houses sitting on stilts and many being repaired from hurricane damage. We also passed through the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge which would have definitely been worth a stop if they allowed dogs.
Our time at Fort Morgan was fun and dog friendly. We walked the grounds, explored the old fort, its large concrete gun torrents, the parade grounds, and finally a walk along the dog friendly beach. The beach was nice but cluttered with lots of material from the recent storms. Toohey did his beach thing which included sticks, water, sand, and fun. We never tire of watching his energy when he starts playing and the beach scene seems to really gets him going.
Afterwards, we loaded up the Tacoma and headed back to camp where we had a nice dinner, time blogging, and just being together in the A-Liner.
Option 2. Knowing Your Audience Matters
When I was in my early 20’s, I was stumbling through life in search of what I wanted to do. This wandering led me to consider something in healthcare, so I got a job as a Phlebotomist (a person who draws blood) at a local hospital. I quickly learned that sticking needles in people, creating pain in another human, wasn’t my gig so I spent lots of time working on my bedside manner, getting to know my patients by trying to cheer them up. While working with a seasoned pro-Phlebotomist one day we found ourselves in a room with a patient who was surrounded by family, maybe 4 or 5 of them standing around her bed. This older lady, lying in bed, was covered up to her chin by the white hospital sheet and blanket. While my trainer did all the work drawing her blood, I, being the sound bedside professional, asked her how she was doing. She, in an elderly southern voice slowly responded, “not so good.” Now feeling my opportunity to deliver joy, I asked her if she’d like to hear a joke to cheer her up. She responded, “sure.” I then started my joke with, what do you call a cow with no legs? Obviously she was not in the mood to guess as she had just had some major surgical procedure and responded, “I don’t know.” With the comedic timing now set, I rolled the punchline, “ground beef.” Waiting for the laughter of all the family and her to follow she quietly chuckled and commented, “oh, that is just like me, see I just had my leg amputated.”
This ended my career in healthcare but I continue to try to provide cheer to those around me. So, if you found the blog entry in option 1 less than exciting, then I hope option 2 gave you an uncomfortable laugh. Or best, option 3 provided some joy to your day.
Our time in Alabama was short with only one stop in Gulf Shores at the Gulf State Park. The park was large and full of amenities and activities. The town was nice and a place we could definitely spend more time and the beach large, white, and beautiful. So we leave here headed for the state of Mississippi with good vibes and a place we’ll fondly remember.