“A real friend is someone who takes a winter vacation on a sun-drenched beach and does not send a card.” –Farmer’s Almanac
We never take these Monday holidays off but would rather have the girls in school learning about the holiday’s significance. Last week was really busy. Somehow we completed five days of school and two full days of sight-seeing. Even our Saturday ended up being busy with an unexpected side-trip to Stennis Space Center. The sightseeing was fun but most of it was educational in nature with Eva completing four Jr. Ranger Badges. I knew they my three pupils (and the teacher) were ready for a little R & R so we took the day off.
Last night, we told the girls there would be no alarms but that we would get up when we were good and ready. Barry and I awoke early (Why does that always happen?) but enjoyed an hour of uninterrupted reading. Eventually we heard Eva pop in a movie while Mikayla, our chef, made a dessert for later. We took our time packing up the car and headed out to Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
We had a beautiful day to enjoy the white sandy beaches of this beautiful place. Barry ended up stuck on the phone for a lot of it but the girls and I enjoyed more than one long walk. Eva, our water lover, played and played and played. Jenna enjoyed time with a book that is just for fun and not school while Mikayla and I walked even more. The girls were hoping to find a lot of shells for jewelry making but only found a few. It was fun letting the waves crash up against us, examining the numerous dead jellyfish that had washed up on the shore and enjoying each other. The ocean made us a little homesick for our beloved Great Lakes but it didn’t stop us from thoroughly enjoying the day.
Gulf State Park is a great place. It’s a little confusing at first because it encompasses a large area with more than one access. We finally figured it out so we could investigate each spot. Admission to the park is free but it costs $1/car to get into the campground where the Nature Center is located. We drove around to check out the camping area (it’s very nice—offers full hook-up) and were delighted to see a lot of MI license plates. The Nature Center had a lot of animals, dead and alive. There is even a black cat that lives in the Center alongside a turtle. Both roam free, sharing meals now and then. The girls loved the cat and the cat loved the girls. He (or she) followed them until we left the center.
Not far from the campground is a really nice fishing pier that is part of the state park. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan destroyed the original pier. This new one is 1,540 feet long and is the longest on the Gulf of Mexico. It cost $2 for each of us but Eva was free. We loved all the comical pelicans perched on the rails and watching the waves form way out in the Gulf, becoming bigger and bigger until they crashed into the shore. A lot of people were fishing off the pier but we didn’t see anyone reel in a big one. We were hoping, though.
Since Galveston, we’ve been in areas that have suffered recent hurricanes. Many of the buildings we’ve seen are new as a result of these fierce storms. Other areas still show the devastating effects. We try to learn all we can about the storms and their aftermath. It’s particularly interesting when we get to talk to locals who actually lived through them. Today, we found a very interesting scrapbook of the damage done by Hurricane Ivan in the State Park’s Nature Center. It’s hard to believe that an area as beautiful as Gulf Shores could have been so completely destroyed.
After investigating the State Park, we weren’t quite ready to head back to our RV Park so we kept driving until we reached Florida where we ended up getting a bite to eat. Once again, we found a restaurant who was willing to accommodate Eva’s dietary needs. We had some really good seafood at The Crab Trap Restaurant on Perdido Key. Eva especially liked it because of the playground that is on the beach in front of the restaurant. I liked that I could stay in the restaurant while she played and yet see her the entire time.
The best part of this trip is not all the places we visit but all the time we have together. In many ways we have left the crazy, running all over the place, hectic life that has become so typical of American life. It was certainly typical of our life before this trip. We typically don’t have days like today that are all about fun and relaxation but we don’t have the craziness of our former life either.
Tomorrow it’s back to school and chores but today was one of those wonderful days that will forever be a cherished memory for all of us.
“Don’t grow up too quickly, lest you forget how much you love the beach.” –Michelle Held