Sunday, 24 February 2008
Sweet Home Alabama...
Sweet home Alabama! Well, it’s our home for 4 nights at least. Wherever the RV rests is home at the moment, and right now we are on the Gulf Shores in Alabama. Its 7.30pm and Dan & the big kids have gone to play pool at the recreation centre of the RV park. Barney is being amazingly quiet. He has a new puzzle, which he must have made at least 20 times in a row now. As soon as he has made it, he puts it back in the box and starts again. It’s a super hero puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle is so much more entertaining when you have not had any toys for three weeks. Actually, we have been without a TV since we left home too, but today Dan bought Luke a DVD in Walmart. It’s a 4 DVD set of old cartoons. And when I say old I mean really old. Half of them are black and white, and they are all extremely politically incorrect. They are the sort of cartoons that Barney wouldn’t sniff at normally, but today he has just loved them! He’s playing them on the old laptop right now while I type this.
If I don’t blog every day I forget what I’ve blogged about and what I haven’t. I’m having to look over my last few posts to make sure I don’t repeat myself. We are doing so much that if I don’t blog about it, it becomes one big jumbled blur in my memory.
So what have we been doing? Well, let me think. Since my last blog post we spent one more night in Mexico Beach, and then moved on to an area further west, still in Florida, near Denton. And now we have just arrived in Alabama. The last few days in Mexico Beach were filled with the most amazing thunder storms. We had one storm that must have lasted at least 6 hours. When I say storm, I don’t mean a storm like we get at home in Northern Ireland. I mean 6 hours of terrific full on lightening and clapping thunder, with torrential rain the just doesn’t stop. We had a lot of that for about three days, with sporadic sunshine in between. We took a drive to Panama City in the rain just to discover that there was nothing there to be seen anyway. So to avoid the rain we stopped for a lunch/dinner at one of those American all you can eat buffets. Jimmie just loves these places. Every day he begs us to go to one. He must be growing or something because he’s almost impossible to fill up. It’s amazing how much food they will let you eat for $7!
On our last full day in the Mexico Beach area we took a drive eastwards to St Josephs Peninsula. It was a lovely drive there and we got a full day of nice weather. The peninsula jets out into the Mexican gulf and gets quite narrow at parts, so that you are driving on land with sea at both sides. The area is filled with the most amazing (expensive) beach houses. We enjoyed just driving through it, but at the end was a state park. Almost as soon as we drove into the park we were met by three wild Deer grazing at the edge of the road. We stopped, wound down the windows and watched them. They didn’t seem to mind us at all. Dan gets so excited whenever we see real wild animals (as opposed to zoo animals, that is). The park had a nature trail and its own 9 mile stretch of white sandy beach. On the nature trail the kids discovered the remains of a huge crab which they examined, as well as many empty oyster shells scattered along the shore.
We spent the afternoon on the completely deserted beach. It was quite windy, hence it being deserted, but that’s not a problem for us Brits. It was still warm enough for the kids to play. The sand along this stretch of the coast is not like normal sand. Its extremely fine, and caster sugary. Its just so soft but gets everywhere. Even when its in your bed it isn’t itchy like regular sand, as its just so fine. Which is a good thing as I reckon there’s a few buckets worth of sand inside this RV now. Every night I have to sweep it out of the bed before I get in, just to discover its made its way back in before me. The sand is also really white, but this beach had stretches of black sand on it too.
That afternoon we took a drive further east, back to Apalachicola, where the lady in the seafood grill had told us to take the kids. We stopped at a ship docking area filled with old rusty fishing boats, many still in use, but many half sunk! All along the edge of the dockyard were empty oyster shells. Dan was filled with visions of running his own shrimp boat just like Forrest Gump! Next to the shipyard was an educational centre, which was free. We love free educational stuff for kids! On the way into it Jimmie noticed a small wild tortoise scratching his way into a hole in the wall. We all crowded round to look at the little thing, and then the kids each took a turn to pick him up before putting him back into his nest. He poked his wee head out at us and took a good look too. I was as excited as the kids to discover him, but then later on we found a big wild tortoise on a nature trail in the same area. The educational centre was fantastic, but we only had 20 minutes there before it closed which was a shame. It was full of free leaflets about Florida wildlife, for the kids to take away. There were all sorts of stuffed dead animals from the area (all of which had died of natural causes I hasten to add!) - so the kids got to touch real (dead) raccoons, foxes, otters, beavers etc. There were real whale bones set out that the kids could touch and stand next to, and we discovered that one whale vertebrae was almost as big as Annabelle! One of the scientific rooms has real bugs to look at under microscopes, as well as jars upon jars of pickled fish and reptiles from the area around the centre. Everything could be picked up, touched and examined, which was a real bonus. So often in these sorts of places its not possible to really examine the things on display. There was also a small aquatic centre next door with fish from the area swimming in large pools. Barney was particularly taken by a baby turtle that swam behind its Mummy wherever she went.
So that all must have been on Friday, as today is Sunday. Yesterday was spent driving from Mexico Beach to Denton, which was half the drive to Alabama. We took a detour off of route 98 to follow the coast road through some really lovely places. One of the small towns we drove through and stopped in was called ‘Seaside’ and it is the area in which the film ‘The Truman Show’ was made. The beach houses in Seaside are just awesome, and many have won architectural awards. We stopped and took a walk (I think we were lucky to find an RV parking space here as I’ve read in the tour books that RV parking is almost impossible here) and recognized some areas from the film. If you’ve ever seen the show you will remember that Truman lived in a perfect little world, everything was beautiful and pristine. Seaside is just like that. Oh, I could so easily live there. But I’d have to be a millionaire I think.
We also stopped at Panama City Beach before Seaside. It is the area where all the college students go for spring break. It’s very touristy and full of theme parks, water parks and crazy golf areas. We stopped and let the kids have a game of crazy golf in a place with a safari theme. They really enjoyed themselves, and even little Barney did well at it. He surprised us all by getting the first hole in one! We had no RV site booked for last night as we weren’t sure how far towards Alabama we would get. But just before 4pm, after coming out of seaside, we spotted a really nice looking state park with Rv’ers camped up. So we drove in, not expecting them to have any spaces left for us. Just as Dan walked into the reservations office he heard the woman on the phone saying “yes Maam, we only have one space left for tonight, and that’s for one night only” so he started waving frantically at the women. She said “hold on a moment” to the person on the phone, and Dan said “can we have that space for tonight?” so she told the person on the phone that the space had been taken already, and we got somewhere to park for the night. It was called Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, and it turned out to be a lovely place. There was a heated outdoor swimming pool, outdoor amphitheatre, tennis areas etc, and the place was just idyllic. It also had its own stretch of beach but we weren’t there long enough to use it.
So that brings me to today. The last stretch of drive to Alabama Gulf Shores was 2.5 hours. We didn’t leave until 10.30am as we decided not to wake Barney up and just let him sleep as long as needed, sine he’s been having so many late nights. I did this stretch of drive as Dan’s been doing so much of it lately. When we got to the camp site the man had accidentally given our reserved space to someone else with the same name as Dan who had just turned up! He was so apologetic and said he would find us another RV park to stay in. Then he decided that we could park in a spare spot that the owners often used themselves. He has given us use of their screen room and a discounted rate to make up for the mix up. He seemed like a really nice man, and had an amazing Alabama accent. I wish I could describe him. I watched him chatting away to Dan, and his face when he found out the cost of petrol in the UK! “Jeeeeezus”, he said “I’m a gonna stop me complaining now bout the price of gas here!”
Well there seem to be a lot of mosquitoes in Alabama. Despite having fly screens on our door and windows we seem to have spent all evening swatting mozzies. We are spending two nights here at the Gulf Shores in Alabama, then two nights at Mobile AL, before moving on to Mississippi, where we will spend four nights before going to Louisiana. At the end of Louisiana that will be the first quarter of our trip done! Doesn’t time fly?!