Monday, February 3, 2020

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores, Alabama is a resort town on the water, bordered on the South by beautiful white sand beaches along the Gulf, and split in half by the Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW). Their motto is "small town big beach" which pretty much sums it up. It was the perfect place to hang with friends in the evenings, and get significant piles of year-end bookkeeping work done during the daytime.

Red Sky At Morning, as seen from out campsite, the prelude to a particularly stormy day

The hotels along the waterfront, as seen from our campsite on a foggy evening
We are also taking a moment here to lick our boat shopping wounds, it's taking more of a soul toll than expected.

Stewie is sulking because I won't let him out to roam during the day, but he'll have to wait it out until we move on to the next spot - the neighbors are coming out of hibernation and are looking for breakfast.

Anyhoo... back to Gulf Shores, our January landing spot. Snowbirds are welcomed here. Most of them come from Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana, with a few Canadians sprinkled in.

No self-respecting Gulf Shores camper would be caught without a koozie over their beverage of choice. When I told a circle of campers I had no idea what a koozie was they collectively gasped, and later that day we were presented with a pile of them. Whether this is an Alabama thing or a Michigan thing brought to the region by snowbirds is a mystery.

There's $1 minigolf, live music every night, oysters, and hot wings. I've been told it's off the hook for Spring break. Plans are already under way for assorted Mardi Gras celebrations around town, people have started decorating floats and selecting colorful costumes.

The Hangout is just a few blocks from our park. The list of Spring Break headliners is impressive. I've been told this outdoor venue can be heard for many miles around when it's in full swing.
A unique chotchky collection lines the walls at The Hangout

We exchanged our Florida flip-flop and swimsuit attire for boots and hoodies and embraced the bug-free cooler weather. The January storms that rolled across us were plentiful, windy and wet - during one particular storm we were grateful to be living in a heavy Class A, and I felt compelled to place the Mini between us and a nearby lightweight popup camper I was worried about blowing into us. Finding a body shop for the Mini is less hassle than settling Loretta into one. It seems the normal January weather pattern for this region is one day in the low 60's followed by a day or two of very wet and sometimes thundering storms. The snowbirds didn't seem to mind - their people were all shoveling snow at home after all, but it was a shock to us coming from the Keys so recently.

Beautiful white sand beaches are lonely in anticipation of the coming storm.
Sunset after an epic storm, as seen from my office window

You may remember Gulf Shores from the news in 2010 - it was hit with a huge oil spill that affected the town in many significant ways. As part of the cleanup and restoration process, BP funded several improvement projects, my favorite of which is the 60 miles of bicycle paths through the wetland preserve, easily accessible from our campground. Lance rode nearly daily while I worked, I joined him whenever I could escape my desk.

The bike path of Gulf Shores Park is beautifully maintained and equally welcoming for hikers, bikers, and dogs.

Shelby Lake in Gulf State Park
Shelby Lake as seen from the bike path in Gulf State Park
And Loretta got some lovin' - a new coat of wax! We were thrilled to find someone affordable to take on the job.

The old gal can still shine

White sandy beaches on a cool blustery day.
No trip to the area is complete without a tour of nearby Fort Pickens This fort was build in 1834 and saw action in the civil war and also protected against German submarines in World War II. Today only a few of the monstrously huge cannons remain on the beach, standing vigil among the lizards and seabirds.

Another great find was Joe Patti's Seafood, which has fish covered from catch to market to restaurant.

The fishing boat @ Joe Patti's

Crawdads can generally be found on every menu in Gulf Shores, although Alabama tips the spice jar quite a bit less than nearby New Orleans.

Tuna steaks carved right in front of our eyes, quickly and carefully with no morsel wasted
We were invited here by friends we met a couple of years ago in Mexico Beach, FL. We were there because friends we made in the Keys invited us to follow them there when we all left the Keys together. We were in the Keys because friends we made in Brookings OR in our first few months on the road recommended we join the Elks and the Elks hooked us up. So it definitely pays to make friends on the road. It's easy - just take a lap around the park with the dog. Or open your lawn chair and sit down in front of your rig. Or open a hatch on your rig and look puzzled - I guarantee you'll get more help than you may need.

The stage at the Flora-Bama awaits the next band

This park in Gulf Shores has a core group of snowbirds that return year after year. Their travel is different from ours in that they pretty much live in Wisconsin, Michigan or Minnesota half the year and live here at the park the other half of the year - their rigs travel only back and forth or just stay here and await their return. Classic snowbird behavior but so foreign to us. I can definitely see the allure in rejoining friends year after year. They welcomed us into their events, of which there were many ranging from a superbowl party to weekly mini-golf and bean-bag toss games (out here they call the game corn hole - the idea is to throw a bean bag into a box with a hole in it).

While we are still enjoying our life of travel, I find that the goodbyes are wearing on me. But it won't stop me from continuing to make new friends along the way, that is the point of all of this after all. Maybe a snowbird life is in my future - when I can enjoy good weather and look forward to seeing the same friends next year, making the goodbyes a little easier.

After the next adventure, maybe...

Internet Speed Comparison
Luxury RV Resort, Gulf Shores, AL
Sampled 1/6/20 at 6:57 pm

MB down
MB up
Calyx (Sprint)
55.2 (!!!)
Google Fi
Jetpack (Verizon)
Park wifi
Free wifi workig intermittently, there is a cabled paid version we didn't buy into