Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gulf Shores, AL

Hmmm, guess it's a good day to be writing this post, as it's absolutely pouring outside and so there's really nothing else to do.  We did actually have plans for today, but guess they're on hold or maybe put off completely, as we leave here on Monday to head for Tunica, MS.

We've been in Alabama for 2 weeks now and although we got off to a rotten start (thanks to some new meds the Dr. put me on, but that's in a previous post; a tire blow out on the way down tore off part of the trailer and caused us to get 4 new tires; Mr. C breaking his sun glasses and having to go to Pensacola to get new ones at Lens Crafters and then having them be wrong and having to go back and get them redone, LOL) the rest of the trip has been very pleasant.  We also discovered that we can get a higher rated tire, so eventually we'll replace all 4 tires again with the new higher rated ones, but that's going to be expensive :-(
So, you might be wondering, what have we been doing, besides lots of Rest and Relaxation.

This picture's for you, B
The first thing we did other than just try to "feel my skin again" and feel like I could move was to visit a lovely festival in Loxley, AL.  (I keep thinking we should see Robin Hood, but apparently it isn't THAT Loxley, and I don't know why, but that's what Mr. C and I both think of every time we see the name of that city, LOL).  Anyway, it was their annual Strawberry Festival.  I was in the mood for some fresh strawberries, although with this year's weather, we didn't know if we'd actually find strawberries or not.  After all, we have the Apple and Pork Festival in Clinton, IL every year and they never have pork or apples for sale pork and apple dishes galore, but not actually pork or apples to sell).  For some odd reason, we were also confused about where it actually was located, as we both thought it was in Foley which is only about 7 miles up the road, but Loxley was about a half hour away.

The festival was in the city park which is a very large park with a paved "track" all the way around it, including 2 wooden bridges over the creek passing through the center of the park.  The festival was set up on either side of the track and nicely spaced out.  There were lots of craft type vendors, not just resale cheap stuff stalls, 2 food areas, and a carnival area.  There was also a "flea market" area, but it was about a block away and not in the actual festival grounds.  We had decided to make this a triple trip, as it was half way to Mobile, AL and I needed something from Hobby Lobby and there were 2 Hobby Lobby stores in Mobile, as well as a Golden Corral (which takes the prize for the WORST Golden Corral we've been to, LOL).  So I knew I couldn't eat much, since we were going to Golden Corral for lunch, but we did share a VERY good funnel cake.  It was a lovely day and a lovely festival and they did, indeed, have fresh strawberries.   The strawberries were red, ripe, soft and warm as if freshly picked.  I could tell they were sweet, but as to actual taste, since my taste buds were numb, couldn't tell you just how good they were. 
 Mr. C says the strawberries were wonderful and although they were a bit pricey if we had realized and had had enough storage space would have gotten the full flat instead of the half, LOL.  We sliced and diced them all up and had them on Twinkies the first day, then got some Sara Lee Pound Cake and had them for the next several days for our desserts.  They were so good and such a great comfort food for me, LOL.  Funny aside here.  Mr. C says, let's get pound cake, that way we don't have to have the cream stuff from inside the twinkies, just as I'm making out the shopping list and writing down "whipped topping" to go with "MY" pound cake.  We got a big laugh out of that one.

So, after we walked the whole festival (which believe me, with the way I had been feeling was a real accomplishment) we headed off to Mobile, AL.  We found what I was looking for at the 2 Hobby Lobby stores, found the Golden Corral and headed back to camp.
I have to admit that Mr. C and I are not very adventurous people, food or restaurant wise.  We know what we like and we don't like to take chances with our money or taste buds on places we know nothing about.  We also like calm, peaceful, quiet meals.  Mr. C does not like seafood, so any seafood restaurant is automatically out of the running, for the most part.  One thing we have found odd, down here in Gulf Shores is a lack of "known" restaurants.  No Red Lobster, no Bob Evans, no Denny's, there is fast food, but even most of that is in Foley, not actually near where we are located.  That's ok, we've mostly eaten in camp, which is good for us, anyway.  There is a Ryan's Buffet in Foley (which is my least favorite of the Buffets and THIS ONE was the least favorite of the least favorites, it was awful, LOL).  

There was also a Lambert's "Home of Thrown Rolls".  We've been told repeatedly that someday we have to try a Lambert's, so we decided to make this the time to try it.  So. . . we've tried it. . . it was ok, they did indeed throw rolls and the rolls were quite good, especially with butter and honey, although they were more of a coarse "bread" roll than a soft dinner roll.  I had fried chicken (good) and Mr. C had ribs (not so good).  My sides were french fries (cold) and green beans (delicious, home made tasting with diced ham and onions in them).  Mr. C's sides were baked beans and corn (neither of which was anything to write home about).  He ate  my cold french fries and I had some fried potatoes and onions they brought around to share as side dishes for the restaurant.    If you've never been there, you get your meat, and 2 sides and then they have several dishes the servers wander around the restaurant with and you can have all you want of those (the huge rolls, fried "okrie" (okra), apple butter, cooked cabbage, black eyed peas, macaroni and tomatoes dish, and the fried potatoes with onions).  The fried potatoes were great and I had seconds, although Mr. C was amazed because he said they were much too spicy for me and I normally wouldn't have liked or touched them (I think because of my numb taste buds I could actually taste them, so they seemed good, LOL, anyway, I had seconds on them, :-).  Their drinks were huge, served in thermal mugs.  It was noisy and quite an experience, LOL.  

Let's see, what else did we do, not much of anything, although we did try a total of 3 different beaches and finally found one we liked.  

We’ve only found one place to find any shells and it’s a breakwater just on the border between FL and AL (the only place we’ve found free parking access to the beach, too, LOL).   If you look at the last photo of the Dolphin blog post, you can see roughly the location of the beach to the right as we are coming up under the bridge.  Here's the same bridge from the beach.  

One interesting thing about this beach (all the beaches) is that they have board walks part way and then you have to slog through the sand to get to the water.  This particular one, the raised board walk is about 1/4 mile long (and no, I'm not exaggerating) and then it's about another 10th of a mile of slogging through the sand to get to the water's edge.  
The first day we went to the first beach, I had to stop and rest about 4 times, just to get that 10th of a mile to the water.  Yesterday, I didn't have to stop until I got to the boardwalk (coming back) and didn't stop on the board walk at all, so I'm doing much better breathing and walking and everything. We found it Thursday and then found the best thing of all (although dummy me, I didn’t have the camera, so don’t have a picture).  We were moving in and out of the surf watching for some decent shells (not great ones, but decent ones, good enough to bring back to the grandkids, anyway, LOL).  
I noticed something black on the beach just behind me, I thought I knew what it was so I ran over and made sure it wouldn’t get washed away and called Verle over to see.  But, surprisingly, he didn’t have a clue what it was.  It looked like a black pod, about as long as Verle’s hand and about half as wide and probably ½” or so thick.  Each end had two long pointed things that curved towards each other making it look like a huge beetle with pinchers on both ends.  
 It was either a Ray or Shark Egg case (often called Mermaid’s purse).  Although this isn't my own picture, it's off the internet, couldn't find the source, this is just what the one we found looked like.  Once I told Verle what it was, he picked it up and tossed it back as far out into the water as he could.  Hopefully it’ll stay out there and go ahead and hatch someday.  We looked it up on the internet and it’s probably a Skate (looks like a spotted ray) egg case, but could also be some kind of shark.  Anyway, I’ve never seen one in person, so I thought that was great fun.  

We went back to that beach Friday afternoon and thought it would be our last visit to the beach as we don’t want to go on the weekend (we really don’t like people/crowds much, LOL) and we leave here for Tunica on Monday.  It’s been a lovely campsite, we basically end up back in a parking lot type in Tunica, LOL, but it’s lots cheaper there, with lots of buffets to eat at (but also lots of smoking and I'm finally off all the allergy/asthma/COPD meds etc. and breathing just fine and really don't want to start that up again.  I'll have to be really careful.  

Whoa, we almost had a big change in plans here:  we had such a lovely, wonderful day at the beach yesterday, Friday (we went back to the same place as Thursday), and I'm finally feeling so good that we decided to see if we could just extend our time here and skip the Tunica part of our trip.  So we stopped at the office to see if we could do so.  Unfortunately (for us, but fairly for all) they have limits as to how long you can stay here at the Gulf Shores State Campground in any particular campsite.  Along the canal (where we are) the limit is 14 days.  So, yes, we could stay at the campground, but would have to move the trailer to a different campsite, not on the water.  If we have to pack the darn thing up to move it anyway, we might just as well stick to our original plans and just go on to Tunica.  . . 
So why the sudden change just because of the beach?  
Remember, this is only April, that's still Spring and remember, in the Camping post, we said we don't like cold water, so we assumed we'd only be able to wade in the ocean and maybe find some shells, which until Thursday wasn't happening, LOL.  Now that we have found this one good beach with free parking etc. we want to go back.  Yesterday (Friday), even though we had clothes on, I actually sat down on the beach (in the water and got thoroughly soaked). . .  the WATER IS WARM. . . I don't mean have to tip toe out and get used to it, I mean walk in warm, not quite bath water warm, but actually warm, not even chilly.  
It's also very shallow there a LONG way out (I probably went out about 1/10th of a mile and it was still only to my thighs).  Mr. C didn't want to get his clothes soaked though, so he wouldn't go out that far.  Ok, so I'll admit part of why I got soaked was because I sat in it and got my pants wet, but also, as I was coming back in from rinsing the sand off, I bent over to try to catch a pretty shell and a little wave knocked me over, so I was completely soaked, LOL.  I'm glad nobody took a picture of that, LOL.  So, although originally we did not plan to return to the beach on Saturday (didn't want the "expected" crowds on the weekend), we decided we'd return on Saturday just so we could actually go out in the water and get wet.  
I wanted to walk out as far as we could, but didn't want to go by myself, I wanted Mr. C to go with me, so we were going to wear swim suits so we could both go swimming (not much swimming when the water is only about 2 1/2 feet deep (with swells, but no real waves, I'd take the grand kids there in a split second, they'd LOVE it and not be scared by huge rough waves).  But guess we won't be going to day, because it's chilly today and completely clouded in and has been pouring rain for the past 3 hours, LOL.  Tomorrow, we'll be packing the trailer up to get ready to go on Monday (we have a really long drive Monday and Tuesday and we'll want to be ready to take off bright and early), so we'll see how the weather is as to whether we go back again tomorrow or not.  

So, that's all folks, hope you're having a great weekend, too.  Smiles

What is "Camping"?

This is a strictly "thoughtful" post about how the "face" of camping has changed over the past 30 years, and what we are observing now.  It may just be that our OWN view of camping has changed, but the campgrounds are changing, too, so I don't think that's the case.  

I wish I was home and could scan and include some photos for this blog entry, as this has been a very fun (even if a bit nostalgic) post for me to write.  I'll try to remember to add some pictures later.

I'm not shy about stating my age, I'm 55 years old (I think, LOL), and started camping a long time ago, with my Dad's parents.  They started out with a camper mounted on a truck bed and moved to a smallish trailer, but it always seemed plenty big to us grand kids.  They took us with them and seemed to enjoy their time with us, letting us catch and bring home frogs, rocks, etc.  My grandparents were big rock hounds, so many of MY memories of "camping" or taking trips with them involve rock hunting etc.  

Then, as always happens, my "own life" took precedence as I became a "self important" teen (I don't think I was as bad as some others I knew, but I'm sure I thought, and acted like, I was the most important thing in the world at times).  Then I married and had kids of my own, it didn't work out and I became a single parent to two toddlers.  My sister, G, in the meantime, had her own experiences and divorce and so we were two single sisters with my 2 kids.  I was so incredibly poor in those days, money wise (but so rich in other ways, in family and love).  G happened to have a fairly good paying job.  We both wanted to take some trips, but she "couldn't/wouldn't" go alone and there was no way I could afford to go with the kids, so we joined forces, so to speak.  We decided we could afford to camp, we all enjoyed nature and the outdoors and had good experiences of camping with the grandparents, so camping was our decision, and we went out and bought a tent (and all the paraphernalia to go along with it).  

We took short trips and one VERY long trip to Montana.  Along the way we camped (yes, in the tent), although we stayed with a friend in Montana.  The kids were 3-6 when we started our tent camping days.  We had a lot of fun, laughs, and scares.  Back then, camping was a tent, an open fire, no electricity, no water and only out houses, LOL.  

Eventually, G got in with a group she volunteered with and found that they went camping to the Black River in Missouri, where they tubed, canoed (that's supposed to be boating in a canoe, but the word looks very wrong, LOL), and rafted the Black River.  The first 2 trips G took B and N with the group, although I was unable to make either trip (as stated previously in another post, I'm not much of a partier).  Eventually she talked me into going there with her and the kids and it was a lot of fun.  The water was COLD (around 75*) but the air temps were in the 100s and we were young and invincible, LOL.  It took awhile, but we always got used to the temps eventually and had a heck of a good time.  Sometime during this time period, one of the families G camped with got a new pop-up trailer, so we "bought" their OLD one very very inexpensively (thanks M & D).  We thought we were really living it up, real "beds", not on the ground.  I think there was one outlet, the table etc.  It was the height of "roughing" it, at that time, for us, anyway.  

Back then, camping still meant campfires, no matter what the temperatures were, you had to have a campfire to eat, LOL and peanut butter gets old after awhile.  Camping also meant people sitting outside at the tables or in lawn chairs, there wasn't really room to "hang out" inside a pop-up or tent and there was still very little electricity.  This poor old pop-up was truly on its last legs, we gutted it to make it work for us and I patched and sewed and patched until it looked like a patchwork quilt (of course I had to use brightly colored/striped or whatever pretty canvas I could find, it's one of my "GIFTS", ROTFLOL).  It was quite a sight to see.  Of course, the facilities were still either the woods or a public bath house/shower/restroom/outhouse.  No need for sewer hookups or water/electric hook ups.  

Then I had the audacity to meet Mr. C and we got married, which changed things somewhat, although we tried to keep them as close to the same as possible.  We still tried to be sure G was included in as many of our vacations as possible and tried to get down to the Black River at least yearly.  We purchased a new pop-up that was large enough for the 5 of us (more or less, there's still only so much room in a trailer, LOL).  Mr. C happens to hate humidity, so he insisted on having an air conditioner, which was the first real change to our camping style.  We had a built in ice box, a real stove top, and electricity.  But it also meant keeping it closed up and we lost some of the smell and sounds of real camping (crickets and frogs aren't nearly as loud when an air conditioner is running).  It also made us stay inside more, as we "felt the heat more" when we could choose air over 100 + humidity.  But some things stayed the same, every campground still had fire rings, fires no matter the outside temps, cooking over your fire etc.  We also took some more distant trips that G wasn't comfortable with (she's always been a home body, more than 4-5 days away from home and she's had it).  Although we tried so hard to make her feel welcome and wanted (and she was) I know G often felt like an "extra" especially as the kids got to the teen years and took off to play with new friends and fellow campers.  G took the kids with her a couple times without us parents along too, until they reached their OWN. . . hmmm, how did I put that up above?  "Then, as always happens, their "own lives" took precedence as they became "self important" teens".  We knew our times of "family" trips and camping were nearly at an end and so were G's, unfortunately, just because that's the way life happens sometimes.  

We asked the kids, for one last family vacation, what do you want to do?  Anything you choose, other than go to Australia or something equally impossible.  For one time in their teen age lives, they agreed they both wanted to learn to scuba dive.  Camping and Scuba don't go together too well, but we took Scuba classes (Mr. C had been a previous diver) and went to the Keys and finished off the classes and got advanced certifications and had a pretty great vacation (even B knows she was a royal PITA that year as she had a steady boyfriend and didn't want to be anywhere without him, LOL).  We tried camping and scuba in the Black and Current Rivers (once or twice) but by then Mr. C and I had gotten used to warm water (85+*) diving and couldn't stand the cold, cold rivers.  We embarrassed the daylights out of the teens, who thought their own self worth was involved in how their parents "looked and acted", LOL.  So, that was the end of camping for that time in our lives and Mr. C and I went on some marvelous diving adventures, until my health put an end to that.  But we still had the idea that camping was the same and wouldn't change.  

But it did.  So, fast forward (where on earth does the time go?) to roughly 2004, give or take 2 years.  Mr. C and I started trying to figure out some things to do for trips and vacations that didn't involve diving, but we still enjoyed the outdoors and nature, etc.  We both felt we needed to get more active (we have become much too attached to our computers--duh, here I am on vacation, in Gulf Shores, Alabama and I'm writing my blog, LOL).  So we started checking out camping options to get back into camping and the outdoors and some hiking etc.  We also wanted to be able to visit the kids and Mr. C's parents (without motel costs and flying).  As we researched, we found a group of people from all walks of life who had taken to "full time RVing".  Yes, some still destination camp, but many actually live in their RVs full time.  Notice, I didn't say "camp", I said RV.  The face of camping has changed dramatically in the past 10 years.  We started noticing the camping paraphernalia on the roads, no longer so many little trailers and pop-ups, but class C and class A motor homes, and fifth wheels and big trailers.  EVERYTHING has super sized (not just "us", LOL).  We were heading towards retirement age ourselves, and the idea of traveling to see the US really appealed to us.  So we changed our focus from just "camping" to "living" the RV lifestyle.  Could we do it?  Was it for us?  So many choices and decisions. We knew we were not in a financial position to do anything at that time and were still 7-8 years out from retirement considerations, so we kept researching.  We finally settled on what we wanted and how we wanted to do it, and that YES, indeed, we DID want to try this out.  Mr. C's grandparents had traveled back and forth living between Reno (in the summer) and Las Vegas (in the winter) for many years in a trailer, so he had some good feelings about it being possible.  

We decided we wanted a fifth wheel with a truck (that way, if our motor crapped out, we'd still have the trailer and only have to replace the truck) and we wouldn't have to tow an extra vehicle.  Now that we've been doing this for 6 years, we might have made a different decision, as we've found our huge truck is hard to deal with some places (parking garages, if we go somewhere while camped).  Also, as we get older, we find it harder to get in and out of the back of the truck to hitch and unhitch, so the Class A Motor homes are looking a bit better to us, LOL, but I get ahead of myself.  

We decided we wanted a fifth wheel and began researching all the different sizes, floor plans, models, etc.  and to make a long story short, finally decided on what we wanted when the time came.  Unfortunately, the time came much sooner than we had planned, with the totally unexpected death of Mr. C's mother.  However, it happened and we found we had the money for the trailer THEN, rather than later.  We decided to go ahead and get it while we had the money rather than let the money fritter away from us (as money has a habit of doing).  We knew we would use the trailer for destination camping and to visit kids etc. until we were able to retire and that is what we have done.  Which brings us to today, and the way camping has changed.

In the past 3 years, we have only been to about 6 campgrounds that actually have campfire rings and/or allow fires at all.  For this current trip, we will be in a total of 6 campgrounds and not one of them has had campfire rings.  One of them had them in a few specific campsites, but none of them had them at every campsite.  They nearly ALL had electricity and water available at the campsite and the majority had sewer hook-ups.  We still see a few (very few) tents set up, a pop-up here and there, and some of the new "tear drop" basically sleep in only trailers.  The majority of the "camping" we see now involves a major sized trailer or motor home with full hook-ups (sewer, electricity--50 amp--and running water).  The big State Park we are at right now has pedestal camp grills at every site, but doesn't allow "ground fires" at all.  You can have wood or charcoal in your grill, but not on the ground.  

Nearly every trailer has air conditioning and very few if any windows and the only people who seem to sit outside are the ones who camp in groups (several trailers together) or the few who have tents or the smaller trailers or are visiting people in the area (you can tell from the license plates etc.).  

I'm feeling kind of sad/nostalgic about all this, and am sure I'm part of the "problem" (although it's not truly a problem, more just a state of being).  I enjoy being able to get out of the humidity and into our air conditioning.  I mention to people (who don't camp) and they obviously still have the "old idea of camping" as they say, camping, I can't stand camping, sitting out in the weather with the bugs etc.  I start laughing as I state that our "camper" is the "NICEST HOUSE WE'VE EVER OWNED" and explain that we have a full shower, toilet, bathroom sink, king sized bed, full size closet, built in dressers, full kitchen with actual oven, 3 burner stove, combination microwave convection oven, 4 door refrigerator/freezer, double sink, front loading washer and dryer, TV/DVD in the bedroom and surround sound TV/DVD/CD set up in the Living Room, along with a built in Fireplace, Desktop computer for Verle as well as my lap top, a full mini studio for my polymer clay work, a sofa sleeper and 2 recliners, 2 air conditioners, a furnace, hot water heater, decorative/glass fronted cabinets, and a built in pantry.  All the comforts of home and we can take it anywhere we want to, LOL.

AND, right this minute, it is absolutely pouring outside, I'm so glad to be safely inside my condo on wheels and not in the tent across the street from us, LOL.  

AND THAT, folks is how the face of camping has changed.  I honestly don't know if the small "river" type (party) campgrounds are still there (we won't fit and they don't/didn't have the type of hook-ups we've come to want and expect).  I know there was a camping club down here for 5 days near us with about 6 trailers that the families ran back and forth and sat out etc. but no fires, I think we're the only ones who have bothered to do marshmallows at all (in fact, I've had a horrible time finding the "big" marshmallows down here and where I have found them, the check-out clerks are just amazed at never having seen such a thing before).  

I can't wait to find some pictures, when I get home, to go with this blog entry and I hope you've found it entertaining at the very least.  

Next, is the blog about things we've done down here (although it hasn't been much due to my health problem).  The last two days have been lots of fun.  Smiles

Shake Down Cruise For Retirement

A Shake Down Cruise for Retirement.  As some of you know, we're currently on our first "long" pre-retirement practice run (like a Shake Down Cruise or Sea Trials, as the Navy would put it).  This is our longest trip in the trailer, yet, almost a full month.  This particular post might not be too interesting, as not lots of pictures and it's a bit personal and introspective, but it's things I'm thinking about and felt like writing them, so if you don't care to read it, it's okay, although there are a few interesting things at the end, LOL.  

We are presently in Gulf Shores, Alabama, "camping" (which is where the introspective  NEXT post is going to come in, LOL) at the Gulf Coast State Park.  We are having a great time, now that I’m over a horrible reaction I had to some medication the Dr. put me on just before we left!!!  It made me honestly NUMB from head to foot and EVERYWHERE in between.  I couldn't taste or smell or feel my mouth.  I could have had a colonoscopy or catheter or oral/dental work done and not felt a thing (unfortunately, that made personal  issues a problem, too, and I had so much mucus/saliva I was drooling and sweating like a St. Bernard in August.  My motor control was nonexistent (good thing I didn't have to drive), my blood pressure was up and down like crazy, and I was in a daze, it was like I had had a stroke.  It was awful and took about 10 days to work its way out of my system.  Not a good way to have a vacation, but also glad we were on vacation, as if I had been home I would have just tried to keep going through it (and since I was sick before we went with my “COPD crap” might have ignored it thinking it was just more allergy etc.) and put a good face on it and not realized something was very wrong.  I took it for 8 days (I had noticed I was sleeping so deeply, the first few days, and had so much mucus and slobber I was soaking my pillow at night and having horrible sweats and was hot all the time, but didn’t have a clue why.  But then I suddenly quit sleeping and thought it might be because of the new med  and that saved me because I decided to switch it to mornings.  Within 15 minutes of taking it I noticed the numbness, starting in my face, and it just got steadily worse all day, so I knew it had to be that medication—apparently I hadn’t noticed it at night because I was sleeping (at least at first) and it took 10 days to get mostly gone out of my system.  So Thursday is the first day I could actually feel everything except my nose/sinus areas.  The front of my face is still a bit tingly, but at least I can feel it again. So, that's all on the personal front that I probably shouldn't have posted and kept to myself, LOL.  But Oh well. . . 

So, here's my short report on 
Alabama (more details to follow in the next post).  The weather here is lovely, although I suspect it would be unbearably humid in the summer, as it’s humid now and we’ve had the air on the whole time.  I keep forgetting that it’s just April.  We’ve had mostly sunny skies, only one major stormy night and today, Saturday, is overcast, cooler, and rainy.  They keep this place fogged for bugs, so it’s not buggy at all, but I suspect that’s why we’re not seeing things like turtles and lizards and frogs and snakes.  Oh well, I’d rather avoid the bugs, LOL.  

There is an  Osprey nest just down from us with a pair in/on it.  The first few days we were here, one was on the branch with the nest and the other one perched on a nearby tree, but now, the one is IN the nest and the other one is perched on the branch by the nest.    

I'm afraid the next paragraph is going to seem very judgmental/prejudicial/maybe even snooty, and I don't mean it that way, at all, just observations, and generalities, of course all people are different, individually.  As anyone who knows me well, knows, I'm a people watcher, and I'm very intuitive/empathetic.  Not much of a joiner or partier, but I LOVE to watch and observe people.  For example:  When we've been in the Smoky Mountains hiking, in the past, you could tell where people were from, just by how they greeted or even reacted to one another on the trails.  People from the midwest were always friendly, but not overly friendly, "Hi, how you doing?  Made eye contact, smiled etc. Similar to the "waves"--first finger off the steering wheel even to complete strangers in the Midwest, LOL.  People from the South, of course gave themselves away with their accents, but they were always super friendly, eye contact, hi, how you doin' the trail ahead gets real steep, but it's worth it, etc., with Texans being the most outgoing, friendliest of all, "here, this bridge is kind of narrow, let me help your kids across".  People from the New England area tend to be more aloof, might say "hello", but never "Hi, how ya doin", LOL.  They also don't tend to make eye contact as much and are much more quiet.  People from the West tend to be very standoffish, make an obvious effort to go AROUND you on the trail, like they're afraid you might bother or touch them or interfere with their hike or kids or something.   So, when I talk about "people", it's just generalities from the general vibes people give off.   

So, with that explanation out of the way:  Alabama is much different than I expected.  Being on the beach/coast (even if it’s just the Gulf) I expected it to be like Florida along the gulf coast (bikini or less clad thin women, very nicely dressed and coiffed people on the town, at restaurants etc.)  Without meaning to be judgmental or prejudiced or anything, it’s a totally different type of people, here, and we're very comfortable.  Even on the beach, not many bikini clad young people (until you get down to the FL panhandle, LOL).  People down here are “normal sized” and very laid back about showing it (women my size in bikinis????  YUCK!!!, LOL).  Whatever you happen to have on, where ever you happen to be, whether it's Walmart or a restaurant, barefeet, no tops (on guys), swim suits or sweats or t-shirts.  It’s a slower paced place, not as many places to eat (which is good, we’ve eaten in camp mostly).  Appears much lower socio-economic (except the fancy rentals on the beach etc.) as far as the people who actually seem to live here, more either working class or retired, (and the retired people must not be in the areas around the beach because unless they're vacationing, you just don't see them much).  Much less care to dress, oral hygiene, missing teeth, crazy hair, etc.  Verle says Alabama is “construction grade” and more “our kind of people”, LOL.  They rent from “Y’all haul” rather than “U-Haul” (that’s a joke).  Very nice, caring, kind people (in general), eager to help people out and calling everybody hon, sweetie, etc. 

It’s a pretty place, lots of green and tons of water, both fresh and salt.  The sand on the beach is the whitest, softest (hardest to walk in, my calves are about done in, LOL) sand I’ve ever seen.  

Apparently the shells take quite a beating coming all the way up the Gulf and end up pulverized by the time they make it to Alabama, which is what makes the super soft sand, but also means almost NO shells.  Daughter, B,  said Biloxi was like that too, no shells, but not as fine of sand.  

I think I'll stop here, as this is getting long and I have 2 more I want to get written today.  One about the wonderful beach we found and why we almost aren't coming home, LOL and another about how camping seems to be changing.    

I see it’s supposed to be back to 32* at home tonight or tomorrow night, I’m sure glad we’re here, rather than there.  I do truly enjoy the warmth here.  So, we’ll be home in about 10 days, (N & family will probably be glad for us to take charge of the chickens, again) hopefully the warm will be back, up there and we’ll just go right into summer, LOL.  See you next post.  smiles

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

No alligators, but dolphins?

Yes, we decided to play tourist today and went on a dolphin cruise and truly did see dolphins.  There was a pod of 4-6 just swimming calmly along.  No jumping or leaping, so not very good exciting pictures, but at least we saw them, LOL.

It was an overcast day, but beautiful out on the water.  It's been a long time since Mr. C and I were out on the ocean.  It felt so good.  I could BREATHE!!!!  It was cool, but not cold by any means, still wore capris and short sleeved shirt and didn't need a jacket.  We sat at the front of the boat, so I definitely got my Vitamin D in today.

We saw pelicans, and lots of people on wave runners and the one pod of dolphins, but that was it.

We mostly stayed inside the bay because they said it was really rough/choppy out in the Gulf.  But in the end we went out in the Gulf and it was beautiful, not even any swells.  Made me almost miss diving.

Just some rich fancy house we saw from the bay.

Then a pelican on a post,

 then some pelicans floating around.

Finally, finally, some dolphins:

The people we went cruising with, also offer parasailing, but Mr. C couldn't talk me into that, LOLOL

Finally, some pictures of the coast line etc.  from the Gulf:

and back under the bridge into the Bay again and back to the dock. . .

At which time we returned to camp, had steak, corn on the cob, salad, and roasted marshmallows for dessert.  Great day and now it's almost bedtime, already.  So I'll leave you for today and wish you all pleasant dreams.  Good night!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's been sooooo looonngggg!!!!

I can't believe it's been so long since I last blogged.  I have no excuse, except to say I just wasn't up to it.  I got into a rut and couldn't seem to find my way out.  Once I started dragging myself out, life got crazy again and so busy I didn't have time for anything.  I have barely even touched my clay since November, either.  When I say I was in a rut, I mean more like a hole and wanted to pull the top in on top of me and just shut out the world.  That isn't normal for me, which just seemed to make it snowball.  So, what have I been up to?  It's more a question of what my family has been up to.

Kids and grandkids are all doing well.  B & M and family are still in Virginia, although they have recently gotten orders to Japan for January 2013.  With B's seizure disorder etc. they aren't sure it's a 100% go, but they are extremely excited about it.  They are coming home to visit Illinois, this year, so we look forward to having them home for a short time in June.

N & M and family are back in Illinois.  M received a medical retirement from the AirForce and they have moved back in with us until they get back on their feet.  N just got a temporary job offer today, we hope that is a foot in the door that will lead to more permanent employment eventually.  He has been so discouraged.  He worked so hard to get that Bachelor's degree and it's been 6 months and still no job.  He's been out of work for about a year and a half now and with M no longer being in the AirForce, "things" have been rather tense.  So, they moved the girls back to Illinois and we served as guardians for a couple months until M's final  retirement date.  Now they are all home and together, again.

Unfortunately, Allergy or something hit early this year, and I've been battling my "COPD" VERY badly this year (which has not helped my state of mind).  It's horrible to not be able to breathe properly.  It has caused or exacerbated anxiety and panic attacks which just makes it worse, but I can't seem to stop the reaction.  So, this has not been a good 6 months for me no matter how you look at them.  I keep trying to count my blessings and I know we are incredibly blessed, but it is a real effort to remind myself sometimes.  Anyway, enough on that. . .

So, since kids are either living in IL or visiting IL, that freed up our vacation time this year.  I wanted to go to a special Polymer Clay workshop on making canes with Carol Simmons, but have developed some severe arthritis and am changing my focus to sculpture, as I can't reduce the canes as well as before.  That has been a real challenge for me.  So, I had to cancel that class, but we had already made plans/reservations for vacation time surrounding that class, so we kept those plans.  In fact, we are presently in the middle of those plans, as we are in sunny Gulf Shores, Alabama.  
My wonderful Mr. C also planned a very special surprise for me for our second vacation, but I"ll tell about that later.

It is especially nice having N & M at the house, as they are taking care of home and chickens for us while we are gone.  We will be here in Gulf Shores for 15 days and then moving to Tunica, MS for about a week before heading back home.  Not real exciting world changing events, just calm, peaceful, relaxing days in the sun.  Of course, this year has been such a lovely, unusual winter in Illinois, that we hardly needed to go away to find some warm sunshine.  But we're here, never the less and it's beautiful.  We're in Gulf Shores State Park, camped along a canal
where there are supposed to be alligators, but we haven't seen any yet.  Although today, after returning from the beach, I looked into the canal and saw a BUNCH of bubbles in kind of a V formation, so maybe an alligator had just submerged??? after taking a breath of air???  Who knows, but I'll keep looking.

Today we went to the beach, but it was kind of a bust.  It is a very steep beach, so walking along it was like walking with one leg a foot shorter than the other.  Between my back injury from last year and my legs and weight, it wasn't much fun.  The water was fairly warm, though, although we didn't go all the way in, just waded and got splashed.  There were no real shells, just little broken pieces, although the beach itself is beautiful, white, soft, silky sand (very hard to walk in, LOL).  But the sun was shining, the short little waves were breaking, the birds were calling and it was still a lovely day.  I got my Vitamin D in for sure, as well as a very sandy behind.

We figured a half hour in the sun, after no sun for the winter, would probably be enough for the first day, so we came back to the trailer after I wore myself out, LOL.

On the way back, we stopped for a picture of a big bird's nest and 2 big birds.  At first, from a distance, I thought they were Bald Eagles, but I think they were Ospreys, instead.  We also saw a whole area of trees that were FILLED with buzzards, couldn't get close enough to get a good picture, but it was kind of eerie.

So, now we're back in the trailer, relaxing, I'm blogging, we just had lunch and it's a lazy dazy kind of day.

Oh, my surprise vacation, you might be wondering about????  Mr. C is taking me to Vegas for Clay Carnival again this year, in October.  We even have time to take the 5th wheel.  We'll drive out, stop in Albuquerque for 2 days at the Balloon Fiesta, which I've always wanted to go to, then to Vegas, then back to Albuquerque to see Mr. C's Dad and Step-Mom, a couple days in Branson, MO, and then back home.  That will be so much fun, but lots of driving.  Sure hope that drive is less exciting than this first one has been.  (We had another blow out on the way down here).

So, that's all for today, I'll check in again, in a day or two.  Smiles