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Not My Grandmother's Alabama

MONDAY, JULY 28, 2014

Another bittersweet morning now that I can see the view from our cabin in full daylight. I felt nothing but grateful to have been given the opportunity, yet again to stay at another glorious state park in another “Amaze-ball” accommodation. I took a walk around our cabin, closer to the lake. In the distance, across the lake, you could see the wooden towers of a zip line course. This zip line was part of my daytime adventure plan before we left. Gulf State Park, among a litany of fun and exciting activities, is home to the Gulf Adventure Center at Gulf State Park.

Here would be where I would fly in the sky with the greatest of ease all while filming with my iPhone chesty harness. Regrettably, this fantasy would have to wait. Thomas and I arrived at Gulf Adventure Center only to find out that the course itself was a two-hour event. There would be no slash and burn zip line action today. Of course there was not enough time. So instead we did the next best thing after a brief moment of sulking. Let’s film those lucky people who did actually have the time. In the meantime while we waited for the flying people, we happened to see something else in the air; an older man was flying a drone overhead with an audience of a younger man and his young son. It appeared that he was operating this drone with the remote and a monitor attached to it. He was not actually looking at the drone in the sky. Immediately I thought how cool would that be to have a drone to film some aerial shots. Thomas and I have decided that this must go on our list. Here they come. We see one person coming towards us. Thomas sets up and gets the shot, than the next and another. Man will put themselves in all types of silly contraptions for an adrenaline rush. Jealous. Next time. We got what we needed and after a brief gaze upon the lake from the other side it was time to go. Since we couldn’t devote the time for participating in the zip line, I conceded to go back go-kart racing again.

Our attendant from the night before was there again. He noticed that we were going to head all the way over to the other side to buy the tickets for the ride and told us that we could buy the rides from him (nudge nudge wink wink). He would take our cash for 2 rides instead of us going to the booth to pay for one for the same amount. To protect the innocent, all I will say is that according to Thomas, I can’t participate in illegal activities again. I wasn’t slick enough. I think he was actually embarrassed by lack of covert moves. That thrill was an approximate bumpy 6 minutes and this time we would both be harnessed with our respective film tools-iPhone and GoPro. Of course this draws a bit of attention again. Most of the time, if someone has something harnessed to his or her chest, it is a small human that can’t quite walk yet, not a small filming device. People ask questions and marvel at seeing these gizmos in person. I am pretty sure we may have helped make a few sales for GoPro.

It was now my time to get into the Gulf of Mexico or what I would like to refer to as the piece de resistance. Now mind you, for me, it is mandatory for me to go the beach in the summer or it is not summer. I am sure if I were to have a DNA test, the results would say that I am part fish. This is not speculation. When we pulled up to the parking lot, I could smell that water and my gills began to surface. Before I got out of the car I had to have major self - talk. “Self, you can only take a dip. No more or no less. We have to get on the road so this is only a dip. This is only a dip. Must make the ferry. ” I tried to play cool and casually walk the beach like a tourist deep in thought looking upon the water. On the inside, I am thinking that my shorts are on fire and I have to get these silly human clothes off to extinguish the fire. The white sand and clear lapping waves of the water were a sight for sore eyes. I got in. Ahhhhhhhhhh. If I could have held the Gulf Shore area in my arms, I would have given it the biggest, warmest hug. I missed you and farewell.

Since our NOLA waiter Marc made such a visual impression about taking the Mobile Bay Ferry, we were still going to catch it on the east coast and take it to the west coast and loop around the top towards our next stop. The drive proved to be another “not the Alabama you think of” moment. The miles and miles of beachfront dotted by homes of all sizes and shapes were unbelievable. I think the best part of all the homes was the little wooden signs on almost all of them that served as name badges, much like the names of boats you would see at a marina. These beach home dwellers care so much about their time at the beach that they have actually given the home a name. Clever.

We get to the ferry terminal and get lined up behind the cars already there. Than the bad news comes. The ferry attendant comes to the cars and talks to the drivers one by one. Apparently one of the ferries has broken down on the other side and there would be no place to dock this one on its way over so there will be no ride over the bay. Drats. As disappointed as we were we had learned to roll with the punches by now and left. On the way to the ferry, there was this interesting road to nowhere and what looked like a deserted fort. Diverted exploration time. The fort, which I later found out to be Fort Morgan looked very interesting but we opted for the road to nowhere. That road was part of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The asphalt line of a road was in such stark contrast to the white sand and green and tan bends of grass it dissected. Broken into bits on the both sides, the road was ultimately not fit for cars. All of the cars with the exception of large trucks were driving on the side of the road. Thomas and I walked down the road and to the beach and I stole another moment to dip my feet in the Gulf of Mexico. Careful to not get carried away, we soak it in, film, photograph and leave. There was a 5-hour drive to Florida ahead of us.

Some time had gone by and we stopped to eat and found ourselves in the parking lot of one of the many firework mega stores we have driven past several times already throughout this trip. I had never seen so many fireworks before. There were huge ones and ones with funny names and ones that could light up a neighborhood. But the real gem was finding the old school ones my sister and I had talked about over the 4th of July holiday; snapdragons, black worms, and sparklers. They would all end up being the perfect souvenir gift for her. I felt like I couldn’t have found anything better or more perfect. What else can you get the person that has it all? FIREWORKS!

The young guy working at the store was so helpful. His family owned the place. He was from Missouri and was only in town for the summer to sell the fireworks and he was very eager to get back home. According to him, at one time at the start of the summer, this firework store was filled to the ceiling with boxes of fireworks and people to buy them. With all of our questions, it was obvious that we were residents of a state where it is illegal to sell and buy fireworks. Quite a long day it became. On the way to the next stop, we crossed the 3,000-mile mark. We didn’t get to Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in Florida until midnight. Low and behold, lesson number 3 on the list makes its appearance; make sure there is no specific check in rule. Unlike the other state parks, Stephen Foster State Park has a key code gate that closes in the evening. You need to let them know by 5:00 pm if you are going to be a late arrival. No luck getting in. I’m such a dweeb. Folks, never assume. I have now added to my list of things to do when planning future trips: always confirm the check in and check out rules and always plan on being a “late arrival.” We found a nearby hotel in Lake City and eventually crashed. The room was nice and large and the staff was so friendly.

Thanks to Mr. Greg Lein (Director Alabama State Parks Division) for allowing us to stay and enjoy Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, Alabama. I am forever a fan and will return. If you love the beach, please take time to visit their website and add this to your list of places to see.

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