02-06-2014 Cold Rainy Day in Destin

Current temperature 36 F  Partly clear and the high to day up to a balmy 53!

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (6)I guess 53F is a lot better than 43F which was the high temperature here yesterday.  With rain.  No sun, not a speck of sunshine.  We are leaving today and heading east toward St Joe Peninsula State Park….I think we need to follow the rain.  Weatherunderground says that by Sunday the rainy weather will have passed this part of the Emerald Coast with sunshine predicted in Destin and clouds and rain for points farther east.

I guess this is the most frustrating part of traveling with reservations, we just don’t have a lot of flexibility to follow the weather.  The whole plan would fall like a stack of dominoes if we decided to try to go somewhere warm and sunny right now.  The other problem, of course, is that there isn’t much warm and sunny in this half of the country and we would have to go a couple of thousand miles west.  And by the time we got there, Winter Storm Orion might be doing some damage as well even out west.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (12)Right now, Oregon is experiencing some severe winter weather on the west side of the mountains, and I am quite happy to be down here, relatively warm, not shoveling snow and slipping on icy roads.  I will not complain one bit more about the cold weather here in Florida.  I also know that if I could just get a little bit father south the predictions are for highs in the 80’s at Marathon Key.  I need a Star Trek transporter to get us there before some weird weather thing turns it all cold again.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (4)With Florida beaches off limits to dogs, we took Abby to the Four Paws doggy day care for our day on the beach.  I would say that was a fairly loosely run business, but we saw where Abby was to spend the day, and it seemed clean enough.  There was no outdoor space, but the owner said he walked the dogs every two hours or so.  The hours are a bit limited and we had to return by 4PM to pick her up. 

On a side note, I would highly recommend reading ALL the reviews for boarding facilities.  A kennel recommended by the desk staff at the campground had some rather scary reviews.  The kennel owner is threatening to sue the reviewers for slander, but a local vet confirmed that a small dog died from injuries sustained at the facility by a larger dog.  If there are terrible reviews and then a bunch of glowing reviews with a later date, pay attention, those later reviews are probably fake. 

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (19)We started our dog free morning with pastries and coffee at “The Donut Hole”, recommended by several bloggers and a recent commenter on our blog.  Thanks, that was a good choice.  The coffee was strong, the pastries superb, and the restaurant gave us a place to prepare for venturing out into the cold rain.

I wanted most of all to see Grayton Beach State Park, and had no problem paying the $5. entry fee to explore the campground, check out the dune lakes, and the famous white sands of the beach.  Even with the gloomy skies, the pastel turquoise colors of the water and the pure white sands were wonderful.

We walked as long as we could manage in the cold.  Even with a yellow flag out, for moderate conditions,  the breezes made the 43 degree temperatures bone chilling.  Still, I had to put my feet in that crystalline water.  The Gulf was doing that gentle Gulf thing that I love, with soft, little waves…can I even call them waves?….lapping the shore and the dark clouds reflecting in the still water.  I kept imagining how incredible it would feel to have my kayak out there on the wilderness of silky turquoise water and gray sky in all directions.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (17)From Grayton Beach, there are some tall Florida condominiums visible in the distance, but nothing invasive.  The State Park itself is definitely a place to camp for us, with several sites with paths leading directly to the dune lake and plenty of privacy.  The newer part of the campground has 50 amp hookups and larger sites, but they are unprotected and open.  We liked the older part better, nice thing about having a 30 amp, 26 foot rig.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (28)After freezing at the beach, we jumped back in the Tracker turning the heat on full blast to try to dry out my jeans.  Even with the cuffs rolled up I managed to get all wet. Continuing east on 30A, we traveled the short mile and a half from the park to the little storybook town of Seaside, Florida.  Years ago, watching the movie “The Truman Show”, I fell in love with this town, as did many other people.  Looking it up, I learned it was a planned community, one of the first that used the new Urban Design concept of creating a living space that was pedestrian friendly, with common areas, concentrated housing of varying sizes and types, and the ability to work and play and live all without having to use a car.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (32)I don’t think many people who work in Seaside actually live there, since many of the houses now go for millions.  It was still very cold, and by the time we got to Seaside it was also raining.  The lovely town square was in the midst of major reconstruction and not quite lovely at this time.  One of the local food wagon vendors told us they had trouble with drainage and the square was being redesigned to handle runoff more efficiently. He said it would be gorgeous again by March.

I had Mo take the obligatory photo of me at the tiny post office and then we walked the square a bit.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (35)02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (37) A store with proclaimed cottage style was rather elegant.  I kept picturing all that fancy elegant cottage stuff in our real cottage back in Oregon.  Maybe not, but it was luscious to look at, with linen woven slipcovers, big bowls of coffee beans on distressed wood tables, and beautiful linen napkins at $20. a piece.  Let’s see…dinner for six and $120. for napkins?  I love luxury and good quality, but this was even more than I would do.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (39)The famous Modica Market was a nice stop, with tall shelves of everything imaginable that required library style ladders to stock. Again, even with a small bin of organic produce, this wasn’t exactly your weekly grocery shopping spot.  The Seaside Transit Authority tent was worth a double take, however, with bicycles instead of busses as the city transportation system. 

Still raining, I convinced Mo to walk at least a couple of blocks through the residential areas, with their white picket fences and porches bigger than my house.  Just a short way down the block, we found a public pathway, a truly amazing little treat, that led between back yards, much like an alley, but not for cars.  The path led to the main road where we got back in the car, grateful again for warmth.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (40)It seems that March is the beginning of “the season” in Seaside, and many of the charming little boutiques on the beach side of the town square were still closed.  Lucky for me, Pickles was open, and I managed an order of fried pickles…something I never tried before but sounded like fun.  They were.  I can see that Seaside could be a great place to visit on a warm sunny day on a bicycle.  With a great bike trail between the town and the state park to the west, the perfect combination of quiet kayaking, beautiful beach, and cute busy town accessible by bike is pretty darn inviting.  But not today in the cold rain.

Traveling back 20 miles or so to Destin, we found a WalMart…a tiny version of most WalMarts, hoping for some shelf liner, some propane, and some TUMS.  Eating out so much isn’t that good for my tummy.  I needed to be armed for the last dog free adventure of the day, hot Irish coffee at McGuire’s Irish Pub back in Destin.  I have seen photos of this place on so many blogs recently, and read about how great it is for so long that I decided it was worth a try.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (50)We weren’t disappointed, and Mo finally got fish and chips the way she has been wanting it for a month now.  None of that greasy, thick doughy breading, but a nice light crispy coating on flaky light fish.  I tried the rueben egg roll appetizers and they were great!  McGuire’s is also a small craft brewery, and when I asked if any of their beer was bottled, the head brewmaster came over to our table to have a long conversation about crafted beer.  I gave the rest of my Irish coffee to Mo and ordered a Millennial.  Excellent beer, not too hoppy, but rich and creamy.  In Florida, they do sell growlers of tap beer, but a growler is a gallon!  Hard to fit that in a motorhome fridge, so I passed.  It would take me a long time to drink a gallon of beer!

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (41)It is very nearly impossible to get a photo of the interior of McGuire’s, since the place is mainly lit with dim red lights.  The walls and ceiling are covered with dollar bills, all signed and named by folks who have visited.  They call it the million dollar ceiling.  I remember a ceiling like this along Interstate 90 west of Missoula, Montana somewhere near St Regis, but for the life of me can’t remember the name of the place.  Then there was the great little trailer coffee shop on the dirt road track the the Denali Highway in Alaska…covered in dollar bills with pies that were $36 each.  That dollar bill ceiling thing isn’t all that uncommon.

When we picked up Abby, she seemed happy and unstressed, so I assume her day was OK.  Ours was OK as well, in spite of the rain and cold, and as I fell asleep last night I kept remembering the color of the water, not how cold my hands and feet were while walking on the beach.

02-05-2014 Finally Florida…and whatever was I thinking??

Current Location: Destin, Florida  44 degrees F with a low tonight of 34 and a high tomorrow of 43?

Destin Army Recreation AreaI have visited northern Florida during every month of the year except July and August, and nope, it has never been this cold.  Or maybe I am not remembering it properly.  Looking back at the blog, I see some complaints now and then during my Ocala visits about frosty nights and cold windy days. 

We have been incredibly lucky on this journey.  During our first month traveling south through Texas, through country that is known for sudden snow storms and cold snaps, we had gorgeous weather.  We missed the worst of the cold in Corpus Christi by a week, and then when it turned cold again in the south, we headed out on a Caribbean cruise.  Amazing timing!

tight quarters at Destin Army Recreation AreaI should be grateful…I really am…but yup, I am cold tonight.  We are settled in at Destin Army Recreation RV Campground, something called MWR….meaning Morale, Welfare, Recreation.  Unlike most military family camps, this one isn’t on a base and required no military ID to enter.  It was built for the morale, welfare and recreation of military folks in need of respite.  Of course, retirees like Mo still benefit.  Just today we were talking about what an incredible benefit these camps are for people who have served in the military. 

Destin Army Recreation AreaWhere else in the very expensive Destin area could you stay for just $19. per night with full hookups, including sewer, and an extensive list of cable tv channels.  The laundry costs a measly .75 a load and the showers are clean, again with roomy private dressing rooms and unlimited hot water.

There is a beautiful swimming pool, supposed to be heated, but as of this writing it wasn’t, but it was still quite pretty.  The kids splash park looked like it would be fun in warmer weather and the fishing pier extended far enough out into the bay that we actually saw flounder through the clear waters below us.

Destin Army Recreation AreaWhen we arrived back in New Orleans from our cruise on Sunday morning, the skies were laden and cold, with heavy fog warnings.  The fog never lifted all day.  Disembarkation was incredibly easy, but the shuttle that we had prepaid managed to do a switcheroo and changed the pickup zone without letting us know.  By the time we were picked up an hour late we were not happy.  The guy got no tip!

When we picked up the fur kids at the Canine Connection in Uptown New Orleans, they were in great condition, clean and happy and well fed.  With a minimum 7 day stay, Abby was given a free bath and Jeremy got his toenails trimmed. They were of course happy to see us, but we could tell they weren’t at all stressed out. Although Jeremy did stick to me for a couple of days like a little fur ball of glue.  Once back home to the rig, we found everything in good shape, with our small solar panel keeping the batteries charged up and all the food in the freezer still OK.  It was a test…and it worked.

IMG_1049I planned for a full day to regroup in New Orleans before our planned departure.  Monday dawned dank and damp and foggy and again, that fog never lifted.  New Orleans seems to be a fairly dank place….while we were there everything was damp and wet and moldy.  I didn’t develop a great love for the city, or the outlying areas we traveled when we were there.  Unlike the magical bayous of other parts of Louisiana we have visited, the sprawling, unplanned messy communities with bone jarring pavement on the Westbank didn’t impress me in the least.  I was glad we were leaving and had no desire to explore anything further. 

still tearing down the projects that were destroyed in KatrinaErin has posted about some wonderful sights in New Orleans, especially the murals, but in that dank fog and after being tired from the cruise, a day of laundry and vacuuming out the car and MoHo were all I wanted to manage.  It was good to get everything all freshened and ready to go for the next leg of our trip. We did manage to navigate 12 miles across town to find an Office Depot for some printer ink (that wasn’t in stock), found a WalMart next door (where the ink WAS in stock), and spontaneously stopped at a veterinary clinic where I bought another case of what my vet calls Ensure for old kitties, since it is from veterinarians only and my supply for Jeremy was dwindling.

The three month trip we have planned is basically a three part adventure.  Part one is behind us, with the southward journey through West Texas and the Texas Gulf Coast topped off by our Caribbean cruise.  Part two will be a month in Florida, something I have dreamed of for years now.  Part three will be the unknown route of the trip back west. 

leaving New OrleansWe crossed Mississippi and Alabama on I-10, with dark fog and rain discouraging any side trips.  I knew from blog reading that there was a lot to see on the Gulf Coast of both of these states, but I was Florida bound and the day was dang ugly.  I just wanted us to get from point a to point b.  It didn’t help that I had the first real killer headache I have had during our entire trip.  I tried to go back to the bed to rest a bit while Mo was driving.  (Yeah, I know…no lectures please)  The pavement was so rough that I almost got bounced completely out of bed, so that solution lasted all of ten minutes.

Once we arrived in Florida though, things started to feel better.  I have no idea why.  Just something about the Florida landscape, the clean white sands among the pines, the feel of it.  I have no clue.  Must be all in my mind I guess, but eventually the headache lifted. 

tight quarters at the Destin Army Recreation campWe took a route south from I-10 that went through Navarre and toward the east along 98, avoiding any toll bridges to our location on Okaloosa Island, the location of Destin and the Destin Army MWR where we had a reservation.  We knew to expect tight quarters, so the campground wasn’t a surprise.  Our spot works for us with room to park the car, open the slide, and still have a tiny bit of privacy from our neighbors, but not much.  With the cold temperatures, we are glad for full hookups and our little electric heater.  I heard a rumor today that propane fuel is more than doubling in price in some places.  We filled our propane tank back in Corpus Christi and shouldn’t need more for a long time as long as we don’t use the furnace.

Destin HarborThis morning I woke up, excited to get my boat into Florida waters at last.  Watching the weather, we knew that the winds would be rising as the day progressed, but the sun wasn’t going to show up until later in the day.  Lucky for us, we decided to go kayaking early, and were in the water at the MWR boat launch by 9am, to partly cloudy skies and a stiff breeze.

I spent quite a bit of time researching the route along the southern side of Chocktawatchee Bay that winds around toward Destin Harbor.  It was only about 2.5 miles or so to paddle under the bridge and into the harbor, and we hugged the shore to avoid the worst of the choppy water.  As we rounded the point before the bridge, the current  through the channel was creating some crazy conditions and I was glad for a stable boat and a buttoned up life jacket.

morning kayak into Destin HarborOnce we were under the bridge and into the harbor, however, things calmed down considerably.  With the season not yet in full force, we didn’t have to fight too many big boats, but a couple of them passed us in the confines of the harbor and they looked very big from the water level of the kayaks.

We paddled about a mile or so to a small beach where the Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House is located.  They have patio dining and allow dogs, with even a special doggie menu, so we thought it might be a nice place for lunch.  Problem was, it was only 10:15 and of course, they weren’t open yet.  I thought maybe we could paddle the bay for awhile and then go back, but Mo was feeling uncomfortable about the increasing winds and that channel we had to get back through.

the water here was a lot rougher than it looks.  We landed on that tiny bit of sandGood thing we left when we did.  We got through the channel ok, but those big waves were pushing us along from behind and the current was coming downbay toward us.  I kept thinking…I am a good swimmer…I have on a life jacket….my camera is locked up in the Pelican case.  I even put my glasses in the pelican case before we tackled the point.

Once around the point, though, things got even worse, with a strong north wind coming directly toward us and making some pretty dramatic whitecaps on the bay.  Mo was ahead of me and she saw a small marina and headed in, hollering something at me that I couldn’t hear.  Yup…I was ready to go in as well.  We landed on the tiny little beach and managed to get out of the boats without getting rammed too badly against the rocks. 

glad to find a place to take the boars out of the waterFinally got the boats up on the dock and hauled ourselves out of the cold water and onto land.  The marina was closed with only one lone rather grumpy man around who didn’t seem to think much of two tourist ladies emerging from the water at his boat marina. He was a bit of a jerk actually. 

Mo stayed with Abby as I volunteered to walk back to the camp to get the car.  Lucky me, it was only a mile and a half and by then the sun came out in full glory, and away from the water there was barely a breath of air moving.  The walk was actually quite nice, and would have been better if I hadn’t been next to barefoot in my thin water shoes.  I got to see all the houses we had viewed from the water from the roadside.  The luxury of those waterfront houses can be seen fully from the water, but isn’t at all evident as you peer down the long driveways from the road.

managed to haul the boats up on the dockIt all turned out just fine, and we loaded up the boats and drove back home to the rig, happy to be warm and dry and in one piece.

The rest of the afternoon was pleasant, with a short drive to the town part of Destin to find PetSmart for some good dog food and a visit to the Destin dog park, well reviewed by people who have been in this area.  I couldn’t believe the shopping in Destin.  The main shops along the highway are just a tiny front for hidden corridors of outdoor malls that go on forever. 

We saw a huge Bass Pro Shop and decided to check it out, without realizing we had parked in an area called Destin Commons.  Almost like a city within a city, it is possibly one of the best shopping venues I have ever seen!  Good thing I wasn’t in a mood for shopping.  I simply wanted to get back home and out of the cold wind and make a toasty quesadilla for supper. 

Abby at the Destin dog parkAs I was walking along this afternoon, while Mo waited cold and wet at the marina, I thought, what an introduction to Florida kayaking.  The Florida part of this trip is mostly my idea, my little dream, and Mo keeps saying she hopes I get it out of my system.  I am pretty sure she would rather stay out west, or travel up to the New England states we have yet to visit in the MoHo and maybe continue into the Maritime Provinces.  Hopefully the weather here in Florida will warm up a bit and the kayaking won’t be so dang difficult!