beach bag (something that is bound to get sand in it),
Plastic bags (to protect things from sand),
regular luggage Swim Suits,
T- shirts/ Short sleeve,
Sweatshirts (it can get kinda chilly!),
swim suit cover-up,
rain coat (we always have 2 all-day rainy days) Aloe for sunburn,
sting medicine for jellyfish stings,
regular lotion- you will dry out from water, sand and sun,
eye drops! must have! Bring whatever you want... there are stores to purchase batteries and film if needed. Net- you can catch little crabs that come out at night,
Flashlight- to watch crabs or for jellyfish,
Lot of beach towels,
Water spray bottles- wash off sand from your hands or body and keeps you cool when the sun gets hot,
books to read on the beach,
Walkman to listen to music,
little cooler and cooley cup for drinks- easier than running back and forth for a refill,
body board or rafts for swimming If you are staying at a hotel or condo with a pool on the beach, put a towel out on a chair early in the morning (like 6am or 7am) to reserve it for the day.
These chairs are taken up quickly!
Be prepared to get hit by a water balloon or water gun some point in your vacation. They are always around!
DO NOT feed the seagulls- and yell at those around you who do. They will never go away! In fact, we made a game that we continued each year. If you are with a group of people on your vacation- each person that gets pooped on by a seagull gets $1 from everyone else. You are bound to get pooped on- so atleast you can get money for it!
Seeing in the New Year in Gulf Shores
"December 30, 2005"
We went on down I-65 to where Bay Minette and got off and got onto Alabama 59 where we crossed the ICW to Gulf Shores. We drove west on AL 182 until we found the Village By the Gulf which was on the north side of the street across from the beach.
We have a three bedroom condo which is on the top floor (30 steps up). We park the car underneath. The living room has a TV and also an alcove with our own washer and dryer. There is a full kitchen and dining room in the front. Then down the hall on one side is a bathroom, and on the other is a single bed with a trundle under it. In the back is a twin bed room with a TV up on the wall like in a hospital room, and a king bed room with a TV on the dresser and another bathroom.
When we arrived, there was only about one channel on the TV that worked, but that turned out to be because the cable was out, and it came back on later. There is a small deck out front for sunning or reading and there is a pool in the back. The office is on the top floor of the building in back of us.
Next door to us is a vacant lot, and we can see the fire station across it.
We went out to eat dinner, and ended up at Mikee's Seafood. I had the Mahi special for $13.99 and Bob had scallops. The waitress asked me how I wanted the mahi cooked and I said well done, but she meant fried, broiled, blackened etc. So I had broiled. With it I got a salad with dressing in a sauce boat and a lot of croutons and walnuts on top. Bob got cole slaw. We both got new potatoes and a hush puppy and two corn fritters. Bob ate his all up. I couldn't finish mine so I brought it home.
I was (as usual) taking pictures of the food (although it was so dark I had to use a flash which I don't usually do), and I heard the mom at the table behind me saying "Well maybe she has a job where she had to take pictures of food". Bob said the little girl at the table on the other side was completely fascinated too, although she didn't say anything.
The next day - December 31st - New Years Eve - it was quite foggy in the morning, and I was occupied mostly with trying to make the wireless work for the computer. I went all the way over to sit outside the office (on the 3rd floor of the next building) in order to get it to hold onto the internet.
About 3, I decided we'd better go out to Fort Morgan. I discovered the lady from unit 5 (the only other people in this building) sitting in the lounge on OUR balcony - probably because it was nice and warm in the sun and hers was in the shade. Bob said I shouldn't worry about it unless I was going to use it, but I was going to take a picture from there and didn't want her in it.
I never did get around to taking the picture of and from our balcony.
They are building all kinds of high rises along the waterfront of Gulf Shores. I'm not sure whether they are repairing buildings that were there, or whether they are building new ones. There is still considerable damage from Ivan in 2004 and then Wilma in 2005. At least 2 restaurants have signs which are in front of what are completely vacant lots.
The signs that point to the ferry that is (or was) at Fort Morgan say that the ferry is not running (suspended or something like that) while the ferry dock is being rebuilt. The little condo looseleaf information book did not say anything about the ferry not being in
The road out to Fort Morgan (Alabama 180) is relatively deserted - a two lane road through the pine trees. Every now and then there will be a sign to the right (toward the bay side) with a travel trailer outline pointing to a campground with a name like "Ezy Breezy RV" or "Bay Breeze RV on the Bay". There is also a historic fishing village and there were some places to stay on the left which probably face the ICW.
"December 31, 2005"
Eventually we got to the ferry landing. This was also one of Alabama's Birding Trail sites. I got out and took pictures of the area, which included the two oil drilling platforms that I could see in the bay, but also the sign with the ferry prices (the lady at the fort said that the ferry was scheduled to begin running again in January sometime), the other pier which was maybe a fishing pier, the riprap of the shoreline, some concrete steps to nowhere, and some wooden buildings. The sun was low in the sky and in the lingering fog it cast a golden glow over the landscape.
We went past some fort-like structures and though the gates to the main Fort - it is a state park. There was a sign saying to pay at the visitor's center - there was no one at the little entrance kiosk. But there was nothing to prevent someone just passing up the visitor's center and going directly to the fort except that when I asked, the lady in the visitor's center said she would put a curse on them.
It was 4 pm and the park closed at 5, so after some discussion about whether we were going to see the fort today or come back, we got $1 off our tickets and got in for $3 each (senior price). I thought we'd better go ahead an see it because it took us about a hour to drive the 20 some miles out there, and I didn't think I wanted to do it again even though the fog was now closing in again.
The Visitor's Center had some exhibits on the various local lighthouses including two fresnel lenses one of which was the 2nd order lens from Sand Island Light which was taken out an buried during the Civil War. The keeper's quarters were washed away during the hurricane of 1906 drowning the keeper and his wife. The other lighthouse - Mobile Bay light - was severely damaged during the Civil War by Union shelling. There was a furnace next to it for heating cannon balls to use against the wooden ships of the day.
The rest of the information was about the Civil War. The fort was the source of the famous Admiral Farragut quote, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead". The Mobile harbor was mined, and in those days, mines were called torpedoes. One of the first ships in the Union fleet to attempt to enter Mobile Bay was severely damaged by a mine. The admiral's decision was to try to get past the guns of the two forts guarding the bay entrance as quickly as possible regardless of the mines.
There was also a "Discovery Cove" area for children which had a interesting mural depicting various local history and landmarks. While Bob was still reading the signs in the museum, I went out and saw a family all climbing on a big cannon for a picture. There were no signs prohibiting this although there are in most of the federal
parks like Fort Sumter.
I saw some folks coming down the stairs from the top section of the fort, so I climbed up. It was still foggy, so I couldn't see much. The fort had numbered information points, and I discovered that I was going backwards from at Battery Schenck (1899-1923) and Battery Thomas When I was high up on the walls, I could see the beach in front of the fort the present skeleton tower lighthouse and the parking lot of the Visitor's Center, but not across the bay to the other fort and I couldn't really see even to the top of the tower very well.
Now, I couldn't figure out how to get down. Apparently I missed a turn somewhere. I saw Bob cross the dry moat and called to him, and he said just to come down the brick ramp. But it was quite steep - I'm not sure it was really meant for people to climb up and down it - and I thought I might slip and fall, so I was cautious.
I caught up to Bob on the parade ground in front of a sign about the Citadel (1821-1865) which had housed up to 400 soldiers at this spot. It burned at the end of 1864 and no longer exists except in photographs.
"New Years Day"
Fort Morgan was built in 1832, but it wasn't named until 1833. The handrails on the edges of some areas were bent, and wiggly with sharp rusted edges. They not only provided no support, but I think could injure someone. The bricks had great amounts of efflorescence and some areas like the stonework above the sally port were stained with
black - probably mold. Not damage that I would attribute to the hurricanes - more to general neglect.
Bob went on up to the walls of the fort where I had been (only he went the correct way to go up - not the way I came down and it had cleared a little so he could see the light at the top of the tower), and I looked at the reconstructed commissary and ammunition stores. We exited the fort about 4:42, and drove out of the park grounds at 4:47.
It got even foggier on the way back.
I wasn't exactly sure what would be open for non-partying folks on New Years Eve that wouldn't be too expensive. Bob asked me if I had seen a Winn-Dixie and I said yes, but I didn't remember where. So he decided to go to Brunos, and then when he was turning, he saw a Winn-Dixie on the other side of the road. There was a Godfather's Pizza in the same parking lot, so he dropped me off there to get some pizza to take back with us. He got stuff for hot dogs (onion, relish, buns), lemonade mix, snap beans, turkey bacon, chips, and angel food cake for him and bread, choc. mint chip ice cream and cranberry juice for me and the total cost was about $35.00.
I got carried away and ordered half a bacon cheeseburger and half Hawaiian pizza with a thick crust and some bread sticks. I had toyed with the idea of getting half taco instead of bacon cheeseburger. The Hawaiian had green pepper in addition to the ham and pineapple that I expected and the bacon cheeseburger side had dill pickle slices of all things. Bob didn't like either of them, and he doesn't like bread sticks either, although I do. Plus the pizza cost $16.66 which was far more than it would have cost to get one in Bruno's and it took a LONG time to be cooked. The girl said 15 or 20 minutes, but I ordered at 5:20 and was still waiting after Bob checked out at 5:51, put the groceries in the car and came over to see where I was, and we still had to wait for some time after that.
We went back to the condo and had our dinner and watched TV. Since our midnight was a hour later than NYC, I wasn't sure whether the broadcast was delayed or what. Bob went to sleep before midnight.
New Years Day was mostly spent in the unit watching TV. I edited the digital pictures and I tried to upload some. Bob got the exercise bands out of the car and I did a few exercises. Bob cooked hotdogs for dinner.
There is supposed to be a wireless network here, but it isn't very reliable and I sometimes can't get any signal. And of course I have to write emails from the internet instead of from my email program. Normally I would just log on via phone, but I keep getting a message when I try that saying that there is an over-current situation and it could damage my computer.
Since I spent some much time on the computer trying to upload pictures, I haven't written this section of the trip up yet.
"January 2, 2006"
Again it is foggy. I walked over to the beach, and stuck my toes in the surf - very cold. I also went back to the pool and tried that, but it was also too cold. (The pictures are in the film camera). I figured that was my exercise for the day. In the evening, we went to see if we could find a couple of recommended restaurants (The Spot which was a beach restaurant which I think was washed away by the hurricanes) and the Original Oyster Bar (which was closed), so we went to Bahama Bob's for dinner.
"January 3, 2006"
Today we went to Mobile. After lunch at Wendy's We visited Fort Conde (free) and rode the PACE bus (free) around the historic downtown. Then we drove out via Historic Blakely Park in Spanish Fort. We had dinner at Original Oyster Bar which was now open. I took 277 pictures which I haven't edited yet, and Bob took about 6.
"January 4, 2006"
Today, I wanted Bob to see the Bottom Liner that was at the Pensacola Shipyard. We finally found it and it was astonishing- almost completely different from others I've seen. I took 84 pictures of it and Bob took 12. After we gave back the keys, we went to find someplace to eat, and ended up at an expensive place on the water. Then we drove around historic Pensacola while I took pictures and went aboard the base so I could take a picture of the Water Battery from the road and drove home. We had dinner at Jake's Steak House.
I cut Bob's hair on January 5th - he said I cut it crooked. We had dinner that night at De Soto's, which was excellent. They had a really nice salt water aquarium, and Seniors Specials (for over 55) which started at 3 pm.
We checked out on the 6th and drove to Ocala to spend the night at the Hampton Inn (the high speed internet was really a blessing), and the next day went to