Sunday, March 24, 2019

Visiting Gulf Shores, AL

We had one very busy week back home, accomplishing all our business for the next 6 months in preparation for our trek Northeast, our first visit back in nearly 5 years!  Dad had blood drawn which provided good results thanks to his plant-based diet.  True to his word, his cardiologist agreed to deviate from the standard of care for cardiac patients and remove Dad from the last of his pharmaceuticals.    No more worrying about long-term side effects from statins and blood thinners!  We managed to get new tires installed on both motorcycles, have our annual telcon with our financial adviser, do our food shopping, sort through our mail and Amazon purchases that we shipped home ahead of time, re-clean the rig inside and out, and Mom even donated blood.  We also needed a new electric extension cord, but wanted to avoid purchasing it at Camping World.  So we visited Acres RV and Outdoors Store on Route 59 Business in Livingston, TX.   Independently owned/operated, it is like a mini Cabella’s, offering RV supplies, hunting supplies, and sports equipment, all at reasonable prices (unlike the RV supply store right down the street from Escapees Rainbow Park).  Acres even has a small nature diorama.  Acres was a nice find for us!

We hit the road on March 19 at 0630 hours—much too early for my liking.  But we were blessed with a glorious sunrise as we crossed the Neches River.  We opted to skip I-10 and bypass New Orleans, taking some less traveled roads like Route 190.  It added about an hour to the drive, but it offered a more scenic view and the road was in much better shape than I-10—that is until we hit St. Landry, where we encountered more craters than Neil Armstrong on the moon!  Mom did her best to avoid the road obstacles, but you know it is a lost cause when a small, unincorporated town with virtually no business community has 10 places that sell tires!  

We took a break at Exit 2 at the first rest area over the border.  “Welcome to Mississippi, birthplace of American Music”.  This welcome center has pull-thru RV sites and a dump station to boot.  Good to know for future travels!  As I took a stroll to stretch my legs, I encountered some familiar pests—can’t believe Canadian geese are this far south!  We passed through Mobile, AL, whose skyline offers some architecturally interesting buildings.  One reminded me of New York City’s Empire State Building.

We reached our destination for the next few days:  Escapees Rainbow Plantation RV Park in Summerdale, AL.   In this rat’s humble opinion, it is the nicest of all Escapees corporate parks.  Dotted with groves of live oak trees, the sites are spacious and level.  Like most Escapees RV parks, it is a bit off the beaten path, about 30 minutes outside of Gulf Shores.  Nestled in a quiet, residential area with through streets (not a series of dead ends like in Livingston), traffic is light to non-existent.  Best of all, there are no off-leash, viscous dogs barking and snarling at us, making it easy for us to accomplish a 5-mile walk.  We noticed many of the homes have RVs parked on their property, some as many as 3 units.  We learned there is lots of “moochdocking” down here, or as the locals call it, “squatter lots”.  But it seems to work for all parties involved, so no harm, no foul in my book. 

There is no better way to start touring an area than by witnessing daybreak, as we did the next day on Shelby Lake within Gulf State Park at Gulf Shores, AL.  The Park has a HUGE campground with adequately-sized sites and a ton of amenities like laundry facility, exercise room, even pickle ball courts.  But I warn you--it don’t come cheap!

We parked at the campground’s Nature Center and hit the well-marked trails, including Alligator Alley.  Unfortunately, the only alligators I encountered were juveniles playing in a pond within the Nature Center.  But I did see a pair of osprey within a nest built on top of a light pole.  Mama stayed close to home while Papa glided in the wind to find a fortified, nutritious breakfast for his family.

You can see the pole housing the osprey nest in the background of this photo.

The Gulf is called “America’s Sea”.  Waters from 32 states and 2 Canadian providences flow into it.   I was thrilled to dip my feet and take home a few shell specimens that I collected as we walked along the beachfront.  Funny, we lived in New Jersey for most of our lives, but we did not “go down the shore” frequently.   You see, while Dad and I are quite personable and gregarious, my Mom is unsociable.  She detests crowds, and she gets annoyed with screaming kids kicking sand.  Obviously, Mom and summers on the Jersey shore are like oil and water. So we went to the waterfront only “off peak”—like visiting Cape May in December or Jenkinson’s Pier and Aquarium in April--when your chances of encountering congregations of people are equivalent to winning the Mega Millions.

A rare family photo, yours truly on the far right!

The Gulf shore towns offer FREE parking for beachgoers and patrons of business establishments!  (Holy swiss cheese!  This is unheard of in New Jersey—you pay dearly to park your vehicle.  In fact, you must even purchase a pass in order to get onto the beach!)  We decided to give our weary feet a rest (on that particular day, GPS calculated and trail maps confirmed we walked over 14 miles) and parked Big Boomer outside Picnic Beach, a very cool restaurant with Astroturf on the floor, wood picnic tables, and some pretty views.  It offers a variety of freshly prepared foods, including many Vegan options.  While Dad ordered some good-for-you plant-based entree, Mom and I cheated and shared a brisket platter.  It was sooooooo good!

Obviously, this is Dad's meal.

Another day we visited Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, 7,000+ acres of undeveloped land on the Fort Morgan Pennisula that provide a seasonal sanctuary for migratory birds.  Bon Secour in French translates to safe harbor in English—how apropos.   One of the parking areas presented a challenge to Big Boomer—a very low canopy of tree covering.  We opted to park outside the lot—where no harm would come to Rat Patrol (our side-by-side utility vehicle) which sits on top of Big Boomer’s garage roof.

One of the low-lying, moss-covered trees that umbrellaed the parking lot.

We hiked along all the trails within the Perdue section of the Refuge, although the majority of Centennial Trail is no longer accessible due to storm damage.  We walked Pine Beach Trail, visited the sand dunes, and viewed Gator Lake.   I looked intently for an Alabama Beach Mouse, an endangered species that inhabits the coastal sand dune areas of Alabama.  Then I thought maybe I could pass myself off as one.  Like them, I am of the Rodentia order.  I am cute like them, with pink ears and a twitching nose.  I’ve got my swim trunks on, too.  How better to fit the description of a beach mouse!

A wonderful example of the circle of life.  A dead tree stump becomes "home" to pine seedlings.

We headed over to Fort Morgan with plans to tour the site before it closed for the day.  But we got side-tracked taking photos of pelicans and herons perched on the dock and people stopping to ask us the $6 million question regarding Rat Patrol (“how did you get that thing up there?”), so we missed the final tour.  Oh well, I glimpsed the Fort from afar. 

We headed to the Beach Pavilion to watch the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon.  It was a full moon, though I did not capture it well in pictures (what else is new?).  But it is etched in the caverns of my mind as a cherished memory.  We returned home shortly thereafter, hoping a certain tabby cat wasn’t bewitched, bothered, or bewildered by the full moon.

Gotta run—I’ll talk to you again soon!

We would like to thank the following organizations for all the great service and support they offer to the RVing community:

Escapees RV Club


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RV Dreams

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