I took my first vacation in a several years, but this one was totally different. It was an all-boys trip. Younger son, the grandbuddies and I made the trip to Gulf Shores, Ala. I had been to adjacent Orange Beach about 15 years ago and remembered it to be pleasant, plus they had go carts and miniature golf, so that’s all we needed.
We headed out early on a Sunday morning. We pretty much had our trip mapped out until we got to the Mississippi Visitor Center in Vicksburg, home of the famous battle and a bunch of casinos. I asked the pleasant young lady for the advertised free coffee and she asked, "Where are you heading?" I told her and she immediately whips out a Mississippi map and a blue highlighter. She asked another question. "Do you want to save two hours on your trip?" I said sure.
She proceeded to mark our route all the way to Gulf Shores with that blue highlighter, noted where we would save time and did it all upside down. I’m not sure it saved us two hours, but it was a different route than I had ever taken. The drive was over nine hours.
The oysters tasted like the ocean
I had seen a food show at some point that said that seafood should taste like the ocean and I have always used that as a test. I had oysters three times while I was there and I must say, they were the best I’ve ever had in my life. The eateries that served them said this is the best time of the year for oysters.
I also tried a new fish for me called swai. I’m told it’s a Vietnamese version of catfish. It was very good and fried in cornmeal. You just can’t go wrong frying almost anything coated in cornmeal.
The weather was not kind but the spring breakers were out in full force
The temperatures never really got above 70 degrees, but the grandbuddies plunged right into the Gulf and didn’t seem to be fazed by the frigidity. One day it was so windy, most people abandoned the beach. I think we all had to floss the sand out of our teeth that evening.
One of the amusing aspects of the trip was watching the "spring breakers," the college-age variety. We witnessed one beer bong party near our area and I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on them.
I would love to be that age again but would hate to trade in my hard-earned intelligence for their inability to make complete and coherent sentences while barely keeping their hormones from flying all over each other.
Fly angels, fly
One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, only about an hour drive, if things were normal. We left an hour early to "beat the rush." Unfortunately, about 25,000 people chose to visit the same day we did. The Angels were in town. The Blue Angels. The flying rock stars of the Gulf Coast.
This was their first appearance at their summer home after being stationed in San Diego through the winter. We were in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam for about two hours and only about six miles away. The show started as we were entering the grounds of the Naval Air Station and we, like many other thousands of tourists, just pulled over and watched what we could see from the side of the road.
It was great and the Naval museum is fantastic. If you’ve never been, take it in. It is free and the exhibits are overwhelming and inspiring. Just don’t go the day the Angels are in town unless you get there really early.
Portis and DeFord
One of my favorite things about beach time is reading. I put away Norwood by Charles Portis, one of the funniest works of fiction ever written. I also made good progress on Over Time: My Life As a Sportswriter by Frank DeFord, another great writer. Both books are worth a read, particularly anything by Portis.
Now it’s back to reality but with a reminder to get away when you can and make a memory.
See you on the Boulevard.
Neal Moore is COE (Chief of Everything) at Neal Moore Creative, a PR, advertising and marketing consultancy. If you have a community concern or if you’re just irritated about something contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, @kneelmore.