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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Back on The Forgotten Coast


With clean clothes I headed off Through Destin to Panama City and St Andrews SP where I will stay for five nights.  On the way, I stopped at Pensacola Bay Brewing where they were celebrating Great Danes. The Florida NW Great Dane rescue team were offering rescued Danes for adoption. There were about a dozen beautiful Danes along with a couple of Danes previously adopted visiting and supporting the program. These dogs are small ponies and one has to wonder how large a home has to be for them. The beer was good and I left with a wheat, IPA, and Stout. My next stop was an hour away, Props Brewery in Fort Walton. This is always a busy place. I had fish and chips for lunch while I tasted their beers. I took a Pumpkin Spice, IPA, and Winter Ale with me. Now I’m ready for St Andrews. This is a large SP with 176 campsites. I haven’t been here and took a site sight unseen. I did well as I pulled up to site 126, which was on the bay and insolated from my neighbors. My neighbors are the real snowbirds of the upper Midwest. The plates told me they were from Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. I’m the only one from Maryland and have the smallest rig a 16-foot Scamp. And this is a state park not an RV resort, which there are so many and they are all filled with those giant trailers. The morning was filled with some chores. I went to the store and got a can of Easy Off so I could clean the filthy BBQ. It was so dirty I couldn’t handle it without gloves; otherwise I would get covered in grease. While the oven cleaner was having its way with the grill, I took a bag of wood, I bought two bundles of wood, and split it all once and once in a while a second time. I had lots of wood and cones. I made the fire, ready for the torch, and then covered it with a tarp because we were going to have rain one hundred percent. I battened down the hatches. After cleaning the stove, it looked new; I took a mountain bike around the campground to take in its size and to enjoy the plates of all the visitors. I found a beautiful beach, which I will visit when the weather changes after tonight’s rain and thunderstorms with tornado warnings.  In my view of the bay, I see a lovely sailboat that has floundered and is listing to its starboard and need help while so many other sailboats are gently bobbing on the waters of the bay. My next journey took me down the beach road to see how adequate it will be for my bike rides. The ride is fine and takes me by big condos on the Gulf and rows of houses on the bay side. Of course there is a Waffle House every 2 blocks and a couple of golf courses with cart crossings. This is a snowbird paradise. I didn’t find a raw bar but was told of a great place named J. Michaels, which I had passed on my way to Publix. I went and found they had the Apalachicola oysters and as seafood gumbo with a local IPA. It was very busy and very local. Properly satiated, I returned home, took in the towels off the line and retired inside for a nap. A thunderbolt and the pounding of the rain on the roof awakened me. I was so cozy, I broke into a smile. It poured and was windy. It lasted a few hours; I read and waited. At about ten it was over, the hissy fit done. I put the awning up to dissuade lingering showers. I fired up the grill for the red snapper and zuke. I sautéed my mushroom dah dah dish. I got the beach chair and table from the car and put them by the fire which I started before I plated my dinner. By the time I got to the fire with dinner, the fire was just pre blaze. Alas no moon tonight.  And then it appeared and the storm has passed.
I woke early to the sound of fish jumping in the bay. When I opened the door I saw a pelican dive for breakfast and come up victorious. I had breakfast and took off for a bike ride. I didn’t like the looks of the road outside the park and decided to lap the SP loop by the beaches. It is only two miles so I have to do lots to get my ride in. There are lots of walkers and I pass many of them many times as they, too, are doing laps.  It reminds me of doing laps in Central Park, especially the repeats up Harlem Hill and back around via 103rd St cut. I went back to J. Michaels for some oysters and to do some computer work. That done I returned home and headed to the beach. I put up the Umbrella and was able to sit in the sun in my bathing suit. Oiled myself and grabbed my book and started To The Lighthouse again. Pelicans everywhere, plovers, sandpipers, the beach is crawling with waterfowl. I cleared out at about 4:20 as it started getting cold. I had wanted to see the sunset so I was going to come back. I got home and got busy with this and that and bang the sun set while I was chopping wood. Oh well. I cooked my dinner, trout, potatoes, and asparagus. I set a fire and sat out listening the jumping fish and crackling fire watching the three quarter moon walk across the sky. The moon hadn’t set before the wood ran out, so I retired for the night. I woke about 5:30 when the heater went on. It was chilly outside, contrary to forecasts. I read some and then fell back to sleep until 8:30. By then the outside was more civilized and warm. The sun was toasting the outside. After breakfast I too another bike ride and then after showering headed to the beach and repeated my yesterday. At about 4 I headed home to prepare for the sunset. I returned to the beach at 5 for the 5:33 setting. While I was sitting there sipping on a beer a pair of pelicans flew by be, about two feet away from my feet, which were extended in front of me. I was sitting on the edge of the cliff of sand that drop ten feet down to the shore and water. The pelicans were following the edge to that cliff. The lead pelican’s wing was inches from the corner and that is why it came so close to me feet, which were also straddling the cliff’s edge. What a bizarre experience. I saw the colors of their beaks, which I never have seen before. The sunset was magnificent. A shrimp boat was going out and spreads its nets to the sunset. Not many were gathered to watch this spectacle. My Oklahoma neighbor is intrigued by the listing sailboat. He brought some binoculars over so I could read the license so he could find the owner and offer a hundred bucks for it. I’m wondering what a landlocked guy wants with a sailboat. Oh another joy I’m finding is listening to the local radio stations, it is an education. Sent out 40 postcards.
Thursday started out perfectly. I woke to no wind but instead a gentle warm breeze. I took an eighteen-mile lap ride and then greased up after a shower and headed to the beach with lunch and snacks. I spent the day enjoying the perfect beach day reading my novel a second time. I took a walk and went into the water up to my knees. It was still cold. The sunset was fabulous and there wasn’t any wind for the fire in the evening. A full day of sun and exercise had me going to bed early. It was the best day so far. Friday opened as it did yesterday. Today I was breaking camp so I could continue on to St Joseph Peninsula SP. I stop at The Shipwreck raw bar just outside Port St Joe for oysters and gumbo.  The bartender remembers me from last time I was here. I get my beer, oysters, and gumbo and speak with some locals. I’ve lost an hour since I have now moved from CST to EST. The change of time zones here is a popular conversation since so many people live in CST and work in EST or visa versa. One lady who lives in EST says her husband only thinks in CST since he works in CST. So I’m on the western part of EST and in the eastern part of CST. I moved on familiar roads to the park. I checked in, did a minor setup and headed to the beach for an hour of joy. I took a bike ride around the camp to view other camps. Three Scamps, two Castilas, and 2 other fiber trailers as well as a funky wooden custom trailer with Vermont plates, duhJ. Friendly folks mostly from northern Midwest: WI, MN, IL, MI predominantly. This is one of my favorite campsites on the Panhandle. The beach is walking distance from my camp, a great bike ride road, and not a largely peopled area. Good shopping, a great brewery, and excellent oysters as well. I walked to the beach for the sunset. It is an interesting time of day, since nearly every camper marches to the beach to watch the sunset and then when it is set, they turn and go. It is a ritual. The moon was up as I walked back to camp to prepare dinner and a fire. The evening was clear and glorious. I took the horse blanket and my Vietnam poncho liner down to the beach. I lay on the sand and took in the sky. I think I fell asleep because the Nam blanket was dew wet. I went back to camp and hung it up in the trailer and went to sleep. I woke to the sun rising as it comes right in the window at my feet and I left the curtains open to see it rise. After that event, I closed the curtains and went back to sleep until 8. After breakfast, which included fruit today, I took a twenty-mile ride. The beauty of this ride is I start out from camp and just ride down the entrance road to the peninsula road out ten miles and turn around and return. I’m on a bike path all the way. Easy peasy. Upon return, I shower, make lunch and then retire to the beach with book and chair and a Mt Gay and tonic. I read some, I drink some and then I take a nice long walk on the beach to let the sun do its thing on my body. Upon return to the chair, I head up to the Scamp for a refresher and a break before returning for the afternoon sun. The water is still too cold to swim in for me. I take another walk to kill the afternoon. It’s late afternoon and the wind is kicking up some so I return to camp and set up the hammock. I spend happy hour in the hammock and prepare dinner before going to see the sunset on the beach. When another miraculous sunset is seen, I return and cook dinner. After dinner, I head into Apalachicola for Saturday night. I go to the brewery but it was closing, which stunned me, and find out that music is at the Bowery Station, just two blocks away. I drive over and park, the place is easy to find, I just used my ears. The doors and windows are open and sweet music is escaping to call us all in. I follow the sound and find a funky bar, order a beer and find a seat by the peanut barrel. The duo is Wil(l) Squared, The singer, with a sweet voice is Will and the fine guitar player is Wil. They are from Georgia. I listen until they end at about 10:30 and then head home. It is a forty-five minute ride complicated by intense pea soup fog in places. I find myself driving about 20 miles an hour down the middle of the road using the middle lines as my guide. It gets real tough when a car comes at me. I get home and light the fire I had left ready to burn. I sit outside, watch the moon and sit by the fire relaxing, if I could get more relaxed before calling it a day. Sunday starts with a cloud cover, which turns out good for my bike ride. I cover the same twenty miles again, and return to a clear sky. I wash the bike clothes, hang them up, make an omelet, and then head for the beach. I read some and then take another walk. The beach is crowded today as I suspect more locals have come out today to the beach on this very fine beach day. Today there are some kids and adults swimming. Not me, though I’m tempted. I did swim here last December when I was first here. The clouds come back and signal it is time to leave the beach. I return to the hammock and read some before dinner and the Big Broadcast with a fire. Another pleasant evening as the moon eventually shows itself by about 10. No sunset or moonrise this full moon evening. After the show, I go to bed totally relaxed.
The birds about this place are amazing. As I lie in the hammock or at the table with snacks and cocktail, I watch six to eight different bird species come to eat some of the seed I have liberally spread on the ground around the camp. Another cool bird around is an owl or two. Last night I believe it to be a great horned owl was flying from a tree next to my camp across the marsh to another tree. It did this about three times. Each time it took off it made it’s piercing hooting and then swooped silently to the perch across the way. It was big and magnificent as it swooped over my head in each direction. I didn’t hear a thing and its color made it so stealth, I could barely see it. At about 4 in the morning, I heard it’s hoot and then very soon after the death screech of some prey it must have gotten with its talons. Sunday evening, while listening to the radio show, I heard it and saw it swooping from limb to limb around my camp. Again it was so stealth and quite. The birds around are so beautiful and noisy. Some of the biggest sounds come from small little things and barely audible from larger birds. I need more seed since I’ve run out. Monday will be a day to do some chores back in Port St Joe and perhaps some oysters for lunch. I spent the rest of the day on the beach and had another fine evening in front of a fire. We were supposed to get a big storm Tuesday evening, so I did a bike ride, spent some time on the beach and then went into Apalachicola for oysters at The Hole in the Wall raw bar next to the Oyster City Brewing Company. After oysters I headed next door and enjoyed some beer and took two growlers home with me. It was raining when I left for camp. It wasn’t raining at camp and in fact it was a bit windy but we got a surprise sunset. The wind was getting stronger and I did dinner and then broke camp before setting the last fire here. With everything stowed, I set a fire and enjoyed the wind and the new beer. I’m in a rather protected spot so not much wind on me, but around the camp things that weren’t put away are being driven around the camp, like beach chairs, rugs, and stuff ripped off clothes lines. During the middle of the night, the winds got so strong the trailer was rocking some. A little rain and then it calmed down. I woke to a steady strong breeze and all was well. I walked down to the beach and half the beach was gone and the waves were starting a thousand yards off shore and just rolled in. They had to be six foot easily. It was very impressive. I heard tornados touched down in Pensacola again. This is the second time they have been hit since I’ve been here. People died, too. I took my time leaving and just enjoyed the evacuation process of folks. I’m on my way to St George SP now.  

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