Thursday, November 30, 2017

Gulf State Park: Paradise for the Active RVer

Stay a month in one place? Not something that is high on our RV wish list. But after spending six days at Gulf State Park two years ago, we decided that this was a place that we would like to explore some more.  So with our RV buddies, Joanne and Gary, we hung out for the month of November at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Let the activities begin!

Gulf State Park has a 496 site campground on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and the BP oil spill in 2010, the area has come back bigger and better than before. The park has a two week stay limit during the summer, but from November through April they allow monthly and seasonal rentals. A month in one of the large full hookup sites runs $711 ... quite a bargain when we realized that we had arrived in a ...

Paradise for the Active RVer!

Bike trails, boardwalks, and bike friendly roads as far as the eye can see! Gulf State Park has been busy building and improving the bike ways since our last visit. From our campsite, we could bike to the beach (1 mile), pier (2 miles), grocery store (3 miles), and church (4 miles). 

Or we could just pedal through the park
to pay a visit to "Lefty", the resident alligator.

What? We can bike to a brewery?? Bonus!!!

The Sandlot Volleyball Gang meets up on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and they quickly welcomed us to join the fun and games.

These active golden agers encouraged
 Doug to jump to new heights!

Gulf State Park has a large activity complex complete with a pool (unheated, so not so desireable in the cooler temps), nature center, activity building, laundromat, tennis and pickleball courts.

The star of the "Owl Encounter" educational program
and a few of her friends could be heard
serenading us at night.
By playing pickleball on the non-volleyball days,
I actually improved enough to win a game or two!
It was much easier to get my laundry assistant to help
when we could stream The Big Bang Theory
through the wifi that is accessible in the laundromat.

To these active RVers, however, the call to the beach was a strong daily occurrence. A short bike ride brought us to our prime sea shell hunting, nature observing, and sunset watching area.

Joanne, on the hunt for the
elusive sand dollar.
Hey, is that a bat ray?

Joanne and Doug are inventing a new exercise
called "Photo Squats".

We can never tire of the unique beauty of each sunset.

Our month at Gulf State Park went quickly. But that is to be expected since we found ourselves in the midst of so many activities while hanging out with good friends who like to join in the fun!

Until next time ... stay active with those you love ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Tomorrow we say "so long for now" to our friends Joanne and Gary as they head west and we continue east.

Safe travels until we meet around
the campfire in Minnesota next summer!

Glad that we don't have to say goodbye to the beach as we are heading to Destin, Florida for more biking and hiking ... and sunsets!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Giving Thanks for Picture-Perfect Friends

Two years ago, after we first started our travels, I realized that something was missing from our new RVenturous lifestyle. While Doug and I were having the time of our life, I missed those long conversations with my girlfriends ... never solving a problem, but just listening.

Try as he might, Doug couldn't figure this "girlfriend" stuff ... 

Talking just for the sake of talking??? Wow, he hadn't anticipated that!!!

But, being the smart guy that he is, he figured out that taking me on walks and just let me talk was the best way he knew to fill this void. And he was RIGHT! Because it was on one of these walks in Florida two years ago, that we first met Joanne and Gary.

In the conversation that followed, Joanne and I realized how much we have in common. We are two Minnesotans ... married to engineers and raising sons ... who enjoy filling each day with walking and TALKING!

Our travel paths crossed again at Fort Pickens where 10,000 steps a day also produced hours of therapeutic conversation.

Meeting up in Tucson last January gave us the chance to learn the sport of Pickleball and share more good times.

We enjoyed biking to see "hometown" legends when our travels brought us back to Minnesota during the summer.

And we are hoping that we have hooked them on the fun of Habitat Care-a-Vanner builds!

We have been very grateful to once again coordinate our travel plans and spend this past month at Gulf State Park with our good friends Joanne and Gary. Our days have been filled with all sorts of fun activities.

We practiced our RV-backing-up hand signals
... similar to landing large aircraft, right??

We taught the amateurs how to find
the best sea shells.

We praised the sun gods who lead us to this pub on the beach.

We convinced the guys that we really do
NEED occasional retail therapy.

We kept everyone active ... and the guys exhausted ...
with volleyball, pickleball, and bike rides.

And most importantly, we talked about everything and nothing
as we walked along the beach to enjoy another sunset.

This Thanksgiving we will not be with family, but we are grateful that we can be with some of the precious friends that God has blessed us with!

Until next time ... Be thankful for your precious friends ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Even Doug needs a beach-walking buddy
to discuss important topics like ...
when will these women get tired out and turn around??!!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day: Soaring With the Blue Angels

Heading east from Louisiana, we spent a few days at Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola, Florida before heading to our current location in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Hiking trails and boardwalks brought us to the quiet lagoon where alligator sightings were possible,

... but it was much more likely that a stately Blue Heron,

or beautiful Egret would greet us.

The beautiful views of the lagoon made us excited to realize that maybe, just maybe we have escaped "winter".

Hoping to walk the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, we drove five miles down the road to Johnson Beach Road. Gulf Islands National Seashore provided miles of white sand beach walking,

... as well as the sighting of dolphins eating, playing and just enjoying the open sea. We were reveling in the peaceful beauty when the roar of jet engines interrupted the quiet. Looking up, we realized that we were near the the Naval Air Base in Pensacola, home of the US Naval Demonstration Squadron ... more commonly known as the ...

Checking their website, we realized that we could see their midweek practices practically in our backyard and also drive down the road to visit the FREE Naval Aviation Museum (retirees like FREE).

Our first show location came as a result of the recommendation of a local resident. He swears that the nearby Walmart parking lot is the best viewing location. Lounging in the sun in Walmart's lot definitely gave us some great views as well as a good reason to get out the sunscreen in November!

We got just enough of an adrenaline rush to want to see them up close and personal. Time to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum!

There is an amazing amount of aircraft in the museum, so the best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to get in on one of the many tours that take place throughout the day. These tours are often led by retired Navy pilots who share their passion for these special flying beauties.

One favorite story is about a lead pilot's reaction when he first saw the Blue Angel Aircraft hanging in diamond formation from the museum's ceiling. These aircrafts were supposedly spaced the same distance apart as they are when in the tight diamond formation in the air. "Pretty good," he said, "but you have them spaced too far apart. We are flying much closer than that when we are performing."

Other museum exhibits celebrated the military service of many of our brave citizens ... a few who went on to serve the country in other ways.

The exhibit on military life reflected some of the hardships these vets endured both in the air and on the ground. These shower rules in a southeast Asia camp may sound familiar to any RVer who has spent any length of time without full hookups!

The day we came to the airbase to see the show, the bleacher viewing area was closed off, but we enjoyed the show from the museum's parking area.

Seeing these majestic planes climb, dive, roll, and fly upside down thrilled us, but the biggest thrill was being surrounded by active military as well as proud Veterans ... men and women who served and sacrificed to protect our freedom.

Until next time ... thank those who soar to great heights to protect us ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!