I was excited to travel to our next RV destination, a secluded tree covered park on Mobile Bay near the town of Gulf Shores on the Alabama coast. Our park was on a narrow peninsula just a few miles wide in most places with the Bay on one side and the beach on the other. This would be our first time staying this close to water as our site was literally a few steps away. It is also the smallest park where we have stayed. In the picture below, I am hanging out by the bay.
Most of the people camping here return every year for the winter season. Mark and I thought it was interesting that since the park has numerous Canadian guests, there was a Canadian flag next to the American at the entrance. This is the kind of intimate park where guests get together daily at 4:00 p.m. for the “board meeting” to visit and enjoy the fire in the stove. They also have a book club and celebrate birthdays.
We enjoyed the scenery and ambience – there is a small pier on the water and Adirondack chairs are placed next to it for relaxing.
Our trailer was located under a huge oak with hanging moss, a sight I never get tired of.
We really enjoyed watching the bird life that came and went, especially the pelicans which in my opinion are one of the most entertaining sea birds. Mark and I marveled at how close they can skim over the water at high speed just inches from the surface without crashing. They are also acrobatic dive bombing their odd shaped bodies for fish. Mark caught some great closeups of them.
After a week or so here, I had to chuckle at the park’s name “Bay Breeze.” We encountered more than just pleasant breezes here. A few icy storms blew in during our stay and coming off the bay there was nothing to block the cold north wind, it was fierce and like a gale. A few times we tried to go outside but even though I had several layers including a heavy coat, I could only stand the cold and wind for about 10 or 15 minutes. The temperature plunged below freezing at night and was in the low 40’s during the day. Although it had been a cold winter all through our travels in the southern states, this was much colder than I would have expected for the Gulf of Mexico. The returning guests talked about how unusual the weather was, as temps in the 70’s and 80’s had been the norm during last year’s winter. One benefit from the cold weather was that Mark was able to get rid of his stash of warm hats he had knitted over the past several months of RVing. It was great to see the park owner wearing one of the beanies as he made the rounds to turn the water off at sites to keep hoses and pipes from freezing.
I was looking forward to seeing the white sand beaches and emerald blue water of the Gulf and when the weather was finally clear and sunny, we visited a beach located only a few miles down the road from us.
The sand here is so white because it is made almost entirely from grains of quartz that have come down from the Appalachian Mountains. As you can see from the picture above, there were almost no visitors the day we were there. Mark sits pretty bundled up as the temperature hadn’t gotten up above the high 40’s and still felt a little icy. He had just bought a portable beach chair and was determined to try it out, weather be damned.
I enjoyed walking along the beach and marveling at how clear and sparkling the gulf water is. It was also fun to look for seashells. When it is too cold to swim or wade, walking beaches and collecting shells is the next best thing.
Our park was close to a wildlife refuge called Bon Secour (French for safe harbor) with beautiful scenery and several trails. My favorite walk (Pine Trail) starts near the road and travels through a forest of tall loblolly pines and palmettos. I thought it was neat to see such tall pines with little palms underneath. The loblolly pines are found in the southeastern United States mostly in lowlands and swamps.
This walk was interesting because it traveled through different habitats and plant life including by a swamp, marshes and a lake where I watched a flock of pelicans.
The walk continued over sand dunes ending at the ocean after two miles.
It was a beautiful trail through a variety of topography and plant communities like the coastal scrub below. I hoped there would be more bird life but we didn’t see much. We did get a quick glimpse of an armadillo.
Shrimping is an important industry here with several places selling shrimp and other seafood “fresh off the boat.” One of the things I wanted to do was buy some fresh shrimp to cook so one day we headed to Billy’s Seafood.
There was a nice variety of shrimp but I was curious to try the Royal Reds which are primarily found in the deep waters off the Alabama coast. It has been called “poor man’s lobster” because the sweet taste is similar to lobster. We bought a few pounds of the very large, unshelled shrimp to take back with us.
That afternoon at the Board Meeting I found out another guest had been to Billy’s that day and also bought Royal Reds. He asked me if I had a tool to devein and shell the shrimp. I looked blankly at him as my mind considered deveining a shrimp, something that had escaped me when I purchased them. On the few occasions when I have bought shrimp, they were always processed and ready to be cooked. He offered me the use of a tool since he had bought two. It took awhile to take off the heads, shell, devein and cook all those shrimp, but Mark and I really enjoyed the taste of them. We ate them over cheese grits, a popular way to eat shrimp in the south. I have actually developed a liking for grits during our travels. I used to think they were kind of bland, but now enjoy having them from time to time and a little cheese mixed in doesn’t hurt the taste.
Speaking of food, I thought I would mention a restaurant we found that we liked well enough to eat at several times. At Lambert’s Cafe, they throw rolls and you do your best to catch them. As soon as the rolls are hot out of the oven, they put a large pan of them on a cart and wheel them out to the dining area. These rolls are huge and because they are so hot, it is hard to hang on to them! The first time we came, the roll thrower just lobbed them to customers while standing close to their tables. On our second visit, a different roll thrower had a great arm and tossed them across the room. I tried to take pictures of the rolls in flight but it was hard to get a good photograph. Discovering my dilemma, our long distance roll thrower tried to make it easier by juggling several at once.
The rolls here are homemade and delicious as is the rest of the southern inspired menu. Along with a meat entree, you get a choice of two sides plus what the restaurant calls “the pass arounds.” The pass arounds are circulated by wait staff who offer servings from big bowls throughout your meal. The dishes include fried potatoes, cabbage, pasta in tomatoe sauce, fried okra, black-eyed peas as well as sorghum and apple butter for the rolls. Even before our plates arrived, we found ourselves eating hot fried okra off a napkin. There is definitely too much food here! The Lambert family started this restaurant in 1942 in Missouri and still have two restaurants there and this one in Foley, Alabama.
The towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach were about a 20 minute drive from our park. A popular destination for tourists, there are 32 miles of white sand beaches. We were surprised to see how many high rise condos and apartments were located along the coast here.
There were lots of surf and souvenir shops in the area, some with a huge shark head for an entrance or other garish sea decorations and signs to lure tourists. We decided to drop into a few and I was amazed at the amount of t-shirts, sweat shirts, hats, bathing suits and beach towels that filled row after row of these large stores. Not surprising, they were almost empty since this is not beach season. Mark joked that they should have included some parkas with the beach wear! One day while Mark and I were eating a pizza lunch in town, we laughed to see a variety store across the street with a bunch of beach rafts and inflatables in front of the store. The previous night the temperature had been below freezing and it was barely in the 40’s that day.
During an evening walk on the beach at Gulf Shores, I took the photos above and below. There were a lot of grey clouds, but the sun was trying hard to peak through and cast some light on the beach.
As always, thanks for reading the blogs, we appreciate your support. In my next one, I will be talking about further adventures on the Alabama coast before we move on.