We spent the entire month of November at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and we absolutely loved it. In fact, we loved it so much, we changed our plans so we could stay longer. I have an entire article in the works about this fantastic state park, but in the meantime, a visit from Kevin’s parents for Thanksgiving gave us good incentive to check out some stuff in and around the park that we might otherwise have missed. Plus, Thanksgiving meant TURKEY!!
Frank Brown Music Festival
The weekend before Kevin’s parents arrived, we headed out to see some performers taking part in the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival. We had no idea this event was even happening until our friend, Laurel, mentioned it in a comment on my last post. As an aside, writing this blog and engaging with this community of bloggers has offered the extra benefit of learning about all kinds of places and events we would have missed. We’ve received numerous helpful tips and suggestions from the people we’ve met through this website. It’s another reason I’m glad I started this blog and I can’t thank all these folks enough for further enriching this experience.
Anyway, the music festival is an annual eleven day event which features various singer/songwriters at local venues along the Gulf Coast (as far east as Pensacola, and as far west as Gulf Shores). As soon as we researched the show schedule, we made plans to take in some of the performances. We stopped by Lulu’s one evening and Big Beach Brewing the next.
Our favorite of the performers was Runaway Home, a Nashville based group who’ve been writing and performing for 25 years, but all the musicians we saw were worth watching. Given that the entire event was free, we were duly impressed by the level of talent.
If you find yourself in this area of the Gulf Coast in late fall, add it to your to-do list. You won’t be disappointed!
Thanks again, Laurel!
Gulf State Park owns several miles of prime oceanfront property on the Gulf including a huge fishing pier that locals and tourists head to all year long.
We’d visited the pier earlier in the month, just to take a walk and watch the sun set over the ocean, but had held off on buying fishing poles because we weren’t sure we’d actually use them. However, my father-in-law loves to fish and offered to bring several along with him, so we figured this would be a perfect opportunity to go. Fishing is serious business out on the pier with fishermen hauling large wagons containing multiple poles, coolers, nets, and tackle boxes up on the pier and setting up for hours at a time. Everyone is really friendly toward one another, chatting and even sharing supplies. (Reminder: I’m from the northeast. I still find this ‘southern friendliness’ thing disconcerting).
Warm in the sun, cool in the shade, bright blue skies all around… Awesome…
Unfortunately, the fish weren’t biting.
Or, well, they were biting, but oftentimes they were just running off with the bait….
For the fish, it was like a free, all-you-can-eat buffet.
But I had the last word…. I finally caught one! And I was the only one of us who caught anything!
And yes, he was small…. and yes, my father in law helped get the hook out of my catch’s mouth (on account of him being worried I’d stab myself… he knows me well).
But that fish was MINE!
Vanquished! Defeated!! Conquered!!!!
Shut up. He’s bigger than he looks.
The Gulf Coast Zoo
We also spent a couple hours at the Gulf Coast Zoo, a small facility just a few miles from the state park. The zoo gained notoriety when it was the subject of a 13 part series on Animal Planet back in 2006 called “The Little Zoo That Could.” The series documented the staff’s efforts to safely evacuate the animals to higher ground as Hurricane Ivan bore down on the area. The storm destroyed the zoo and it had to be rebuilt over the following year. Here’s an article about the whole story and the zoo’s current plans to move to a new, higher elevation, location.
I’m always a bit leery of smaller zoos because some of them have bad reputations for how they treat the animals, and even big zoos like the Smithsonian in D.C. have had issues. And I’m still not sure about them even after our visit. From what we saw, it looked like a clean, well-maintained, well managed facility. The employees we spoke with were knowledgeable and seemed absolutely dedicated to the welfare of the animals. And, most importantly, the majority of the animals seemed healthy and energetic. However, there were a couple habitats that seemed small for the animals that were in them, and we saw a few animals pacing around and appearing stressed. So, I don’t know….
I think there’s an argument to be made that allowing the general public to safely observe and engage with animals can breed a culture of respect and perhaps encourage conservation efforts. On the other hand, caging animals for the entertainment of anyone seems wrong on its face. On another hand, many of these animals have been rescued from other situations or bred in captivity and could never live in the wild on their own. On yet another hand, many of those other situations involve humans being terrible and these practices will never stop until the market for them is destroyed.
Ugh…I’m out of hands to count on and I have no answers. I just don’t have enough information one way or another to draw a conclusion. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.
On a lighter note, the zoo offers the opportunity to learn about and interact with a couple different animals. We chose to hang out with the sloths, who were exceedingly sloth-like while we were there.
My mother in law feeding the sleepy furball…..
Also sleepy, but slightly less cuddly and therefore not subject to individual meet and greets, was Chuckie the alligator.
This eleven foot alligator went missing for several days after Ivan made landfall. Apparently the zoo had evacuated almost all of the animals, but figured Chuckie would be safest staying in his habitat. However, when waters rose higher than expected, he was able to swim right over his enclosure’s fence and take a wander through the park.
The zoo has a pretty large collection of big cats.
All of which made me wonder: Big cats…. laser pointers????
I was thinking no, but figured it would be hilarious if the answer was yes.
Google says: Sometimes, but not usually….
(Seriously, what on earth did people do before Google???)
Anyway, there were also a number of very cute kangaroos.
The zoo obtains the kangaroos from a facility in Florida and raises them until they reach their teen years, after which they are sent back.
Turns out kangaroo teenagers are just like human teenagers… meaning they are totally obnoxious…
This is a kangaroo in mid-kick.
He would hold onto various staff members’ arms and then kick them with his feet.
The staff were exceedingly patient with him. Probably because they knew his butt was getting FedExed back to Florida soon.
For those of you around since last year, you might remember the Great Bacon Debacle of 2016. That would be where Kevin was 95% of the way done making a bacon bomb – (peppers, onions, and cheese, wrapped in sausage, wrapped in a bacon weave, coated with barbecue sauce, and then smoked) when he accidentally lit the whole thing on fire.
Well, this year, Kevin redeemed himself by getting it completely right…
We also did the traditional (for us, not the Pilgrims) Bloody Mary bar and deviled eggs.
And that terrific looking bacon on top of the eggs was homemade by Kevin….
He had a banner holiday!
The rest of the Thanksgiving meal came out great as well…. Two smoked turkey breasts, homemade gravy, smoked mac and cheese, greens, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cheesecake for dessert.
The important things are: No one went hungry; no one got food poisoning; and nothing ended up on fire. 3 for 3!!
The rest of the week Dixie enjoyed the ridiculous amounts of attention…and toys…and treats… that her grandparents bestowed upon her. Given how distrustful she is about outsiders, it’s shocking to see how quickly she relaxes around them. I’m pretty sure they could stab us right in front of her and she’d just shrug and roll over for belly rubs. Traitor.
And, as if that weren’t enough, at the end of an entire day of attention and treats and turkey and snuggles, off she went to sleep. In my bed. On my side. Under the covers. With her head on my damned pillow. (She usually sleeps at the foot of the bed….)
I came in and found her and Kevin like this, both of them snoring away in unison….
2018 in View
And just like that, it’s December. As much as we may have started living in the RV in August of 2016, we feel like we really started traveling full time in January of 2017. Before that, we were spending most of our time in the company of family and friends on the east coast. So, as we make our way into this last month of the year, we are spending some time looking back on a truly fantastic twelve months. It’s gone better than we ever could have hoped, and we’re super excited to see what 2018 has in store. More on that soon…
Beautiful pictures! It really looks lovely! Nice job with the fish – did you just make it into sushi afterwards? ???? The sloth looked awesome, that would have been my fave at the zoo (unless they had turtles, then it would have been my second fave- turtles rock). We certainly missed you at our home for Thanksgiving this year. While it was great you were with Kevin’s parents (hello, the other Mr. and Mrs. Greene!), you definitely were lacking in the accidentally set the landscape and dinner on fire part. You have to admit, it made for a memorable day. Enjoy your extended time in Alabama!
You’ll be pleased to know that we threw that gigantic fish back in the water. If you think about it, he must be a pretty dumb fish if he’s the only one that got caught. It must have been embarrassing to go back to his friends after that. I bet they’ll never let him live it down. 🙂 Anyway, I’m a fan of turtles too, but the sloths were super cuddly, so I think they win that contest. As for Thanksgiving, I have to say, Thanksgiving without an inferno is a lot less intense than Thanksgiving with an inferno. When stuff is literally smoldering in the kitchen, it really brings the whole holiday meal together, ya know? Anyway, we missed you too. Now that we’ve convinced you that we can prepare a big meal in the RV, maybe we’ll get you to join us for it one year!!
We had a great time spending Thanksgiving with you’ll. The food was delicious. Hopefully you will catch a big fish before you leave.
Yeah, we definitely plan to go back and try again. Just need the weather to cooperate a bit. Standing out on the pier when it’s 40 degrees does NOT sound appealing! You’ll also be happy to know that every time we mention Christmas, Dixie’s ears perk up and she starts running around like a crazy dog. I think she knows she’s gonna get to see you again. 🙂
Love the Doggy pics. I think our dog Sam gains 5 lbs whenever he is around Grandma!
It would not surprise me… I think she was getting more treats and human food than dog food during their visit!
What? No pyrotechnics at Thanksgiving? Your feast looks like it turned out perfectly, including those deviled eggs (you know how I feel about the dreaded green rings). Seriously, I’m impressed. Homemade smoked bacon? Dang. I want a smoker! But we would have to tow it behind our trailer.
A month at Gulf Shores sounds idyllic, and I’m SO glad you enjoyed the music festival. It would have been kind of embarrassing if you thought it was lame after I told you how great it was. Loved your fish story (I’m sure it was MUCH bigger than it looks in the photo). And that photo of Dixie under the covers and on your pillow….hahaha!
The smoker is one of Kevin’s favorite cooking tools. It actually breaks down into several pieces, so it’s easier to store than it looks, but it still takes up a chunk of our bay space (It’s the Weber Smoky Mountain). But who am I to complain? I get homemade bacon! We really can’t thank you enough for the music festival recommendation. We’ve done all kinds of stuff here at the park, but the town is pretty dead right now (we’re told most of the snow birds come down in January and that’s when the town picks up a bit again), so we definitely would not have been seeing much in the way of live entertainment if not for that festival. I’m glad we got our music fix then!
Great post…the bomb looks amazing!!! The state park also looks amazing…HMM, we have been thinking about heading towards Florida next winter so now you have me really thinking about it!!!
Hi! Hopefully I will have that post about the park done soon and you can see lots o f pictures. We absolutely love it. The only thing I will say in support of Florida is you’ll probably get warmer weather in south Florida than here. It’s generally been in the mid 60’s to mid to upper 70’s while we’ve been here. I imagine it’s at least 10 degrees warmer in south Florida. (These last couple of days have been cold and rainy, but hopefully that’s a complete anomaly). But if you’re happy with winter temps in the 60’s and 70’s, this is absolutely one of the best parks we’ve ever been to and we’ve loved our visit. We would stay here again in a heartbeat!
We have lots of great and not so great memories at Gulf Shores State Park. We enjoyed our stay until on our third week, a historic rain/thumderstom came our way. Coming from the west we are not used to that kind of weather. When we woke up the following morning the lake was already a couple of feet from Betsy. But I would return there in a heart beat, that is one of the best state park we have visited.
What a feast! My mouth was salivating!
That is a hilarious photo, Dixie is the master of the house, sorry you have been replaced
Ya know, I totally remember reading that post! I don’t think I remembered that it was this same park when we got here, but now that you mention it, I absolutely remember reading that article. And I can imagine how that would impact your feelings. Right now the weather has gotten lousy (for pretty much everyone in the eastern half of the country). If we were just getting here this week, I don’t think we’d like this place very much at all. Hopefully we’ll return to blue skies and warm temperatures very soon because bad weather and storms can really take the appeal out of a locale. For right now, it’s just making us look forward to getting to Arizona!!
All that food looks amazing and delicious. Oh how I remember the days our spoiled pooch would sleep on my pillow. Too cute!
“Spoiled” – that is definitely the word that applies most when it comes to Dixie. No doubt about it! 🙂
Hi Laura (and Kevin)! Just started following your blog. Like you we are full-timers. And like you, we have been on the road since summer of 2016. But unlike you, we watched the solar eclipse from directly under the 100% line while near the Tetons in Wyoming. 🙂
We are still out west but intend to head south and east at some point. Love all the places we have explored, the things we’ve done and the folks we are meeting along the way. Love your style of writing and your humor. We’ll be lurking.
Hi Ed! We love lurkers! Thanks for following us and commenting. I just checked out your blog as well and ended up reading half of it. Oops. They can be addictive. Your blown out tire story is crazy! We got a TPMS for exactly that purpose. It’s disturbing that yours didn’t go off. I’m amazed you all were able to maintain control given the amount of damage your rig suffered. Definitely scary stuff. Anyway, I’m glad you all were safe and are back out on the road and capturing amazing sights – like the solar eclipse – that we missed…because I suck…. Thanks for the reminder. 😉
Anyway, please do keep in touch. Maybe we will cross paths somewhere along the way!
Have been following your blog. Hope to be full timing in next few years. Since you liked the Frank Brown Songwriters Festival I thought I would mention the 30A Songwriters Festival January 12-15 in South Walton, FL. We’ve been going for years and really enjoy it.
Oh man… that sounds awesome, but we’re heading in the opposite direction. 🙁 We are starting toward Arizona in the New Year and will actually be in the middle of Texas by mid-January. This is good information to have though, since I expect we’ll be back on the Gulf Coast in the future. Thanks for the comment!