hurricane michael closes parks, st. marks national wildlife refuge

Hurricane Michael Closes Parks in Florida

Hurricane Michael Closes Parks in Florida’s Panhandle

Hurricane Michael closed three of my favorite Florida Panhandle Parks.  As of late-October, they remained closed or are opened with limited services. Continue reading “Hurricane Michael Closes Parks in Florida”


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grayton beach state park

Day 87 – Gulf Coast Drive Along the Florida Panhandle Part 4

Day 87 of Year Long Roadtrip Following Scenic Byways in the USA

Another travel day logged on the books…from the Florida Panhandle to Gadsden, Alabama.  I didn’t pass anything of interest…some fields, some farms, mostly brown winter grass…definitely an uneventful drive.  I’m glad I took my friend Don’s advice and spent the morning in WaterColor, Florida, a cute town east of Destin.

I walked through this

Grayoton Beach State Park

A few miles down the road from WaterColor, lays Grayton Beach State Park.  The dogs and I stopped there forour morning jaunt.  The 1.25 mile nature trail weaved around sand dunes, through low, overhanging trees and past a pine forest. The shining sun and the brisk breeze granted a lovely morning.  After trail walking, the dogs rested in VANilla while I strolled along the empty beach looking for shells.  What a tranquil feeling…a beach all to myself!

grayton beach state park


In WaterColor, I stopped at the Shrimp Shack for an early lunch…raw oysters on the half shell.  The order at the counter restaurant served its patrons on a screened in porch or on an outdoor deck by the beach.  I can only imagine the ambience in the summertime.  It must be great, especially given they can get away with charging 92 cents for cup of tap water!

Actually, the ambience of the whole beachside town seemed lovely…can upscale, quaint and touristy be used in the same sentence?  That is how I’d describe it.   Beachside restaurants lined the south side of the main street as mobile food carts flanked the small white post office situated across the main street in front of the town square.

For the rest of the day I just drove.  I had hoped to visit Noccalula Falls Park before sunset as it is situated only a few miles from the Walmart parking lot of choice; however, the highway was under construction and the northbound exit Gina my GPS directed me to take was closed.  The next exit was 17 MILES AWAY!!!  34 miles later, I arrived at Walmart in the dark!  I’ll visit the falls in the morning. ETB

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Day 86 – Gulf Coast Drive Along the Florida Panhandle Part 3

Getting to Destin

I made it to Destin around 6:30 last night.  As I passed all the bear crossing signs around dusk, I thought I might spot one until I realized this freezing weather probably sent them into hibernation!  Actually, it made me wonder if all bears hibernate.  It seems like Florida bears could just travel south for the winter. In addition to looking for bears, I kept an eye out for mileage signs to Destin.  I only saw signs for Panama City which I thought I heard Dottie say over my cell connection was about an hour east of Destin.

I was moderately perplexed as my GPS estimated my time of arrival to Destin to be the same time (in my mind) that I reached Panama City.  I kept contemplating what I could have misunderstood when I realized I had crossed into the Central Time Zone!!  I haven’t been on CST for months…I’m getting closer to home!  Sadly, however, I have to admit that I always thought Florida was in the Eastern Time Zone.  It magnified the fact that while I’ve visited all over Florida in my lifetime, I’ve never been to the western part of the panhandle!  I sure have missed out.  I should have used my high school graduation present, a week stay at Dottie’s condo, years ago.

Walking the Beach

The dogs and I enjoyed a lackadaisical day.  We spent the morning lounging around the condo, blogging, and waiting to see the bomb house in Escondido, CA get burned to the ground.  We also caught a few blurbs on Wikileaks and debates centering around the Bush tax cuts and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

I figured if I was going to walk on the beach in Florida, I wanted it to be above 49 degrees which was forecasted to take place around lunchtime.  We headed to the beach to quickly find out dogs weren’t allowed to enjoy the white sandy beach reflecting sun so bright I walked with squinting eyes; crystal clear waters that changed colors between aqua marine, turquoise, and navy blue with the depth of the Gulf of Mexico; and pelicans and gulls staring intently into waves gently lapping onshore hoping to catch a fish.

Sandpiper Cove

The scene looked like a beautiful, spring day until beach walkers passed by in pants and jackets.  I spent just a short time absorbing the view before we set out to find a dog friendly park or beach…no such thing in Destin and the surrounding area!  We stopped at the only two parks listed on my GPS, both with signs posting the rules, one being “no dogs allowed”.  We returned to the condo and took a leisurely stroll around the complex, past the marina, the putting green, two pools, and the canals dug by the yellow and white condos built on stilts to withstand high waters caused by hurricanes.

Louisiana Lagniappe

After one more blog posting, I attended the half price happy hour across the street at Louisiana Lagniappe.  The blackened shrimp and glass of wine hit the spot.  Dani, the bartender, was from Pennsylvania and has camped extensively.  Of course, now being in Florida, she wasn’t fond of the cold weather.  While we were talking, four men came in for dinner, but they ended up sitting at the bar.  I didn’t catch all of their names, but two worked for Elbit in New Hampshire and two worked for Boeing in Albuquerque.  They were here working with the nearby Air Force Base.  After chatting for a while, I called it the night and let them enjoy their dinner.  I’m preparing for a drive to Alabama and warmer temperatures tomorrow. ETB

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hurricane michael closes parks, apalachicola national forest

Day 85 – Gulf Coast Drive Along the Florida Panhandle-Part-2

Day 85 of Year Long Roadtrip Following Scenic Byways in the USA

Well, I survived the 22 degree night in the Walmart parking lot.  In preparation of the cold night, I turned my heat on the highest temperature at full blast while driving to Woodville.  Even with exiting VANilla to do a little grocery shopping and to let the dogs out, the temperature remained above 50 by the time I went to bed…not bad.

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

The first attraction of the day was the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.  What a pleasant surprise.  As I paid the four dollar entry fee, I asked the ranger what he recommended.  He said the boat ride on the river because several manatees have been spotted.  I was all about that as I’ve only seen manatees on one other occasion and only briefly. Continue reading “Day 85 – Gulf Coast Drive Along the Florida Panhandle-Part-2”

st. marks national wildlife refuge

Day 84 – Gulf Coast Drive Along the Florida Panhandle

Day 84 of Year Long Roadtrip Following Scenic Byways in the USA

Today was close to an 8 hour travel day from Southeast Florida to Northwest Florida.  I think in the last five days I’ve donated at least fifty dollars to Florida tolls.  I imagine I could have purchased the Sunpass and paid for it through reduced tolls already!  I could have avoided the “change provided” toll plazas as well!  So far, Florida and New York break the bank in the toll category.  Along the turnpike, I did see a bald eagle wading in a small marsh.  That was exciting, though I would have liked to snap a photo. Continue reading “Day 84 – Gulf Coast Drive Along the Florida Panhandle”

florida everglades national park

Day 83 – Road to Flamingo, The Florida Everglades

Day 83 of Year Long Roadtrip Following Scenic Byways in the USA

The Everglades National Park

After dropping Carol at the airport, I continued on to Wellington for another night at Page’s before heading to The Everglades National Park in the morning.  I passed by acres of farmland, some merely plowed and barren and others planted with vegetables and fruit.  The Everglades in Southern Florida span over 4,000 square miles.  The area is so large that the 1.5 million acre National Park occupies only 20% of the area.  The widest river in the world, 50 miles, slowly flows through the grassy wetlands whose highest elevation reaches only ten feet. Continue reading “Day 83 – Road to Flamingo, The Florida Everglades”

Day 82 – Ocean Reef Outing Part 2

Day 82 of Year Long Roadtrip Following Scenic Byways in the USA

Well, I don’t have much to add for today.  Carol and I didn’t make it very far on the Reader’s Digest Florida Keys drive as North Key Largo was our only stop.  We spent the morning laying out by the pool at Buccaneer Island and tooling around The Fishing Village.  Shakey and Jennalie joined us for lunch at The Raw Bar. Continue reading “Day 82 – Ocean Reef Outing Part 2”

Day 81 – Ocean Reef Outing

Miami Traffic

I’m curious to know the population of the Miami Metropolitan Area.  I have never seen so much traffic…I feel like I can say I successfully drove in New York City while being in South Florida.  I thought the next part I might have to replace on VANilla would be a bumper or my steering wheel squeezed to pieces by my white knuckled grip.  The eighteen toll booths decreased to four lanes and later two. I would have happily participated in an alternating merge, but I quickly learned the word “merge” is not in the Hispanic dictionary. Continue reading “Day 81 – Ocean Reef Outing”

Day 80 – The Joys of Car Dealerships

Day 80 of Year Long Roadtrip Following Scenic Byways in the USA

I don’t have much to post for today.  I dropped Page at the airport at 6:30 this morning and then stopped by the car dealership to get my driver’s side door

handle replaced.  It broke in Orlando, so I had to enter VANilla via the dog door the last few days!  I thought I would just get it fixed when I got home, but yesterday, VANilla’s locks became possessed.  Anytime I unlocked VANilla, all the doors immediately relocked so fast that sometimes it took me three tries to get the door open…now a safety issue. Continue reading “Day 80 – The Joys of Car Dealerships”