Saturday, July 23, 2016

Gulf Coast Road Trip Report

Sometimes I hate being single but over the past few days, I was loving it.  Due to a postponed appointment at work, I had very little to do over the next few days so pretty much on a whim, I decided to take an impromptu trip to the coast.  I can take these types of trips pretty much anytime I want and do it on my own terms.  I can stop to see random off the beaten path type places as much or as little as I want as well.  When I go to the coast, I am not there to sit in the sand and sip drinks.  I don't care about staying in a nice hotel on the beach or going out for fine dining.  No offense but IMHO, $300+ per night and a $75 dinner including drinks and dessert is not worth it.  I'm fine with a normal dinner and half priced or less lodging a few miles inland.

 I am there for the action, which in my case is body boarding.  In optimal conditions, you could be out waist-chest high but if you catch a wave just right, you can ride it all the way to shore.  Man, that's so much fun! I don't mind the occasional wipe out or having the next round of waves break on my head or neck.  Bring it on!  If I see 4-6 footers in the forecast with a low chance of rain, I may just drop whatever plans I have and head on down.  You can catch some decent waves on the Gulf but as a general rule. I'd opt for North Carolina for better surf.  In terms of the beaches themselves however, the Gulf wins hands down.

I've been on the Gulf coast in every state from Florida (as far south as Ft. Myers) to Texas (Galveston) and you'll find various types of beaches.  Some are secluded while others are more touristy.  In some areas, there are no waves but you can go out 300 yards and only be knee deep.  The best beaches IMO are on a strip of land known as the Emerald Coast with sugar white sand and crystal clear warm water with decent waves that runs from Panama City, Florida to Gulf Shores, Alabama.  You could be out chest high, look down and clearly see your feet.

I-65 South down to Monty then US-231 to Panama City.  I got there just after lunch and had a nice few hours out there.  From there, I headed east to the Forgotten Coast, also known as the Big Bend region of Florida.  I stopped in the town of Apalachicola for a decent seafood dinner overlooking the bay then settled in for the night at a flea bag motel. which was fine by me.
Panama City Beach

More exploring of the Big Bend area with some beautiful views of the bay along the road.  I did stop in a state park called St. George Island.  It was rustic and has its charm.  The sand was just as white but the water was not as clear and there were no waves.  I went as far east as Carrabelle and found similar conditions so it was back to the panhandle.  Overall, the Big Bend area is worth a visit because of the stunning scenery.  It was interesting culturally too with lots of native Floridians.  A Florida southern accent is very distinct from Georgia or Alabama.

I ended up in Santa Rosa for the afternoon, which is just east of Destin and Ft. Walton.  I believe I stayed at or very near the turnaround point of my debut half marathon in Seaside.  The surf picked up after 3 PM and it was a GREAT afternoon.  After a fast food dinner, I took the interstate to Pensacola and stopped at Flora Bama for a quick drink.  I was joined by a nice girl named Crystal from Tennessee and got a hug before she left.

Big Bend region
St. George Island

Full day at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach on the Alabama side.  While my state is typically not known for its beaches, they are just as nice as the ones in Florida.  I enjoyed talking with a nice woman from Baton Rouge while conditions were calm but again, the surf picked up in the afternoon.  I was sad to leave but knew I had to take 2 days to decompress and get my formula right before next week.
Orange Beach

Home with a suntan.

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