Posted by: glenswatman | October 1, 2008

200809-2-USA Florida Alabama Mississippi

MONDAY 15 SEPTEMBER – Back to the springs for
another relaxing day.  Around 2.30pm it
begins raining so we take our cue and leave. 
The next big town is Perry where we use the library for Internet.  Looks like we may have to travel slower than
planned as pretty much all the coastline of Texas was wiped out by Ike and
people are still stranded in cars. 
Settle onto the Wal*Mart car park for the night.



TUESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER – Unusually we wake to a
humid cloudy drizzly day.  One of the
big advantages of parking at Wal*Mart is that you get first pick of the
reductions early in the morning!  We
park in town using wi-fi until lunchtime. 
Travelling through Sopchoppy we see our first gas station out of fuel –
maybe a sign of things to come.  We have
a map of Apalachicola National Forest but still have trouble finding the
campground as the 399 has been changed to the 299 and other roads don’t exists
as shown on the map.  Eventually we find
the spot and it is well worth the hunt. 
You can free camp for up to 14 days with new clean pit toilets, picnic
tables, fireplaces, hunt hanging and carving table and boat ramp all
available.  We make the short walk to
the boat ramp for quick dips in the water, it’s a kind of rusty colour and not
very clear.  Knowing alligators are in
the area we are not keen to go far or to linger but it’s enough for cooling
off. There’s no one else here so we are free to strip off and enjoy the afternoon
sun.  Just one car arrives with a boat
that goes out for an hour or so before they leave.



WEDNESDAY 17 SEPTEMBER – It was a really cool night, the first since we
arrived in Florida back in April, well by cool I mean down to 70F!  Enjoy a relaxing day and again just one car
comes down with a boat.  In the evening
Steve makes a fire and cooks our toasted cheese sandwich on it.



THURSDAY 18 SEPTEMBER – We get up late, as it
is nice to linger in bed without being hot and sweaty.  Having bought some bleach I spend the
morning scrubbing all the mould from our outdoor chairs and it works a
treat.  A local arrives in a car and
gets chatting to Steve over a beer.  He
kindly points out a fresh water tap tucked away at the end of the campground so
now we won’t even need to brave the lake for bathing.  Occasional spots of rain are insufficient to force us in during
the afternoon.  A boat pulls up and
shortly after a car and trailer arrive to drag it out.  Feeling really settled here as it is so
peaceful and we have as much sun or shade, as we want.



FRIDAY 19 SEPTEMBER – Steve’s 54th
birthday and we go for a morning stroll with the phone to try and get reception
in case he has texts messages but no signal. 
More time for relaxing, in fact I am reading a book a day at the moment
so obviously too much time on our hands. 
We have our main meal and mid day and I cook us a nice steak followed by
apple pie and custard and rounded off with fresh coffee, cheese and grapes –
gee it’s a tough life!  We sit out late
in the evening playing cards, as it is such a pleasant temperature.



SATURDAY 20 SEPTEMBER – We wake up early when
a car towing a boat comes in.  I get up
and cook up a curry and make a fresh fruit salad for later.  It’s a busier day with quite a few people
coming in and out with their boats but still a great spot to be.



SUNDAY 21 SEPTEMBER – A couple of lads stayed
overnight and kept going back and forward to the water so not so good for
sleeping.  We are ready to move on
anyway and pick up route 98 taking us along the coast of the panhandle of
Florida.  We pay our top price for gas
at $3.89 (GBP2.20) a reflection on the shortages following hurricane Ike.  It is a very scenic route mostly right at
the edge of the water where we see lots of stilt houses.  Old rickety ones are mixed in with some very
grand mansions.  Many areas of the road
are being built up after erosion problems from the storm.  This area is known as the “Forgotten Coast”
but we have no idea why as it is so beautiful. 
Apalachicola is a quiet little riverside town with no campground
therefore they welcome motor homes to stay overnight on their car parks.  We are almost spoilt for choice when we
drive around but opt for the one out on Market Street by the new Vietnam
memorial.  Return for a walk around town
with very attractive wide streets a remnant from when it was a bustling cotton
shipping port.  It went on to service
the logging industry and became very prosperous so there are some nice mansions
as well.  Retire to the car park late
afternoon for a peaceful night.



MONDAY 22 SEPTEMBER – Again we really enjoy a
beautiful coastal drive, the water is a pretty turquoise green and the beach is
like powdered sugar it is so white and fine. 
Just before Panama City we cross into the Central time zone so now 6
hours behind BST.  Panama City is huge
but we manage to pick up the things we need and get a verdict on a generator
problem enabling us to get it going again. 
Over the bridge Panama City Beach, on the Emerald Coast, is a whole
different story and just like Orlando. 
A huge strip runs behind the beach full of accommodation, tourist
attractions like “Ripley’s Believe it or not” and loads of shops and restaurants.  Have to laugh at Pineapple Willies being
directly opposite Dirty Dicks.  Stop to
check out a few sections of the beach but parking is difficult and we reckon we
will find nicer and quieter beaches when we turn off onto the 30a.  Got that one wrong as almost the whole of
the coastal strange is being developed into cheesy mini villages.  It’s like Disney meets Noddy’s toytown on a
grand scale with intermittent old shacks where developers haven’t been able to
buy out the land.   At Deer Lake state
park we can go over a boardwalk to the beach but once we get there it is cloudy
and windy!  When we stayed at Cypress
Cove Resort our neighbours were John & Margaret from Santa Rosa Beach and
they have invited us to visit.  They
moved here from Georgia when they retired and designed their own home.  Unfortunately Margaret is away in Georgia
but John and their dog Lizzie are there to great us.  Their home is a fabulous boomerang shaped one and very well
thought out.  They have a secluded
swimming pool and a boardwalks leads over the swamp to a riverside dock.  Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing by
the pool before cooking us a meal in the evening.



TUESDAY 23 SEPTEMBER – John used to work with
computers and says he will help me do a recovery on my laptop, as many things
are not working well.  I paid to have it
done whilst back in England but not with the original disk, which were in
Florida.  Things do not go well and by
mid afternoon, in spite of Johns best efforts, the things seems to have
died.  The Geek Squad at the Destin Best
Buy store reckon the hard drive has gone with the recovery being the final nail
in the coffin.  Check out the laptops
they sell and reckon the Toshiba Satellite at $699 looks the best deal but will
do some research on Johns computer overnight. 
We’ve been hard at it all day so John sends out for a Chinese and it is
really nice.



WEDNESDAY 24 SEPTEMBER – Must be my lucky day
as not only does my Canadian friend Kevin recommend the laptop I have selected
but it has dropped in price to $649.  John helps out by taking me to the store to pick one up.  For the rest of the day Steve lounges by the
pool whilst I set about learning how to use Vista and putting things onto the
new computer.  John is a great help as
many things do not go as planned.  By
11pm we are making headway but still lots to do so call it a day with a plan to
stay on tomorrow.



THURSDAY 25 SEPTEMBER – Plod on with the
laptop and by the end of the day I have most things up and running, even manage
to fit in some swims whilst things are loading up!  Vista is certainly frustrating and I can see why people say it is
a temporary operating system!  Big news
is the when the President comes on the news to talk about a bale out for the
financial problems in the country.  



FRIDAY 26 SEPTEMBER – We’ve had a great time
with John but feel it is time to press on. 
Continue along the coast to Navarre where we call in to Wal-Mart and
confirm that we can park there overnight. 
A little further on we drive over the causeway to Navarre Beach on the
Gulf Islands National Seashore. 
Boardwalks take you over the dunes to a picture perfect spot where we
set up to sunbathe.  The nearby pier has
been broken by the hurricane and a local tells us that this coast road is closed
further along due to storm damage.  We
are on a huge car park and Steve asks the local restaurant owner if he thinks
we would be OK to stay overnight and he can see no reason why not.  In the evening the restaurant are holding
Parrot Head party so we get to sit in the motorhome and enjoy the music from
the live band.



SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER – Our pleasant journey
continues along highway 98 with more nice seashore views.  A huge bridge leads us to the major city of
Pensacola, but being a Saturday morning it is very quiet and we drive right
through the centre with no problems. 
Harry finally leaves Florida, after being there for over 5 months, as we
enter ALABAMA.  In Foley the City museum
we wanted to look at is closed but in the railway station we see a well laid
out model railway in action.  The famous
“Stacey Rexall Drugs and Old Tyme Soda Fountain” store is not that
impressive.  Weeks Bay Reserve wetlands
have an interesting boardwalk with all the native trees labelled and a booklet
with information about them.  The scenic
coast road alongside Mobile Bay has some lovely homes.  Arrive in Fairhope where there is a
sculpture park above the municipal pier. 
There’s ample parking at the bottom and we enjoy a walk around and
admire the fountain in the centre of the rose garden before having lunch.  Daphne is the next town where the Wal-Mart
is well back from the main road and they say we can park overnight.  It’s too early in the day for that so we
drive into town and find the main street closed due to the 20th
annual Jubilee Festival.  In the nearby
Lott car park there are already 2 caravans and a motorhome parked up and the
motorhome owner tells us you can stay overnight.   Roam the street checking out the stalls and catch some of the
entertainment outside the civic hall. 
Wander down to the bay but the roads are too steep and narrow to be good
for Harry so we will stay where we are. 
Late afternoon we sit out by the van watching the locals make use of the
free tennis courts.



SUNDAY 28 SEPTEMBER – At the northern end of
Main Street we stop off to walk “Alligator Alley” beside the creek where we
immediately see a good sized specimen. 
Hope in the I10 to take us over the river to Mobile.  Plan to explore the area but did not plan to
do so in the motorhome but the tourist info signs are so confusing that we do a
very circuitous route to get there when it should have been easy.  It is located inside Fort Conde and whilst
the tourist info is poor the fort is quite interesting.  I especially like the old photos of Mardi
Gras.  Next we do the walking tour
mainly along Dauphin where there are many really nice old buildings with lots
of fancy wrought ironwork balustrades. 
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is impressive outside but more so
inside.  The Scottish Rites temple is
amazing in the form of an Egyptian temple but now closed as a religious
building and available to rent for functions. 
A hobo does his washing in one of the ornamental fountains!  Return to the van to do the historical
driving tour.  Pass a “Save a lot”
store, a rare sight in the States, the American version of Lidl or Aldi so of
course we are obliged as motorhomers to call in!  The driving tour takes us out to Oakleigh Garden area with some
fine mansions.  Early afternoon we’ve
seen enough and head off on the I10. 
Once it changes to a 2-lane motorway it is no fun as the lorries are not
happy with us plodding along at 50 mph and hoot as they go past.  As soon as we cross into MISSISSIPPI we
leave and rejoin the 90.  Pascagoula is
the first time we come into and this time we take up Wal-Marts offer of
overnight parking.  Jimmy Buffet, famed
for Parrot Head music, was born here but that’s about the only claim to



MONDAY 29 SEPTEMBER – Cross the bay bridge to
Biloxi beach area where there are numerous casinos.  We are getting wise to the system now and set out to simply take
up all the offers and only gamble as necessary.  Often when you are given sign up credit you must put it through
the machines but can take out your winnings and this is exactly what we
do.  Palace Casino give us $10 each for
signing up and we add $1 each to activate it, put it through the slots and walk
out with $36.50 thank you very much. 
Isle of Capri gives us stubby holders for new sign up and Steve gets a
T-shirt with it being his birthday month. 
There are a whole bunch of casinos here spread out along the
shoreline.  Everything here is
vulnerable to storm damage and part of life for people who live here.  In fact a local tells us that if they get a
year without storm damage they consider it a bonus.  Unfortunately this year they have already been hit by two
hurricanes.  Gustav brought strong winds
then shortly after the area was flooded during hurricane Ike. There’s a
beautiful white sandy beach here but it is closed whilst they clear it of
debris.  Many other damaged buildings
can be seen and some of the older casinos have now been demolished to make way
for storm proof new ones.  Hard Rock
casino has some impressive memorabilia including Madonna’s bustier and Elton
Johns jumpsuit and cloak.  Beau Rivage
is really beautiful inside and compares well with the Vegas casinos.  Boomtown Casino offers a 2 for 1 buffet on
Monday and Wednesday (normally $10.99) and a free shuttle bus so we take up the
deal.  It a pretty good spread including
crab, prawns and mussels.  They offer
$10 to new members but you can’t spend it until tomorrow. Walk of our lunch by
strolling to nearby Imperial Palace but no deals there.  Back at Main Street we look at the Katrina
memorial then take a walk down the street where there are some impressive
buildings that seem to have come through unscathed whilst others look quite
battered.  Return to Isle of Capri where
we have a lovely free parking spot looking out over the bay.



TUESDAY 30 SEPTEMBER – Begin the day at Hard
Rock café where Steve gets a free breakfast for his birthday month.  We both get $10 credit but have to return
after 11am to use it.  Up to Boomtown to
get their $10 credit then back to Hard Rock for theirs.  The Palace do a $10.99 lunch buffet and
reimburse $10 in play credit so we take that up.  The buffet is comparatively poor but we get most of the money
back once we have played the slots. 
Along the coast we call in at Treasure Bay to convert their  $10 credits to cash.  In the middle of the dual carriageway many
trees were damaged during Katrina but the remaining stumps have been carved
into animal and bird sculptures.  The
lighthouse on the front has survived all the storms and is painted white but
when Lincoln was assassinated they painted it black for a time.  Final stop of the day is Island View casino
in Gulfport.  They direct us to park by
the beach as the casino is on the inland side of the highway so we have another
nice view.  This time you get random
credit ranging from $10 – $1000.  Steve
wins $10 and I get $15 and we convert it to just over $20 cash.  So who says you cannot win at casinos.  I figure we are at least $50 up on the deal
and have had entertainment, food, drinks and free camping to boot.



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