Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mississippi_Alabama_Florida Panhandle

After the craziness that is New Orleans we left to drive across the North Gulf Coast through Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Our first stop was Davis Bayou State Park, Mississippi (part of Gulf Islands National Seashore) which turned out to be a perfect spot to spend three days. The park sustained extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina but like everything else along this coastline life is returning back but repairs are progressing slowly. It was an ideal location to bike and run. On our long run along the beach front
we witnessed vacant lots where only the exterior staircase remained and the houses gone! On the last day the heavy rains of the tornadoes just north of us allowed us to hibernate and not feel guilty. Between the rain storms we did manage to bike into Ocean Springs (15 minutes away) to buy some supplies and luckily a gentleman was selling fresh crawfish from a massive boiling pot. We purchased a couple of pounds and came back to the Moho to feast on our treat.

Gulf State Park in Alabama with over 460 sites was the next stop. Our paved campsite backed onto Middle Lake and proved to be another great spot to exercise and enjoy the warm temperatures. We biked to the beach one day but winds proved a little too uncomfortable to lie and read. So instead we biked around the City of Orange Beach. The extensive developed paved trails through the Park were great for biking/running. On one ride we actually saw an alligator beside the trail.

Finally Florida! Temperatures were getting warmer so we decided to take a break and play tourist while enjoying some needed air conditioning. TheNational Museum of Naval Aviation was a nice reprieve.

The site was definitely worthwhile for the aviation enthusiast but non buffs like ourselves also saw and learned a lot about air travel in the war time periods. The WWI exhibit included such planes as the Sopwith Camel Fighter, the plane used by both Snoopy and the Red Baron. It made us wonder how a flimsy craft could cover the distance and increased our respect for WWI aviators. More astounding were the early aircraft carriers and the short distance the planes had to land while at sea. We travelled through time all the way to examples of jets used in Desert Storm and the Blue Angels, an American equivalent to our Canadian Snowbirds.

Continuing our travels we entered another unique tourist area; Seaside. It was comparable to entering a "perfect world". Yes, it was perfect because it was actually the movie set for Jim Carey's movie "The Truman Show". White picket fences lined the streets and finely groomed landscaped gardens. Retro Air Stream trailers were the local ice cream and chip wagons. But fantasy land soon ended as we travelled further down the road to Panama City or better known as the "Redneck Riviera". Of course we hit it during a biker event which added to the ambiance. We pushed on to find Mexico Beach which

gave us a more tranquil picnic opportunity. We both agreed that our travels along this coast gave us a different impression of the State of Florida.

Again it was an opportunity to sample seafood. A short stop at Joe Patti's proved a great experience. It was the biggest seafood supermarket that either of us had ever shopped at. There were many different fresh fish on ice than we'd ever seen. We settled on the Royal Red shrimp and Chef Don's culinary skills made them as good as any restaurant along the Panhandle coast.

We were definitely on a State/National Park roll. Our love of the outdoors was evident again when we arrived at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Florida. We were overwhelmed by the number of birds and wildlife that visited our campsite.

Commencing with the Red Headed Woodpecker that was just outside the Moho bedroom window to the deer that visited our campsite at lunchtime and finally the armadillo that skirted the bushes around sunset. The Park was quiet and ideal to

catch more of that laid-back feeling.

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