Thursday, 9 May
Mid-Bay Shores, Maxwell-Gunter Rec Area — Niceville, Florida
Temps: Lo 65F / Hi 78F (18C / 25.5C)
We’ve been musing about our rather sedentary life since retiring six months ago. It’s a surprise to us.
Everywhere we’ve been to so far this year has been new to us, and I would have thought we’d be digging into every nook and cranny, leaving no stone unturned … everyday. Sure, we fit in plenty of walking and triking into our days, but exploring … not so much.
That we’ve had some great campsites is, of course, part of it. A nice site with plenty of outdoor living space invites us to stay “at home” … no doubt about that. But I think the main reason we’ve been taking it slow and easy is that this is our year of getting used to retirement.
Not that you’ll see us hopping all over the US when we do get going. We’ve always been “quality, not quantity” travelers. We expect that to continue in this gypsy lifestyle we have chosen for ourselves. But I think we’ll pick up the pace of exploring as the newness of being retired wears off. Looking forward to those days. For now, though … enjoying staying put more than we used to.
Enough musing … on with the blog post by stepping back a bit to the beginning of the week.
Monday, 6 May …
As the weather at Gulf State Park started to turn nice, we found ourselves packing to move onto our next campground. At least we enjoyed two nice — if windy — days before we left. And we arrived to great weather here in Niceville, Florida — just 91 miles (146 km) away. Where is Niceville? It’s just a few short miles north of Destin.
91 miles (146 km) from Gulf Shores, Alabama to our campground overlooking
the Choctawhatchee Bay north of Destin.
We are at Mid-Bay Shores at the Maxwell-Gunter Rec Area. Those who are familiar with military installations are probably going “huh” just about now since Maxwell-Gunter AFB is in Montgomery, Alabama, not in Niceville, Florida. If I understood Eggy, the woman who works in the office, correctly … this rec area was converted from a campground built to accommodate military personnel who came here to train at a facility operated by Maxwell-Gunter on land leased for 100 years from Eglin AFB. So, we’re on Eglin land, but not really on Eglin … not until the lease runs out in 47 years. Of course, what happens between now and then is anyone’s guess, especially with the current sequester. But that’s a whole different story.
Mid-Bay Shores is at the base of the Mid-Bay Connector Bridge;
we’re in site 21, overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay.
[scanned from brochure]
There are no manicured grounds here. Nor are there any concrete pads; or any amenities other than a bathhouse and laundry. The campground is rustic — and rundown a bit. Most of the 26 RV sites are FHU; a few are W/E. Some of the sites are closely spaced together; others have a good amount of outdoor space. Site 21 is one of the latter. Lots of trees; so not all sites are big-rig suitable. There’s no wi-fi here, but we’re doing fine with our 4G Mi-Fi, which uses Verizon service. The trees on our site-give us welcome shade, but block satellite signals. No problem — working together, we set up the tripod satellite in a jiffy. There is free cable — plenty for the bedroom TV, which Mui uses at night to put himself to sleep. For $125/week not a bad deal I say.
Site 21 … and part of our view of the Bay.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the landscape is marred a bit by our proximity to the Mid-Bay Connector Bridge, but we just look the other way. We can hear the traffic going by most of the day. But we’re not bothered by that either — as urban-dwellers for so many years, we’re accustomed to the sound of traffic and have become proficient at tuning it out. I can honestly say that we are really enjoying ourselves here.
Even after we set up our 14 x 14-foot (4 x 4 m) shelter, we have plenty of outdoor living space.
No matter how short the drive is, moving day is always tiring. Once we were set up, we didn’t do much of anything else for the rest of the day.
Tuesday, May 7 …
We woke up to an eerie silence. It took us a minute to figure out that our toppers weren’t flapping anymore. No wind … not even a breeze. Such a morning called for a walk on the beach. The narrow strip of sand here runs from Lake Pippin, on the far side of the cabins on the other side of the bridge; along the campground to and around White Point; and a fair bit along the other side of the bay. Not a long walk, but a nice way to start the day. For sunrise, we’ll need to walk over to the cabin area; for sunset, over to White Point.
After taking care of chores, we headed over to Destin. There are two ways to get there: cross over via the Mid-Bay Connector Bridge — save 30 minutes, but pay $3/ for a two-axle car, plus $3 for each additional axle (we paid $9 yesterday crossing over with the Phaeton and the CR-V hooked up). Or drive around the bay. We opted for the bridge.
First stop, a late lunch at Dewey Destin — a shack of a seafood place at the bottom of the Destin Bridge (Crab Island location on the website). We had found this place, which sits on the water, when we came to Florida for our residency last September. That time, we enjoyed some of their fresh shrimp. This time, I ordered the grilled grouper sandwich; Mui got the grilled snapper sandwich. We were both pleased with our choices. Our only regret this time was that we could not sit at one of the tables on the pier outside. It was simply too windy and too cool out there. But we did manage to get a table right by the door, so we could at least pretend we were out there.
Not fancy; but good fresh seafood — in my case, fresh grilled grouper.
After lunch we ran errands and then headed over to Henderson Beach State Park. Our reason for visiting was two-fold — to check out the park for a future stay, but more importantly, to meet Sherry and David (of In the Direction of Our Dreams fame). Our paths almost crossed last December. But we ended up missing each other by just a day or two. I didn’t want that to happen this time. Although they would be getting on the road the next day, they graciously agreed to us stopping by for a quick visit. And despite the wind, they even walked us over to the wonderful boardwalk that connects the campground to the white, sugar-sand beach that they’ve not been able to enjoy much because of the winds these past days. We had such a great time conversing with them that I forgot to take a picture of the four of us. Next time.
Oh and yes … we’d stay at Henderson Beach SP should we find our way back to Destin. We loved the totally secluded sites. And the proximity to the beautiful gulf waters and white sand beach would make it a no-brainer. In fact, we would have stayed there this time, but we couldn’t get in for two weeks and didn’t feel like park-hopping.
We wrapped up our day with dinner at Panera, where we finally used the gift card Mui had been carrying in his wallet for nearly a year. We each tried one of their new pasta bowls. Tasty to be sure, but at $7.89 for a cereal-bowl sized portion, it was over-priced. At least the gift card paid for a portion of the bill.
Wednesday, May 8 …
Another calm morning with blue skies and sunshine. And not a hint of a breeze — at least not until mid-morning. The light breeze that came up was quite welcome as the sun continued to warm the temps up from 63F to 78F (17C to 25.5C). After breakfast, we set up the screen shelter, where I pretty much spent the entire day reading. Mui had some projects on his mind and set about ticking them off his to-do list, occasionally joining me for a breather. I’ll write about one of those projects in a Phaeton Mods post.
A marine layer veiled Destin and part of the bridge from view for a while (top left);
but soon the air was crystal clear.
Right: There’s not much of a beach here, but the strip of sand does run the
length of Mid-Bay Shores, and around White Point.
Wine and snacks for dinner wrapped up the day.
Back to today …
We were both lazy this morning and it was just past 6:00a when we finally got up. Too late to enjoy the sunrise from the other side of the Mid-Bay Connector, but not too late to wander over to that side of the beach and keep company with a great blue heron fishing in the mirror-smooth bay waters.
No photoshopping here … the rising sun bathed the water in a golden hue;
zooming in from a distance simply enhanced the color.
Convincing Mui to put his morning coffee in a to-go container, we went for a short walk on the beach. It would have been longer, but I found the packed sand very hard — and I mean rock-hard — on my bare feet. Next time, I’ll take a page out of Mui’s book and wear shoes.
The walk was not for nought, though. In addition to a second great blue heron at the far end of the beach (B&W shot at the beginning of the post), there were whelks and hermit crabs in the shallows that provided entertainment for us. Oh, and an osprey that was fishing — unsuccessfully — gave us a couple of pauses along the way as well.
Hermit crab clinging to an oyster shell at the edge of the water.
(note the legs sticking out of the shell.)
Left: Whelk with an occupant, so we put the shell back in the water.
Right: hermit crabs; the one on the left was pushed off by the one on the right (top),
but as soon as it could, the one that was toppled got right back on its perch.
(Water wasn’t very clear in this spot; sorry.)
24 seconds of hermit crabs in action.
Returning home after our walk, we had breakfast and went about business as usual — Mui doing a few more projects; me enjoying the screen shelter. Hey, it’s not like I’m hogging the shelter, I invite Mui to share it with me, but once he gets projects on his mind, there’s no stopping him.
My second favorite part of today was watching the brown anoles that live amongst the rocks that make up the sea wall. I was quite surprised when they tolerated my presence so well and stayed out to give me plenty of photo ops instead of scampering into the crevices between the rocks. One male, in particular, was so busy displaying to the gals that I was able to track him for quite a while
Displaying his brilliant red dewlap, this male was hoping to get lucky …
… while this male did attract a mate for a bit of “love in the morning.”
I took way too many photos of this brown anole (male); what can I say … I’m easily entertained.
Mui drove into Niceville yesterday to go to Cool Fish, a fresh seafood monger recommended by Eggy (at the campground office). He came back with some great salmon fillets, which he grilled for lunch today. Yumm! Afterwards, he tore himself away from his self-imposed chores list to join me in the screen shelter before going out to reconnoiter the neighborhood by trike. He invited me to go along, but I had blogging on my mind. I love it when I have a strong enough wi-fi signal to do my blog writing out in the screen shelter.
Dinner was a simple affair. Afterwards, we walked along the beach to White Point to wrap up the day with a sunset. It was a rather pale affair, but I did what I usually do — zoomed into focus on the colors.
My reward … well you judge if it was worth the walk.
The weather is forecasted to take a turn for the worse starting tomorrow. Not sure what we will be doing, since we might not be able to enjoy the patio. Maybe I can get another post or two done for my trip to Turkey last October … yes, still trying to wrap that one up ;-)