On an Alabama Trek

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Time is 8:02 AM (my pedometer reads 425 steps)

As I do most of the time, I walk down nine stories in anticipation of the known and unknown of what lies ahead.

In minutes I’m at the beach. The sun is bright. The sky is blue with wispy white streaks. The air is brisk, but the wind is strong – much stronger than I hoped – plus I am walking into the wind.

Within a few minutes, I cross into Florida. There’s the Flora Bama. (1,100 steps)

 

The sand is packed. I’m close to the water, but wearing shoes. I start a 15-minute stretch of familiar landmarks: Pharaoh, the Green-Eyed Lady, and Olives.

Time is 8:18 AM (2,072 steps)

Pharaoh stands guard over the beach. He tells me, “You can have my crown if you make it.”

Suspicious of his offer, I nod as I walk past.

This is something I wanted to do last year, but didn’t – and to think the weather was better then.

 

Conditions haven’t changed, but it’s early.

There she stands – “Green-eyed lady, ocean lady. Soothing every waves that comes. Green-eyed lady, passion’s lady. Dressed in love, she lives for life to me.”

She always wonders where I’m going and when I’ll return.

I smile at her presence as I walk by.

 

There’s that cool sand sculpture I saw the artist doing yesterday!

Several days ago would have been better because it was warmer and less windy – but the fog would limit the view.

The sand is no longer easy walking. I look for hardpan.

There stand the Olives.

Time – 8:34 AM (3,941 steps)

 

The next landmark is the USS Eden aircraft carrier with a flight deck at the end of a stretch of houses.

Head down, I maintain my pace into the wind. I encounter company for a short distance.

 

Time – 8:53 AM (2.5 miles/4 km) at Eden, a typical turnaround point

Eden is not a carrier, but a proud falcon or eagle perched to display its wings – much like the eagle on the back of a US quarter.

 

After Eden is a string of 6-7 houses, followed by a long stretch (2.5 miles/4 km) of no housing units for it is a Florida state park. My next destination is the first tall tower.

 

Fortunately, I know the locations of the bathrooms.

My pace is slower than normal. The strong headwind is a factor.

The sand remains difficult, so I continually search for a packed surface.

I’ve walked this lonely stretch before. I could listen to a podcast, but I want to conserve my battery.

The tide appears higher than normal, so low tide must have been earlier than I thought.

Should I turn around?

…. but then I find a stretch of packed sand that delays the decision.

Time – 9:52 AM (12,525 steps) 5.5 miles/ 8.8 km

At Windemere, the first tall condo outside the state park. I’ve been here before. I stop to empty my shoes, drink water, rest, check my phone, and think.

Walkers assure me that better sand lies ahead.

Before continuing, a man passes where I sit, and he turns left as if he will serve as my guide. I chose to continue to where my feet have not gone before and to reach the point at the end of the national shoreline.

 

The sand is better here, but the wind seems a bit stronger.

Condos are a few stories taller than our location – but not as wide. I marvel at the beauty of the expansive, curved balconies.

 

The man continues to serve as a guidepost as he walks ahead of me.

A collection of pastel houses are sandwiched between condos. For whatever reason, I smiled.

I imagine the first part of my destination lies ahead – and the man still sets a good pace and direction – but I’m gaining on him.

Time – 10:30 AM (12,525 steps) 7.1 miles/11.4 km

I enter the Gulf Islands National Shoreline. The sand is hard and level.

 

A half mile into the national protected area, I catch the man. We talk.

I asked the location of the point. He says, “Another 5-6 miles.” (98-9.5 km) – I laugh and think about Pharaoh’s words.

Time – 10:50 AM (16,284 steps) 7.1 miles/11.4 km)

One mile into the national shoreline we turned around. This is near the location where I thought the point would be – but little did I know it was still so far away.

We separate as I stop at the pavillion for restrooms, eating a banana, rest, water, texting my wife, and emptying my shoes.

Lunch is about 45 minutes away – a place just before the long stretch of the state park.

Ahhh … the wind is finally at my back.

Lunch was wonderful – a plate of red beans and rice.

Before heading back to the beach, my windshirt comes off to expose my arms.

The wind is at my back, but soon I notice a chill on my neck. My windshirt goes from my waist to my neck. Much better.

The state park stretch is generally lonely. I’m tired. I chat to two fisherman about their day.

I keep my eyes focused ahead for the next landmark.

I finally pass Eden as the eagle stands proud.

Olives appear as a martini toasting my survival.

The Green-Eyed Lady smiles with approval and my safe return.

Pharaoh nods in approval, then sheepishly smiles as a reminder that the crown is still his – but my walk is slower than normal.

I stop again to visit a sand sculpture done by an artist I talked to yesterday. (This is a morning picture)

 

There’s a log – I stop to sit, remove my socks and shoes that I stuff into a bag.

Ahhh … the sea refreshes my feet. My pace get faster. I hear the steady bass drum of my steps.

The Flora Bama tempts me to stop for a celebratory drink, but I press on to Alabama.

A final foot splash in front of the condo. I wave to my wife on the balcony, head inside, find the elevator for the ride to the ninth floor.

I stand at our door checking the final stats.

Time – 2:20 PM (38,185 steps) 16.8 miles/27 km

An interesting day – and I imagine the rest of the day will involve several thousand more steps.

As for the point that I did not see, hopefully next year – but then I will drive to the national shoreline, park the car, then start the trek to the point and back.

On a Return Home

Greetings from my home in Cincinnati. We recently returned from a 6-week stay as snowbirds on the Alabama coast, the place where I kept my little corner of the world in full swing. Travel time returning home (Friday and Saturday) is the reason for not having a weekend concert and for my absence – but Aretha is still schedule for this coming weekend … and the opening song is set!

That my walking beach to the west (and 2 miles/3.2 km to the rocks)

 

The weather during our stay wasn’t the best – but as I always say, no matter how cold it is in Alabama during our stay, it’s warmer than home! January had cold, but that was when Cincinnati (and many of you) were gripped by bitter cold. Plus, the only snow we saw was on news reports. Of the three years in Alabama, this year was probably the worst – and the first year without a good streak of sunshine – but hey – the overall weather was better than home.

Glad I captured the storm cloud

 

I always say these 6-weeks are for my alter ego – a time with minimal obligations – a time away from normal routines – a time when I can focus on walking the beach as much as possible. How much did I walk during the 43 full days? Here’s the tale of the tape:

  • 911,867 steps covering an estimated 405.3 miles (652.3 km)
  • 21,206 steps averaged per day
  • 17 of 43 days over 10,000 (but less than 20K); 24 of 43 days over 20,000 steps (but less than 30K), and 2 days of 43 over 30,000 steps

 

I was hoping to lose some weight during the 6-weeks south. Then again, I know we will go out 2-3 times per week. Good news is that we were able to limit the snacks that my wife’s father enjoys. Bottom line is 8 pounds lost and my waist feels smaller.

Walking also means composing more beach walks. I don’t have a final count on the number of drafts, but it may be the most ever. I think over 40.

I love sunrises, but given the weather, I didn’t see many achieving the wow factor.

 

On the worst weather days, we like to go to a theater. This year we saw Vice, The Upside, and The Wife.

TIP: When at the beach, if you see something interesting, take a picture and then send it to a marine biology department at a local university.

Outside cylinders of tube worms

 

My wife is a prolific reader – but I read two books this time: both by diplomat Madeleine Albright – The Mighty and the Almighty and Fascism: A Warning. Reviews in the future. I’ll post reviews in the future.

On one of the questionable weather days, we visited the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. It’s very well done – and free. Compared to the US Air Force Museum in Ohio, it’s much smaller.

For the record, we only dance a few dances one evening – so it will take some time to regain ballroom form.

Outside our front door looking to the north at the intercoastal waterway

 

We were pleased with the gas mileage of our Subaru Outback. Over the 2800+ miles (4510+ km) covering 6 weeks, the Outback’s gas mileage was 31.4 miles per gallon.

As after arriving at home Saturday afternoon, Sunday provided a small dose of snow, Monday deliver the first of a two-day punch of frigid, plus I ordered my first hearing aids, AND began prep for Tuesday’s colonoscopy. Such a great way to return home! Hooray – no polyps! Next colonoscopy in seven years!!! – but a busy return has slowed my blogging presence.

We enjoy the Flora-Bama – truly a regional institution with national acclaim. (past post) The bios of some of the musicians are impressive. For instance, the only way we know Neil Dover is that he proceeded our favorite duo – so we typically only heard 15-30 minutes each time. Interestingly, his degree is in opera! He’s written a great song about this quirky musical palace. The lyrics and the video are perfect. Enjoy Neil Dover with FloraBama Time.

On the Flora-Bama

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I first learned about the Flora-Bama on our first trip to the Alabama coast in the early 2000s when we visited my in-laws wintering in that area. My father-in-law raved about it, so we went for dinner and music while not knowing what to expect.

“Honky tonk” is a good first-impression description. The weathered siding – floors probably hosed down at the end of the day. The room was full of patrons engaging in food, beverages, and conversation while listening to music in a room with many pieces of underwear hanging from above. I recall enjoying watching the patrons.

However, over time I learned that “honky tonk” isn’t applicable – after all, I introduced it to you in this past post as the Last Great American Roadhouse.

My in-laws would change locations every few years, so time passed between my visits to this local icon. The next would be between 2005-2007 they rented about 2+ miles away. It’s also easy to remember because in September 2004, Hurricane Ivan brought havoc to the area – including upon the Flora-Bama. National news even reported that Ivan devastated it.

Despite the fake news (I couldn’t resist), the legendary Flora-Bama would not die. Battered and sand-filled, it re-opened after cleaning and a bit of restoration that probably included nails and hammers.

We took this image dated 13 February 2005

I recall it seems more rickety than ever – but that was part of its charm. Refrigerated trailers were in front of the building for storing food and beer. A temporary shack sold souvenirs.

florabamatempentrance

The housing-financial collapse of 2008 delivered another crushing blow as the principal owners filed bankruptcy because of failing real estate investments. The long-time owners became minority owners and the new ownership restored the venerable venue.

The trailers and the souvenir shack are gone, but the rustic weathered look remains. The new Flora-Bama is a mixture of old and new that maintains the original character. The original area I first sat remains as another music area – as does the adjacent large tent area.

florabamadeckstage

Inside the new brick front contains a large area for merchandise with a main lounge and stage on the second floor. The decor is a display of pictures, framed news articles, fishing nets, underwear, musical instruments, license plates, and more to go along with the countless names written with a black marker onto the walls.

florabamamainbar

With 3 stages, music is plentiful at the Flora-Bama. Yep – there are times when three musical acts are playing at the same time! On this night, only Rhonda Hart and Jonathan Newton were performing. We enjoyed them so much, we heard them three times.

florabamamainstage

The Flora-Bama is alive and well. The colorful place with a colorful past that includes a large cast of colorful characters remains. A place for a wide range of ages from different places – from northern snowbirds to colors – from retirees to young adults. From low-key weekday afternoons to raucous weekend nights. If you are ever in Pensacola, Perdido Key, Orange Beach, or Gulf Shores, consider stopping by the Flora-Bama Lounge Oyster Bar and Package Store

Entering from the beach – Notice the tents to the right!

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One of the opportunities to take a picture.

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Because many enjoyed the Kenny Chesney song about the Flora-Bama in my previous post, it’s still appropriate here.

On a Slice about Americana

florabamabeach

There it is … sitting along a beautiful beach sandwiched between a high-rise condominium to its right and a parking garage of another high-rise condo to its left. A place where friends meet. A place where others become friends. A place for good times and good music.

It’s a local legend, yet a place well-known throughout the South. A place that northerners in the condos as vacationers or snowbirds came to know. The place actually straddling the Florida-Alabama state line – although it is mainly in Florida. A place that was a very short walk from where we stayed in January.

There it is – A place displaying a weathered look while sitting along the beach since 1964. A weathered look of normal wear and tear that beach side brings, plus the occasional hammering by storms and hurricanes.

The Flora-Bama -a colorful place with a colorful past that includes a long list of colorful characters.

The Flora-Bama – a place featuring music seven days a week by local and regional musicians songwriters. Some who made it to the national stage of hits and awards while others maintain their local craft.

The Flora-Bama – with its more than eclectic collection of artifacts adorning its walls and ceilings – plus walls with names of patrons written in permanent markers – let alone the framed signed pictures of visitors and performers – and yes, even there is even more to see.

The Flora-Bama – an institution to many, no wonder country music star Kenny Chesney wrote a song about it. No wonder he performed his only concert of 2014 along its beach to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Before I tell you more in another post, I’ll let his lyrics and his music video introduce you to this slice of Americana – the place its documentary called The Last Great American Roadhouse. Welcome to the Flora-Bama Lounge Oyster Bar and Package Store.

On Alabama Tidbits

Although I’ve been to the state of Alabama before, staying a month allows ample learning opportunities. I present tidbits you may not know about the state of Alabama.

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1) These people are football crazy! During the month and no matter the day of the week, the newspaper’s Sports section features college football – even weeks after the season is over. Ohio is enthusiastic about football. Texas thinks they invented the game – but Alabamians are just bonkers over football.

2) Grapefruits and oranges in the store were of pathetic quality. I get better tasting citrus in Ohio. Being close to Florida, one would think the quality would be better. After all, Florida thinks they invented grapefruits. Why we couldn’t find pink grapefruits from Texas is beyond me.

3) We stayed in Orange Beach – where sales tax is 10% on everything!

4) The Alabama coast is only 100 miles (160 km) – but the beaches are very good.

5) Restaurant menus offer many fried foods – they may be willing to fry anything.

6) Politically, Alabamians are very conservative, therefore all troubles can be traced back to presidents who were Democrats – especially Obama and Clinton.

7) Alabama is home for manufacturing/assembly plants for Toyota, Airbus, Honda, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz.

8) Alabama is home to the first Mardi Gras in the U.S. (Mobile).

Image from Tennessee’s Boll Weevil Eradication Program

Image from Tennessee’s Boll Weevil Eradication Program

9) The Atlas rocket that launched astronauts to the moon was built in Alabama (Huntsville).

10) Alabama is home to the monument honoring an agricultural pest – the Boll Weevil (Enterprise).

11) Alabamians described President Trump’s inaugural address as uplifting, refreshing, unifying, powerful, great, and amazing.

12) Alabama has the longest Constitution in the world: over 300,000 words and 775 amendments.

13) Alabama is the only state naturally possessing all the raw materials for steel. No wonder a statue of Vulcan sits on a hilltop above Birmingham.

14) I’ve never seen so many billboards advertizing attorneys – and the number of TV commercials for attorneys is very high. I saw this commercial 10 times in 45 minutes – while wondering about the content. Any thoughts?

On a Month Without

For us, January 2017 started with change questions. What would a month be like without ballroom dance, without handbells, without volunteering, without our friends, and without our normal routine?

Jan 1: We left Cincinnati on a cool, foggy morning for a day of driving, which included a light rain that occasionally became more – but not a constant rain. We noted the slow increase in the temperature.

Jan 2: The final 4.5 hour drive, again with intermittent rains of varying strength. Dry at the time of arrival, but the view of the surf while unpacking told a different story – the dangers of a nearby tornado – so down to the lower lobby we went. The evening storms off the coast provided an extraordinary light show that was worth watching – but the next morning would be a positive omen.

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Jan 3-5: Cool but comfortable days. Sometimes shorts, sometimes jeans, but always long sleeves and usually a jacket. Good enough to find our routine of breakfast, lounge, walk, lounge, lunch, lounge, walk, lounge, shower, dinner, cards/television, and sleep.

Jan 6: A stormy day that also brought falling temperatures – a good day for a movie (La La Land).

Jan 7-9: The northerly winds delivered quite the chill, yet no matter how cold, it was warmer than home. Walkable days, but shorter distances.

Jan 10-19: After the initial transition day, a string of days of sunshine and 15-20 degrees F (13-24 C) above normal. Perfect days to continue the routine. Days that would treat us to glorious sunrises, colorful sunsets, and brilliant nightly moons.

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Jan 20-21: Although temperatures remained above normal, unstable air delivered an angry sea and occasional storms – even tornado watches and warning severe enough to interrupt normal television. Good days for movies (Hidden Figures and The Founder).

Jan 22-25: The normal routine returns as storms are gone, but the above normal temperatures remain. It’s been quite a streak of warmth.

Jan 26-27: Normal temperatures finally arrive – 60 F (15 C) by day – 40 (4 C) at night. The breezes are cool. Sweatshirts and jackets are the order of the day. Some people in shorts, others not.

Jan 28-29: Noticing the temperature decrease during our return drive home – a home not along the sand and waves, but one of wonderful sunsets when the sky is right. Home – the permanent one, not the temporary. A home with colder temperatures and light snow in the air. Home – the place (while we were gone) that had 1 sunny day, 6 partly sunny/party cloudy days, and only 7 precipitation-free days in January (although overall temperatures were above normal). Home – the place for ballroom dance, handbells, volunteering, friends, and normal routines – just not the routine of January 2017.

That was our January in Orange Beach, Alabama. A time when we had a different routine – one of first-time snowbirds. A time when I drafted over 20 posts the old-fashioned way – on paper – so I now face the daunting task of getting them ready.

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On Recent Time Away

sunsetI’ve been on the move for the past 10 days; most of which was on a family vacation. Good news is I was able to keep up with posts; bad news being that I couldn’t keep up reading and commenting on my favorite sites. Besides returning to a lot to do, I’ve must also backtrack to many of your posts.

This was a family gathering of adults: 3 in our 50s and 3 in their 70s. We gathered where my in-laws spend January through mid-March: Cribe Resort in Orange Beach, Alabama. Here are some random tidbits of my time way.

windyVisit the Cribe’s site if you’re interested in the northern gulf-coast region. This area provides fall-like weather this time of year, but hey, still better than in Ohio. The first weekend involved some strong, chilling winds from the north to create havoc. Then each day was a gradual improvement from the previous.

As a group we like to play a mindless card game called golf. Interestingly, three different people won the third three games on three consecutive nights while sitting in the same chair … and I wasn’t one of the three … but my win broke the streak!

florabamaHave you ever been to a bar that sells T-shirts describing itself as the Ultimate Dive? If so, you’ve been to the Flora-Bama Lounge. If not, the Flora-Bama is one of the unique places in Americana. It’s beyond description and can only be believed through experience.

While on a boat to view dolphins, I did get this interesting shot.dolphins