Our yearly trip to Gulf Shores happened this month after taking a year off for Covid precautions. That area was hit almost directly by Hurricane Sally last year and had lots of other flooding events during the tropical storm season. For the most part, they had bounced back but there were still clear areas of property damage especially along the Little Lagoon area where piers were washed away in the surge. For the most part, it seemed that our typical haunts had survived both Covid and the hurricane season.
This year our party totaled 11 with the Brent and Suzanne and their boys, Todd and Huy, and P.J. and Amy. We stayed in a house called Cheers on the Little Lagoon side at 2408 W Beach Blvd. This was one of the best houses we’ve stayed in with a huge open floorplan in the living and kitchen areas and patios on both sides of the house. They had rebuilt the pier on the lagoon so fishing was pretty good there. The house also included kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and bikes.
We left Plano June 4th at about 10:15 and drove to Slidell, LA with a brief stop in Rapides Parish LA at about the halfway point for an Arby’s lunch ($17.89). We arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Slidell at 6:30 ($125). After unpacking just the suitcases out of the totally full truck, we hung out in the hotel for the evening. Dinner was from Olive Garden across the street.
Saturday morning, we got started around 10 AM but had to stop at Sam’s for supplies and gas ($2.57/gal, $68.82). Turning east, we drove to Lulu’s on the Intercoastal waterway in Gulf Shores which is our traditional beginning of the vacation there. Wobbles was really hoping to do the ropes course but had to be 42 inches tall unfortunately. This brought up the Pete the Cat episode where Sally can’t ride anything fun. It also brought up Papa telling her that if she ate her vegetables and tried new foods, maybe next year she’d be tall enough. I’ve turned into my grandmother.
We checked into the house at 4 PM. 11 people for a week is an event and much lifting, organizing and unpacking takes place. The back of the truck was totally packed though a portion of that was a massive non-folding crab trap I had purchased. After all that was done, I ran back into town to Rouse’s for birthday cake supplies for the early birthday party we were planning for Wobbles along with a few other essential sundry items like licorice and shaving cream ($43.98 total). I also ran in Al’s which is my usual stop for cigars ($44.37) for the beach. I got a Romeo y Julieta, Macanudo 1968 Church, Flor de la Antillas, and an Artero Fuente Rothschild. The Artero was the worst of the bunch and the Macanudo was the best. Also went to the Hooked up bait shop for frozen shrimp and some tackle that I didn’t have ($31.67).
The first part of the week had quite a bit of rain but nothing that kept us off the beach or out of the pool. Wednesday onward was typical early summer weather with humid heat and some wind. The beach this year had more seaweed than any year I remember. Large floating patches of brown kelp floated on the surface of the Gulf until they the were broken up in the surf and sent shoreward. Under the water, smaller thicker green seaweed was prominent most days which made shelling pretty difficult. The surf was stronger this year as well or perhaps my swimming was weaker. Overall, I spent very little time under the water.
One thing I definitely recommend should anyone else make a trip of this nature to Gulf Shores is to pay one of the local companies to put up a canopy or umbrellas plus chairs for you on the beach. In younger years, it might be amusing and certainly fodder for hilarious tales of sunburns and disaster to put up your own pop up canopy and drag folding chairs over from your house. However, regardless of my personal illusions, I am no longer young and it is worth and extra $100-200 to help the local economy so that I can have less struggles on vacation.
Wobbles loved the beach this year. Not going last year meant this was the first year where she had developed enough to enjoy the waves and the splashing and the fun of the beach. She lived in her water wing life vest and we spent hours swimming, digging for clams and boogie boarding on the boys borrowed boogie boards. Next year, we’ll need to buy our own boogie board before going (one more thing to pack). She also rapidly progressed in swimming with the pool in the back yard. Mornings and early afternoons were spent on the beach but then late afternoons were almost always in the pool. She overcame her fear of jumping in and with the life vest, swam all around the pool when people were in it.
One of the traditions of this trip is that every couple takes a turn making dinner. This keeps us from having to fight the insanity of restaurant crowds at night and eases the burdens of lunch as there is always far too much food left over. This year, B&S bought too much grouper and we ended up making the remainder for our night. I used a recipe from the Gulf Coast Fish cookbook for pan fried grouper and it turned out great. We served asparagus and pasta with it. All the meals this year were top notch and ranged from meatball subs by the boys to a massive crab and shrimp boil by P&A. B&S made their excellent grouper sandwiches and T&H made an excellent fried chicken.
Some years, we rent a boat and spend on day on Wolf Bay along with a trip to Pirate’s Cove. This year, the jury was out on that and we ended up not doing it. We did drive over to Pirate’s Cove on Wednesday morning for lunch which turned out to be just about right. Wobbles got to spend a little time with another little girl building sand castles. We bought our only souvenirs of the trip, a t-shirt for the family ($75).
Friday was maybe the best day of the trip which isn’t typical. Often, the stress of packing back up and a long week in a house with other practices, norms and schedules can make Friday difficult. But this year, it was totally relaxed. We spent the entire day at the beach. Todd unpacked the kite that we had bought and the weather was perfect for a beautiful rainbow kite flying above our canopy. Mary Poppins was on to something with that. Even after Wobbles was done and went in for lunch, I sat in the chair flying and watching it. Afterwards, we spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool. People came and went but Wobbles swam the whole time. Packing started around 5 and was done before sunset. We ate leftovers and then everyone went to the beach for some ghost crabbing with the lanterns T&H gave us. The surf was much calmer at night and tide was very low. This trip coincided with the new moon so not sure how much that had to do with it. But we saw large crabs and even learned how to dig up sand fleas which was exciting for everyone. In the future, I’d like to go over at least one evening for some fishing on the beach. The pompano were supposed to be running but just never made it over there. The low tide would have made it easy to get out to the slightly deeper water.
Saturday marked a 12 hour marathon back home. Perhaps next year, we’ll break this into two legs though it is nice having Sunday to totally decompress. The drive is about 10 and a half hours but by the time you make 2-3 stops, it’s always 12 for us. It’s a long time to spend in the car.
Overall, this was one of the best trips. We had a lot of fun and Wobbles is now old enough to really enjoy the experience. She interacts well with all the adults and the boys are friendly with her. I do wish there was one younger kid for her to play with but maybe in future years, she can bring a friend from home. Overall for the full week, we spent between $2300-2500. Given what it would take to fly somewhere and rent a hotel or take any other kind of vacation, I always find this a real value. This is one of my favorite yearly traditions and I’m thankful we have been included in it since 2014 or so. We’ve already booked our house for next year and I’ve spent some moments in meetings recently day dreaming about being back on the beach.