Current temperature 36 F Partly clear and the high to day up to a balmy 53!
I guess 53F is a lot better than 43F which was the high temperature here yesterday. With rain. No sun, not a speck of sunshine. We are leaving today and heading east toward St Joe Peninsula State Park….I think we need to follow the rain. Weatherunderground says that by Sunday the rainy weather will have passed this part of the Emerald Coast with sunshine predicted in Destin and clouds and rain for points farther east.
I guess this is the most frustrating part of traveling with reservations, we just don’t have a lot of flexibility to follow the weather. The whole plan would fall like a stack of dominoes if we decided to try to go somewhere warm and sunny right now. The other problem, of course, is that there isn’t much warm and sunny in this half of the country and we would have to go a couple of thousand miles west. And by the time we got there, Winter Storm Orion might be doing some damage as well even out west.
Right now, Oregon is experiencing some severe winter weather on the west side of the mountains, and I am quite happy to be down here, relatively warm, not shoveling snow and slipping on icy roads. I will not complain one bit more about the cold weather here in Florida. I also know that if I could just get a little bit father south the predictions are for highs in the 80’s at Marathon Key. I need a Star Trek transporter to get us there before some weird weather thing turns it all cold again.
With Florida beaches off limits to dogs, we took Abby to the Four Paws doggy day care for our day on the beach. I would say that was a fairly loosely run business, but we saw where Abby was to spend the day, and it seemed clean enough. There was no outdoor space, but the owner said he walked the dogs every two hours or so. The hours are a bit limited and we had to return by 4PM to pick her up.
On a side note, I would highly recommend reading ALL the reviews for boarding facilities. A kennel recommended by the desk staff at the campground had some rather scary reviews. The kennel owner is threatening to sue the reviewers for slander, but a local vet confirmed that a small dog died from injuries sustained at the facility by a larger dog. If there are terrible reviews and then a bunch of glowing reviews with a later date, pay attention, those later reviews are probably fake.
We started our dog free morning with pastries and coffee at “The Donut Hole”, recommended by several bloggers and a recent commenter on our blog. Thanks, that was a good choice. The coffee was strong, the pastries superb, and the restaurant gave us a place to prepare for venturing out into the cold rain.
I wanted most of all to see Grayton Beach State Park, and had no problem paying the $5. entry fee to explore the campground, check out the dune lakes, and the famous white sands of the beach. Even with the gloomy skies, the pastel turquoise colors of the water and the pure white sands were wonderful.
We walked as long as we could manage in the cold. Even with a yellow flag out, for moderate conditions, the breezes made the 43 degree temperatures bone chilling. Still, I had to put my feet in that crystalline water. The Gulf was doing that gentle Gulf thing that I love, with soft, little waves…can I even call them waves?….lapping the shore and the dark clouds reflecting in the still water. I kept imagining how incredible it would feel to have my kayak out there on the wilderness of silky turquoise water and gray sky in all directions.
From Grayton Beach, there are some tall Florida condominiums visible in the distance, but nothing invasive. The State Park itself is definitely a place to camp for us, with several sites with paths leading directly to the dune lake and plenty of privacy. The newer part of the campground has 50 amp hookups and larger sites, but they are unprotected and open. We liked the older part better, nice thing about having a 30 amp, 26 foot rig.
After freezing at the beach, we jumped back in the Tracker turning the heat on full blast to try to dry out my jeans. Even with the cuffs rolled up I managed to get all wet. Continuing east on 30A, we traveled the short mile and a half from the park to the little storybook town of Seaside, Florida. Years ago, watching the movie “The Truman Show”, I fell in love with this town, as did many other people. Looking it up, I learned it was a planned community, one of the first that used the new Urban Design concept of creating a living space that was pedestrian friendly, with common areas, concentrated housing of varying sizes and types, and the ability to work and play and live all without having to use a car.
I don’t think many people who work in Seaside actually live there, since many of the houses now go for millions. It was still very cold, and by the time we got to Seaside it was also raining. The lovely town square was in the midst of major reconstruction and not quite lovely at this time. One of the local food wagon vendors told us they had trouble with drainage and the square was being redesigned to handle runoff more efficiently. He said it would be gorgeous again by March.
I had Mo take the obligatory photo of me at the tiny post office and then we walked the square a bit.
A store with proclaimed cottage style was rather elegant. I kept picturing all that fancy elegant cottage stuff in our real cottage back in Oregon. Maybe not, but it was luscious to look at, with linen woven slipcovers, big bowls of coffee beans on distressed wood tables, and beautiful linen napkins at $20. a piece. Let’s see…dinner for six and $120. for napkins? I love luxury and good quality, but this was even more than I would do.
The famous Modica Market was a nice stop, with tall shelves of everything imaginable that required library style ladders to stock. Again, even with a small bin of organic produce, this wasn’t exactly your weekly grocery shopping spot. The Seaside Transit Authority tent was worth a double take, however, with bicycles instead of busses as the city transportation system.
Still raining, I convinced Mo to walk at least a couple of blocks through the residential areas, with their white picket fences and porches bigger than my house. Just a short way down the block, we found a public pathway, a truly amazing little treat, that led between back yards, much like an alley, but not for cars. The path led to the main road where we got back in the car, grateful again for warmth.
It seems that March is the beginning of “the season” in Seaside, and many of the charming little boutiques on the beach side of the town square were still closed. Lucky for me, Pickles was open, and I managed an order of fried pickles…something I never tried before but sounded like fun. They were. I can see that Seaside could be a great place to visit on a warm sunny day on a bicycle. With a great bike trail between the town and the state park to the west, the perfect combination of quiet kayaking, beautiful beach, and cute busy town accessible by bike is pretty darn inviting. But not today in the cold rain.
Traveling back 20 miles or so to Destin, we found a WalMart…a tiny version of most WalMarts, hoping for some shelf liner, some propane, and some TUMS. Eating out so much isn’t that good for my tummy. I needed to be armed for the last dog free adventure of the day, hot Irish coffee at McGuire’s Irish Pub back in Destin. I have seen photos of this place on so many blogs recently, and read about how great it is for so long that I decided it was worth a try.
We weren’t disappointed, and Mo finally got fish and chips the way she has been wanting it for a month now. None of that greasy, thick doughy breading, but a nice light crispy coating on flaky light fish. I tried the rueben egg roll appetizers and they were great! McGuire’s is also a small craft brewery, and when I asked if any of their beer was bottled, the head brewmaster came over to our table to have a long conversation about crafted beer. I gave the rest of my Irish coffee to Mo and ordered a Millennial. Excellent beer, not too hoppy, but rich and creamy. In Florida, they do sell growlers of tap beer, but a growler is a gallon! Hard to fit that in a motorhome fridge, so I passed. It would take me a long time to drink a gallon of beer!
It is very nearly impossible to get a photo of the interior of McGuire’s, since the place is mainly lit with dim red lights. The walls and ceiling are covered with dollar bills, all signed and named by folks who have visited. They call it the million dollar ceiling. I remember a ceiling like this along Interstate 90 west of Missoula, Montana somewhere near St Regis, but for the life of me can’t remember the name of the place. Then there was the great little trailer coffee shop on the dirt road track the the Denali Highway in Alaska…covered in dollar bills with pies that were $36 each. That dollar bill ceiling thing isn’t all that uncommon.
When we picked up Abby, she seemed happy and unstressed, so I assume her day was OK. Ours was OK as well, in spite of the rain and cold, and as I fell asleep last night I kept remembering the color of the water, not how cold my hands and feet were while walking on the beach.