Last month I wrote about seeing a therapist for the first time because I felt unusually sad, and the feeling was lasting longer than I cared for it to. I also wasn’t sleeping well, and the interesting thing is that a year ago, I wasn’t sleeping well either. (I know, because I had documented it in my journal.)
I wondered if there really was something to this SAD-thing–seasonal affective disorder. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about; I bet I’m not the only one who starts feeling down come mid-winter. I’d even be willing to bet that it reaches untold epidemic proportions.
One thing that’s always pulled me out of a funk like that is having something to look forward to. So when Dave suggested I plan a trip, I knew immediately where I wanted to go: the beach. It was January, after all.
I wanted to go to Florida’s Panhandle, a place we called “home” at one point. It’s the closest beach coast to Kentucky, anyway. There was so much of it we hadn’t explored when we lived here in the mid-80s, not to mention that things have changed a lot since then.
February/March is typically Mardi Gras-time along the Gulf Coast. Plus spring break. So, making reservations was challenging, to say the least. I used the National Park Service and Florida State Parks websites to plan the Florida-part of the trip; we’d play getting there and back by ear
Three nights was the most I was able to reserve at the Gulf Islands National Seashore at the western tip of Pensacola Beach. This is a stone’s throw from Gulf Breeze, where we lived when our now-adult kids had just started going to school.
An annual pass to the National Parks sliced the cost of our stay in half, to $39 for three nights starting Tuesday. Our site had 30/50 amp electricity and water, and was paved. We were steps away from a path to the beach.
Besides miles of pristine, sugar-white beach laced with shells, there was Fort Pickens, which was fun to explore even if you’re not a military history buff.
We’ve seen sunset at the beach every night we’ve been here. I never tire of them…how could I when each one is a different spectacle?
I’d never heard of where I made reservations next, Grayton Beach State Park, only that it was midway between Destin and Panama City. Were we beyond pleasantly surprised! Our site is not only wide, level, nicely graveled and comes complete with a fire ring, picnic table, and clothesline…it has ‘full hook-ups,’ meaning we have sewer, meaning I can do laundry. Ours was piling up, so I was happy. Our site costs $30/night, and we’re here until Monday. So, $90 for a weekend on Florida’s “Emerald Coast.”
Though you wouldn’t know it because of its seclusion, GPS pinpoints our location to be just west of Seaside, one of the (too) many trendy beachside communities that have popped up along beach highway 30A. For $800,000, you can get a fixer-upper condo. We made the mistake of turning right instead of left out of the park on Saturday and got all caught up in the traffic that is probably there on a continual basis, given how closely together the houses are built. It was terrible. And to think that some people pay big bucks for this.
Back in Grayton Beach, we played tourists for a couple hours, eating lunch at a place suggested by the park ranger, Chanticleer Eatery. She said to go for the cookies, but I say go for the shrimp and grits. I have no idea how much cheese was used in the recipe, but it was fabulous and I ate every single bit. Licking the plate would have been rude, but the thought did cross my mind. Kudos to our Mississippi-friend, George Eyrich (who definitely knew how to cook) who used to say about recipes calling for loads of cheese/butter/cream, “Relax! Just don’t eat this every day.”
Though we thought it might be fun to go to Destin to see the Mardi Gras parades, the thought of bumper to bumper traffic wasn’t appealing. And that was given, since there’s only one way there and back, Highway 98.
There was a time when I didn’t mind being in the thick of crowds, but it just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. For all the beauty and tranquility that is the beach, I know that this too shall pass, and soon throngs of visitors will descend here. In the six days we’ve been in Florida, not once have I wished to live here again, though the weather and abundance of seafood are great temptations. If Saturday’s unexpected foray through the Seaside community was any indication, claustrophobia would certainly consume me within days.
It occurred to me on this trip that, at one time or another in the 38 years we’ve been married, we’ve lived in places that are really expensive today: Key West, San Diego, Washington, DC, Gulf Breeze and North Palm Beach, FL. Even when we lived on a boat, diesel and dockage were somewhat reasonable, whereas I doubt we could afford to do it today. It made me feel very grateful and appreciative for the opportunities to see and experience so much.
I’m glad we took chances over the years. As crazy as some of them were, we always figured that things would end up alright. Today we’re packing up and heading eastward to Mexico Beach, on the other side of Panama City. We’ve never been there, either. We’ve probably seen it at a distance when we passed by on the boat making our way to D.C. by way of the Intracoastal Waterway, but you miss so much when you can’t get close enough to shore to see anything. I love being in old Florida again.