Days 11 and 12 – Gulf of Mexico

Up early, lovely chat with the chef at the hotel (grew up in Japan, holidayed in Australia, worked in corporate America for twenty years and gave it up to cook – that’s a précis!) and away I go again heading into the morning sun as I cross the mouth of the mighty Mississippi with Lake Pontchartrain stretching away to my left. Stopping for petrol and a map, the guy at the counter tells me I don’t really need a map, just stay on 90, it will take me to Jacksonville FLA if I keep going, and I’ll pass long thirty miles of white sand beach.

He’s absolutely right… after a few major bridges (!) I’m on the coastline again and the road hugs the very edge of the beach for miles and miles. It is a glorious clear warm day, and there’s little traffic – I have the Forrest Gump soundtrack on the iPod and I’m singing!

I crossed into Mississippi not long after leaving N.O., and it only takes me an hour along the beach before I’m in Alabama, just before Mobile. The country is low and swampy, lots of pine forests,  there’s my first cotton field, but still lots of what appear to be holiday places. Fishing is a big thing here! Witness the Gulf’s largest purpose built fishing pier below…

Longest fishing pier on the Gulf! No commercial application, but you do pay to go on it even just for a walk. Busy spot!

I’ve decided to give myself another day off driving tomorrow, the weather is wonderful, my back aches, I’m close to a beach… Panama City Beach it is provided I like what I find when I get there. Eight hour drive from New Orleans, and it leaves me with about six hours to go to reach the East Coast – destination there now determined as Savannah, Georgia, I’ve booked my flight now.

Holiday homes along the GUlf Coast are all up on high stumps, lots of them look like Queenslanders like this one. The area is of course prone to hurricanes, there are evacuation route notices everywhere, no wonder, it's flat and marshy country.,

Reaching Pensacola, I take the Scenic Byway and drop south crossing a couple more huge bridges to reach the islands that hug the coast eastwards from here, thin, low, sandy islands that have only been developed as the holiday market grew. Toll road over there and another impressive bridge, but what a lovely playground it is, great family holiday destination and even in November there are quite a few people around.

Americans at play on the beach.

Continuing along the only road, it winds through Santa Rosa Island next which is a wildlife protection zone – the road is single lane through sand dunes (must be a devil of a job keeping it clear when its windy!) Turtles breed here, its really rather nice, no development in sight, not much traffic, ocean to the right all the way with occasional parking areas. The island gets narrower and narrower and eventually I am on a causeway type bridge back across to the mainland.

Lovely remote spot and perfect weather. As it turned out I was so lucky for the whole trip - there was a frontal system coming up over the Gulf that followed me all the way to Savannah so I caught the last of the nice weather for the season.

Lovely remote spot and perfect weather. As it turned out I was so lucky for the whole trip – there was a frontal system coming up over the Gulf that followed me all the way to Savannah so I caught the last of the nice weather for the season.

It’s an easy drive from here and after my customary stop at a McDonalds for a coffee and free WiFi check on destination and accommodation, I have found an older resort called Paradise Palms. It’s under renovation but right on the beach, I get a fourth floor room looking straight out over the water… so I call the front desk and book a second night – this will do fine!

I slept wonderfully with the sound of the waves, and woke to a glorious sunrise.

They call this coast the Emerald Coast, not hard to see why as the water is crystalline but with a greenish hue.

They call this coast the Emerald Coast, not hard to see why as the water is crystalline but with a greenish hue.

Bit breezy but still lovely, and especially nice being able to see the ocean from in the shower! Laundry is a must do today – the first machine eats my money and soap powder, but the second one works, off to get some breakfast while it does its job, back and hang it up in my room, and I’m off down the beach for a decent walk along to another fishing pier I have spotted. $1 to get on there for a walk, and it’s lined with fishermen where it goes over a deep gutter, the water here is full of bait fish and I see a few larger ones amongst them. Pelicans are there for breakfast and I watch them diving for ages… must be a different kind to our Aussie ones, they seem smaller and browner.

Lovely long morning walk down to and along this pier

Lovely long morning walk down to and along this pier

The water was an amazing colour

The water was an amazing colour

Making my way back I chat with a family on holiday from Minnesota and enjoying the warmth… they tell me they are expecting a brutal winter. Most of the people around are American tourists, many spend the winter here (“Snowbirds”). I met a lovely couple last week who live in Toronto six months of the year and Phoenix for the winters… very sensible!

Quick Walmart trip for some wine, and I’m very impressed by the range of Australian wines available and their price! The beer’s are great too….

Only Aussie one was Fosters... eeeugh

Only Aussie one was Fosters… eeeugh

Then it’s back down to make a little nest on the beach for the rest of the day…. ice-bucket and a bottle of Sav Blanc, iPod, Kindle…. the only interruption is when THIS bloke starts juggling near me! There is a pirate theme at the resort, they have a three story waterfall cascading off the side of the building into one of the pools, and this is entertainment for the kids. As there was only one child in sight, they chose me! All to promote themselves on FB. He was good though, sounded like Johnny Depp, and juggled like a demon.

Captain Jack

The afternoon cools quite quickly though and it’s back up to my balcony out of the wind to watch the sunset. Glorious. It’s been lovely to have a day at the beach, a bit of toastiness felt wonderful, and I’m ready for the final push across to the Atlantic tomorrow.

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