We Have Reached Peak Beach

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Actually now that I think of it, maybe we haven’t.  Images of a planet’s worth of stunning beaches leapt to mind as soon as I typed that title, and I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t ever tire of them.  But for this experience, this year… maybe.  I had wanted to find an East Coast competitor to our experiences in Carpinteria (Santa Barbara) and Coronado (San Diego), and I’m pretty sure our beachfront site in Miramar Beach, just east of Destin, FL, fit the bill.

There don’t appear to be many places on the Gulf Coast where you can RV camp right on the beach.  In fact even at this campground, a good 90% of it is shoehorned into the narrow quarter mile between the beachfront and the road; the 10 or so sites on the sand represent the entire width of the campground’s footprint, while there are probably a hundred more sites inland of where we had booked.  Obviously in a situation like that you’re gonna pay for it.  But I figured this was it for the year – we had so much enjoyed our month creeping down the Oregon / California coasts last October, and looking ahead, there weren’t any more sandy destinations on the agenda.  So yeah, we went for it.

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Only a few things to write here, as the pictures speak for themselves I think.

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The weather did cooperate, in that it improved during our entire 3 day/ 2 night stay.  By our departure it was absolutely perfect.  Reading between the lines you might surmise that it wasn’t exactly perfect when we arrived, and you would be correct.  A bit cloudy and enough wind that setting up The Clam was impossible, even when staked.  It did make for some small waves though, which played into Firebolt’s new hobby – Boogie Boarding!

If you remember, she had been reticent about even getting in the ocean last go around, preferring to set herself up with a beach chair and a good book.  While she’s no less voracious a reader now, she has developed a distinct adventurous streak over the past month or two that had previously not shown itself, which we love.  She was the first to grab the Boogie Board and see what sort of wave trouble she could get herself into, and though it was a choppy mess, she did a bang-up job putting herself into a few waves and riding them to shore.

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One thing that became clear pretty quickly is that this is Alabama’s beach.  Florida owns it, yes, but the big Florida cities are down south in the main part of the state, and if you travel due south from any Alabama city, you’re going to end up somewhere on this stretch of shoreline.  The vast majority of the license plates we saw backed this up.  Lucky them – it’s gorgeous!

Alabama beach culture differs from California beach culture fairly significantly, in ways that I’ll leave to mostly to the imagination.  But suffice it to say there were no scenes of hoodie-clad thirty and forty-somethings sitting in around a low beach table, shucking fresh oysters and sipping from multiple bottles of Sauvignon Blanc that they pulled, along with the wine glasses, from their mini-cooler.  No judgment here (though I’m not at all shy about stating a preference for which scene I’d rather be a part of), it’s just different.  Haven’t yet worked out why you would cut the sleeves off of your perfectly good T-shirt yet.  Better farmer’s tan maybe?  Better than mine at least.  And lots of Bud Light.  Which I’ve been trying to get my head around for a while, as I’m clearly in the minority in not wanting to waste any of my limited beer drinking on it.  I get it – it’s me, not everyone else.  Still though, the best I can come up with is that it’s sort of a hybrid between beer and sparkling water, in that it satisfies the carbonation itch, keeps you reasonably well-hydrated if you drink it throughout the day, and gives you the faint taste of beer and maybe a slight heady buzz if you have enough of it before you get full.  And honestly, it’s probably the same price as sparkling water (or soda) would be if you shop well, so I guess the trade off is having to down all those calories vs getting to be pleasantly light-headed.  Certainly better than soda, where you’d get twice the calories and no happy feeling at all…  Makes more sense when I look at it that way!

Here’s something I discovered.  Quick background, before I meander to my discovery — if you grow up in Southern California, at some point in your life, if not several points, you’re required to utter some variation of the following line: “I could never live far from the beach.  Ever.”  You’re also required to mean it.

I faithfully executed my Southern California duties several times in my late teens and early twenties.  But things evolved.  I wouldn’t say that moving up to Northern California changed my view entirely, as its beaches are stunning.  But they also tend to be remote, chilly in comparison to their neighbors to the south, and most importantly, they’re really not The Main Thing up there.  At all.  And I found myself surprisingly OK with that.  Fast forward to living in the San Juan Islands in Washington state for 15+ years and The Netherlands for 3 – both near beaches, which I did still enjoy on occasion, but what I gradually realized was that it was water I was interested in living near, and that lakes and rivers (and in The Netherlands’ case, canals), as long as they were clean enough to play in, could scratch that itch even more thoroughly than could the ocean.  So I changed my tune.  I would smile and nod knowingly when fellow Southern California folks would say the line, but then I would tell them what I had discovered about my own preferences and I’d watch them unconvincingly try to contort their face into a reciprocal knowing nod.  Or they’d just say “Dude.  Sorry, but you’re crazy.”

What happened this week in Florida was that I found myself entirely in my element while watching the rest of my family be somewhat less so.  Each morning I would make my cup of coffee and go sit with my feet dug into the sand.

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I inflated one of the kayaks and tried to get a partner in crime to join me in a long paddle up the beach.  No takers, so I went solo for just about an hour.  At one point I spotted a school of dolphins swimming toward me and positioned myself right in front of them in hopes that they’d want to “play” a bit.  I didn’t quite get that, but I was thrilled to watch them submerge a few feet before reaching me and then swim right underneath me before resurfacing a few feet away and moving on.

I swam every morning (and usually late afternoon / evening) as well, making sure to go out far enough that I couldn’t touch the bottom so that I could get a little full-body exercise.  It felt great.  Better than great.  Primal.  Vital.  I remembered that I felt the same last October after having swum in the ocean most days that month.

So I’m circling back a little (and this was my discovery) — maybe there’s something far deeper to that Southern California sentiment…

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That is not to say that we’ll now be moving to the beach.  There’s the price of course.  But more than that, as I mentioned, I seem to be the only family member with this connection to the ocean – the rest enjoy it but get “beached out” pretty quickly.

It was an interesting discovery though, and may lead to an annual beach vacation from Bend or, why not, maybe two or three.

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures, as really our activities were few.

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This is pretty much all we did, and it was glorious.

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