It has been a crazy week. We arrived at The Wharf in Orange Beach, AL last Monday and just decided to delay a week here with lots to do. It is a beautiful location with lots of shops and restaurants, and they had some nice Christmas decorations out for us also. Notice the ferris wheel to the left.
We parked the boats and headed to Lake Charles the next morning to move some cars. Let me just say that cars are an aggravation when traveling by boat - there is just no easy way to move them. We considered selling both of them before leaving Galveston but decided we would need at least one for our planned extended stay in JAX and we ended up just keeping both of them. So, we had to deal with them before we got much farther away which would make it even more inconvenient.
Clint and Linda rented a car in Orange Beach and dropped us off in LCH to get our two vehicles that had already been moved to that point and they continued on to Harborwalk to pick up one of theirs and head to their home in Sulphur Springs, TX for Thanksgiving, dropping the rental car off in Houston. That turned out to be about a 750-mile round trip for us in one day and we were very tired. Our plan then was to drive our vehicles the next morning to Jacksonville, FL to spend Thanksgiving with Rhonda's family, leave our car there for when we get to JAX in a couple of months, and return to The Wharf in the truck. The company our son Scott flies for makes pretty regular trips to Gulf Shores (next door to Orange Beach for you non-Alabamians), and his girlfriend Rachel would drive our truck back to our home in north AL the next time an empty seat was available on the plane headed to Gulf Shores. Oh, I wish the story was as simple as above.
We were already tired but got up early the next morning to get on the road hoping to beat most of the day-before-Thanksgiving traffic. As I am pulling out of the parking lot, I delay at the gate for it to open. It swings toward you going out and then toward the sides. I decided to move toward the middle of the exit to be sure and miss the gate, now on my right. Unfortunately with the early morning sun right in my face, I did not see the steel post in the middle of the exit and proceeded to hit it with the left fender of the truck. Honest to goodness, I still had my foot on the brake and barely touched the thing, but it bent the fender up against the tire, damaged the front grill, broke a light, and put a nice wrinkle in the hood. So much for getting ahead of the traffic.
The truck was not driveable and our insurance folks back home don't open until 9 AM, so we pretty much decided to forget travel that day and just deal with the insurance stuff. Cathy with State Farm was wonderful - got the tow truck moving our way, made plans with one of their pre-approved body shops in Foley (next door to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach for you non-Alabamians), and also set us up a rental car in Foley. That went pretty smooth but it still takes hours to get it all done. So, we ended up traveling on Thanksgiving day and arrived in JAX a little before the turkey came off the grill. We had a very nice meal with Rhonda's parents and her sister's family. Her sister's husband's parents also joined us - the Nettunos. One thing you can always count on when visiting the Minshews (Rhonda's maiden name) - they are all darn good cooks, and they don't just cook on special occasions, i.e. I am a well-fed man! We always play a round of dominoes with our niece Casey and nephew Trey so that was next after dinner. Brother-in-law Tony also joined us.
The day after Thanksgiving I spent some time checking out marina locations in JAX - we plan to spend a couple of months there early next year. Rhonda spent the day visiting with her family and we went out to dinner with her parents at a really good pizza spot in JAX beach, Mellow Mushrooms. Rhonda's sister, Kelly, was really sweet and made 2 pecan pies just for us (she didn't think the first one turned out so well but we thought it was great). We left on Saturday and had an uneventful trip back to The Wharf, except for trying to get a head start on those pecan pies while moving down the highway!
As I've noted previously, we always enjoy visiting churches wherever we find ourselves on a Sunday while on the boat. Usually we have to walk or get a ride but this one was easy since we still had the rental car. We went to FBC of Orange Beach. What a friendly bunch! It was a little funny - after the typical "Hello how are you, glad to have you, I'm ______," everyone of them then asked, without missing a beat and using the exact three words almost like a rehearsed line - "Where y'all from?" Rhonda sneezed once and about 50 people said "God Bless You" in unison. Again, what a nice group of people.
After church and while we still had the rental car, we decided to reprovision at Lowes and WalMart. Then we checked out new possibilities for our phone, IPAD, and WIFI service. We have 2 regular phones that are past the 2-year agreement period, an IPAD with a monthly data charge, and our laptop that we normally just use when WIFI is available at our marina stops. So far, the WIFI service has been intermittent, generally unreliable, and at the least - aggravating to deal with. So, the short version is that we got a new smart phone that provides us with internet service and a 4G hotspot so we now have our own WIFI, and we increased our data plan from 1G to 2G, rolled the IPAD in with the smart phone, and got it all for the same money we were spending just on the old phones and the IPAD service. Now, if we can just learn to use this new smart phone (I'm using the hotspot now - pretty cool). As it turns out, it takes about as long to change your phone service as it does to have a wreck and deal with insurance, tow service, body shops, and rental cars!
With all the above going on, I haven't had as much time to plan as I normally take, so we are keeping it simple tomorrow - return the rental car and get moving again. Clint and Linda are not back yet so looks like we will be traveling by ourselves and they will be playing catch-up again later. We plan to make only about 20-25 miles tomorrow and enjoy a nice anchorage at Ft. McCrae, adjacent to the beach and close to Pensacola.
Thought I would close with some other shots from The Wharf. This heron seems to hang around a lot on the docks and doesn't get very nervous with all the people. I'm just a few feet away with this pic.
And a few night-time shots before we head eastbound again tomorrow. Gets me in the Christmas spirit.