The road trip is winding down.
Our trip started at 4 a.m. last Wednesday, July 4th, as we headed south towards Gulf Shores, Alabama. We watched the sun rise over southern Illinois, heard a different version of the “southern accent” each time we stopped for gas, food, or a stretch, and made it to the Gulf of Mexico with plenty of daylight to spare. Gulf Shores is a spectacular destination for anyone who wants to get to a legit beach vacation spot in less than a day by car (from the St. Louis area, anyway). Certainly many of the most exotic beach locales on the planet are easily reachable in just a few hours by plane. But if flying isn’t an option for whatever reason—or if the prospect of a road trip is just more appealing—you could do a lot worse with under 12 hours on the road than Gulf Shores.
Two things immediately come to mind: First, the food is outstanding…especially if you enjoy seafood. Thursday evening at a place called Oceans, I had a piece of grilled grouper that was so good I didn’t know if I wanted to eat it or make out with it. I am a seafood fiend, and this may have been the best piece of fish I’ve ever had in my life. Other highlights included the tuna dip and Mahi tacos at LuLu’s, the gumbo and etouffee at DeSoto’s, and the bacon-wrapped shrimp (as well as the steaks) at Nolan’s. Honestly, we probably could have stayed two weeks, hitting a different local place for lunch and dinner each day, and not made it to every one. The other great thing about Gulf Shores is, of course, the coast. The beach is white sand and the water is calm and warm. We could have found plenty of activities to keep us busy—golf, deep sea fishing, museums, exploring, etc. etc.—but all we really wanted to do was relax on the beach for a few days. Mission accomplished. Some may not find appeal in that type of vacation, and that’s fine. But when I’m laying on a beach chair reading a book with the breeze off the water hitting my face, or standing in the salty, waist-deep gulf while the just-right sized waves break over me, well—for my money, there’s no better therapy on Earth.
We decided to break up the trip home, so we left Gulf Shores Sunday and stopped in Tunica, MS for a couple nights’ stay at Harrah’s. We may hit the casino, or we may just stay in the room and drink beer all day. Regardless, we head home tomorrow and back to the daily grind on Wednesday.
People sometimes talk about “recharging the batteries” on a vacation. Being someone who doesn’t normally let stress overwhelm, I’m not sure I ever really knew what that meant before this week…but I definitely understand it now. Relaxing, sleeping in, not stressing over alarm clocks and deadlines and job duties and housework—all have been well overdue. That’s tough to see when you’re in the thick of it. But from the outside, the picture is much clearer.