Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
January 17, 2017 - Florida Keys

Monday, March 31, 2014

Little Rock, Arkansas

Downtown Riverside RV Park, North Little Rock, Arkansas

Sunday greeted us with a fantastic sunrise for our last morning in the Memphis area.

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We took our time hooking up, and had an uneventful two hour drive to Little Rock, Arkansas. We’re staying at Downtown Riverside RV Park in North Little Rock. This park is city owned and sits right along the banks of the Arkansas River across from downtown Little Rock. Our full hook-up 50 amp pull-through site is $23.50 a night after the Good Sam discount. They have even cheaper sites that are back-in for Passport America members, but they were all gone when I called. They also have free wi-fi which works quite well. There is lots of traffic in and out of this park.

We have a very nice view out of our back window of the river and downtown. Sunday was a beautiful day and there were lots of pleasure boats on the water. I’ve also seen a few barges come by. There are several bridges that are lit up at night and make for a very pretty night time view. We’re second from the back of the picture in the pull-through sites.

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The Clinton Library is across a pedestrian bridge from our location. On Sunday while Kevin was enjoying some basketball on TV, I took a walk over to the library grounds. It is quite an impressive looking building right on the river with beautifully landscaped grounds.

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The public can visit for $7, but to be honest, we have no interest in doing so. I’ll admit I’m not very political, but I really can’t recall anything positive about Bill Clinton. All I remember is the blue dress incident and the “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” mess. In fact, it seems to me Hillary had more political influence during his presidency than he did.

I got a kick of the number of people sliding down these hills on large pieces of cardboard. I guess when you don’t have snow, this is what sledding looks like.

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I continued my walk along the riverfront area which includes parks, playgrounds, fitness areas, a walking and bike trail, an amphitheater and a farmer’s market. What an awesome job Little Rock has done with their downtown riverfront area. They had these beautiful planters along the street. I love tulips and pansies!

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There is a WWII submarine that can be toured, as well as a steamboat that cruises along the river.

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Today we visited Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. I didn’t really know what this was all about, but I have a National Parks Passport Book where you can get stamps for visiting National Parks and Historic Sites, so off we went to explore.

The Visitor Center had a very interesting movie explaining the story of the Little Rock Nine. In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that all schools in the country had to be integrated in Brown vs. Board of Education. States did pretty much nothing to comply. In September of 1957 nine black students attempted to enter Central High School in Little Rock.

Governor Faubus had the National Guard there to deny them entry. Federal District Court Judge Davies ordered the students to be allowed to attend the school. Federal troops had to be sent to escort and protect the students. These are the nine brave young people.

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I was born in 1957. I vaguely remember learning about this in school, but I really didn’t comprehend the whole story. How scared these high school students must have been. What struck me was the looks of hate on the faces of some of the white people in the pictures. Growing up in Wisconsin, I never really witnessed segregation. I just don’t get it.

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Central High School is still in use today. Over 2,000 students attend this beautiful school. It was built in 1927 covering two city blocks and is 150,000 square feet. Shortly after it was built, the American Institute of Architects named the building America’s Most Beautiful High School. The picture below is the middle part of the building. There are additional wings on both sides, but I couldn’t get it all into one picture. It is still an amazing building.

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Of the Little Rock Nine, eight of them finished the year at Central High School. One of them was a senior and graduated from the school. The governor would not give up, however. In 1959 he closed all high schools in Little Rock to keep integration from happening. In a referendum, three-quarters of all Little Rock residents voted to support him. The schools were closed for the entire year. Voters finally voted out the racist school board members, and a new school board reopened the schools.

It took schools in the South a long time to accept integration. By 1966, only 16 percent of black students in the South attended school with white students. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 which allowed funds to be withheld from schools that did not comply, finally forced school districts to comply.

Unfortunately, one of the results of these laws was “white flight”. Many whites fled to the suburbs and inner city schools are still facing big challenges to this day. The neighborhood surrounding Central High School in Little Rock is quite deteriorated. Many of the houses were boarded up or in very poor repair. There were signs of some urban redevelopment, but they have a long way to go.

This Mobil station across the street from the school has been restored to how it looked in 1957. It was the original visitor center before the school was declared a National Historic Site and a new center was built. The gas station was where the media set up during the weeks of September 1957, mainly because there was a pay phone for them to call in their stories. You can see the school in the background.

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Wow, I sure learned a lot today!!

This afternoon we rode our bikes along the Arkansas River Trail. This 17 mile walking and biking trail runs along both sides of the river. What a great bike trail. We saw lots of different types of birds and four deer. We rode a total of 16.5 miles. I was definitely fading by the end. That’s about the limit of my endurance.

On one end of the trail is the Big Dam Bridge. Spanning 4,226 feet over the Murray Lock and Dam, it is the longest bridge in the country built specifically for walkers and cyclists. The $12.5 million project took 8 years to complete. It connects the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock. Little Rock has done an amazing job developing their riverfront area. I’m impressed!!

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Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Memphis, Tennessee

Tom Sawyer’s RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas

As we continue heading north, we stopped for three nights near Memphis to explore. This is our first time in this area.

This morning we joined a group of hearty people for a two hour walking tour of historic downtown Memphis. The weather guessers had predicted today to be sunny and in the 60s, so I made our tour reservations thinking it would be a decent day to walk around outside. Unfortunately, it was cloudy, windy and in the 50s, so rather chilly. However, our tour guide Michael kept us entertained, and the tour was worth a bit of cold.

Our first stop was The Peabody Hotel, built in the 1920s and one of the premier hotels of the south. Every president since Truman has stayed here. Neil Diamond composed Sweet Caroline while staying here. We heard rooms are $1,000 per night.

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The Peabody has had a unique tradition since the 1930s. Every day at 11 am and 5 pm mallard ducks are brought to the lobby and parade down a red carpet into and out of the lobby fountain. The ducks have a home on the roof of the hotel and are treated very well. They are wild and after 90 days are taken to a farm to be released back into the wild. Memphis was hosting the NCAA tournament this weekend, and there were hundreds of people in the hotel lobby to watch these ducks parade into the fountain.

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We took the elevators to the roof where you can see where the ducks live. They even have their own version of The Peabody Hotel in their room.

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We walked around the city and learned about some of the Civil War, Civil Rights and musical history of the city. Memphis is rich in history. At the end of the tour we boarded one of the cities trolleys to take us back to Beale Street where we started.

Beale Street is the heart of downtown and reminded me a lot of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, only shorter. Lots of bars and restaurants advertising big ass beers, Jell-O shots, with to-go cups for everything. B.B. King has a club on Beale Street.

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Beale Street is famous for a number of reasons including it is where Robert R. Church Sr., the South's first black millionaire made his mark; where Elvis and B.B. King got their starts, and where Martin Luther King, Jr. marched.

Of course, you can’t visit Memphis without seeing all that is Elvis, including his statue.

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Memphis became a city due to its location along the Mississippi River. For many years the shipping of cotton was a huge business here. We took a walk down to the river and heard some of the history that goes along with the river. There are still lots of barges that move products up and down the river every day. Notice the riverboat cruise ship on the left. We were to see it again later in the day.

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P1150701After the walking tour, we walked to the Gibson factory. They have a tour, but it was sold out for the day. This gigantic guitar face is two stories tall and is in their lobby.

The National Civil Rights Museum is a few miles from downtown. It is built next to the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed on April 4, 1968. He was in Memphis to support the sanitation workers who were striking at the time. He marched with them and was shot while standing on the balcony of the motel. It was one of only a few Memphis hotels where blacks were allowed to stay at the time.

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There is a wreath outside room 306 where he was standing when he was shot.

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Our next stop was Graceland, about 15 minutes from downtown Memphis. We were both born in the 1950s, so don’t really remember Elvis all that well. Tours of Graceland range from $34 to $72 per person, depending on which package you choose. We were not interested enough to spend that kind of money. You wouldn’t believe the lines of people we saw on the grounds when we drove by. I guess lots of people are willing to pay big bucks to see all things Elvis.

Graceland, the house, is on one side of Elvis Presley Blvd. Across the street is a three block museum with lots of Elvis memorabilia including cars and even his plane.

The house sits back a ways from the road with beautiful mature trees in the yard.

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There is a long stone wall in front of the property where people sign their names or leave messages. You can see the house is quite a ways back from the road. (click on the picture to enlarge).

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Here’s his plane called the Lisa Marie.

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My biggest memory of Elvis is that he died the day before my birthday in the year we got married. I do enjoy his music. My favorite Elvis song is Love Me Tender. Our tour guide on the walking tour was telling us that on the anniversary of Elvis’ death in August, there are tons of people who come and mourn his death every year. He said these people are rather fanatic and will buy anything Elvis related. I find it quite sad that such a talented and promising young man ended up the way he did.

We’re staying at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park in West Memphis, Arkansas which is just across the river from Memphis, Tennessee. We have a pull through full hook-up 50 amp site with a concrete pad right on the river. They have sites on the river just for fifth wheels so your big back window is facing the water. We’ve been watching lots of barges travelling up and down the river.

The campground is nothing to get too excited about, but the location right on the river is excellent. Also, this is the only campground we have ever stayed at that has free laundry. They have six really nice newer washers and dryers. We had not done laundry in a while, so took advantage of the empty laundry room and got all of our laundry done. Bonus!!

The laundry and bath building is quite a ways from the river. There is a sign on the second story of the building showing the crest of the river in May of 2011. You can see the sign on the left on the side of the building, and that’s our camper way down there by the river. It’s so hard to believe that the water came that far inland and that high. I sure never want to experience a flood.

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When we got back from our sightseeing today, we saw this out of our window. On the left is one of the many barges. Some of them are huge. On the right is that riverboat we saw docked in Memphis. It came right past our back window.

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Hmm, that might be kind of fun. I may have to look into doing a river cruise. Never mind, I just looked online. A seven day cruise on this ship to New Orleans is over $4,000 per person. I guess we’ll stick with the bigger ships.

We enjoyed our short visit to the Memphis area. The downtown area has been nicely restored and felt safe and clean. I would definitely recommend it as a place to explore.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Montgomery, Alabama

This is our first visit to Montgomery. We’re staying at Gunter Hill Corp of Engineers Campground on the Alabama River about ten miles outside of town. This is a very nice park. There are two campground loops. The newer loop has full hook up 50 amp sites and less trees for a better chance of getting a satellite signal. That loop was full when I made our reservation due to spring break.

We’re in site #99 in the older loop with 50 amp electric and water, but no sewer. There are lots of trees so no satellite for the four days we are here. The sites are big, but a little tougher to get into. Our site is on the bend in the road, so Kevin was able to back straight in. It’s a large site on the river so we have a nice view out of our back window.

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There are lots of boats with people fishing for us to watch. We saw something new to us on Monday. A boat came by and dropped several of these white buoy type things into the water. They came back a couple of times to check them and then removed them before dark. Does anyone out there know what they were fishing for with these?

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Lots of trees are beginning to bloom including the red buds. I love how lacey they look. We’ve seen some massive magnolia trees, but they are not flowering yet. Too bad!

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Yesterday morning I woke up early enough to witness a beautiful sunrise through the trees. Don’t you love how the sun is peaking through all the hanging Spanish moss!

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It’s been cool here this week with highs in the low 60s. Last night it actually dropped to freezing for a few hours. Listening to the news people, you’d think it was a major disaster. Although, to be fair these are the average temperatures they have in January, so they are not used to it. I’m happy the sun is shining. Yesterday was to be the coldest day we’re here and rather windy, so we drove into Montgomery to tour the capitol building.

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Guided tours are only available on Saturdays, so we did a self-guided tour. We couldn’t find the main entrance, so went into an open door. There was no security guard in site. We just walked right in. The building was built in 1851. In 1985 the building was closed for a seven year renovation project. The state government offices moved to buildings surrounding the Capitol. After the renovations were completed, they never came back. The senate, legislatures and supreme court are all now housed in some very nice buildings all around the capitol square.

Outside we saw some pretty camellia bushes blooming. I got a kick out of the sign explaining how the camellia became the state flower of Alabama. In 1927 the goldenrod was designated the state flower. In 1959 camellia growers argued that goldenrod was a weed, and a bill was passed to change the state flower to the camellia.

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P1150653There are several statues on the grounds of the Capitol, as well as some plaques about Alabama history. This is a monument to the Confederate soldiers.

The Capitol building itself is now mainly a museum with some government offices still in use. We spent about an hour looking around. The senate, supreme court and legislature chambers have been restored to what they looked like in the late 1800s. It seems a waste that this huge building is so underutilized.

P1150657The lower level of the rotunda had pictures of some of the more prominent governors including George and Lurleen Wallace. I never realized that Mrs. Wallace was also governor of Alabama. She only served two years and died in office at the age of 42. I guess politics was not very good for the health of either of the Wallaces. Much of the history of Montgomery revolves around either the Civil War or the Civil Rights Movement.

P1150656The rotunda has murals depicting the history of Alabama. The Alabama capitol was where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the president of the Confederacy in February, 1861. In May, 1861 the capitol of the Confederacy was moved to Richmond.

 

 

 

P1150669About two blocks from the Capitol is the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, built in 1855. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the pastor at this church from 1954 to 1960. King organized the Montgomery bus boycott from his office in this church in Dec. 1955. We saw on the news that Montgomery is already planning for the 50th anniversary next year of the famous march from Selma to Montgomery. They are expecting tens of thousands of people here next year in March to commemorate the anniversary.

Located directly across the street from the Capitol is the First White House of the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis and his family lived here from Feb. through May of 1861 before moving to Richmond.

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The house is fully furnished with many of the items having belonged to the Davis family. There was no fee to take a self-guided tour. One room was full of relics of Davis’ life. I loved this baby bed. What an awesome piece of furniture. We spent a couple of hours yesterday learning about the history of Alabama. I must say I’m very impressed with the city of Montgomery. The downtown area was nicely restored and clean. We ran some errands while we were out yesterday, and everywhere we went looked well taken care of and clean.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Our Last Walk on the Beach

Live Oak Landing, Freeport, Florida

Last Sunday we left Mexico Beach and headed towards Live Oak Landing, an RV resort near Freeport which is about 30 miles from Destin. They were predicting some heavy rains, but not until the afternoon. Since we were only travelling about 90 miles, we thought we could beat the storms. We almost made it, but the last 20 minutes before we got there, the skies opened up with torrential rains, lightning and thunder. We had to cross a bridge and could barely see a thing. There was no place to pull over. I was quite scared we were going to be swept away. Kevin did an amazing job and got us here in one piece. Whew!!!

The resort is very nice with nice big sites, paved roads, concrete pads and patios at the sites, along with a picnic table, fire ring and grill. It is located on some rivers and canals so lots of boaters and fishermen are here.

This week is spring break for some Florida colleges and public schools, so the park is full. There are lots of kids enjoying themselves, but that’s okay. So far, everyone has been well behaved.

P1150643I love sitting on the benches they provide along the river and watch the boats go by. There are lots of live oak trees with Spanish moss hanging from them. Such a relaxing place!

The park is located at the end of a dead end with a neighborhood across the road. We’ve been walking through the neighborhood for exercise each day. The route we’ve been taking is about four miles so we’ve been happy to have a place to get our exercise with very little traffic.

There are lots of trees that have ferns growing on them, often quite high up in the tree. I’ve never seen this before. It looks very pretty.

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Our weather has been fantastic this week. Highs in the mid 70s and sunny almost every day. Trees and flowers are beginning to bloom all over this area. I sure enjoyed seeing these daffodils. They always make we think of spring and Easter. This year we will be with some of our family for Easter. I’m excited about that, especially since my mom has sold her home over the winter and has a new condo. She is very happy, and I can’t wait to see her new home.

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On Friday we drove about 10 miles to Santa Rosa Beach, a very nice town along the beaches of the Gulf. It looks like an more upscale community with some very nice homes and resorts. It looked like lots of families were vacationing. We saw some college kids, but not many.

We walked along the beach for about an hour. This area once again had the emerald waters we saw in Destin. It was our last walk on the beach for this trip. Although the weather wasn’t the best for much of this winter along the Gulf Coast, I must say I’ve really enjoyed our beach time.

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We’ve already made reservations for next winter in Arizona. The Palms RV Resort in Yuma was offering a buy one month, get one free so we jumped on it for January and February. This resort is normally $1,000 per month which we probably would not pay. We have friends who have stayed there, and they say it is a very nice place. So, it’s back to the desert next year. That makes Kevin very happy!!

If anyone is interested, The Palms is offering this special through the end of April. They also are offering buy one week, get one free. You can check out their website for more information if interested.

Tomorrow we leave and start our three week trek back to Wisconsin. We’ll be staying a few nights in Montgomery, AL; West Memphis, AR; Little Rock, AR; Bella Vista, AR; and Omaha to visit our son Korey and his wife Cathryn. Our plan is to arrive at our summer work camp location on April 14th. Of course, that depends on whether they will have water available for us and there aren’t any snow or ice storms to dodge.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mexico Beach, Florida

Rustic Sands Resort Campground, Mexico Beach, Florida

We arrived at Rustic Sands Resort Campground in Mexico Beach, Florida last Sunday afternoon. I made our reservations at this park last July and was told we would have a pull-through site. At the time I wasn’t sure how long we would stay so the lady suggested I reserve for a month and if we stayed two weeks and two days, that would equal the cost of a month. If we changed our minds and didn’t want to stay that long, we could change our reservation when we got here.

The office was closed on Sunday, but there was a map for us with a site number. Our site was a back in spot in the very back of the park. We are squeezed in with a few other campers like sardines. The wi-fi does not work in our area, and the cable was too fuzzy to watch.

To call this place a resort is a real stretch. The roads are not paved and full of potholes. The sites are grass and sand with a little gravel on some of the sites. It is quite run down. Their standard nightly rate is $44 and it appears none of the money they collect is used to make any improvements to the park. There is a decent looking pool, and a tiki bar behind the office with live entertainment a couple nights a week. Tonight we listened for a little while under a beautiful full moon to Randy and Art, a singer who plays guitar and a saxophone player. They were pretty good. Really, the only redeeming quality this park has is that it is 1/2 mile from the beach. The place is full with what seems to be snowbirds who stay for the season. I honestly can’t imagine spending an entire winter here. We’re not normally real fussy, but this place is not for us.

We really got a kick out of their “mini golf”. There are flags like shown below all along both sides of the main road with a cup in the ground below each flag. I’m assuming you just play along the road from cup to cup. Seriously???

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After walking around the park on Sunday and seeing how dumpy it was, we decided to only stay a week, and I got busy finding us a place for next week. On Monday when we went to the office to pay, the lady tried to tell me we would lose our $100 deposit because we were changing our reservation. Remember, she suggested I reserve for a month and said we could change it when we got here. She had that written in her notes as did I. I refused to pay and she backed down quickly. Then she tried to charge me a $10 change fee. I wasn’t paying that either. This is a Passport America park and they don’t have a limit on how many days you can use it. So, we ended up paying $22 per night for 7 nights. This place definitely isn’t worth a penny more.

We have been riding our bikes almost every day to the Mexico Beach fishing pier which is a 5.5 mile round trip. I had read on another blog that they had seen dolphin jumping from the pier, but we never saw any dolphin from the pier. After our walk out onto the pier, we spend an hour walking the beach. One day we did see a fin out in the water. It looked black so I’m not sure if it was a dolphin or a shark.

This part of the Florida panhandle is referred to as the Forgotten Coast. The Destin area is called the Emerald Coast and the reason was obvious with the beautiful color of the water. The water here is not as pretty, but the sand is still very white.

Mexico Beach is a small town. There are not nearly as many tourists, and there is a very relaxed feel to the area. There is one small grocery; the prices were pretty high. Also, a few restaurants and shops. We’ve seen some college kids on the beach, but not too many. The news this week was full of stories of spring break in Panama City Beach, about 25 miles west of us. I’m glad we’re not there. Too many people!

So between the biking and walking, we’ve been averaging around 8 miles of exercise a day. The weather has been pretty nice, so I’ve really enjoyed the beach time here.

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This is our first visit to the Florida Panhandle, and I’ve been really surprised by the amount of pine forests in this region. I even saw a couple of bear crossing signs on the highway. Who would have guessed there are bear in Florida. We have some pine trees behind our site, and I really liked how the needles were shimmering when the sun hit them.

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On Thursday we drove about 30 miles east to Apalachicola to meet up with our friends Kim and Harland from Nova Scotia. We met up with them in January in Louisiana as they were headed to Arizona. They’re now heading back east so we had another chance to meet up. They tried to get in a campground near us, but everything is booked solid due to spring break.

We spent a few hours at St. George State Park exploring and walking on the beach. We were thrilled to find lots of starfish on the beach, as well as some sand dollars and lots of pretty shells.

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I was so busy having a good time I forgot to take pictures with Kim and Harland. We had lunch at a restaurant recommended by some locals called Bayside Seafood Restaurant. I had been wanting to try a shrimp Po'boy, and was very happy with the choice. It was delicious. Kim ordered fried flounder. They brought the whole fish without the head. Her plate was covered. I wish I had taken a picture. It was huge. After lunch we said our goodbyes. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get together again next year.

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P1150613Last night I walked to the beach to see the sunset. How lucky that the moon was almost full. Behind me was the awesome moon, and in front of me was the gorgeous sunset. Bonus!! Shrubs are beginning to bloom down here. I don’t know what kind of flowers these are, but they are blooming in many yards.

 

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Tomorrow we’re heading about 30 miles north of Destin to Live Oak Landing. I hope it will be much nicer than this place.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!