I was so ready for a road trip, and while I closed my eyes at the sight of Mobile, Alabama, I joyfully sang my way through Mississippi with Jesse Winchester. What was I singing as I crossed the river in Baton Rouge? You tell me!
Arrived to a warm afternoon in Lafayette and walked for hours while enjoying the day after Mardi Gras decor, and the French signage throughout the city. Four days at the Blue Moon is indescribable -- the comfort, the people, the music, the fun to be had. By far, Lafayette wins the award thusfar for the friendliest people ever; genuinely friendly. I understand why people arrive & just never leave, Rich. It's been ages since I woke up with calves aching from hours of dancing but indeed, I did last week! Thanks to Doug and April for your gracious welcome and hospitality. Thanks to Philippe for the farewell coffee time.
There's a few things I still need to do in Lafayette so I'll be back!
Landing in Fort Walton Beach was a Godsend in some ways as there was so little to do that I could recover from/fix my mercury retrograde traumas. Car seems fine, I have a new smartphone, and I am 90% through my tax documents!
Stayed at a 5-month new hostel which was on a parkway (read: pseudo-highway) near the beach (if you like to drive). No amount of bike/ped friendliness here, and I did indeed drive 20 miles to cycle 32 one day. Fort Walton seems to be the dumping ground for beach wannabees from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and such who are paying high rent & making low pay to freeze through the winter anyway!
Loved the library! and the local bike shop guys but even the Thai food I ate was less than mediocre. Where's the peanut sauce? I did take the "Miracle Strip" one day east to the beach and indeed the short stretch of Okaloosa Island that is national seashore is lovely --- the water is emerald green and the sand is pure white. I learned that it is not sand at all, however, but ground quartz crystal from the Appalachian mountain range. How about that?
Have you heard the name Destin? So had I and let me tell you it was NOT what I imagined. While there is a lovely 4-5 mile beachfront area, most of Destin is a parkway (see above) filled with every possible retail nightmare imaginable. As you come to the end of the national seashore, there is a retail/hotel monstrosity the likes of Paradise Island, Bahamas and that's just the beginning. It goes on from here with man-made crap. I do not wonder why Mother Nature is so angry and it's time for her to clean house here!
I did enjoy Topsail Hill State Park and if the nights weren't so cold, I would have been happy to be camping there. This is in Santa Rosa Beach which was the loveliest area where I enjoyed a multi-use path for cycling. It's also where there are houses @$500k and up so I guess the rich people don't like being hit by 4,000 lb cars either. Make note: there is not a single photo available!
I will not assume this is representative of the entire panhandle but if I never visit this area again, I won't care! I'm feeling better now.
Arrived in Austin mid-afternoon today! Indeed, I am now 3 locations behind on this blog! Living too much in the now? That said, the weather here is a high of 38 on Monday --- I will be online and updating all scenarios with photos for sure! Stay tuned.
While I am planning a short rant on my panhandle visit, I'm thrilled to say that I head to Lafayette, Louisiana tomorrow. My longest haul yet (drive, drive, drive) but it will be a 4-night stop. Yes, I leave the bible belt early on Ash Wednesday to arrive at the Blue Moon before dark.
If you don't think I'll be eating couche-couche as much as I can, you don't know me!
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover