Day 1: Birdwatching At 60 M.P.H.

Thursday, 8 April 2004
Gulf Shores, Alabama via New Orleans

Here we are again, in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We’re staying in a beachfront room at Gulf Shores State Park resort that’s exactly as I remember it—second floor balcony overlooking the mostly deserted beach, the pounding surf of the Gulf, salty air, even the bad seascape photograph on the wall.

I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m. to get to the airport in time for our early morning flight. It was a surprise to see that Marie was on our flight, heading down for a Shakespeare conference. It was an even bigger surprise to see that our plane was an “express,” meaning it was “small,” holding only about 50 people. Yikes! I thought to myself, “That’s going to get us all the way down to New Orleans?!” It did, and a short two hours later we were down South.

After performing various shenanigans with the rental car company, we headed for the French Quarter and what has now become our Gulf Shores/New Orleans vacation traditional kick-off: Lunch at Central Grocery (muffaletta sandwiches and ice cold Barqs rootbeer in a bottle,) followed by a round of café au lait and beignets.

Energized, we pointed our car east and headed for Gulf Shores, Alabama. The drive took about 3.5 hours along the quicker, less scenic highway 10. We took a detour at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. We were amused by the signs stating “You will not see any sandhill cranes on the nature trails.” Instead, it was suggested that visitors follow the driving tour as the best way to see cranes. This consisted of some neighborhood streets and a good portion of highway 10. What the??? Nothing better than birding by car at 60 mph. Needless to say, we saw nothin’.

We arrived in Gulf Shores around 5 o’clock and took in the view for a while before dinner at our favorite restaurant in town, The Spot. Crab legs, Gulf shrimp and ice cold beer. Yum.

All in all, a mighty nice way to spend the last day of my 30s.

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