Although I took lots of pictures, mostly of sunsets and family, I find that there isn't much to say about the week down in Florida. It was time spent mostly with the family enjoying each other and the beachfront. But there are a few things I guess I could mention.
Last year if you recall, I spent lots of time mining for shells with my daughter and grandfather. They had just rebuilt the beach, in fact were finishing up for three of the five days we were there, and pumped a huge load of shells from the depths of the ocean to the beach and buried them in the sand. I have never found such large beautiful shells as I did last year. This year I did dig down with the toes of my shoes off and on the whole week but never found a single shell buried underneath. Then on the last full day there, I saw some locals digging with shovels only about twenty feet away from where I had been digging the year before. I walked up and talked with them a bit and it turned out they were mining for shells and did so about once a week. I learned from them that the hurricane that blew offshore last spring had buried the shells under ten inches of new sand which is why I couldn't find them. They had many nice specimens but their pay streak didn't seem near as rich as the one I have discovered the year before. Still, it brought back lots of good memories.
Since we had a baby this year, we opted out from going on our offshore fishing trip. The others in our extended family took a break too. Fortunately for my wife and I, my brother offered to take his niece along with his two kids for trips to a Ripley's Believe It or Not museum and bowling one evening which gave the kids something more entertaining than playing card games which the adults typical do for entertainment.
For some reason, I come from a family that thinks eating at Long John Silvers is living on the edge of the culinary world. I was that way for a large portion of my life until one evening while living in Minnesota, a girl that I knew invited me out for sushi as kind of a dare. I went and loved the experience. From that point on, I decided that when in Rome, do as the Romans do and to eat what the Romans eat. It hasn't failed me. I have taken some of my culinary experiences and tried to foist them on my parents but with little success. They did enjoy the Vietnamese restaurant I took them too in the urban jungle once when they were up there although they ordered the tamest stuff on the menu, but I'm not sure they would walk into a sushi place without being forced physically.
The last two times we made the trip down to Florida, we have all gone to a nice seafood restaurant one evening mostly due to the prodding of my wife and I. Both times, my family has mostly ordered such local delicacies as fried chicken strips and those hard to find frenched fries while I try things like oysters and freshly caught fish. This year, my wife and I decided to get down to our beach side rental house first and in time for lunch so we could get our fill of fresh seafood before the rest of the family got there. We found a nice oyster bar and had some heavenly baked oysters and I had the special of seafood gumbo which was also all that. We didn't bring up eating at a seafood place this year and not surprisingly, nobody else did either. I think if we continue to go back, my wife and I will have to maybe go down a day or two early next year to cram in even more fresh seafood.
It probably won't surprise you but we decided to try and bring some back this year. So we scoped out a few places and on the evening before we were to leave, we set out with freezer chest in tow to load up on fresh seafood. I'm not sure why I had such a brain fart but after hitting up the second place, I realized that for fresh seafood, we were eight hours too late. I blame it on being New Year's Day and my telling myself nobody would be open early but the truth is I was just expecting it to be like a northern grocery store where they keep putting out new stuff all day long. But the stuff up north is never fresh which is why I realized too late that they didn't do it that way down south. Once it was gone for the day it was gone. We did pick up a few stuffed crabs and some tuna and salmon dip to take back north with us. All was delicious but the tuna dip was outstanding. Next time I go back, I'm dedicating a portion of our freezer just to bring back more of that tuna dip!
My route down there in the past has taken me to my brother's place in northeast Alabama for the nightly stop. It saves on the motel bill since he doesn't charge and puts up close enough to the beach to make it there in good time the next day. But it is slightly out of the way and adds another couple hours to the total journey. Along the way though, another person whom I know through her blog Edifice Rex, lives. Last year when I went by, I was sharing a ride with my parents and thought it might be awkward stopping at someone's house whom I only know through blogging when my parents don't even know I have a blog. I thought it would just lead to a lot of unwanted discussion so I didn't stop. This year I had every intention to stop and say hi but unfortunately we left the day after a major storm swept through the area between here and there. Part way there I heard the radio say that the interstate coming up ahead was treacherous as best and to stay away. So I took a more westerly route skirting the worst of the weather and thus put me out of the way for stopping to say hey to Edifice Rex. Maybe next year.
The entire reason we got started going down to this particular stretch of beach in the Florida panhandle three years ago was because my grandparents who live in central Florida were starting to get frail in their old age and probably didn't have a lot of time left on this earth. In fact, last year they gave up coming north for the summer as they have done for the last fifteen or more years. So we felt it best to start seeing them more often to cram in good times before that happens and since they don't come north in the winter, it meant we must go south. I thought it would continue to be that way until they simply couldn't make the six hour drive to the beach and then we might just end up in motels near their house. However this trip they were talking about buying a condo or house up here in Iowa to stay out perhaps part of the year. They didn't say so but I got the impression that they might also be preparing for the end game and finding a place where they can stay permanently close to their two children, my mom and uncle, when they aren't physically able to live by themselves anymore. Time will tell and I hope for everyone's sake, they still have quite a bit left to spend.