My family vacationed in Gulf Shores, Alabama, last week. We stayed in the Driftwood Towers condos rented through the Meyer Vacation Rentals agency and found the place conveniently located on the main beach strip along this busy section of the Gulf. The beaches there are white and clean and the water warm. While busy with tourists, we found it less packed with sun worshipers than Florida or along the Carolinas and the beach experience was just as nice. It is a 12-hour drive from the Fort.
This trip we encountered lots of jelly fish or “jellies” as the locals refer to these slimy floating, stinging pockets of flem. Can you tell I am not a fan? I avoided a sting but several in our party were not so lucky. We learned from a very helpful woman that powdering on meat tenderizer is supposed to relieve the pain. Who knew?
This year, my girls and I wanted to try out paddle boarding and kayaking. We saw some brave souls trying it out on the ocean waves but we opted (wisely) to look for calmer waters at Little Lagoon State Park just a couple of miles from our condo. We found a service that would deliver the boards and the kayak to us and pick them up from the lagoon area when we were done. Well worth the service fee after a day of paddling and tons of sun. We paid less than $200 for all of the equipment for a full day of use. The owner, Perry Guy, is a character and tossed in a free C.D. of his music with our purchase. He is hoping for a hit in the making when he releases A Gulf Coast Christmas this holiday season. He already published a children’s story under the same name.
The kayak was a two-seater so everyone in our party of 4 could be out on the water at one time. The lagoon was only a few feet deep and so clear that we could spot the jellies. My niece joined us at the end of our afternoon and was able to stand up on the board on her first attempt. We all took plenty of spills off the boards but the kayak was very easy to maneuver and all of it was great exercise and a new experience for each of us. Yes, we had sore arms, lower back and shoulders the next day.
We slurped our share of raw oysters and grilled shrimp at both The Shrimp Basket and Acme Oyster House. I would recommend both places for hungry families and they both handled our large parties of 8-12 with ease. Our condos had fully equipped kitchens and there were full service grocery stores just a mile or so away from where we were staying. One night, we served buffet style what I call, Mexicali Sloppy Joes. What made the dish complete was the addition of homemade pineapple salsa (thank you, Katie) and blue corn chips.
Mexicali Sloppy Joes for a Crowd
- 2.5 lbs lean ground beef
- 1 lb chorizo sausage
- 1 can black beans
- 1 can corn/or cut the kernels from 2-4 corn cobs
- 1 can Rotel
- 2-4 hot peppers — we like it spicy
- 1 cup of your favorite salsa
- chopped garlic, onions and celery
- 1/2 cup of ketchup
- 2T honey or brown sugar
- 1T red wine vinegar
- 2T worstershire sauce
- salt and pepper
- 2 tsp dry mustard or a dollop of prepared mustard will work too
I browned the meat (drained it) and sautéed the onions, garlic, celery and peppers and then threw everything into the crock pot and let it cook all day while we were at the beach. We served it in bowls over tortilla chips and then topped with pineapple/cucumber salsa. Some in our group opted for the more traditional hamburger bun and loved it that way too.
Tips we learned to make a beach trip fun:
- Bring beach chairs and most importantly a large tent for cover and relief from the heat. My brother brought a really nice tent and is was a life saver (literally).
- Lots of SPF 50 sunscreen — we liked the spray on type so we could reapply often.
- Some sort of light top with long sleeves for the middle of the day to cover. Sunscreen just doesn’t cut it.
- A large floppy hat and two pairs of sunglasses (you will lose one in the water for sure)
- Plenty of lotion to apply after showering.
- A small cooler to take 8-10 bottles of water with you from the condo to the beach– saves trips back and forth over the soft sand. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
- Go to the grocery store when you first arrive and buy a case of water, juice, almond milk, breakfast, lunch and dinner items (we bought enough for two nights of eating in and then splurged to eat out two nights). We brought several items from home with us like coffee, canned beans, dried pasta, bread, whatever I had already in the pantry at home. Saves time shopping because once you get to the beach you don’t want to have to run a bunch of errands every day.
- Laundry soap, dish soap, dishwasher soap, dryer sheets and toilet paper — the condos give you very limited supply which will run out the first day.
- Meat tenderizer — who knew?
- Your favorite adult beverages — wine/beer opener.
- A pair of binoculars to see the dolphins go by
- A flashlight for night crabbing – we didn’t see very many but it was fun walking around the beach with everyone else in the dark.
To my family — thanks for agreeing to meet and for all the wonderful moments we shared. Cheers!