A Jimmy Buffett Christmas (and New Year’s)

Kathy, Ron, Zeph, Chris and me at Crystal Sands beach in Destin, FL

Kathy, Ron, Zeph, Chris and me at Crystal Sands beach in Destin, FL

Chris’s parents came to visit us for Christmas and New Year’s. We wanted to be somewhere warm and knew we had to plan ahead a little bit with plane tickets to purchase and whatnot, so we arranged to meet them in Pensacola, Florida. They flew in on Christmas Day and we picked them up from the airport. The original plan was for them to stay with us in the Moho (aka “Rolling Turd” – yes, we just watched “RV” the movie) but as their arrival got closer we all agreed it would be best for them to stay in a nearby hotel. Imagine my delight when we found Margaritaville Beach Hotel just eight or nine miles away from our campsite. What could be better? Jimmy even sings a song or two about Pensacola, so this little Parrothead was super excited to see how the Floridians celebrate life Buffett-style.

parrotheads

parrotheads

more parrotheads

more parrotheads

 

We reserved a spot at Fort Pickens, a federal park and site of an ex-military fort on the Gulf Islands National Seashore. I wasn’t sure what exactly a “gulf island” was or how you got on the island without a boat. There are quite a few bridges down this way, so you drive over one to get to the island. Fort Pickens was sort of luck of the draw for us, we didn’t know much about it but it was about the only place that had a spot available in the area so we went for it, sight unseen (unless you count Google Maps satellite, which in our experience is sometimes not extremely accurate in showing a true representation of an area). Turns out Fort Pickens is really cool. There are tours of the old fort and surrounding buildings and ruins and there are still giant guns everywhere. In the midst of these ruins is a campground with spots for RVers, trailers and tenters. The only bad thing I would say about the park is the showers are practically outside in nature. OK, there are four walls surrounding the bathroom stalls and showers. But I did have two green tree frogs in my shower on the first day. I think they were trying to mate. I about lost my mind as I noticed them halfway through my shower with soap still in my hair. They were right above my head! I am not a nature girl in the realm of small slimy or creepy crawly animals so I think that was about the fastest shower I’ve taken in years. As I quickly dried off and walked (ok, jumped) out of my shower stall our neighbor we had just met, Sarah, an older grandma-ish lady, was coming out of another stall. I told her my frog story and she told me in the nicest way that I was a baby and frogs are awesome. I started showering at Ron and Kathy’s hotel room after that.

Our campsite at Fort Pickens. There was so much grass around our site! The boys are playing Zeph's new favorite game: frisbee.

Our campsite at Fort Pickens. There was so much grass around our site! The boys are playing Zeph’s new favorite game: frisbee.

A big gun at Fort Pickens

A big gun at Fort Pickens

Chris and Ron touring the Fort Pickens military base ruins

Chris and Ron touring the Fort Pickens military base ruins

gorgeous water

The gorgeous water surrounding Fort Pickens

The Margaritaville Beach Hotel where Ron and Kathy stayed was basically Jimmy Buffett themed. There were pics of the music icon on the walls, stories about his albums and what life was like for him at the time of each one’s release, as well as why they were named what they were. The restaurant in the hotel was called “Frank and Lola Love Pensacola.” This is referring to a song by Jimmy (yes we are on a first-name basis, after all he DID give me a kiss on the cheek at his concert when I was five) about a couple trying to rekindle their marriage in Pensacola after a couple kids and life in general. The menu was pretty small but the food was tasty. Of course they had cheeseburgers, as well as lots of shrimp options and other stuff. The beverage menu seemed to be longer than the food menu, which is to be expected when you are in Parrothead territory. The hotel sat on the gulf side of the island, and Ron and Kathy’s room on the fifth floor had a great view of the seashore. We spent Christmas in their room after we picked them up from the airport (it was a very sweet reunion for Zeph and “Granny” and “Papa”). We each had a few small gifts for Zeph, which he seemed overwhelmed by (too many new things at once I guess), and ordered cheeseburgers for dinner. We were all very happy to be together again. The next day was Ron and Kath’s anniversary (thirty-seven years?) so we hung out at the campground, Chris took his parents on a tour of Fort Pickens while Zeph and I napped. I made Christmas Dinner (a day late) to celebrate their anniversary. Anyone who’s ever traveled in an RV can appreciate that a Christmas dinner prepared and cooked in an RV is quite a feat (thank you very much). I did take some easy shortcuts – I made our traditional “green stuff” which consists of lime jello, cream cheese, pineapple and pecans all mixed together (sounds gross but is delicious) the night before. I also cooked a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. We had mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, browned rolls, olives and some other stuff that’s yummy. Thanks, Ron and Kath, for getting married all those years ago so you could have some kids and I could marry your son. He’s quite a guy.

Other adventures in Pensacola and the surrounding areas consisted of visiting the National Naval Aviation Museum at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. Ron is a pilot, and flew commercial plans for years, so he loves all things aviation. This museum was the best I’ve seen of its kind. They had everything from an old Marine One (like AirForce One, but a helicopter) from when Nixon was president, to a little neighborhood built to represent a little main street in a town circa WWII. Well worth a visit. We took a day trip to Destin, and found more crystal sand beaches and a playground right on the beach, so we spent some time there of course. We went to Blackwater River State Park, rented some canoes from Paul at Blackwater Canoe (couldn’t be a nicer guy) and drifted/paddled down a stretch of the sand-bottomed river. For New Year’s Eve we cooked tacos in the Moho, and Ron and Kath headed back to their hotel around 9pm. Ron said he woke up about ten minutes to midnight, just in time to watch the fireworks on the pier from his hotel room.

We did a lot of cooking in the Moho but we also indulged in quite a few local restaurants… Frank and Lola’s at Margaritaville Beach Hotel (small menu but everything was tasty), Hemingway’s on the boardwalk (think Indiana Jones meets Tommy Bahama, food was also good there), Bonefish Grille (yes again – it’s become a local favorite chain of ours), the Mellow Mushroom (delicious pizza and things… a lot like Pizza Port back home but cleaner and not as wild and loud), and date night for Chris and me at Lillo’s Italian on the boardwalk (a great setting and a tasty meal.) Date night also consisted of a ride on the local giant ferris wheel with enclosed pods. We also had two movie dates… Les Mis and The Hobbit. Both movies were pretty worthy I thought. I love when the in-laws visit, it means we have babysitters! Zeph of course loved his time with Granny and Papa and we were sad to see them go. Pensacola was such a fun area for us to explore, I hope to go back one day when the weather is a little… warmer. It was pretty much in the 50s and 60s the whole time, with thundershowers here and there and some wind and fog. But that didn’t stop us from having an amazing time!

 

 

 

  • Kathy Adams

    Well done Erin and Chris! I loved reading about our adventure – you certainly have a talent – you must have got all A’s in Language Arts in school 🙂 Love you all and hope you are having a wonderful time in warm Oralando

  • Noel

    Great Photos..I Love seeing Mom and Dad out adventuring!!