Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pizza, Oysters & Opera


WHEN? Saturday · July 26

WHERE? Gulf Shores, Alabama · find us on the map

WHY? After watching this morning's American Eats episode about the history of pizza, can you blame us?

Papa-Rocco's high-profile location on Highway 59 (Gulf Shores Parkway) at 6th Avenue is just a quarter mile from the Gulf of Mexico. Founder Bill “Papa” McGinnes settled down in Lower Alabama in the 1980s, after leaving his engineering job in a Detroit auto factory. By the time its unusual slogan was dreamed up several years later, Papa-Rocco's was popular with both locals and tourists for its live entertainment and full menu until midnight.

In spite of its small size, Papa-Rocco's devotes floorspace to local entertainment seven nights a week. Gulf Coast musician Brent Burns is a customer favorite and the restaurant's longest running act. Along with Papa, Brent is a local legend himself. Several of his songs are included with the 2008 Alabama Gulf Coast Vacation Guide. All three were obviously written with the Redneck Riviera in mind, and they're right up our alley:

· Down In Paradise
· Livin' The Life (that Jimmy Buffett only wrote about), and
· Perpetual Vacation, which includes a line that pretty much describes us: I'm growing old, but I refuse to grow up.

Another reason customers return to Papa-Rocco's: Reasonable prices, particularly for its lunch and dinner specials. Although take-out menus weren't available, everything's covered on their website:

Papa Rocco's - Home of Warm Beer and Lousy Pizza

We had the good fortune to be seated at a table next to a Mississippi couple and their charming 4-year-old daughter. They'd chosen Papa-Rocco's for their last supper before embarking on the 300-mile return trip to Maben. When both of our pizzas arrived around the same time, we all dug in.

Wondering where the opera comes in?
Papa is an active supporter of the Pensacola Opera and travels to New York City each year to indulge his passion at the Metropolitan.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cay · Key · Quay

Beach view out back of Bahama Bob's

WHEN? Friday · July 18

WHERE? Gulf Shores, Alabama · find us on the map

Along with good food, today's lunch at Bahama Bob's included a pleasant surprise and two unexpected lessons in Bahamian culture:

  • The back open-air porch we dined on looks out onto the Gulf, where many people were enjoying the sun and surf. The restaurant's casual dress code (which includes swimsuits) and a rinse-off shower along the boardwalk encourage beachgoers to come in for rest and refreshment.
  • Cay, Key and Quay all mean the same thing (a small, low-elevation, sandy island formed on the surface of coral reefs) and are pronounced the same way.
  • A number of dishes on the menu are named after places in the Bahamas:

    Bimini Style Steamed Shrimp
    Crab Cay Crab Claws
    Hurricane Hole Fried Shrimp
    Norman’s Cay Fried Cheese Sticks
    Stanial Cay Chicken Tenders
    Crab Cay Baked Pangus

    Bahama Bob's Beach Side Cafe
    The menu also included the Bahama Bob's Story:

    While on a treasure hunt off Rum Cay Bahama, a hurricane nearly sank Bob’s 45-foot sailboat, the “Kavu.” The main sail gone and losing power, he made it back to George Town Bahama. To celebrate his near miss with death, Bob partied for 3 straight days! That’s right, 3 days! When he awoke, blurry eyed and he did, Bob stumbled next door to the bar for a Bloody Mary.

    Feeling much better, Bob booked a ride on the Staniel Cay Express, the slowest boat in all the islands. Finally landing in Stanial Cay, Bob caught a ride on a sea plane to Bimini. There he met Captian Chuck Rohr and his all girl crew! They became immediate friends. They set sail for Key West, making land fall 3 days later. Bob headed straight for Margaritaville. Several rum drinks later he ran into Frank & Steve, old friends from Gulf Shores. They convinced him to come back with them to “The other side of Paradise,” on West Beach. They had an idea! We could build a little slice of Island living right here.

    So ... Welcome to Bahama Bob’s. The Real Thing! The very best of everything you come to the beach for. And remember...


    See more of today's photos:
    Bahama Bob's Beach Side Cafe on Flickr

    Shady ladyLess shady

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pensacola Air Show

WHEN? Friday · July 11

WHERE? Pensacola Beach, Florida · find us on the map

Organizers of the annual Pensacola Beach Air Show know how to plan for a crowd, and its performers sure know how to please one. Although the show is held on a Saturday afternoon each July, we attended its Friday dress rehearsal ... and congratulated ourselves for doing so! Saturday's 50% chance of rain forecast turned into a windy downpour that interrupted the show and prevented the Blue Angels from performing that afternoon. But the show must go on: The Angels quickly scheduled a same-time/same-place performance for the following day — and you betcha their fans returned to whoop and holler at it.

The planes left paths that resemble a rollercoaster in the sky
Colorful shuttle busBlue Angels in tight formationHey-Hey-Hey ... it's Faaaaaat Albert!Actually, this isn't the Coast Guard rescue copterPensacola water tower

Outstanding performances:

= Opening number: Fat Albert, a Transport C-130 hercules aircraft that's permanently assigned to support the Blue Angels

= Aerobatics::

= Helicopter rescue demonstration by the U.S. Coast Guard

= Grand finale: The Navy’s famous flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels

The planes' white con-trails resembled roller coasters in the clouds, and were oftentimes the only photo I ended up with. Since their lightning-speed* maneuvers were more challenging to my amateur photography skills than I'd bargained on, I recommend Pensacola News Journal's Blue Angels full dress rehearsal photo gallery.

*And speaking of lightning ... according to local reports, four of Saturday's spectators ended up in a local emergency room for lightening-related injuries.

See more of today's photos:
Pensacola Beach air show on flickr

And if this looks sorta familiar ...
The Blue Angels have ended up on our travelblog several other times since last summer:

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pirates Cove

WHEN? Sunday · July 6

WHERE? Josephine, Alabama · find us on the map

Pirates Cove · No Wake
NO WAKE - Pirates Cove
Photo Credit: flickr member us1mm0

After learning about Pirates Cove from others, Wendell and I took a Sunday afternoon drive to this out-of-the-way beach near Elberta.

Josephine Alabama is an ideal place — not only a boater's paradise, but a boater's wife and children's paradise as well. Touching Perdido Bay to the south, it's just a few minutes boat ride from the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, yet is surrounded by beaches and a picturesque bay setting of small uninhabited islands.

from Josephine's realty website

Although paradise is accurate, Pirates Cove was certainly not uninhabited when we were there. Indeed it was inhabited by "laid back" adults in beach attire, barefooted children running into the water and playing with abandon — and lots of dogs. Everyone was enjoying the afternoon in their own way, including us. For many who live the daily rat race of making a living, a place like this would be an ideal vacation. Some lucky people even live here year round.

Since we didn't bring our camera, we don't have any photos of our own to post, but we discovered many others at Pirates Cove Yacht Club.

The Yacht Club designates an official
Pirates Cove Dog of the Month
downloadable application ►

Applicants are encouraged to give special attention to the EXPEDITED APPROVAL instructions included on the application.

Click for full-size application

SLOW DOWN and watch for pedestrians Update 7/12/2008

The following weekend, we returned to Pirates Cove on an overcast day and took some photos. After everyone scurried indoors to escape the afternoon thunderstorm, we found some new Flickr friends — or rather, they found us.

This place is so much fun, we expect to return frequently.

See more Pirates Cove photos on flickr

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Catch up on our gossip

Along a boardwalk over Weeks Bay
Along a boardwalk over the Weeks Bay bog

Occasionally Wendell feels inspired to share something fairly long and newsy with friends and family. One of our friends referred to his recent email as an epistle.

So in his own words, here 'tis:

Sent: Friday · June 27, 2008 · 10:44 AM

Good morning, afternoon, evening, or whenever it is that you read this. I thought I would drop you a note, just to catch up on what is going on in the lives of Wendell and Mae Dean. We've enjoyed it. It's been a great ride! Hope it lasts many more years.

Here it is the end of June already. In Lower Alabama (called LA down here) we have had just enough thunderstorms to keep everything green. Even had a little one this morning, but now the sun is shining. I can't get over all of the flowering plants, and the varied vegetation in this area. Other than the humidity, the weather has been great! I think that the high for June has been no more than 93°. The temperature forecast for the next few days is 87, 87, 89, 85, and 84. Not bad going into July. So much for global warming.

For those of you that don't know, Mae Dean and I became great grandparents this week. Lori, our oldest granddaughter, gave birth to Maggie on June 25. She weighed a little over 7 pounds. Lori and her Marine husband Kevin are living in North Carolina.

Mae Dean and I sure miss the open road and the travel we did last year, but with the price of gas we felt we could not afford to continue. We think that we have picked the perfect place for us to settle. Fifteen or twenty minutes from the beautiful sugar white sand beaches, 10 minutes to one of the largest outlet shopping malls in the country, lots of things to do, and nearby festivals galore. There are golf courses all over the place, but I don't play golf. Flowers, and flowering plants everywhere. Huge Live Oak trees, and more pecans trees than you can count. Roadside stands selling Silver Queen corn, and other fresh vegetables just gathered that morning. We feel like we are on fulltime vacation. We've been busy, busy, busy, but with all the things to do and see we haven't even scratched the surface.

Even with so much to do, I still find myself getting a little bored at times. This led me to volunteering to "work" Tuesday mornings at Weeks Bay Reserve. The bay itself is a small estuary of approximately 1,718 acres with a average depth of 4.8 feet. The Reserve is about 6,000 acres of water and land in and around the bay. It's located off Mobile Bay. Both the Fish and Magnolia Rivers flow into Weeks Bay.

I answer the telephone and greet visitors that come in. Gives me something to do for a few hours each week. We have a very nice visitors center with a couple of boardwalks. One of the boardwalks goes through a pitcher plant bog. I found this to be most interesting. The tubular leaves of the pitcher plant look like flowers, and are in the shape of a small pitcher. They are death traps for insects. Inside the hollow tubes are stiff hairs pointed downward making it easy for an insect to crawl down into the tube, but difficult to crawl back up and out. The insect will eventually die and fall into a pool of liquid in the bottom of the tube (pitcher). This liquid contains enzymes which digest the insects, and the pitcher plant absorbs the minerals and nutrients from the decomposed prey. There are also several native orchid species located in the pitcher plant bog. Out and back the board walk is about a mile long.

I don't know what got into me since I'm not very handy with tools and woodworking, but I did make a planter box last weekend. It's 5 feet long by 1 foot deep and 1 foot high. Painted it with some redwood stain that matches the carport and the screened porch. Looks pretty good if I do say so myself. Went to Ole Time Pottery, buying a couple of clay pots to place on each side of the planter box, then to Lowes for potting soil and some plants. Didn't keep track of what all of this cost (truth be known, I guess I was afraid to), but we felt we needed something to improve the looks of the front of our little place. I've already received a couple of nice comments about our new curb appeal, so I guess it was worth the work and cost.

We will be visiting family in Texas in August. I don't look forward to the Texas summer heat, but I'm a big boy, and I can take it. A couple of visitors have spent some time with us since we've been in LA, and we're expecting our supervisor from Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Kentucky a week or two before Thanksgiving. We plan to be in Olive Branch, Mississippi, then back in Arlington later this year, but the rest of our calendar is open. If you want to come visit just let us know.