Southern Sojourn -Gulf Shores, AL

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Mobile Bay FerryWe did something a bit different upon leaving Dauphin Island for our next destination, Gulf Shores, AL.  You see, the ferry is taking only cars and motorcycles right now; no RV’s.  So, Steve had to drive Betsy 85 miles along the Alabama Scenic Byway (not a bad gig) while I simply hopped a ferry ride across Mobile Bay to Gulf Shores – 29 miles total for me!  The Mobile Bay Ferry connects Fort Gaines at Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan on the Gulf Shores side.  Luckily, there was no threat of torpedoes during my crossing, or I guess Steve would have had the last laugh after all!  It was a fun ferry ride as I got a closer look at some oil rigs along the way and watched seagulls trying to catch a free ferry ride.wpid11134-2013-03-19-AL-1360645.jpg

Once settled in at the RV park, we hopped into our dinghy to check out the area.  Gulf Shores is a popular resort destination, hence more frenetic compared to the quite slow-paced life at Dauphin Island.  And add to that, it’s spring break!  The beach and nearby restaurants at Gulf Shores were busy with spring breakers.  Fortunately, most of our desire for long walks on sugar-white beaches and sunny days had been satisfied while we were on the Island.

Not only were the beaches packed, the RV parks were also booked with snowbirders from northern States.  We wanted to stay at either Gulf Shores State Park or Meares State Park (both with over 100 sites), but snowbirders apparently booked their monthly sojourn months in advance, keeping them full until April.  We managed to snag the last spot at Island Retreat RV Resort (love it when they call their park a “resort”) for a few days.  Here, many of the guests were from Michigan, while the rest were from Missouri, Minnesota and Kentucky.  There are no RV parks on the beach here, but the Gulf Shores State Park is very close.

For several months now, we have been using the site RV Park Reviews as a resource for our upcoming trip stops.  Steve is now contributing reviews to the site for each park we use.  Although we realize these reviews won’t be helpful to everyone because “different strokes for different folks” and the fact that conditions at parks can change fairly often, we will create a link to our reviews in case you want to take a look.  For now, click here to read Steve’s recent park reviews.

Although the 32 miles of white sandy beaches is the main attraction at Gulf Shores, there are a lot of other things to do here.  For historians, Fort Morgan Historic Site and Museum is at the tip of the western peninsula, where I disembarked from the ferry.  Alabama is a birding paradise – on the coast alone there are six Alabama Coastal birding trails.  When in this area, fresh seafood is king when it comes to restaurants.  With the help of one local dude we found one to satiate our taste buds.  At Tacky Jacks, the atmosphere is casual and the food to die for is the Cajun Shrimp Pasta.  Jason was so right, it was simply the best shrimp pasta we had tried so far.

Mifi set up

New WiFi setup, and it works!

Since we were now near civilization, we took care of some business. With the big “T” day approaching, we gathered all tax docs and did a conference call with our tax preparer, did some banking changes and most importantly we trashed errr… I mean cancelled our Verizon MiFi contract.

Nina’s thorough post about their wifi set up and a personal tour of the setup used by Hans and Lisa at Metamorphosis Road finally pushed us to abandon our appalling Verizon MiFi device and move to Millenicom’s device.  It also uses Verizon service, but the old device never worked correctly and after replacing it multiple times we gave up.  Steve’s blood pressure is almost back to normal now!  Using a micro-to-mini cable to charge the MiFi from the Wilson cradle as Hans suggested also helped clean up the wiring, so everything looks nice mounted to our power panel.  Thanks for the help, all!

Fort Morgan Road Trail

Fort Morgan Road Trail

With all of our business completed it was time to relax and act like retired people!  Our RV park was along a nice paved bike trail, so we took an 11-mile ride along Fort Morgan Road Trail.

Hiking and viewing the birds along the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge was a good way to get away from the crowds.  We walked 10 miles along the interconnected Pine Beach Trail, the Jeff Friend Trail, Gator Lake Trail and the Centennial Trail (all part of the Fort Morgan Loop .)

Here are some of the resident birds.

Osprey

Osprey gathering twigs to build a nest

The south is known for its  hospitality and I felt it here, for I was addressed as “ma’am” at the store, restaurants and most other places.  That’s much nicer than what Steve usually calls me!  I’m beginning to like this place.

“Damn the Torpedoes…”

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Fort Gaines.

For the history buffs among you, visiting Fort Gaines while on Dauphin Island is a bonus. Fort Gaines stands at the eastern tip of the island, where you can not only get a panoramic view of the bay and Gulf of Mexico, but also be immersed into the historical and thrilling account of the Battle of Mobile Bay.

English: Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island, Alabama

English: Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island, Alabama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On August 5, 1864 the US Navy attempted to run the gauntlet between Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan, in what is now known as the Battle of Mobile Bay.  The passage between the forts was protected by the guns of the forts themselves, torpedoes (also called mines) and other obstructions.  While running the gauntlet the navy warship USS Tecumseh struck a mine and went to the bottom in seconds.  It was at this point that Admiral David Farragut reportedly uttered the famous words, “Damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead!’  The navy pushed on, and the 3-week naval and land battle resulted in the capture of Fort Gaines and the Confederate Fleet by the union forces.

East Bastion

It was cool and breezy as we followed the self-guided walking tour of the fort, which was built in the 1800s.  Exploring the original tunnels, bastion, blacksmith area and multiple huge canons really gave us a feel for what it may have been like here during the heat of battle.

Steve enjoyed the museum, learning about the many types of weapons and ordnance used at the time.

It cost only $6.00 per person to visit the Fort, and Steve was happy to find a nice Hanes Daupin Island T-shirt for only $10.00.  Not bad!

A day of history lessons was just enough reason to take another long walk on the beach, as we had been doing every day.  Several visits to the sanctuary and other bird sites yielded no migrant birds yet, but the resident birds were merrily chirping away.  Click here for the birds I managed to capture at Dauphin Island.

Now about where we stayed.  Folks have already asked about the accommodations, so we’ll give the best report we can.

There are really only two options for where to park your RV, Dauphin Island Campground on the east end or Pelican Nest near the center of the island.  Nina of  Wheeling It wrote a thorough review of the Dauphin Island Campground that you may want to check out – it was fully booked when we were there.  So, we stayed at Pelican Nest RV Resort Park, which has only 12 sites and is located right across the street from the center of the beach and pier.  We liked this park a lot during the first few days, but when the weekend rolled around with beautiful warm weather it got busy and noisy on the road out front.  They also re-opened a restaurant next door and it was VERY loud on the weekend nights.  It may come down to deciding how much the noise will bother you in return for the fantastic beach access.  The road noise will be reduced some if you can get a spot behind the office – sites #7-10.  Try to NOT get #1 next to the road, which is where we stayed.

We really enjoyed our week on Dauphin Island – it’s small, relatively quiet and less touristy than some other places in this area. This island has a popular bakery full of yummy goodies and a fresh seafood store.

And finally, another day another beautiful Alabama sunset.

Dauphin Island

Our upcoming stops – tell us about any “must do” tours, excursions,
restaurants, etc. you’ve enjoyed at these places:

Pensacola, FL

Montgomery, AL

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