April 10th

        Moving day! We are going to Gulf Shores AL. We got on the road about 8:30. The exit from the park was smooth. We had waited to hook the Jeep on until we were almost out of the park. There had been a turn shortly after leaving our site that we thought might involve backing up but I made it on one try and we were on our way. Even though it was early on a Sunday the road seemed busy with trucks. We had freeway most of the way so it wasn't too bad. Lunch was had at a rest area about half way through the trip. At first it looked like we might have trouble getting out again but things cleared up and we exited with ease. The one bad thing – we are starting to run low on pretzels. As we neared Loxley, we left the freeway and turned south on Hwy 59. This part of the route was bad. Stop and go driving and lots of traffic. In some sections you would be going 55 and then come up on a stop light. This is not my favorite kind of driving with the motor home. As we got closer to Gulf Shores, Hurricane Ivan damage was everywhere. Damaged buildings and piles of debris seemed to always be in view. The campground entrance for Luxury RV was just where it had been when we stayed there 3 years ago. Right next to the Pizza Hut – only the Pizza Hut had been damaged and was closed and all boarded up. The campground wasn't busy at all. It seems people are only starting to come back to Gulf Shores again. We selected the same site we had last time and parked with no problem. There was no one anywhere near us. We were across from the building where the phone line for internet use was located last time we visited. Only problem – the building had been damaged and was not yet open again so no internet anywhere in the park. Oh, you could stand at a payphone and plug into a modem port but no thanks. After getting set up we took the Jeep for a drive to see what was open and what was not. Our favorite Gulf Shores bar, the Pink Pony Pub, was still closed. Many of the places we had visited on our two earlier visits had been damaged and were still closed. Some looked like they might be trying to reopen while others appeared completely abandoned. Then there were the ones where all that was left was the concrete pad the place had been built on – no building, nothing at all. It had been 7 month since the storm and still the repairs went on. There was construction, re-consturction and demolition going on everywhere amidst the piles of debris. FEMA had said 'pile it by the road and we will haul it away at no charge'. There were piles upon piles of concrete and building debris all along the roads. We found a great burger for supper at a Ruby Tuesday in Orange Beach. Upon returning to the campground, I took the laptop to a place the campground lady had said I could get internet access. There is a coffee shop called Dizzy Bean about 3 miles away that offers a wireless internet. When I got there they were closed of course. But their internet was still up and required no password. I sat in the parking lot and got on with no problem. After collecting the email I shut down the PC and we headed back to the camper. Web site work and our usual Sunday TV completed the evening.

April 11th

        We had lunch at a Mexican place that had not been open on our last visit to this area. There had been signs up about 'opening soon' but they didn't get open while we were there. The food was good but the service was real slow. It was just a short drive to the coffee house for some internet. From there we took a driving tour down through the Perdido Key area where we had spent a month two years ago. The closer we got to the Florida line the worse the storm damage became. The Gulf Shores area seemed well on its way to repair but the Perdido Key area seemed to have just started. It had been 7 months since the storm and severe damage was still evident everywhere. Collapsed buildings, torn off roofs etc were always in view. The Panama Mac bar and liquor store across from the Flora-Bama was just a concrete pad. The back patio was still there but that was all. The same can be said for the Cajun Boil & Beer that we used to go to. Just a pad on the sand. At the far end of the key we turned around and started back. We stopped to chat with the managers of the Playa Del Rio campground where we had stayed two years ago. They had managed to get the campground open again and had stories to tell. Months of hard work went into getting the place back going again. We hope to stay there again in the future – once the rest of the area gets rebuilt. We stopped at a place across from the now closed Flora-Bama to have a beer and catch some local news. The Silver Moon is billing itself as the 'Temporary location of the Flora-Bama'. The same guy owns them both so I guess that seems logical. The news had just come out that the Flora-Bama was to be bulldozed on the coming weekend. A small ceremony was planed. The 'Mullet Toss' would go on as planed on the next weekend. Thousands of people have attended in prior years so their hopes were high for a good turnout again this year. The Flora-Bama will be rebuilt to current building codes and will be two stories high but the owner promises it will be as 'low rent'’ as the original. If you have ever been there you know just what he means. Returning to the camper and feeling the need for additional beer, we walked over to a bar called Mud Bugs. Nice place but no tap Bud Light. After a couple of bottles we walked home and settled in for a beer on the patio before starting TV for the evening. It is supposed to rain tonight.

April 12th

        The long wait to go to the CiCi’s in Gulf Shores was over. The place had been gutted by Hurricane Ivan but now was back in operation. The pizza was as good as we remembered and we enjoyed every bite. Next stop was the Wal-Mart just a few miles further north. We needed beer for the frig as well as several other items. We stopped next at an Office Max for no real reason. I checked out the prices on color laser printers and decided it might finally be time to buy one – when we get back. Next came what I am sure will become a daily ritual – going to the coffee shop for internet. When I got back I worked on the PC for a little while Rita sat outside and called her sisters. After about 30 minutes I took the cell phone charger and a beer out to her as I was sure she needed both. We sat out for a while before retiring to the TV. Shortly we discovered that several mosquitoes were enjoying us while we enjoyed TV. Time for the bug zapper tennis racket!

April 13th

        Today is my daughter in-laws birthday. Happy Birthday Becky!! We have also been waiting to revisit one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Vallarta, so we went there for lunch today. They continue have some of the best Mexican food we have found. I took pictures of the Ivan damage and rebuilding on the way back to Gulf Shores. We made a quick stop at a recently reopened souvenir shop before returning to the camper. One more key-chain for Jenny. Back at the camper, Rita started a full camper cleaning while I made my daily trip to the coffee shop. I called Becky when I got back but only got to leave an excellent rendition of the birthday song on her answering machine. Around 5pm we took off for a restaurant that had been recommended by the bartender at the Silver Moon – a place called Tin Top located in Bon Secour. They offer all-you-can-eat mullet on Wednesday nights so we thought we would give it a try. It was small little place but the mullet was excellent. It was served with cheese grits, hush puppies and collard greens. All real southern delicacies! A small musical group set up while we ate so we drank a beer slowly and waited for them to start playing. One guy on guitar and one on harmonicas. He actually had a belt full of them! Anyway, they were great but we had to leave and open our table for the next guests. They indicated they would be playing in Gulf Shores on Saturday night so we thought maybe we would see them again. The guy’s name was Willy and the place they would be playing at started with an "M". That was all we could agree on. He had such a southern drawl/growl neither of us could understand him when he said the name of the place.

April 14th

        After seeing lots of Burger King commercials, we decided to try the ultimate omelet thing. Oh man, are they big! Good, but way big. After a quick stop at the coffee shop I returned to the camper. We eventually decided to walk down to the beach. It was a beautiful day and people we out playing on the sand. Not the vast crowds of people we had seen on our earlier visits but still enough to do a little people watching. I got a chance to take some more pictures of Ivan damage before we started the walk back towards the camper. We had decided to make a stop at a local pizza place on the way back for supper – Crico’s. It is a very small place that mostly does carry-outs and deliveries but has a few tables for those who stop by. Excellent pizza with a crackery crust. Next stop was a place called Papa Rocco’s. They also serve pizza but they are mostly a bar. We just wanted to check the place out so we had one beer and left. Our last stop was Mud Bugs (an "M" place?). Their sign indicated they had somebody called Tugboat playing on Saturday night – could this be Tugboat Willy maybe? The bartender confirmed our suspicion and we decided to revisit the bar on Saturday night. The group doesn't start until 9PM so we will have to start the evening much later than normal but we will give it a try. Back to the camper in time to watch Survivor. This was a great day.

April 15th

        Tax day – so what, my taxes are all done (Thanks Ed!). We went back to Ruby Tuesday for lunch. Same great burger. A waiter I thought looked familiar from our last visit stopped by the table and started to chat. He thought we were locals and told us some story about growing his hair from a brush cut into a pony tail after seeing my tail a couple years back. At least that is what we thought he said. He was talking so fast it was hard to tell. Weird. We checked out the damage as we drove to the Wal-Mart that is located at the far end of the key near the Pensacola Naval Air Station. More rubbish and destruction. We stopped by the Silver Moon on the way back to check the status on the Flora-Bama. The destruction party was set to start at 2PM on Saturday. We had a couple of beers before returning to the camper and sitting out on the patio. Then came the nightly TV.

April 16th

        This will be a busy day. We had lunch at Vallarta and it was excellent as always. We had driven by the Flora-Bama on the way to Vallarta and the crowd had already been gathering. There were cars and people everywhere. By the time we got back from the Vallarta we had to hunt for a place to park. The demolition had already begun and people watched and cheered from every possible vantage point. I took several pictures as the various walls were torn down. A large tent had been erected on the beach and they had a band playing. Beer was being served in multiple locations and we joined right in. The elevated deck area of the Flora-Bama had survived the storm and was completely packed with people. There was even a second musical group playing up there. We had heard they planed to sell bricks from the Flora-Bama at some point with all of the money going to charity. There must be something we could do with a brick. After buying a tee shirt celebrating the rebirth of the Flora-Bama we stood in line to buy a brick. Along the way we chatted with a lady that told of coming to this place with her parents when she was a child. Since then she has brought her daughter here as well. She was sad to see it being torn down particularly since she had forgotten her camera. She had bought an extra memory card for her camera and had that with her, just no camera to put it in. I gave her my email address and promised to send her the pictures I took if she sent me an address to send them to. She seemed much happier. We ended up buying three bricks. On the way back to the camper we picked up Subway subs to have for supper well we waited to go out. Around 8:30PM we walked over to Mud Bug's. We watched the band and had beers for several hours before walking back to the camper. A good day.