Henderson Beach State Park

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On this trip I’ve been trying a new model of travel, where we try to make fewer stops and stay longer.  In the past, we had a tendency to move on fairly regularly, often every 2-3 days.  That worked for our needs when were full-timing, but now I find that I need longer pauses between towing days in order to get a reasonable amount of work done.

So having left the Sword Swallowers’ Wedding in southern Georgia, we decided to take a few days on the Florida panhandle to visit some of the nicest beaches anywhere.   A few years ago we would have stayed two days and moved on, but this time I prepaid for four nights.  The plan was to settle in and have plenty of time to enjoy the beach at Henderson Beach State Park in Destin, FL — between bouts of work.

That has worked out well so far.  I’ve been working for about six hours in the morning and early afternoon while Emma does her school work, then we all cut out for a couple of hours at the beach, and then after sunset (5 p.m. right now), I have some time in the evening to do a bit more of the office chores.

destin-fl-boardwalk-2010-11.jpgI’ve said it before, but it’s really nice to stay in the Airstream at a Florida beachfront state park.  There are several good ones in the panhandle, including St George Island, St. Joe’s, St. Andrew’s, Grayton, Topsail, and Henderson.  We’ve stayed at four of them so far, and it’s hard to pick a favorite since they’re all spectacular in their own way. Our campsite is a short walk down a boardwalk over the dunes, to the beach.

And the sand of the panhandle is unlike any other I’ve seen in North America: stunning 99% pure white quartz.  It squeaks under your feet, and feels like soft sugar.  I always want to take a truckload home with me. The water is clear, and it combines with the white sand to yield that sort of blue-green idyllic surf that you usually only see in movies.

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Last night we were graced by a visit from Alison Turner, a photographer who is currently traveling the US with a tent and her dog Max.  Alison has lately been providing photos to Airstream Life, and you’ll see her work in our upcoming issues with increasing frequency.  She had emailed me from Tallahassee, and I invited her to join us at Henderson Beach.  A few hours later she was here having dinner in our Airstream.  It’s amazing what she has been able to do with just a tent and her friendly personality.  It takes a durable person to travel that way, and I have to respect her for it — even though she admitted she missed her bed and is in a bit of a hurry to get home to California!

The weather forecast for Destin this week is just about perfect.  We’re getting days in the 70s, nights in the 50s, and nothing but sunshine and dry air.  Amazingly, this is the “off season,” so there are plenty of available spaces in the campground most days for $30 per night.  The beach is virtually empty all day despite balmy breezes and dolphins jumping off shore, because it’s “too cold” for locals.  Nobody but northerners gets in the water now, but for us it is the peak of summer and we’ve got the whole place to ourselves.

destin-fl-sunset-beach-house-2010-11.jpgFor those who are interested in the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill, we can report that we’ve spotted no tar balls, oil sheen, or much of anything else.  A careful eye will see pinhead-sized clumps of tar at some places, but if you weren’t thinking about it you wouldn’t notice them.  We had to search for a few minutes to collect a handful of little tar bits, which is great because it would be hard to find a bigger insult to these pristine white sands than to be mucked up with oil residue.

We have made a strategic decision to zip through Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana on this trip. Corpus Christi has been a stop we’ve long wanted to make, and every time we go through Texas we skip it.  Well, not this time.  We’ll go camping on the beach at Padre Island National Seashore.

But to make the time for that detour, something had to go. When we leave here on Thursday, we will have just about two weeks left and we still have 1,825 miles to go, counting the trip to Corpus Christi.  So our routine will be zoom-zoom … long pause … zoom-zoom … long pause … zoom zoom & then we’ll be home.

Alison asked us last night if we were looking forward to getting back to Tucson, and both Eleanor and I said: “Yes and no.”  It will be nice to stretch out in the comforts of our larger home base, but we’ll miss the invigoration of visiting different places and people.  It has always been that way, and I suppose that’s why we never stay parked for too long.

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