We stuck to the coast on the way to Florida. We drove down to Jacksonville, where we had delicious tacos at my friend Gretchen’s cousins restaurant. We were able to meet with her cousin up in Savannah before we headed down there. He had a vintage Airstream taco truck in his driveway, and it was really cool to see how he set it up. He only uses it for events now, but it was how he started up his business. It was great to talk business with him, and learn a bit about running a food truck, something we had been curious about for a while.
In Jacksonville we stayed at a state park on the east coast just north. When I was checking in there were sea turtle pictures all over the wall, so I asked if I would see any on the beach. I was informed that all the nests that were on the beach were destroyed by Hurricane Irma. I hadn’t thought about how the Hurricane would effect the sea turtles, it made me sad. She also told me that they lost lots of boardwalks, that they were repairing, but that they had been cleaning up for a month, so had cleared up a lot of the damage. We were on a small island out there, and Brian was able to take out his kayak. He said the waters was alive with fish! On our way over the the island we saw tons of fisherman on the bridges. Bianca wasn’t allowed on the beach here, so we went on down the road in search of a dog beach. We ended up finding a beach that you could drive on where people were fishing from the shores. The beaches here are all white sand. So beautiful!
We headed to Gainsville from here, Tom Petty’s hometown. We were in Chicago when he died, and we’d been listening to his music on the road a lot ever since. In Gainsville we visited with a friend who lives there and is starting up a restaurant. We stayed here one night on our way to the Gulf Coast and NOLA. It’s always nice to see friends. We got to see the space he was just getting ready to sign for, and it was neat to see his idea coming to life. He had been talking about it with Brian for a couple years since he left San Francisco. Super excited for Chris and his wife Jen. It’s hard to leave San Francisco, but those who we have seen have great full lives, and houses that are good sized, and no longer struggling in a small San Francisco studios to survive. We were coming back to visit them again after NOLA because we want to loop around the rest of Florida.
From here we hit the Gulf coast, and found a great state park on an island called St. George Island State Park. We crossed over a long bridge to get to there. It was a long strip of an island, only a couple hundred yards across, so you could see beaches on both sides while driving down the road. This was the first time either of us had been to the Gulf Coast before. It was amazing, white sand beaches, and turquoise waters. We found a great spot called Paddy’s on the island for drinks, dinner, and some live music. We got peel and eat shrimp, oysters and gumbo. It was right on the beach, and the sunset here was incredible. True old-style Florida.
Next we went to a town called Apalachicola. Very charming old fishing village with a great downtown, we had breakfast here at a spot where the woman felt like your own grandma, and her lattes had foam so stiff it was amazing it stood up over my cup a few inches. We got a couple lox bagels here as well for breakfast. We headed from here to Pensacola. The drive there was nice, we zig zagged on and off the main road to stick to the coast road as much as we could. Loving the gulf coast breezes, and the water here. We arrived in a spot called Panama Beach, and it was a fun spot to hit after all the mellow coast towns we’d come through. It was a bumping city with condos, hotels, shrimp shacks, oyster places, and people all over the place. Parts of it were a bit like an amusement park left some rides throughout, upside down buildings, restaurants on boats, and the worlds biggest mini golf parks. There was a motorcycle rally happening, and bikers were everywhere, sporting their styles, and rad bikes. We saw one lady wearing a 50’s like pink jacket with her name on it, like the Pinkies from Greece, and she had her two small white fluffy dogs on a platform on the back with their hair dyed pink. The beaches here were incredible here. Caribbean like, white sands, clear, and beautiful.
We ended up camping on Santa Rosa Island across from Pensacola. This island was more developed than the last island, although also only a couple hundred yards across with a long bridge to get over to it. It had big hotels, condos, a Margaritaville Hotel, and so on. We wanted to stay at the state park here, but found that the road was closed and had washed out due to the hurricanes, so we found another place to camp that we had front row beach camping. It was great! We hadn’t had that view of a beach out the airstream for a while. There was sand right out the door, beach volleyball nets, and beach chairs all out the door from us.
After a few days of beach vacation life we headed to New Orleans to meet Emily and Corbin! Super excited to see our friends and spend Halloween in the wild city of New Orleans. We choose a spot to camp at on Lake Ponochatrain with a water view of a marina. It was a funky neighborhood, a little like an industrial area that never got fixed back up after the hurricane hit there. Which makes some sense since that was the lake where the dam burst during the hurricane.
We had a lot of fun with Emily and Corbin. We saw a lot of great music. Our first night out was a blast, we went to Tipitinos and saw Galactic! We all went and got some varying costume accessories for our days in NOLA, and each night we chose a different item to wear, and kept expanding from there. The second night we went and checked out Frenchman Street. The third night we went and saw the Preservation Hall Band, and then went around Bourbon Street, which was playing all sorts of great music. We wandered in to a few different bars and enjoyed listening the the music. The fourth night was Halloween, we went to the Maple Leaf and saw Rebirth Brass Band.
Each day we all explored New Orleans listening to street music, people watching, looking at art and enjoying the tasty eats. We frequented the same coffee shop every day like we were locals called French Truck Coffee. The food in NOLA is unique and has its own style, all of it very different from what we’d eaten anywhere else. We were sad to see our friends go home, but also very excited to explore Florida more. We are heading back along the Gulf Coast and returning to Florida to go down the A1A to Key West. Very excited for beach life ahead!