A Kentuckian in Florida: A Tale of Sand, Sunburns, Sharknados and State Troopers

Last Saturday morning my family and I packed the car and hit I-65 South in route to our annual beach vacation in Destin, Florida. Because I don’t live in Hawaii (*cough cough* looking at you Kelly) but in a land-locked state, it takes a while to get to any kind shoreline. The eleven and a half hour car ride was filled with naps, Chick-Fil-A and traffic. Road trips can be entertaining or excruciating, depending on how long they are and whether or not you have to go to the bathroom every hour.

My road trip tips:

  • Bring headphones (this is kind of a given),
  • get out at every stop (if not to use the bathroom, at least stretch your legs and/or numb butt)
  • bring a pillow (because the slightly shaking window or your sibling’s shoulders are not the most comfortable things to rest your head on).
  • Also, car phone chargers are heaven sent. I would not have been able to last the car ride without one.

We finally arrived to the edge of the panhandle along the Gulf of Mexico to the house that would be our home for the week. We were sharing with three other families. The rest of Sunday and all of Monday consisted of beach lounging and swimming in our considerably small and bean shaped pool.

While activities in the sun can leave you with a bronze glow, more often than not, it leads to sunburns. Although I usually don’t have this problem and reapply my sunscreen multiple times during a beach day, sometimes it just sneaks up on you, even if you don’t feel like you are burning. This was my problem on Monday. Here are my tips to help ease the pain of a sunburn: take a shower, cover the burn area in regular skin moisturizing lotion (and lots of it), then cover it with aloe straight from the fridge. The most important piece of advice I can give though is to get a good night’s sleep. It sounds cheesy and not helpful at all but believe me, I went to bed Monday night with a fried chest and shoulders that were warm to the touch and woke up with slightly red, but cold skin. By Wednesday the burns were all but gone.

Tuesday we rented a pontoon boat to drive around Destin Harbor and Bae, I mean Bay. What is so special about this bay? Well besides the vastness of it, creating the perfect environment for long rides and drives along coves lined with million dollar houses, there is the very popular Crab Island. This is no ordinary island, no, it is actually a sandbar with knee deep water in the middle of the bay. On any given day many pontoon boats will drop their anchors and hang out. Equipped with a floating snack shack and water sports equipment rental shop, there is always more than one ice cream boat driving around playing the always creepy ice cream truck music. The crab part of this island lies just beneath the sand. Thousands of hermit crabs inhabit the space. In total we caught over 50 crabs within a two and a half hour period. Don’t worry, we threw them all back.

687It was a beautiful day on the bay, sunny, breezy and not too hot.

Here is another shot of Crab Island I took from the car on the bridge on the right side of the picture above:

724Ignore the nice side of the bridge (I know it’s a bad picture but it was the best I could do from a moving vehicle). As you can see, the Island is basically just a place for boats to let out their anchors and chill. I took so many pictures that day so here is another one of the harbor close to where we rented the boat:

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And another:

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Wednesday was another lazy beach day, complete with a Sharknado 2 watching party while we all had dinner. The SyFy channel was the only channel that was watched in the days leading up to the big premier, and it is safe to say that I am an expert on shark movies now. Sandshark, Ghost Shark, Mega Shark, Jaws, Sharktapus….I know them all. We all enjoyed the movie and its oscar worthy acting and graphics. My favorite part was when Ian Ziering’s character sliced down a shark with a chainsaw in mid-air. Epic, just plain epic.

Thursday morning my dad, sister and I drove about 45 minutes east to a town called Seaside. This tradition started a few years back. Seaside is the cutest beach town I have ever seen. It is filled with small houses along the beach and on the other side of the road. Every building is made with the same siding and everyone rides their bikes everywhere. The movie The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey was filmed here. There are many small restaurants and shops to explore, like these in the picture I took below:

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I think my favorite part of Seaside is the elementary school. It is made up of separate school rooms right next to the town square. Here is a picture:

715It has to be the cutest school I’ve ever seen. We spent a few hours roaming the main square before we drove back to Destin and rested on the beach.

Friday was also a beach day. However, Saturday my family and I said goodbye to the other families and headed an hour west to Pensacola. We got a hotel on the beach, sat by the pool all day and went to a restaurant next to the hotel for dinner. The place was called “Crabs: We Got ‘Em” and we loved it! It was right on the beach, had live music and sat on the upstairs patio overlooking the ocean and pier. Sunday morning after an always satisfying hotel breakfast, my dad, sister and I got in the car and decided to explore Pensacola. We ended up driving down a road leading to the edge of Santa Rosa Island. What we didn’t realize was that the edge of the island is a historical military fort named Fort Pickens. We pulled up to a teller window and the state trooper behind it gave us a brochure and map of the site. It was $8 to enter.

The fort was named after Major General Andrew Pickens, who fought in the Revolutionary War. Constructed between 1829 and 1834, the fort was used as a Union base in opposition to a Confederate fort on the other side of the bay pass during the Civil War.

We first explored what is called an artillery “battery” or a small sheltered site the houses artillery. Batteries are not as big as forts, as you can see from the picture below:

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Here is where a cannon was used in this particular battery:

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The main fort was constructed out of brick by slaves.

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Additions were constructed for the fort in 1891 out of concrete and painted black to replace the out-dated brick walls. This battery was included in those additions:

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This battery is more updated than the first, and included a hut for machine artillery. I had to be a ninja and stand on a small ledge to get this picture but I did it:

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There was also a fort within the fort built:
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On the top of the fort, one can see for miles.

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Soldiers plotted and calculated their strikes against enemies, and fired from many cannons that were lined on top. These cannons were placed on wheels which moved along tracks in case their target moved. Almost all of the cannons were removed except for this one:

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and this large one:

773S/o to the random family that photobombed.

Overall we loved visiting the fort and all three agreed that it was definitely $8 well spent (me especially since I am a history junkie). If you are ever in the Pensacola area, I suggest you go and check it out!

Today (Monday) we are making the drive back to Louisville. Of course I want to stay longer, but I definitely can’t complain about having a nine day beach vacation! I can’t wait for next year’s trip!

~Amanda

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