Gulf Shores, AL – Month 1 (November 1 – 30, 2022)

On  Tuesday, November 1st, we drove 166 miles to the campground at Gulf State Park for our two-month stay.  With Todd Ehlenfeldt’s assistance, Phil got us backed into our spot in site #12 fairly easily.  After getting set up, we attended a happy hour at the campsite of Scott and Gail Wahls, friends we had met here last year.  We were joined by longtime friends, Todd and Beth Ehlenfeldt, Tom and Roxi Rykal, and Dave and Jo Peterson.

On Wednesday, the same group gathered for another happy hour, this time at Rykal’s site.  We then headed to Doc’s Seafood Shack for dinner, where we shared a bowl of gumbo and split the seafood combo.

On Thursday morning, Jan went for a walk on the beach. 

That afternoon, we drove to Pensacola, FL and caught a nonstop flight to Nashville so we could attend Jan’s 45th high school reunion.  We spent the night at the Club Hotel near the airport.  On Friday, we drove to the reunion venue at The Lodge at Paris Landing State Park, after making brief stops in Camden and having an early dinner in Paris.  Our room at The Lodge was very nice and overlooked the Tennessee River. That evening, we met around the firepit with many of the early-arriving attendees.

On Saturday, after lunch in the lodge’s restaurant, many of the group gathered around the big screen TV to watch the Tennessee – Georgia football game.  Unfortunately, the game did not go as well as hoped and the crowd dwindled after halftime.

The main event began at 6 pm, with socializing and dining on a wide array of finger foods.  At 7 pm, the music began and was provided by a one-man band who was quite good.  There was a large turnout from the Class of 1977 and the attendees enjoyed reconnecting.  The fun continued until after 11 pm.

On Sunday, after saying goodbyes, we headed back to the Nashville airport.  Before catching our afternoon flight, we stopped for an early dinner at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen at Opry Mills and consumed catfish, spare ribs, four sides and peach cobbler.  Our nonstop flight back to Pensacola was on-time and we got back to our campsite by 6:30 pm. 

On Monday, November 7th, we celebrated Scott’s birthday with the Ehlenfeldts, Petersons and Wahls with dinner at DeSoto’s Seafood Kitchen.  This was the first of three birthdays our group will celebrate in November.

Tuesday morning, Phil went to the Orange Beach Rec Center and played pickleball for nearly three hours.  Since he hadn’t played in about two months, he was rather stiff afterward.  That afternoon, we hosted a gathering of the five couples at our site and played numerous games of LCR.

On Wednesday, we headed to Walgreens and both got our flu shots and COVID boosters.  Thursday afternoon, we met the whole group at the Big Beach Brewing Company for an offsite happy hour. 

Afterward, we sat outside and enjoyed the heat from our fire ring.  We had purchased the fire ring and propane tank in the Spring but this was the first time we had tried it out.

On Friday and Saturday mornings, Phil played pickleball at Gulf State Park.  Although the concrete courts contain a lot of cracks, there were some very good players there and it was free (unlike the Rec Center).

On Friday evening, we went to Papa Rocco’s for dinner with Tom, Roxi, Beth and Gail.  Our primary reason for this outing was to see Bo Grant, formerly of The Platters.  We have seen him perform at least once each of the past three winters.  In 2019, Jan had asked him to change the lyrics of Sixteen Candles to Sixty Candles in honor of her 60th birthday, but he had forgotten to do it.  Jan reminded him that he had let her down and, this time, he obliged her request, albeit three years late.

On Tuesday, November 15th, Phil got online at exactly 8 am to request reservations at Gulf State Park for November 2023.  He had pre-programed his iPad to reduce the entry time somewhat and was able to complete the forms in 86 seconds (15 seconds faster than in 2021).  However, due to the increasing popularity of this campground, his entry was #324 in the queue (60 higher than in 2021).  Fortunately, he got the callback the following afternoon and was able to reserve our same campsite (#12) for next November.

On Tuesday afternoon, Jan joined Beth, Roxi, Jo and Gail for a girl’s day out.  They went to The Wharf to see the movie Ticket to Paradise, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts.  Afterward, they did some shopping at The Wharf and had refreshments at Tacky Jacks.

On Wednesday, we drove north to Spanish Fort and Daphne for some shopping.  We then stopped for lunch at Market by the Bay, based on a recommendation from an older gentleman who had dropped by our rig when we were in Georgia.  We both had shrimp po’boy sandwiches and agreed with the recommendation.  After lunch, we stopped in Fairhope and did some Christmas shopping.

On Friday morning, we picked up Jason at the Pensacola airport and stopped for breakfast at Brick & Spoon in Orange Beach.  Saturday was rainy so we decided to spend the afternoon at the movies.  We went to The Wharf and saw The Menu, described as a horror/comedy film.  Phil enjoyed it more than Jan.  After the movie, we headed to Doc’s Seafood Shack & Oyster Bar for Jason’s 40th birthday dinner. We returned home to watch the Tennessee Vols football game.  Unfortunately, the Vols were overrun badly by the South Carolina Gamecocks, thus ending the Vols’ hopes of a national championship run. 

After taking Jason back to the Pensacola airport for his flight home on Sunday morning, we joined the Ehlenfeldts, Petersons and Wahls that afternoon at Doc’s Seafood and Steaks restaurant to celebrate Beth’s birthday.  This Doc’s is the newer version of the restaurant where we had eaten on Saturday night.  We then returned to the Ehlenfeldt’s coach and had cake and ice cream. 

Since we were going to be in Denver on Thanksgiving Day, the group decided to celebrate the holiday on Tuesday.  We gathered at the Petersons’ site and everyone brought multiple dishes.  As usual, we ate more than we should have but it was all very good.  After dinner, we played games and then gathered around the Wahl’s fire ring to escape the dropping temperatures.

On Wednesday morning, we drove to the Pensacola airport and caught our non-stop flight on Frontier to Denver.  We arrived 1-1/2 hours before our flight but, due to the nearby parking lot being full and both baggage drop-off and TSA having long lines, our flight was already boarding when we arrived at the gate.  Upon arriving in Denver, we took a 45-minute train ride from the terminal to Union Station downtown.  Jess picked us up and took us back to her and Jarrod’s apartment.  Jason had arrived earlier in the day.  After relaxing and dining on pizza, we went upstairs to Brittany and Caleb’s apartment in the same building and got to see 5-week-old Liam for the first time in person.

We had rented a basement apartment through Airbnb that was four blocks away, in a nice residential neighborhood.  The apartment was well-furnished, with everything we needed, except a coffee maker.  Jarrod brought us a coffee press, which did the job for Jan’s morning coffee.  Although Jarrod or Jess drove us to our apartment each night, we were able to walk back to their apartment in the mornings. 

After breakfast on Thursday, we walked through the neighborhood to Cheesman Park, one of the many city parks throughout Denver.  We enjoyed seeing the huge historic houses along the way, many of which have now been subdivided into apartments.  The weather was cool, but not unpleasant, and there were many people in the park.  Upon returning to the apartment, we relaxed and watched NFL football until it was time for our Thanksgiving feast.  Caleb, Brittany and Liam joined us for the Thanksgiving festivities.  We dined on Honey Baked Ham and beef tips, as well as many delicious side dishes and desserts.  No one left the table hungry.  After dinner, Jan held Liam while the rest of us played a rousing game of Marbles.

On Friday, we drove to Roxborough State Park and hiked six miles.  Although it was breezy and there were patches of snow on the ground, we warmed up quickly in the sunshine.  We enjoyed seeing the dramatic red-rock formations and the large herds of deer.

On Saturday, the women headed to a couple of craft fairs and then to lunch.  The guys relaxed at the apartment and mostly watched the numerous college football games.

On Sunday, we checked out of our apartment and headed across town to Cozy Cottage for breakfast.  The food was delicious and the servers were very friendly.  After returning to Jarrod and Jess’ apartment, Caleb, Brittany and Liam joined us for a walk through Denver City Park, a very large park across the street from the apartment.  It was then time for Jarrod and Jess to take us to the airport for our flight back to Pensacola.  Jason’s flight was a few hours later than ours, so he hung out with us until it was time for us to board.  The flight left a few minutes early and made good time getting back to Pensacola.  After some delay in getting our suitcase and catching the shuttle to the remote parking lot, we drove back to Gulf State Park and arrived at 9:45 pm.

As the end of November approached, we had to say goodbye to our friends until next November.  On Monday, November 28th, all five couples gathered for a late afternoon lunch at Tacky Jack’s.  Tom and Roxi Rykal departed on Tuesday morning.  On Tuesday evening, we joined the Ehlenfeldts and the Wahls for dinner at Lamberts, home of the “throwed rolls.”  Todd and Beth Ehlenfeldt left on Wednesday morning.  That evening, we hosted our final happy hour with the Petersons and Wahls, who were leaving the following day.  It was Jan’s birthday but, after over a week of big meals, she opted to celebrate it at home.