Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mid-Life Crisis on the Gulf Coast


Idle hands truly are the Devil’s workshop. Our relaxed travel regimen this winter has left Keith with too much time on his hands. Time to daydream; about a new motorhome; about a new boat; about a new condominium.


Newmar Dutch Star Motorhome

It all began in early January when Keith stumbled across the PPL Houston website, and began exploring used diesel motorhomes. The used motorhome arena currently is a strong buyers market. With 90,000 miles on our gasoline powered coach, Keith wondered if the time was right to trade up to something newer, larger, and more commodious. Then Keith looked up the value of our current coach, and suddenly realized that motorhomes are a depreciating asset. Big time. This observation, coupled with the fact that we genuinely like our present coach, led Keith into shower, where he turned on the cold water and quenched this fantasy.

Keith had just managed to get the motorhome Pandora back in the box, when he stumbled across a blog written by a couple who did the “Great Loop”, and were starting to do it over again ( ) . For the uninitiated among you, the Great Loop refers to circumnavigation of the eastern US via the intercoastal waterway, the Hudson, Richelieu, and St Lawrence Rivers, the Great Lakes, the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee Rivers, and the Ten-Tom Canal.


Vintage Tollycraft, Available in Chelsea, Massachusetts

This blog led to other looping blogs, which led to thoughts about how nice it would be to make this journey, which led to extended time on various websites exploring used boats, which led to… Well, you get the idea. Keith spent many years cruising the southern New England coast, and truly misses boating. He found an older 40 ft. Tollycraft in Chelsea, MA, near our summer digs, which was repowered in 2001 with modern diesel engines, and which appeared to be well equipped for looping.

Keith was just on the verge of calling the broker to make further inquiries, when reality struck again. He was helped back down to earth by a friend who pointed out the realities of boating with Spinal Stenosis (which limits Keith’s mobility), and by reminding Keith about the expenses associated with owning and maintaining a boat. He also and pointed out that a boat is yet another depreciating asset. Keith is grateful for this reality check.

Back to the cold shower again.

About this time Kathy was getting the real estate bug in Rockport, and we embarked on a third fantasy trip, this time in search of an appreciating asset. Our January’s forays into Rockport real estate are described in the post previous to this one.


Bay House Condominium in Rockport, Texas

During the months of February and March, we extended our explorations to southern Alabama and Florida. We looked at two areas in Alabama, one in Fairhope, and the other the strand along the Gulf Coast, including the towns of Gulf Shores and Orange, AL. While we really liked Fairhope, there was very little by way of waterfront condo’s, or good boatyards. The Gulf Coast is littered with condo’s, almost all of them high rise. We just don’t know if this style of cliff dwelling would suit Keith’s temperament. Kathy, on the other hand, has fantasies about relaxing on a 14th floor balcony, martini in hand, looking out over the Gulf of Mexico. We did a couple of days driving around, but did not call any realtor, nor look at any specific units.


Fairhope Waterfront


Fairhope Waterfront Condominium


Orange Beach High Rise Condominiums


Orange Beach Bum

During our relatively short sojurn in Alabama we camped at the Escapees Rainbow Plantation in Summerdale. We like this park very much, and there is lots of good eating in nearby Foley. We revisited our favorite haunts: Lamberts Café (home of the throwed rolls) and the China Buffet, and enjoyed a couple of good meals cooked by the Escapees Chef in the Plantation Clubhouse.


Relaxing at Rainbow Plantation

In addition to regularly scheduled dinners, The Plantation sponsors a “Flatulence Fest” every February. What, you well may ask, is a Flatulence Fest? It is a variation of the pot luck dinner, where every dish is made from beans, in one form or another. We attended this affair a couple of years ago, and were pleased to be at the Plantation for the 2009 reprise. Various cooks donate dishes; attendees donate $3.00, which goes to a local charity, and a good time is had by all. A highlight at this and almost every Plantation party is a performance by the Chenille’s sing group. The photo below says it all.


The Chenille’s Perform at the Flatulence Fest


Flatulence Fest Chefs & Products

Our early departure from Alabama was dictated by reservations to visit Mickey Mouse in Orlando. Keith scheduled several days for the drive, to allow for the possibility of delays, so we arrived in central Florida early enough for Kathy to fly north and spend a few days with her family. Recalling that idle hands are the Devils workshop, Keith stayed at the Escapees campground in Bushnell, so he would have organized activities to keep him occupied while Kathy was away.

Notwithstanding these activities, Keith did manage to get into some trouble by exploring the nearby Gulf Coast, again looking for areas which might seem attractive for settling down. He identified Tarpon Springs as being especially interesting, because of the pleasant small town atmosphere, the mix of commercial and pleasure boating activities, and the beautiful surrounding Gulf Coast waterways. A minor downside of this town is the somewhat touristy area around the sponge docks. The carnival atmosphere reminds Keith somewhat of Old Harbor on Block Island. More on Tarpon Springs Real Estate in a future post.


Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks (Commercial Photo)

Following Kathy’s return from Massachusetts, we did the Disney thing. A detailed description is provided in a later post. Suffice it to say at this point that a week at Fort Wilderness cost us substantially more than a full month of waterfront camping in Rockport. Disney is unquestionably nice, but it is frightfully expensive. An exposition of what we got for our money follows in a later posting. The bottom line benefit was three delightful days in the parks with our Maryland granddaughters.



Don’t touch that dial!