|Honky Tonkin' in Destin
May 2011 -- 8 Days of Fun
by Mike Bailey
|Copyright (C) 2011, 2016 by Michael T. Bailey Sr., Marietta, Georgia.
All rights reserved. Reproduction, adaptation, or translation without prior written
permission is prohibited, except as allowed under copyright laws.
I have always been amazed at how life can come up with all sorts of things or ways to surprise us,
reward us and in general, just make our day (or week, as the case in hand will point out).
Both Deanna and I are beach people and have gone to the beach all our lives for weekends or
vacations like two weeks every summer at Edisto Beach, SC for the past 45 years.
In fact, we met at the beach -- Myrtle Beach State Park in South Carolina -- when we were just 16
years old. I was a lifeguard there and she was camping there with her family. Needless to say, our
love for the beach and our perceptions of what a beach is or should be like were formed around our
love for the beaches in South Carolina.
We have (in general) shunned all other beaches, including most of those in Florida and especially,
those on the gulf side and in particular, those around Panama City and Destin, etc. To us, they were
just hot, boring, white sand beaches, with no real waves or tidal changes, and had no seashells or
fossils up on the beach for you to find.
Then it happened -- we got “beached” but good by our recent stay at Destin. My son Michael gave
his mother a “Week at an oceanfront resort condo in Destin, Florida” for Mother’s Day. Of course
he and his wife Elyse “just had to come along” so they could show us the ropes! :-)
So sit back and enjoy the story and pictures on the following pages that captures our
transformation to bona fide “Hooked on Destin” beachgoers.
Finally, travel day had arrived and after figuring out how to pack all that we would need in the car,
and some on top, we hit the road and headed for Florida. I don’t think we were out of our sub-
division before Michael had already assumed his usual long drive position -- leaned way back in
his seat and sound asleep.
We were going to travel via I-85 South, then cut off and go past Columbus and then over into
Alabama and head south through Eufaula and Dothan before slipping into Florida and heading west
a bit on I-10 before dropping down to the coast and then on to Destin.
After passing through the shady, tree-lined historical section of Eufaula with all her beautiful,
majestic old Victorian homes on display, we stopped at a fast-food place for lunch. I had gone off
that morning and left my beer cooler sitting in the garage and was still very upset about this major
vacation calamity. Me -- Mike Bailey on a beach vacation and NO beer cooler -- disaster in the
works was gnawing all over me! :-(
Well, as luck would have it, my 1st cousin “Bill Hump” somehow or another found this out and called
me on my cell phone to tell me, “He had this tingling feeling that I was in trouble … that I might be
suffering from de-hydration or something like that…”
Long story short, I laugh my ass off and just hearing him rib me about leaving the stupid cooler
behind made everything OK. I knew then that the rest of the week was going to be great.
Soon, we had slipped into Florida and it wasn’t too long before we were zipping along the coast
highway (US 98) and then over along beach front along Scenic Gulf Drive to where Maravilla, our
beautiful condo resort, was located about 5 miles east from downtown Destin. I think we were
technically in Miramar Beach but who cared – it was all beautiful!
Since this was a Saturday, traffic hadn’t been too bad on the way down but as we found out later in
the afternoon, US 98 traffic into and around Destin late in the day becomes very heavy.
Our condo was beautiful. Even though our particular unit didn’t face directly at the ocean, it did
offer an angled view and from our large 3rd-story balcony, everything looked beautiful -- inside
We quickly unloaded the car and after settling into our rooms (this was a large 2-bedroom condo
unit with a great open kitchen and living room combination), we made a bee-line for the ocean. The
wooden steps down from the roadway to the beach were in three tiers but D managed them well and
soon we were soaking up the sun and views along the beach.
Whereas Edisto Beach where we always go is more laid back and totally informal, the beaches here
appeared to be more formal, structured. What I mean is that instead of beachgoers just randomly
setting up their stuff all over the place as they do at Edisto, they are generally all set up in
straight lines here. This is because for the most part, all the condos, resorts, whatever along the
beaches here have their own setup up of umbrellas and chairs and they are setup/reserved for all
the condo owners and guests.
There are some people that will come down to the beach and set up their own stuff, but they
generally set up in front of the condo-umbrella line. All in all, everything works out and there are
We made arrangements with the guys on the beach for our condo to have us set up in the middle of
their line for the rest of the week so D would not have to walk that far. I had brought our huge
umbrella and they said they would leave a spot open for it in their morning set-up ritual.
Back in the rooms, we got ready for what turned out to be an every night affair that we all fell in
love with -– getting cleaned up and then going to some rocking, rolling fantastic bar and grill
type place for dinner. Michael and Elyse had several places they wanted to take us and it was a
hoot each night seeing where would end up.
Our first night set the tone for the whole week. We ended up at the Boathouse Oyster Bar on
Harbor Blvd. in Destin, overlooking Destin Harbor. Wow -- it was a jumping place with live music
and great food. We sat outside so we could watch all the goings on there by the marina. There were
lots of crazy things going on near us like these two guys who looked like they were strippers (wore
tiny, skimpy bathing suits) and acted like they were dancing for tips/bar money.
Sitting at the table next to us were three young ladies on vacation who were great fun to be around
–- we laughed so much at all the carrying on they did with us. When one of the ladies got out her
huge iTouch pad and started calling it an iPhone5 and pretending she was making calls on it and
taking pictures with it, we were all laughing our collective butts off -- it was so funny.
The Boathouse was quite a place -- almost looked hand made in places with materials found along
the highway. However, it was a great place and the insides were covered with thousands of dollar
bills stapled to the walls, ceilings, everywhere. Of course, they all had something scribbled across
them and it was fun trying to decipher what a lot of them said. Did I mention bras? Yes, there were
hundreds of those stapled up also. :-)
We had a great time -- especially trying out their steamed oysters, and beers. Soon, we had partied
out -- it had been a long day and we were all tired. As we left, I was amazed by how everything
takes on a different look at night -- all the bright and colorful neon signs, live music and laughter
poring out of place after place all along the waterfront, etc.
Oh, did I mention crazy looking vehicles? Seems like we saw some weird ones every night we were
out. We passed by one hopped-up, bright canary yellow SUV after we left the Boathouse that was
painted all up like it was on fire except that the flames were all bright blue! Then on the other
hand, since we were at the beach, maybe they were waves and not flames – who knows?
Yes, we had arrived in Destin and it looked like it was going to be a fun-filled week.
Sunday started out slow and easy. I was already getting use to not having to get up at 5 AM and
then go down to the beach and set everything up like I normally do at Edisto. After a leisurely
breakfast, we gathered up our beach gear and set out for the beach. As I was pushing Deanna in
her wheelchair across the roadway to reach the wooden steps that led down to the beach, we were
passed by lot of beautiful young ladies all wearing tiny white bikini bathing suits.
As I watched them go by, I was thinking to myself, “I love this beach!” :-) When we got down to
where our condo supplied chairs and umbrella was set up, there were about 25 of the ladies in white
all together right in front of us and were being photographed. Michael boldly walked down into the
middle of them and asked could he join in!
As it turned out, these were the New Orleans Saints football team cheerleaders and were here at
our condo resort on some sort of weekend retreat. The photographer said to go get our camera and
later when she was through, we could have our pictures made with them.
I’m standing there with a huge grin on my face thinking, “Is this a great country or what?” What
are the odds of walking down onto a beach and setting up shop right where the entire cheerleading
squad for the Saints were strutting around and posing for pictures?
Yes, Destin was just getting better and better as the hours rolled by.
It took no time at all for us to get squared away on the beach. I had given Deanna’s beach lounge
chair an extreme makeover before we came on vacation. She needs to have it sitting higher (about
9 inches or so) than it does normally and for the past 10 years, I have used three large and heavy
(50 pounds each) special wooden blocks to make the chair sit higher. While the system worked,
lugging the blocks on and off the beach was getting old.
So this year, I added leg extension made out of 1 ¼ inch PVC pipe to the existing metal legs and the
plan worked beautifully. Now the chair can be easily carried and set up plus it is higher and D says
it is better than before. With our large umbrella set up, it provided (with the help of the condo
provided one) plenty of shade for her chair and mine.
The beach was already a bee-hive of activity and families were coming down to the beach now in
droves. While the majority used the condo provided chairs and umbrellas, a few folks had their own
stuff and placed it in front of the umbrella line and down on the beach a bit closer to the water.
Generally, part of their group was also up under the condo umbrellas.
Speed boats were zooming back and forth out in the ocean and the parasail boats were already
towing people dangling from parachutes high up above the water. A lot of young people like to do
the newest thing (to us anyway) and that is stand-up paddle boarding.
They stand up on what looks like huge surfboards and then using a single long-handled paddle, go
boarding all over the place -- usually way out beyond the breakers and then will come back
towards the shore so they can catch a wave and ride it in.
Right down the street from us on Scenic Gulf Drive, was Kenny D’s Beach Bar & Grill. So for lunch
today, we decided to try it out as we had seen on a sign outside the Grill that advertised for
Sunday lunch, they were having a huge crawfish boil.
Michael and Deanna were foaming at the mouth to try this. While I like sea food, and love steamed
oysters, crabs, lobster, etc., I just can not come to grips with trying to eat a crawfish. Elyse is not
to keen on seafood of any shape or form so she generally has steaks, salads, burgers, whatever
while the rest of us chow down on some good seafood.
Kenny D’s place was awesome -- down home, rustic, and 100% ready and able to put out some great
seafood. We enjoyed our lunch and after going back to the condo to rest up (D takes her nap every
day around 1 PM) we were back on the beach in about an hour or so.
Late in the afternoon, we pulled up stakes on the beach and started to drag (carry) all our stuff
back to the condo. Before our hauling chore began, Michael suggested I talk with the young man
who set up all the chairs and umbrellas for our condo about possibly leaving our umbrella and D’s
special chair with them and lock it up with their stuff at night.
The young man saying, “Sure, no problem” was a welcomed gift as it would save us a lot of physical
labor in the days ahead. Of course I graciously tipped the young man (and did so throughout the
remainder of our stay) and was most appreciative of his kind offer. As the week went by, I
thoroughly enjoyed this tiny perk -- as it made for an even more stress-free day for both Deanna
Michael had found a new place (online) for us to try out for dinner that night and soon we were off
to go find Buffalo Jack's Legendary Wings up on Emerald Coast Parkway (US 98) in Destin.
Michael knew I love to take pictures while the car was in motion so for the safety of all of us, he
graciously volunteered to drive the whole time we were in Destin for the rest of the week.
I was in heaven. As most of you know, I love to take pictures -– all kinds and a lots and lots of them
–- so for a whole week, I got to sit back, enjoy the views and click away as I felt like it. Like I said
-- I was loving it all the way! :-)
Buffalos Jack’s was a great place -- and I am sure that as the evening wore on and the live music
started, the place was hopping with happy people. The wings were good (not as good as a place close
to our home in Marietta,) but for us hungry beachgoers, they were a great addition to another
beautiful day. Did I mention that the ice cold beers helped also?
Afterwards, we went to a fancy mall area call Grand Boulevard and did a little shopping --
especially in the local Publix grocery store there. Lots of people drive around in golf carts here
and some of them are quite fancy. Elyse spied one in the mall area that she just had to go sit it.
This thing had full size mag wheels, a plastic enclosure if it rained -- it was a hoot to look at.
We cruised around a bit longer before heading back to our condo. D and I were really getting to
like the action we were experiencing here at Destin. For me, it was so totally different and I was
thoroughly enjoying just being able to kick back, go with the flow and have a beer or two when the
time or place was right.
Back at the condo, we got caught up with our e-mails (condo had free, secure WiFi) and we made
the most out it. I brought my laptop and Elyse brought hers so we were online in a heart beat.
Afterwards, we watched a movie that they had brought with them and then it was off to bed.
Yes, I could get used to this Honky Tonkin’ every night and from what Michael tells me, we hadn’t
seen anything yet –- the best was yet to come. How could that be?
I mean, here it was only Sunday and I’ve already had my picture taken with some of the most
beautiful, sexy New Orleans Saints cheerleaders (in tiny bathing suits) you’ve ever seen, eaten
maybe 4 dozen steamed oysters, had at least 4, 5, 15 (who’s counting) beers, and did not have to
drive and could take all the pictures I wanted to?
It’s going to get better? -- bring it ON!
As best as I could determine it, one of the birds at the bird feeder at my house must have sent a
“tweet” to the birds down here by our condo that I was coming down for a visit. First thing Monday
morning, they are sitting outside on our balcony railing -- pacing back and forth -- anxiously
awaiting on me to come out and give them some more bread. OK, so I am a soft touch. Anyway, it’s
a good way to get rid of stale bread.
Soon, we had all completed our morning rituals -- coffee, showers, breakfast, a few e-mails on the
computer, feed the birds, etc., and were gearing up for our trip down to the beach.
I can tell you right away that I was really starting to enjoy this new (to me) type of beach vacation
whereas everything was at a slow pace and I didn’t have to spend hours dragging stuff back and
forth to the beach, etc.
This morning was especially great because all we did was pack the cooler, grab our sunscreen and
head for the beach. Knowing that I did not have to carry my huge market umbrella (has an 11-foot
span) and D’s chair down to the beach was a welcome reward. Soon we were down on the beach and
Matt (the young man responsible for our condo’s chairs and umbrellas) already had D’s chair and
our umbrella out from his lockable storage boxes and ready for me to set up.
As promised, he had us set up dead center of his long line of chairs and umbrellas (about 120 of
them) and had left a large opening in the line next to his chair and umbrella reserved for us. In less
than 10 minutes, I had D’s chair set up and under my umbrella in the vacant spot and we were set
for the day. Oh yes, I could get use to this easy set up routine. :-)
It was quiet this morning on the beach. I guess the weekend warriors had all gone and the folks who
were here all week like us was just taking their time to come down to the beach.
As I looked to both my left and right while sitting under the umbrella, I felt like I was in some sort
of huge marching band or drill team formation. Everything was so straight organized, and colorful.
Slowly, the beach came alive and all was back to normal with beachgoers and kids playing in the sand
and edge of the water. In addition to our condo beach guys setting up the chairs and
umbrellas for us, they also rented out paddle boards, and kayaks, etc.
Our morning at the beach was made when Matt rented a large kayak to three young ladies.
Watching them just trying to get into the tiny (narrow) thing and then get out past the breakers
was a hoot. They finally made it and paddled off out of sight down the beach. We never saw them
come back -- hope they made it back OK.
Since we had already found out that one trip down and one back up the long series of steps was all
that D could comfortable do per day, Michael and I would go up to the condo around lunch
time each day and make sandwiches for everyone. When we were at the grocery store last night, he
bought some sliced, smoked Gouda cheese.
Wow -- the sandwiches we made this week were awesome and I became hooked on this new (to me)
cheese. The first thing I did when I went grocery shopping after we got back off vacation was to
head straight for the deli section and buy me some.
While D took her normal mid-day nap there on the beach, all covered up under her huge beach
towel, I sat there beside her, sipped a few cool ones and just enjoyed the day. It was fun watching
all the goings on -- kids playing, boats zooming by -- a never ending show to just sit back, watch,
Later on, we called it a day (on the beach) and headed back to the condo. After I took D back in
her wheelchair, I would come back down to the beach and take down my umbrella, fold up D’s chair
and carry them over to the huge storage lockers that Matt used for all his chairs and umbrellas. It
was no nice -- so nice -- to be able to do that and bing, bang, I was done for the day.
On our way out to new place to eat tonight, Elyse saw this lady walking with the cutest dog ever
and she just had to get out of the car and hold the dog. Soon, we were tooling down US 98 headed
Tonight we were going to a Harry T’s restaurant (another rocking and rolling Bar & Grill) at
Harbor Walk Village right there alongside and overlooking the waterfront and harbor in Destin.
Before we went there, we went on past downtown, crossed over the harbor bridge and went to a
place right under the bridge on the other side that belongs to Eglin Air Force Base.
It is a recreation area for base personnel and is reserved for them but lots of non-base people go
there and no one seems to mind. The area is also a protected wildlife area and the whole area is
just absolutely beautiful -- pristine, quiet, and beautiful views and vistas in any direction you look.
Back over towards Destin, we could see the huge storybook looking hotel there that looks like
something out of a fairy tale. Sitting right there at the end of town at the entrance to the harbor,
it has a commanding view of the entire area. Harbor Walk Village sits right there in its shadow and
all together, it makes for a fantastic place to be -- especially at night when everything lights up
and all the music starts playing and all the local clubs and bars are in full swing.
We left the wildlife area and headed back over to the bridge to Harbor Walk Village. Michael
found a great place to park down along the docks themselves. This was great because just like
where our condo is, downtown Destin is about a full story higher than the “beach” area and you have
to walk down steps (or find a steep road like Michael did) to get to the wharf area where all the
fishing boats were tied up.
We had timed our arrival just right as all the boat captains were up on the wharf and cleaning,
displaying all the catches they had made that day. Red Snapper must be plentiful around here
because just about every boat we came up on had lots of then hanging on hooks for everyone to see
and drool over.
Elyse found us a fantastic seat at Harry T’s and soon we were seated at our table and looking out
over the whole harbor area there in Destin. This place was wonderful. We were up high and had a
great view of everything. Boats were coming and going like they were in a parade. I strongly
suspect that a lot of the boats that cruised by slowly with everyone topside laughing and waving
etc., we doing exactly that -- parading by the restaurants there at Harbor Walk -- showing off
and wanting to be seen!
One guy came zooming up on the sand bar right across from us in his airboat. There was no shortage
of things to watch from our vantage point there out on the covered deck at Harry T’s. We even saw
one man get out of his sailboat and just walk in the water and pull it behind him I guess he figured
that was the easiest/quickest way to get where he need to be. By the way, did I mention our little
adult beverages that we had to help us enjoy our harbor watching until our meal came?
Let’s just say that I’m surprised they didn’t require lifejackets when you drank one of their
signature Margarita drinks. The glasses were HUGE -- you could drown in them. Big or not, they
helped cap off another great day in Destin.
Sunsets here at the marina are absolutely beautiful and to help celebrate that daily experience,
Harry T’s had a small signal canon mounted on a piling by the docks right outside their doors. Each
night, they select a child from the restaurant to pull the firing cord at exactly sundown and BOOM,
the canon fires to officially signal the end of another beautiful day.
Our seafood dinners were absolutely wonderful and the non-seafood dish that Elyse enjoyed looked
fabulous also. With several adult beverages under our belts (except for our driver), we finished out
the night by walking back through Harbor Walk and then eased on back to the condo. For me, it was
such a pleasure to be able to relax, have a few drinks, take pictures, and not have to worry about
At times I felt sorry for Michael -- only one drink, having to drive the car, deal with parking,
traffic, etc. -- but I soon forgot about it and took another picture. Sorry son, but I felt it was best
if I didn’t dwell on the negative things too much -- why take a chance on spoiling an absolutely great
Anyway, as we pulled back into our condo parking lot, I remember that we were planning a road trip
for tomorrow (stay off beach) and I was already looking forwards to another great adventure here
along the coast at Destin.
True to form, none of us were any hurry to get going this morning. I think everyone was totally
enjoying not being on any schedule and we all sort of just let things take their natural and
Finally, we got it all together and headed out the door -- anxious to start our day of just bumming
around some of the local beaches east of here. We headed east on US 98 towards Sandestin and
then turned off the busy highway and drove along the coast on County Highway 30A.
Our plans were to ease along 30A for 20 miles or so until it joined back up with US 98 over around
Rosemary Beach and just see what we could see. Michael and Elyse had done this tour before and
they had several places in mind that they thought we would enjoy.
Soon, we stopped at a place in Santa Rosa Beach called “Artist at Gulf Place.” Off the main road
about a block in what looked like a nice looking professional business, mall area was this huge open
area like a well-maintained park with all these small, brightly-colored wooden building that housed
all sorts of artist businesses.
We parked the car and wandered around looking at all the various artist booths (I guess that is
what they would be called) and all the fantastic things that they each had on display for sale. One
place had all these things made out of either heated up/flattened glass or, they smashed the glass
and then made things out of it like a 3D glass mosaic object. Some were very beautiful -- like a
tree, or a bird, whatever -- but all were sharp.
One of the artists there told us that people cut their fingers all the time while touching the pieces
for sale. At that disclosure, all of us instinctively said “Oeeeew” but then immediately put our
fingers in our mouths to “clean them” after we had just touched the things ourselves. Talk about
being dumb – we all just won 1st prize!
Surviving our encounter with the glass objects, we loaded up in car and headed for Grayton Beach
about 5 miles away. For lunch today, Michael wanted us to enjoy a great place that they had
discovered there called The Red Bar. Before we reached Grayton, we stopped at a local rent-all
and drink stand.
While Michael went to get something cool and refreshing to drink, I got out of the Suburban and
looked at all the bicycles they had for rent. What made this so interesting was how many there
were, how old fashion looking lots of them were, and most of all, how brilliantly colored they all
were. It was like looking at a huge wildflower plot (on wheels).
Grayton Beach is a quiet, beautiful laid back place and smack dab in the middle of town is this
fantastic Bar & Grill place that from the outside, looks like it has been overtaken by Kudzu vines
(actually, I think it was Trumpet Flower vines). No matter, it was rustic looking and the insides
were ever better.
It looked like it was out of some movie set because stapled up on the ceiling were thousands of
old, some very old, movie posters. What made that even more fascinating is that they were not in
English. Best as we could determine, they were printed in Spanish or maybe Portuguese. Where in
the world someone got that many non-English posters is beyond me.
From all the memorabilia that was posted on the walls etc., this place was a favorite hangout for
our guys (and gals) in the military. We all ordered various things for lunch and soon we were all
busy munching away on some great mid-day food.
Before we had eaten lunch, Michael and I had walked the couple of blocks over to the actual beach
itself while the girls were exploring one of the gift stores across the street from the Red Bar.
Maybe it was because we had clothes, shoes and sock on, whatever, but it seemed like it was 20
degrees hotter here than back over in Destin where our condo was.
After lunch we continued our trip on to Seaside where we stopped and wandered around the center
of town which was right there by the beach. Seaside is (was) one of those places that was created
from scratch as a beach community that was designed to look like an old time place with beautiful
turn of the century architecture, complete with front porches, tree lined streets, the works.
Continuing on with our tour eastward, we started looking (beachside) for a huge house that Michael
and Elyse had seen a few years back (actually, they snuck into the subdivision where it was to get
an up close and personal look at the place). We kept asking what does it look like and they just kept
saying, “Believe me, you’ll know it when you see it!”
About seven miles away, right after we passed by two huge, weird looking white columns on both
side of the road marking the entrance to Alys Beach, we saw what they were talking about.
God, it was HUGE! It looked like a gigantic spaceship had crashed into the beach right there next
to us. This house, mansion, spaceship, whatever, was at least 3 or 4 stories tall, covered in glass,
had huge sweeping, curving walls and roof lines -- just like something straight out of a Hollywood
movie. I’m just guessing that the house was at lease 25,000 square feet in size.
Not too far from here 30A ends at Rosemary Beach and we made a U-turn and headed back
towards Destin. As we came back though Alys Beach, we turned off and into an area, subdivision,
not sure what you call it, but it definitely fit it with the house we had seen over on the
The local pool was inside a building that looked like it was part church and part Algeria French
Foreign Legion outpost. In a local park nearby, someone had the talent and patience, to construct
two life-sized horses out of grayed driftwood scrounged up off the beach nearby.
Since it was getting late in the afternoon, we slowly made our way back to Destin and our condo.
We had already decided earlier that day that since we had enjoyed Kenny D’s Beach Bar & Grill
right there almost next door to our condo that we would try then out again for dinner.
After refreshing up a bit back at the condo, we headed for Kenny D’s and were not disappointed. It
seemed like the steamed oysters got better and better the more we ate them. Wait a minute --
this might be a plot here -- putting something on the oysters, making you drool at the mouth and
constantly crave them, more of them. Oh wait, D said the real reason was I was probably drinking
too many beers.
While Michael, Deanna, and I pigged out on the oysters, Elyse had scoured up a crayon from some
where and was down on her hands and knees on the floor beside us out on the deck and writing
stuff in green crayon.
At first we were upset until we saw what she was scribbling away at. “Best oysters -- SO FAR!” I
was just joking about being upset. Every square inch of the place -- walls, posts, ceiling, floors --
had words, initials, whatever, carved or scrawled all over it.
An hour or so later, we were all stuffed to the gills and totally content that we had all enjoyed
another great day at Destin and a fantastic evening meal. Since we were walking tonight, Michael
got to enjoy more than one adult beverage with his evening meal.
We ambled on back to our condo, enjoying the cool evening air and stopping to pet several of the
cute dogs walking near us and called it night when we reached our condo. I could only imagine what
tomorrow would bring as each day so far had been picture perfect.
After another morning of leisurely dragging around, sipping coffee on the balcony, munching on eggs
and stuff, we finally made our way back down to the beach. Even though I could push Deanna almost
all the way in her wheelchair, the walk down the long series of steps and the final walk across the
loose beach sand came close to wearing her out every morning.
Thankfully, our condo supplied umbrella and chairs are already there and she can sit in her
wheelchairs in the shade while I go about setting up our huge umbrella and getting her special
beach lounge chair all squared away.
We missed the beach yesterday and it was good to be back down here -- enjoying the great breeze
in off the ocean and just watching all the folks around us having a good time. I do not know why, but
it seemed like on this trip, we were constantly surrounded by the cutest kids -- ages from about 1
year old up to about 4 or 5.
Deanna and I laughed everyday at all the crazy things they did as they busily went about getting
into things, digging in the sand, playing in the water and overall just totally enjoying their time on
the beach. Another pleasure for us each day was seeing how they would be dressed out for their
day at the beach. Each day brought new outfits, crazy combos of pants, hats, sunglasses, shirts,
whatever, to protect them from the hot sun. I’m sure they hated some of their outfits but in the
long run, it was entertaining to see. As parents, we were also proud of the parents for going the
extra mile to protect the kids.
I’m sitting here now getting ready to go have surgery on my forehead next week to remove a
cancerous growth on my skin -- caused by too much sun over the years and not enough sun screen
used to protect me. When I was a lifeguard at Myrtle Beach State Park back in 1958, all we put
on was baby oil that had iodine added to it -- to give us a better tan. Who knew?
After Michael and I had gone back up to the condo around noon to make the girls and us some
sandwiches, I took D out into the ocean. I walked out with her at least once per day so that she
could at least enjoy a few minutes on getting her feet wet. I’m not saying, but I strongly suspected
that while we were just standing there in waist deep water that other things were going on but that
was way beyond anything I wanted to know at the time :- )
It is (was) hard going because the beach bottom along here is so uneven (sudden drop off, holes)
and the currents were very strong. Each day we were on the beach, the beach patrol had yellow
caution flags up and one day, they went to red because the currents and undertow were so bad.
I made a small sundial on the beach each day and enjoyed watching the shadow from the stick I
stuck in the sand move across the sand. I would mark with my finger a point into the sand at the tip
of the shadow every hour and half hour. What was fun was looking at my watch (I had it off and
sitting on the arm of my chair) when someone came by and then strike up a conversation with them.
They would ask what it was and I would look at it and say, “It’s a sundial and oh, it is about five
minutes after 2.”
They would look at their watch and exclaim, “Wow … that is fantastic … I have 3 minutes after 2!”
Then I would tell them their watch was slow because the sundial keeps perfect time. They would
look at me and say something like, “For real?” My real concern was that these people probably
After another great day on the beach, we packed up and headed back to the condo. Michael and
Elyse had another special place they wanted to show Deanna and I and soon we were all cleaned up
and headed for a place called The Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin.
This is another one of those huge resort type complexes built from the ground up to be a resort,
entertainment Mecca for beach loving tourist. The grounds all around Baytowne Wharf (roadways
leading into and through it) were absolutely beautiful. The village part -- the hub of the entire
resort/condo complex -- was like we were at Disney World.
Everything was spotlessly clean and all laid out for fun and entertainment. There was a huge wooden
climbing wall in the middle of the area and close by was a huge climbing , rope ladder, swinging
bridge, type of place where the kids (attached via safety harnesses) walked, climbed, and
scrambled all around the 3-story tall structure.
There was also a long zip line and kids were zipping along from one side of the central hub area
across a lake to another tall tower on the other side. One of the shops around the lake sold remote
control toys, including boats, and while we were there, the owner broke out a few of them and
raced them around the lake. I’m sure that the parents with kids just hated this guy because every
kid within a mile of that place wanted one of those speed boats!
Restaurants, ice cream bar, hamburger joints, night clubs, gift shops, live performance stages, and
hotel were all around us. It was an exciting place to be -- to just shop, people watch, munch on
goodies, or have a cool one or two.
One of the places that Michael had picked out for us to eat dinner was a place called Hammerhead’s
Bar & Grill, right there in the center of all the activity at Baytowne Wharf and situated on the
marsh overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay and local marina right next to the complex.
We went early (around 6:30) for dinner so we could get a good seat out on the open air deck
overlooking the marsh and right next to the stage where they have a live band for entertainment.
Normally, bands do not start to around 8 or so in these places but right at 7, a group came out,
plugged in their guitars, tested out the drums and the place was rocking in short order as they
belted out some great songs.
We all enjoyed a great dinner while we listened to the band play. Hammerhead’s was another one of
those bar & grill places that had thousands of dollar bills stapled up on the walls, ceilings, etc. I
figured out one time after we got back home that we must have seen well over two million dollars in
hard cold cash -- dollar bills -- plastered all over the bars & grills in Destin. Recession --
After dinner we wandered out across the marsh on a long pier and after checking out some very
fancy cabin cruisers (we’re talking million dollar range) that were tied up, we took another
boardwalk type trail along the edge of the marsh.
Everything was so beautiful here in the early evening with the sun setting and the long rays of sun
light turning everything it touched a warm, golden hue. Back into the village itself, we continued our
walk and then we were surrounded by the twinkling lights of all the night clubs and shops. I was
amazed at how crowded it had become. Before dinner, the population of Baytowne Wharf was
sparse. Now, as nighttime fell all around us, the place was crawling with people. Does the phrase
“Jammed packed” complete the image?
Eventually, we made our way towards the center of the village where a large outdoor stage was set
up right in front of the beautiful main hotel in the center of Baytowne Wharf. By the time we got
there, a country and western band was already in full swing and the crowds seated out in front of
the stage on lawn chairs or just on the grass were thoroughly enjoying the free live entertainment.
Between the hotel entrance and the grass lawn in front of the stage was a huge fountain area with
a circular brick walkway all the way around it. Placed on the sides of the 2-foot high fountain pool
in the center were brass plaques that had quotes on them from famous people.
My favorite one was by Satchel Paige (great pitcher from the 30s & 40s in the old Negro Baseball
League, then finally with the majors after they integrated baseball) that stated, “How old would
you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”
Wow – what a profound observation and a great question for anyone? I thought about that question
all the way home after we had called it quits for the night and headed back to the condo. About the
time we pulled into the parking lot in front of our building, I had it figured out.
I was as young as I would ever be for the rest of my life and I was going to enjoy every minute
After we got inside our unit, I celebrated that brilliant discovery by finishing off the two bottles
of “Skinny Girl Margaritas” we had bought that everyone hated (except me).
Yes, this was another great day at Destin.
This morning was a lot like the past mornings here -- everyone just moseying along and doing their
own things. My new found bird friends were anxiously pacing back and forth out on the balcony
railing anxious awaiting me to come out and line up more bread pieces for them to haul off and
enjoy. After morning e-mails and a final cup of coffee had been finished, we gathered up all our
beach stuff and headed that way. Some things never change.
Down on the beach, it was exceptionally quiet and sparsely populated for some reason. Looking left
and right of our position revealed nothing (almost) but empty chairs and lonely umbrellas all
standing tall and in a straight line in the morning breeze.
As the morning wore on, things finally got back to normal and all seemed right. There was a large
number of speed/power boats going by today -- must have been a fishing tournament or something
There were also lots of planes flying by pulling those aerial advertising banners behind them and
of course, the usual power boats that were zipping about pulling people along behind them suspend
from parachutes. I’ve always wondered how far they would glide/sail if the long tow rope holding
them up ever broke.
Lunch time saw more great sandwiches brought down to the beach. I was getting hooked on the new
cheese (to me) that Michael had bought earlier in the week. After lunch, Deanna took her usual nap
and was peacefully snoring away in short order. It amazed me how she does that. Come nap time,
unless she is standing up on a street corner, she is going to be napping and asleep in
about 4 seconds.
The afternoon brought the usual parade of walkers going up or down the beach. The older ones
were getting their exercise, the younger adults were probably bored or escaping from their kids
and the teenagers, well that was another story all together.
The young ladies were parading by, looking for boys and wanting to be seen and usually close
behind, were packs of boys looking for girls but were trying to pretend that they did not see the
ones in front of them or make it look like they were following them.
Like I said earlier, some things never change. 55 years ago, I was right there in the middle of the
pack with them … :-)
Michael had a new place picked out for us for dinner tonight so around 4, we broke camp on the
beach and head back up to the condo. This was still so all new for me since at Edisto, I stay down
on the beach until at least 5:30 or 6 before taking the compound (tents, umbrellas, chairs) down
for the evening. It was nice leaving early, going back to the condo, taking a shower, and then having
time to sit around, enjoy the balcony or maybe even a Skinny Girl Margarita (until I drank all of it)
or better still, fix up some Bloody Mary’s and just chill out before we went out for the evening.
Cleaned up and ready to go, we headed into town for dinner. I was again mesmerized by all the
visual color and odd-shaped things that dot the landscape along side the busy highway. Brightly
colored building, flags, cars, buses, playgrounds, water slides -- the list was endless. It becomes
one gigantic and continuous collage of color and excitement as you drive along.
Of course, all of this is fantastic camera candy to me and as Michael played chauffeur once again, I
happily sat there in the front seat of the Suburban and clicked away. That is the one thing I love
the most about digital cameras -- the almost unlimited number of pictures you can take at one time.
My motto -- click away -- you will never get the chance again. Later, if you desire or if your family
or friends shame you into to it, you can just delete all the blurred, bad, or “What the heck is that,”
or “You took a picture of her BECAUSE?” pictures.
Soon we arrived at our destination -- McGuire's Irish Pub -- right there on Harbor Blvd
overlooking Destin Harbor. We knew this was going to be a great place because people were lined
up out the door to get in. I am not sure how Elyse managed it but we hadn’t had our buzzer thing
they pass out two seconds before they were calling us to be seated. Did I mention we got a lot of
dirty looks as we walked inside?
Earlier, I had mentioned that I had figured up after we got home from vacation that we’d probably
seen about 2 million dollars (in dollar bills) stapled to the ceilings and walls in Destin by the time we
Well, for a REAL fact, this place alone had OVER ONE MILLION DOLLARS stapled to the ceiling
The site is overwhelming -- there are so many bills. The ceiling looks like a river of sea grass in an
aquarium. With fans and air currents present, the bills are constantly in motion. They have signs on
the walls and even on the plastic menu place mats on the table explaining why there are so many
bills there -- all collected just since 1977 when the bar was first opened.
We had another fantastic meal and had a few rounds of the pub’s beers to celebrate the evening.
The place was packed with people and everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves. We could have
gone up on the top level where they have a deck-like dinning area that overlooks the harbor and bay
bridge but the steps were just too steep for D to try tonight. Besides, we ended up in a great
booth on the main floor where all the pub activity was going on and didn’t miss a thing.
Of course we had to leave via the gift shop and I think everyone walked away with something with
McGuire's Irish Pub written on it. Me, I got another adult beverage type T-shirt to add to my
collection. This one basically said, “I’ll have what the gentleman on the floor is having.”
Soon, we were back on the road and headed for our condo. Once again I enjoyed the pleasure of
letting Michael safely navigate our way back while I snapped a few pictures. As the honky tonk
music of the waterfront area faded into the distance, I realized how fortunate we all were.
We were free -- we were safe, happy, content, and full of warm food and good cheer and had
nothing but good times ahead of us. When I laid my tired body down on my bed and rested my head
against my cool pillow later on, I gave a special thank you for all our many blessings.
As someone (might have even been me) once said. “If it gets any better that this, please send me a
postcard.” Destin had once again spun her magic all over us and I was eagerly waiting on what she
might show us tomorrow.
Well, our last full day at Destin had finally arrived. So as to not allow that hard fact spoil our day,
I think we all sort of unconsciously ignored that fact and just went about our daily routines --
business as usual.
I knew my feathered friends out on the balcony railing were expecting their daily ration of bread
crumbs and after I broke up the last of the week-old bread we had, I laid out one final row of
goodies for them to enjoy along the top of the railing.
After getting settled into our beach chairs for one last go at the beach life, I sat back and just
enjoyed watching all the things going on around us. All the usual activities like power boats zooming
by, airplanes pulling advertising banners, groups of people parading by, kids digging holes in the
beach, etc., were in full swing.
Another bright and sunny day was ahead of us. We had been fortunate this week in that except for
a couple of hours on a few days when it got stormy looking with dark clouds, we had been blessed
with fantastic weather for our week at Destin.
We met some neat people on the beach and it was fun just yakking away about similar interest with
new friends and hearing about their experiences when they encountered the same things. It just
goes to show that no matter how different we all seem to be and come from different places, etc.,
things appear to be the same, or affects all of us the same way.
Maybe that’s just one for the side benefits of living in a totally free and secure country -- one
where we can live, grow, love, experience life and not constantly be looking over our shoulders or
wondering where we will sleep tonight or where our next meal will come from.
Around 3 PM, we started packing up our beach gear for the last time. After getting Deanna back up
to the condo, I returned back to the beach to get our umbrella and D’s chair. I gave Matt one
final tip for just being there and looking after us all week. As Michael and I carried the umbrella
and chair up off the beach, I was so thankful that we had been allowed to store them at night down
on the beach.
After we reached the condo, I went ahead and completed the packing (tying down) of the umbrella
onto the top of my Suburban and getting D’s chair positioned into the back of the Suburban.
Hopefully, with all this done, it would be easy in the morning when we loaded up for good and
As usual, Michael had another place all picked out for us to eat tonight and after our afternoon
ritual of showers, e-mails, and a cooling-off adult beverage, we were soon on our way.
As we made our way back towards Destin, I realized (was hoping) that we were headed back to
Harbor Walk Village right there at the harbor in Destin. Sure enough, that is where we ended up
and after Michael found a place to park down on the level where the actual boat docks are, we got
out and started roaming around.
The wharf area is such a fantastic place -- one filled with excitement, brightly colored visual
images of people, fish, boats, the water, cafés, neon signs, kids laughing, harbor sounds, etc.
Just like before when we were here, the wharf was again bustling with actual fishing activity as all
the boat captains were cleaning their catches for the day and after displaying them for a while,
started packing them into containers filled with ice. The smells of today’s catch added that final
touch to the overall experience of being at an active waterfront in a fishing village (town).
Then Michael showed us where we were going -- AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar -- right there on the
wharf and overlooking Destin Harbor. Elyse once again secured us a great table and in no time at all
and we were seated right on the edge of the wharf and next to the bandstand that already had a
guitar player belting out some great songs.
After he finished his first set, he started talking and I immediately recognized his accent -- South
Carolina. Sure enough he said he was from some place we’d probably never heard of -- Clinton, SC.
I told him. “You mean that other town at the Whitmire exit off I-26 on the way to Greenville,
Blew him away -- I don’t think he ever expected for anyone to know anything about where he
One thing I have learned in all my travels is to never assume no one knows anything about where you
were born, where you went to school, or any of the places you have been. In general, it has been my
experience that travelers -- like Deanna and I -- seem to be a bit more odd-fact knowledgeable of
unusual geography features, places, peoples, customs, etc., because we have encountered so many of
them in our adventures over the years.
Soon, a large platter of steamed oysters was the sole focus of Michael’s, D’s and my attention.
While our new-found guitar player friend strummed away and belted out great songs right next to
us, we proceeded – with the able help of some very refreshing adult beverages -- to make all the
delicious oysters disappear.
D and I decided to order something called a “Seafood bucket for two” (or something like that) and
wow -- were we surprised. It was overflowing full of king crab legs, crabs, oysters, shrimp,
potatoes, and Lord knows what else. Bottom line -- we were very happy campers but we could not
eat all of it -- a first for D and me.
Elyse had a great fried fish platter and poor Michael ended up with some sort of New Orleans’s
style sandwich that was to say the lease and to be nice, not the best things to ever come along for
dinner. He had this entrée before and guessed that the chef here had the wrong recipe.
AJ’s of course was another one of the great bar & grill places along the coast here that had
thousands of dollar bills, bras, fishing corks, and who knows what all else stapled to the ceiling
and walls. It must be some sort of tradition (which I love) here in the communities from Destin
to Rosemary Beach 30 miles or so miles away to decorate all bar & grills the same way.
After a great meal, we left AJ’s and wandered around a bit in Harbor Walk Village. We could hear
a great band and singer (Elvis impersonator) at the free public stage setup in the middle of Harbor
Walk. We stopped and listened a bit and then chatted with another performer -- one of the Blues
Brothers -- who had been on stage earlier. This gentleman performs/sings the part of Elwood Blues
in the act (and looked exactly like John Belushi).
He said they would be back on later but we realized that would have been too late for us. He told
us to make sure we went up on the street level above and check out “their car.” Sure enough, when
we finally left Harbor Walk Village, Michael drove back to where the stage area was down below
and sitting there big as life was the “Bluesmobile.” It was an exact replica of the vehicle used in the
Blues Brothers movie released in 1980.
When I thought about how long ago that was it blew my mind -- 30 years! It seemed like it was just
yesterday that Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi introduced America to a type of blues music only known
(appreciated) by just a small portion of America. With performers like this guy and Blues Brothers
acts/performances every day at places like Universal Studios in Orlando, a new generation of
listeners is introduced to this great jazz/soul/blues music style every year.
As we drove slowly back to our condo along the beach front road, I was already feeling sad about
leaving Destin. It had been a great week but I knew that it was time to go home. Besides, I missed
my cats and wanted to hear all about what they had been up to while were we gone.
You may laugh, but believe me, when we go a way for say a week, Alice and Trixie will spend hours
after we return “telling” us what all they did. The talk to us, crawl all over us all night long, making
sure we hear all about their wild adventures why we were away.
Back at the condo, we started the ritual of pre-packing -- gathering up dirty clothes, locating things
we had laid all over the place, etc. We had to be out of the unit by 9 in the morning so we wanted
everything to be packed tonight (or almost packed) so that in the morning -- bing, bang, boom -- we
would be loaded up and gone.
Go-home day had finally arrived. When you are on vacation, this day is always an emotional day. On
one hand, you are sad -- almost depressed -- that you are leaving and all the wonderful, happy,
exciting, carefree moments that you have been enjoying are coming to a sudden end.
Then on the other hand, you are excited -- almost giddy happy – that you are leaving, that you are
going back home. I think just the sound of the phrase, “going home” is what really triggers this
opposite feeling and it sets into motion all sorts of feelings and emotions involving life, home,
safety, familiarity of people, places, and things.
Home is home -- warm, safe, secure, and familiar. I think we are all creatures of habit and in cases
like this -- heading home after a great vacation -- that truth is borne out by the fact that
underneath our sadness to end a great time, we are excited and happy as hell that we are
With the Suburban finally all loaded up, we said our goodbyes to our fantastic condo and set off
to find breakfast. As we wandered around a bit, Elyse was busily taking down the names/phone
numbers of houses, condos, etc. that we passed that looked like great places to stay if we ever
decided to come back to Destin.
Let me rephrase that -- it’s not if we come back, but when we come back.
Soon we were cruising on US 331 up and over the Choctawhatchee Bay Bridge that meant we were
leaving the beautiful strip of Florida coast line that had been our home for the past week. Michael
was kind enough to offer to drive until our first break came along.
I was once again enjoying the freedom I had to just sit there in the car and take all the pictures I
wanted to as we cruised along the highway. I realized also that I could really get use to this --
someone else driving and me free to just look out the window and/or take pictures.
We stopped at a roadside place near the small town of Campbellton, Florida that sold bonsai plants.
We had seen the place on the way down and made a note to ourselves to stop here on the way back.
This place was absolutely wonderful. Sitting out on stands and tables were the most beautiful
collection (for sale) of bonsai trees I have ever seen. The man who ran the place was just an easy
going older gentleman who might on first impression make you think he was dumb as a rock but let
me assure you, he was not.
His knowledge, gleamed for a life long association with bonsai plants, was enormous and technical (if
pushed). With prices ranging from $20 to $50,000, he had a firm grasp on what all varieties of
bonsai plants commanded -- from prices to planting instructions. Needless to say, we opted out of
the high-end items and finally chickened out on even getting a $20 dollar one.
After we stopped at the Alabama Welcome Center, I took over the driving from Michael and true
to form he was sound asleep in the back seat two minutes after we pulled back out onto the
highway. Soon we were zipping past beautiful farm land and what looked like horse pastures.
When we passed back trough Eufaula, I was again amazed at the beauty of all the gorgeous old
Victorian homes there in the historical district in downtown Eufaula. This is one of those tiny
places in rural America that everyone needs to see at least once.
Soon after grabbing a quick lunch near the outskirts of Columbus, GA, we zipped across the
Chattahoochee River and reentered Georgia and the Eastern Time Zone. I hated the Central Time
zone that we had been in all week -- seems like you are cheating day light or something and Jay
Leno/David Letterman coming on TV at 10:30 at night just doesn’t seem right.
Finally after a long day’s ride – but enjoyable one – we skirted around the perimeter of Atlanta on
I-285 and found our way going up I-75 towards our home up past Marietta. Seeing all the
American flags flying outside the Cherokee Cattle Co Company restaurant on Canton Road near our
home were a welcoming sign -- we were home -- back to those things that are meaningful and
familiar to all of us.
Eight days ago, both D and I had slight reservations about the trip we were about to undertake. Oh,
we were happy as all get out about going on vacation with Michael and Elyse, etc., but it was the
place where we were going that had us a tiny bit on edge.
Our experiences from the past at a few places near Destin -- Panama City Beach 45 miles to the
East for one -- had sort of left us with a bad taste in our mouth about just how much fun could you
really have at Destin?
I mean like, the beaches were not anything like the beaches in North or South Carolina -- how could
you possibly have fun there -- we kept asking ourselves?
We were wrong -- dead wrong in all our assumptions. We would go back tomorrow if we could. Maybe
it was just how it all turned out that made it so wonderful. Things like staying at a beautiful condo
unit right at the beach, ease of beach set up, eating out at a different place every night, Michael
chauffeuring us all over the place -- what a deal!
Thank you Michael and Elyse for Honky Tonkin’ in Destin with us.
“Oh yeah, we be jammin’ tonight for sure!”