Out on the town in Port St. Joe

We didn’t spend all of our time in Florida on the beach. Each evening we made it back to the rental house just in time for sunset — and what spectacular sunsets they were.

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While the downside to our rental is that it wasn’t within walking distance of the beach, the upside is that it was just a few blocks from downtown Port St. Joe.

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We walked into town Friday night for dinner at Provisions, which came highly recommended by all the locals. I sampled the paella while Mary tried to seafood pasta. Both were exceptional.

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Afterwards we stopped by The Thirsty Goat, which seemed to be the center of Port St. Joe nightlife, for a cold brew and some live music.

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The Bo Spring Band played Friday night, and they were phenomenal.

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Saturday morning we tried both the Bin4Eleven coffee shop and the No Name Cafe, which are just a few doors down from each other on Reid Avenue. Both had very decent coffee, but the No Name Cafe was a bit more austere and half the price.

Then we took a stroll through all the art, decor, and antique shops. Despite all the interesting paintings, knick-knacks and dead starfish we saw, we only made one purchase all weekend. We bought Dixie Belle a new sailboat collar at Bow Wow Beach. She was quite excited to wear it when we got home.

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Saturday we picked up dinner from Joe Mama’s Wood Fired Pizza. Joe Mama’s is a chain in Florida, but we’d never heard of it. The restaurant was absolutely packed when I went in to pick up the order, but the pizza itself didn’t quite live up to expectations. The flavor wasn’t bad, but the crust was very soggy and floppy.

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Our rental was just across the street from the United Methodist Church, and Sunday morning we could hear the hymns floating over on the breeze. We made another trip into town for coffee and maybe some breakfast, only to find that aside from the gas station and fast food places, there is absolutely nothing open Sunday mornings in Port St. Joe. Since we had to drive back to Tallahassee anyway, we thought maybe we could stop in Apalachicola for breakfast, but we only found one place open there. Sunday morning breakfast was a bust. I guess when it comes to small town Florida, either be prepared to cook on Sunday mornings or head over to church for the free coffee.

Flashback to France

It hit me today that 5 years ago exactly I was graduating college, and decided to pack up my life and move to France.  I moved into a tiny town in Bretagne, named Frehel.  I lived above a pizza restaurant/bar, and worked as a nanny.  It was an amazing time.  My free time there was spent mostly exploring the small town, or taking the path down to the beach.  To get to the beach I always walked, as I am not good on a bicycle, and all the cars were manual shift.  So I needed to walk first through town.

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Then I took a small wooded path through woods and then pasture.

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When you got to the beach it was on the English Channel, and the water was very cold.  The beach was covered in large rocks, and I could hide from the wind behind them and bask in the sun.

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I had a few longer adventures, but not being able to drive, and being very remote I didn’t wander too far.  One time I took a very long walk to see Fort la Latte, which is lovely and on the ocean.  A few of the rooms were still intact and were set up with period furniture.The best part was the view from the top.

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I also made one trip to Sable D’or, which is the closest nice beach, and also there are casino’s if you’re into that.  There is also this small island which I enjoyed seeing very much, but always get confused with Mount St Michel, this is Ilot Saint Michel, much smaller.

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I was allowed to eat and drink as much as I wanted for free from the restaurant I lived above Ty Faitaud, and they had the local specialty, hard apple cider on tap downstairs.  It was very nice.  Eventually I got lonely here though, as the countryside in France is largely older retired people, and I never even saw someone my age.  I bought a student Europass for the train and started to explore.

After that I saw Paris (where I was robbed, but I chased down and fought the guy, got my stuff back). Roughly here in Montmartre, I finally caught the guy down by the Louvre.  There was a bus involved. Montmartre

After that I headed to Nice.  My favorite place.

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There is a point you can drive up to where you can see the whole city.

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Also they have this weird library.

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Last but very not least was Amsterdam, where I mostly wondered around aimlessly. pirate ship Amsterdam boat

That giant looking ship is actually the naval museum.

All in all France/Amsterdam were amazing, but I was very happy to be home.  Travelling alone is not easy!

Port St. Joe: St Joseph Peninsula State Park

We had one Saturday scheduled in Florida, so we decided to spend it exploring St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, which is consistently rated one of the best beaches in not only Florida, but the nation. Much more sunscreen was applied.

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The park is at the end of the St. Joe peninsula and has the larger gulf waves lapping on the west side, and the calm clear waters of St Joseph Bay on the east. The drive from St Joe was around 35 minutes. According to their site, the state park boasts 9.5 miles of “snow-white” sand beaches and “aqua-blue” waters.

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Entry to the park was a mere $6 per vehicle, but there are no dogs allowed, so our new friend Turtle had to stay home and catch up on his reading.

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The park also has 119 campsites for those that want to hang out longer for some serious fishing, kayaking or SUP.

The gulf had more beach, bigger waves and got deep quickly, which made swimming much more fun that it was at Salinas Park. Everyone spent lots of time in the water, which was also more clear than the water at Salinas Park, but still not quite clear enough to get a good underwater selfie.

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As we sat and stared out into the blue, I kept seeing something move out of the corner of my eye. I finally grabbed the camera and stared at a couple of holes in the sand for the better part of 5 minutes. Then I finally saw this little guy flicking sand around cleaning out his burrow.

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These things are called ghost crabs, and once I saw the first crab, I started noticing them all over the beach. They’re pretty shy, but if you sit quietly for a few minutes, they’ll pop up to say, hello.

After several hours of playing in the surf, we began digging around and playing in the sand. There is something about pointless, mindless physical labor that is so relaxing. So naturally after digging what was a pretty impressive sand hole, we decided to bury two people in it, and make them into mermaids.

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After quite a bit more goofing off we decided to wander over and check out the bay. The water on this side was shallow for hundreds of feet out and totally clear. However, if you plan to venture into it, I highly recommend wearing shoes of some sort because it was teaming with crabs and spiky anemones.

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After exploring the area, we grabbed an empty shell and walked back to our chairs. As we packed up the car, we got a surprise when a crab made an appearance from the “empty” shell, demanding we put him (or her) back into the bay. We set the crab free and headed back to Port St. Joe.

Port St. Joe: Salinas Park and Broke-A-Toe horseback riding on the beach

Friday was our first beach day, and the decision was made to try out Salinas Park on Cape San Blas Road.

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Salinas Park caught our interest for several reasons:

1. It wasn’t too far from where we were staying in St. Joe.

2. It was free.

3. It’s dog friendly.

4. It’s where we were already scheduled to meet for Broke-A-Toe horseback riding on the beach that evening.

The county park was established in 1991, and it has bathroom and picnic facilities, but we didn’t come across any showers. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any showers, but if there are, we didn’t find them.

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When we arrived Friday morning, we basically had the beach to ourselves. The sand was white-ish, but the water stayed shallow for quite a ways out. We spent most of the day lying on the beach, applying and then re-applying sunscreen, but not much time in the water.

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We also discovered the hidden dark side of Florida beaches — the biting flies! They came and went throughout the day, but when they bite, it HURTS!

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After finishing the sandwiches we’d made for lunch and all of the drinks we packed in the cooler, we decided to call it a day and headed back to the cars. Kelly and the Broke-A-Toe crew had already unloaded the horses for our 4:30 p.m. ride on the beach, so we enjoyed some shade while they finished saddling up.

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We had wondered whether or not we needed to pack pants and shoes for the riding, but due to county regulations the horses can’t go faster than a walk on the beach, so it’s a nice slow ride, perfect for beginners or people wearing swimsuits and flip-flops.

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One very special thing about the Broke-A-Toe horses is that several of them are rescued horses and older horses, and all of them were extremely sweet, especially compared to some of the ornery horses I’ve known.

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After a quick horse-steering demonstration, we headed back down to the beach to discover a pod of dolphins was frolicking less than 100 yards offshore. It was magical. Even the horses were watching the dolphins, and as we rode down the beach, the dolphins swam with us. My only regret was that I had a wide-angle lens on the camera because I had been planning to shoot our horseback riding experience, not offshore marine mammals, so the dolphins just look like specs in the photos. I should have brought a zoom.

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Our ride guides not only made sure no horse poop was left on the beach, but they also proved to be great photographers.

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The ride back up the beach went a little quicker than the ride down because the horses knew there were hay bags waiting for them at the trailer, but the entire ride was very relaxed and enjoyable.

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This really made a great post-beach pre-dinner activity, and it added a little something special to our day. Of course, they can’t guarantee dolphin frolicking every ride.

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Going topless at Port St. Joe

Sometimes there’s just no way to avoid renting a car. Our weekend trip to St. Joe, Florida has us flying into Tallahassee, which was almost two hours away. Then, our adorable rental house was within walking distance of downtown St. Joe, but it was a few miles from the beaches.

I first investigated the average cost of rentals. It seemed like we were going to pay about $35 per day for a mid-size sedan while a convertible sports car was $90 a day. An extra $55 per day didn’t seem justifiable, but I had this fantasy in my head about driving down the coast in a convertible that just wouldn’t go away. Plus, Fred always had a convertible back in his bachelor days, and I knew he missed driving one, and I really wanted to surprise him.

I decided to try the Priceline name your own price tool, and I put in $50 per day for a Mustang convertible. Boom, it was accepted by Budget Rental Car. Thanks, Shatner!

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Driving that car around with the top down was close to the funnest thing about the trip. (After hanging out with my sister, of course).  Fred really loved driving it too, and we had no shortage of friends willing to ride with us to the beach.  All in all … I think it might be my new favorite splurge.

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Now, it did tend to make our hair a bit unmanageable, but hey, that’s the price you pay for fun.

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It’s a very pretty drive from Tallahassee to Port. St. Joe, and we got a unique view of the scenery.

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We were still envious of the boaters anchored out along the route, enjoying life on the Florida coast … but not AS envious.

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The 2015 Mustang handled well, and the top was quick to move up and down. We had space in the trunk for multiple folding chairs, coolers and bags during our treks to the beach. And while Mustangs have never had a luxurious backseat, we had no complaints from the two medium-sized adults riding with us. However, the car electronics proved a bit glitchy. The entire first day there was a “hood open” warning on the dash even though the hood was definitely shut and latched. It wasn’t until Fred finally popped it and shut it again that the warning finally went away. Sometimes the back-up camera would stay on for what seemed an extended period of time after shifting back into drive and moving forward for quite a distance, and the entire info-tainment system was laggy. The Eco-Boost engine was zippy, but not what I would call “fast,” and averaged 25.8 mpg during our four days of driving.

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But probably the coolest (and definitely most unnecessary) feature of this car was the fact that when you unlocked the car in the dark, the side view mirrors project the running horse Mustang emblem onto the ground beside the car!

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Despite quite a bit of driving, when we returned the car Sunday afternoon there were no hidden costs or additional fees. The Priceline price was solid, which was more than we can say for the next car we rented straight through Budget Sunday evening — but that’s for another blog.

Upset Pups

When our boat bags come out, the dogs go crazy. They can’t wait to get out of the house for a weekend on the water.

But when the suitcases come out …

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They’re so sad and upset.

We’re headed to Port St. Joe, Florida for the weekend, and they’re going to be stuck at home.

But don’t feel bad for them. Their Uncle TJ is coming to dog sit, and when he’s here they get many, many treats.

We’re taking our cameras and should have plenty of great posts about the trip next week.

Photo Essay: From Kemah to Galveston and Back

We had planned to attend the Keels and Wheels event Sunday — we really did. But when you’re offered a beautiful afternoon on the water, how do you say no?

Sunday afternoon we jumped aboard the Tina Marie Too and took a ride from Kemah to Galveston and back. I brought along my M9 rangefinder with a 1960s vintage 90mm Elmarit lens to document the voyage.

Enjoy a slice of life from Galveston Bay, Texas.

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2015 GBCA Women’s Regatta

Saturday, May 2, Mary and I participated in the annual Galveston Bay Cruising Association Women’s Regatta.

I know what you’re thinking — that’s the race with wenches on winches where every point of sail is a broad reach. (The crew worked so hard to come up with those puns I had to throw them into the blog somewhere.)

Big thanks to Doug Elmore, Captain of Antares, for letting us ride along and for letting the ladies helm his boat.

Mary was quite excited because it was a fairly calm morning (she’s not really into heeling over and burying the rail in the water just yet), and because she got to fill-in on the main sheet.

Doug had a cockpit full of women when we pulled out of the marina, but I think that’s the way he likes it.

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We were a bit slow getting started because their wasn’t much wind, and the committee boat had to re-adjust the course.

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We brought along a drifter to help in the light wind, so the guys were getting it ready. It’s still a man’s world up on foredeck.

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It might seem a bit crowded on Antares, but this is actually a light crew. Doug usually has a few extra passengers tagging along for the ride during the rum races.

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After a few more circles, we were racing — with the ladies running the show.

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We didn’t have many entries in the cruising class.

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But Solaire managed to make us all look bad.

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I mean, they did have a lighter boat with a longer waterline, but who’s counting?

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Since I wasn’t really needed except for some occasional tailing duty, I seized the opportunity to snap photos for the blog. Here’s our crew at work — if you can call it that.

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The first race we might have attempted to round the mark on the wrong side, which cost us two extra tacks to get back over to the correct side. Then, we might have attempted to finish on the wrong side of the committee. Only when the crew of Solaire yelled to us that the finish was on the other side did we realize that we hadn’t actually crossed the line yet, but we turned around and eventually finished.

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The second race was the same course, so we had a much better start, and we steered for the correct side of the first marker.

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However, we lost sight of the committee boat and over steered the finish by quite a distance, which left us turning downwind too close to the finish to raise a spinnaker, but too far away to cross before Solaire.

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We watched all the spinnaker class boats come in after us. I especially like the Texas Flag chute.

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As we wrapped it up for the day, we saw this guy streaking across the bay. Thankfully Flying Phantoms don’t compete in our class because he was passing all the J boats like they were standing still. I would love to play with one of those things.

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Since it wasn’t a very large regatta, the committee boat got some great photos of everyone involved. They also got some drone footage (and as always mixed it with the very best smooth jazz money can’t buy).

Check out their entire photo gallery here courtesy of Aaron Brittain: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lacyphotos/sets/72157652270966026/

Saturday Morning Sunrise

For the first time in forever, we finally had a weekend of nothing but sun. Not that I mind the rain, but it was nice to be able to open all the hatches and just enjoy the spring air. I couldn’t resist getting up early Saturday morning to sip some coffee and watch the sunrise.

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Momma duck brought all the babies by to say, hello as they started their morning routine.

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And even this sleepy head got out of bed earlier than usual for a walk around the marina.

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Weekend plans

It looks like we’ll finally have an entire weekend with no rain here in Houston.

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Saturday we’ll be crewing in the Galveston Bay Cruising Association Women’s Regatta. Mary isn’t quite ready to helm Gimme Shelter in a race, so we’ll be on Antares, the Cal 40 we crewed on during the Icicle Series earlier this year.

Sunday we hope to stop by Lakewood Yacht Club for the 2015 Keels & Wheels Show. Who doesn’t want to classic cars and some gorgeous wooden boats while benefiting Boys & Girls Harbor?

Then sometime in-between all that excitement I plan to change the steaming light, mount a wind instrument, run cables down the mast, install a NMEA 2000 backbone, and change the zincs in our heat exchanger … unless, of course, we decide to just go sailing instead.