Archive for December, 2006
Today has been exactly as the weather gurus predicted: gray, wet, upper 60s. And it’s one of those endless Sundays in which you’ve realized you’ve taken all the baths you can usefully take in one day, and you reach that “long dark tea-time of the soul,” as Douglas Adams put it in his Hitchhiker’s Guide series.
When it rains like this, we usually get out and do something, and if we’ve got no real errands to do, we go walk the local mall. Ho hum … but at least we got out. It was a pleasant day, if a little on the dull side.
This evening our programmer and I pulled the trigger on The Big News. After months of planning and worrying and hair-pulling, we have finally taken the plunge and cut the price of Airstream Life magazine by half. More info. This evening we’ve been working feverishly to make sure the transition came off without a hitch.
It’s a big leap of faith. Will the price decrease attract enough new subscribers to make up the difference? Will we get enough new advertisers to make up the difference? Will our renewal rates go up? I think so, but nobody really knows.
I want to thank my trusted advisors (you know who you are) that have helped make this decision and who have been supportive through the business tribulations of this past year. I also want to thank those of you who have subscribed to Airstream Life in the past years and made it possible for me to be at this point of tearing my hair out! No, really, thanks for your support and let’s look forward to a great new year of Airstream Life magazine at half the price.
If you’re a current subscriber and wondering what this new price means to you, click here.
Since everything seems to be working OK on the website, tonight we are going to relax with a movie and popcorn in the Airstream. I hope you have a nice night too. HAPPY NEW YEAR!
A quick update: I’ve uploaded three new photosets to the Flickr album — click the link in the left column that says “Pictures” to see them.
We’re now set up in Henderson Beach State Park, and what a lovely spot it is. Tomorrow we are expecting rain but as soon as the weather permits I’ll take some photos of the boardwalks, dunes, beaches, etc.
We’ve parked in the day use area of Henderson Beach State Park while we wait for our campsite to open up. It’s actually so nice here next to the roaring surf that we wouldn’t mind just boondocking here for a few days if we could.
It’s sort of a New England beach day, with overcast skies, a bit of fog, temperatures in the upper 60s, and a breeze. It may not sound ideal but it’s really nice. The white sand and sea oats are gorgeous, and we’ve opened every window on the Airstream to let the salt breeze blow through. Eleanor is relaxing with a book, Emma is drawing, and I’m just poking around … it’s a nice way to spend Saturday.
We’ll be here all week, doing some exploring along the beach and in Destin. I’m curious about the telescope right next to us. Perhaps some local organization opens it up for public viewing? I’ll check it out and see if we can get inside.
Some friends are coming here to join us in the next few days, so we’ll do a little “pre-rally” stuff. At the end of the week we’ll migrate over to nearby Topsail Hill State Park for an Airstream rally. Anyone who is coming to the rally a little early, consider dropping in and visiting with us!
Well, I was going to reveal the secrets of the Dixie Campers but now I can’t because we’ve all been initiated into the secret brotherhood — or cult, I’m not sure which. After I posted last night’s blog and we all ate Eleanor’s fabulous pies, all the newbies in the crowd were summoned to the Official Altar and given ceremonial Dixie Camper t-shirts, nose glasses, and communion.
Key Lime pie and Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart by Eleanor
The Initiation Ceremony
I forgot to mention that the Dixie Campers were born out of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Three of the “founding members” were driven out of their homes by the hurricane and moved into motorhomes or trailers for temporary housing. Vinnie already had a pair of Airstreams, but he inspired two friends to get motorhomes, and now they all travel together. Two of them are still full-timing in their rigs today, making the best out of a bad situation. It’s a “silver lining” story.
We hung around most of the day today, but had to get going by mid-afternoon. We’ll definitely see this crew when we pass through the south next time.
Now we are parked overnight in Ft Walton Beach, and in the morning we will set up at Henderson State Park for a week.
Maintenance note: Pretty soon I need to get the trusty Nikon D70 serviced. It has seen heavy use over the past two years and is overdue for cleaning. Last week it fell into the sand when we were trying to snap our Christmas photo (the wind was so strong it blew the tripod over), and this week the built-in flash has stopped working. The camera has shot over 12,000 photos in the past 18 months (an average of 22 shots per day!), so I guess it has earned a rest, calibration, and cleaning. I’ll ship it in to a service center after this next rally, and use Eleanor’s camera while waiting for it to come back.
People are going to think our blog is all about food … but I’ll take that risk. Sure, I got a haircut today, but who cares? Let’s get right to today’s menu:
Breakfast: marvelous cinnamon rolls baked over charcoal (!). Try baking like that sometime — it takes a knack. And those rolls were perfect, courtesy of ” The Governor”. There’s some serious cooking talent floating around in this group. Plus eggs, bacon, and cheese grits with a little cracked black pepper.
We missed lunch because we were out getting ingredients for Eleanor’s desserts, but dinner … ahhhh. When I lived in Louisiana back in the 1980s I gained an appreciation for the excellence of Cajun-influenced cooking. There’s nothing like a batch of “mudbugs” (crawfish) boiled with spices, lemons, potatoes, and corn, in a big pot. You can order crawfish on the menu of a restaurant in Boston or New York, but I guarantee it tastes better when you are standing next to the steaming pot on warm afternoon with friends and music.
We dug into the crawfish, corn, and sausage with our bare hands. Eating crawfish is a social activity. No one can eat a crawfish neatly or meekly. You rip the tail off, getting hot spices in your fingernails, chew out the tail meat, (optionally) suck the juices from the heads, and toss the remainder into a fast-growing heap. The sweet taste of the meat mixed with the spicy boil makes a splendiferous succulent treat, but it fades all too quickly, so you grab another little bug and have at it again … and again …
And while you’re doing this, six or seven other people are doing the same thing, ravaging a few dozen pounds of crawfish into scraps in minutes. It looks a little like a gang of primitives sharing a fresh kill from the hunt, but among all the dissection and finger-licking a steady stream of conversation continues — mostly about how good the crawfish tastes.
And more … fresh catfish (soaked in yellow mustard before breading and frying, really different and great); hush puppies, sausage, and shrimp so delicately fried they were almost like tempura. Nobody leaves the Dixie Campers feeling hungry.
Eleanor has been working on a pair of pies for this evening: Key Lime, and a chocolate-hazelnut tart. As I write this they are cooling on the rack and waiting for the crowd to finish dinner. A bunch more people showed up today — I’ve lost count of how many, but at one point there seemed to be about 30 people here. All good and fun people!
The ironic thing is that many of them have told me that they are admiring or envious of our lifestyle. But many of these folks are retired, or have jobs with liberal time off! I tell them I’m envious of their lifestyle — they get paid vacations and weekends when they can travel and really disconnect. By comparison, I work six or seven days a week!
Someday we’ll do this trip again without jobs, and I bet it will be completely different. But in the meantime, we are enjoying the freedom we have, and I encourage everyone else to find their freedom and enjoy that too — whatever it is. Don’t wait for “someday”.
Most of the Dixie Campers are going to stay through Jan 1, but we are moving onward tomorrow to do some things in the Pensacola and Destin areas. Next stop will be Henderson State Park, where we plan to rendesvous with the folks first met in St Augustine, Steve, Misty, and Brianna.
As I mentioned, the Dixie Campers seem to camp almost exclusively to eat. The cooks went from breakfast (eggs, bacon, cheese grits) almost directly to lunch (muffalettas) and then to dinner. Vinnie never seems to turn off the propane burners outside his motorhome. And it was all terrific. So far our contributions have been light: some double-chocolate Ghiradelli cocoa at breakfast, avocado dip and smoked mullet pate for appetizers, and a box of chocolates that we shared for dessert.
This is a really nice group of people. I put in a request for some crawfish and this evening a huge cooler full of crawfish showed up, direct from New Orleans. There has to be a several dozen pounds of crawfish in there, all still very much alive under a towel and some ice. We’ll boil them tomorrow night with some spices, cajun style.
A few more rigs arrived today, including a slick polished 1962 Globetrotter, so our crowd has grown and the evening has gotten more, uh, “lively”. All I can say is that it’s a good thing there’s virtually nobody else in this campground, or they’d probably toss us all out!
And mysteries are starting to appear. Was Vinnie really once a drummer for John Fred & the Playboys? Why is the owner of the Globetrotter called “The Governor”? Where did they find a giant case of crawfish out of season? Why do the motorhomes have sequential license plates? What’s the story behind Vinnie’s raccoon hat? The Dixie Campers are indeed a curious bunch. (And since they are reading this blog every night, I can’t reveal the answers to these questions until I’m safely away!)
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We got a nice break in the weather in the afternoon of Christmas Day, good enough to go out and walk the beach for a couple of hours.
The long beaches of St George Island are great for shelling, walking, and talking. You can even ride your bike on the hard-packed sand near the water. It’s also good for drawing.
Today we meandered about 200 miles west on Rt 98 out of Florida, to Fort Morgan AL, to meet our friends Vince and Lonnie and a group of their friends that they call the “Dixie Campers”. Fort Morgan is on a peninsula near Gulf Shores, almost like a barrier island, with white sand and pine trees. From our campsite on the bay we can see a line of offshore oil drilling rigs miles away, each lit up with orange sodium lights. Tomorrow I’ll take out the tripod and try to capture some sunset pictures over the water.
This evening Vince and Lonnie hosted dinner for everyone, which was of course delicious and fun. Apparently the Dixie Campers exist for one main reason: to eat. Since the food is terrific, we can deal with that. I put in a request for crawfish …
Our Google Earth location
Here’s a Sign of The Week, although it has been many weeks since I last posted one. Spotted in Apalachicola:
“Most” aren’t endangered?